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Circling the Bases: Scouting the Surprising Scutaro

Ray Flowers

Ray Flowers

The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: M-F at 5-8 PM EDT), Ray Flowers has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. You can follow Ray on Twitter (@BaseballGuys), he never sleeps, and you can also find more of his musings at BaseballGuys.com.

BREAKING DOWN: Marco Scutaro
.283-1-10-11-1 in 92 at-bats

Since returning from the DL Scutaro has been en fuego. In 24 at-bats he has posted 10 hits, good for a .417 batting average. That might be worth a mention, but you'd probably just pass right over it if it weren't for the news that Jed Lowrie continues to deal with a wonky shoulder that has limited his effectiveness and his time on the field of late. Ready to have your mind blown? Compare the two slash lines of each middle infielder this season.

Scutaro: .283/.347/.370
Lowrie: .276/.325/.411

Despite Scutaro's terrible start, and Lowrie's blazing one, they've been virtually the same player this season (you can thank Lowrie's terrible .215/.287/.308 line over his last 28 games). It's OK to admit that you had no idea that Scutaro has been effective as Lowrie.

Scutaro isn't a bastion of health, but at the same time he has appeared in at least 144 games each of the last three years, so he's shown an ability to play through pain in the past. He hasn't just been on the field the past few years; he's been very effective doing it. Consider the following:

Scutaro is one of three shortstops to have hit at least seven homers with 60 RBI and 75 runs scored the past three seasons. The others are Derek Jeter and Hanley Ramirez.

The good news with Scutaro is that he has been who he has always been this season. Just take a look at his skill set. I know it's a small sample size of 101 plate appearances, but there really is nothing going on right now that seems outstanding in any way when compared to his career levels.

2011: .283/.347/.370
Career: .268/.336/.384

Right where you would expect things to be.

2011: 8.9 BB rate
Career: 9.2 BB rate

Though his walk rate is the same, Scutaro has cut his K-rate way down to 5.4 percent, but that's almost assuredly a sample size issue. He's been in double-digits every year of his career, and that career mark is 13.1 percent.

2011: 1.18 GB/FB
Career: 1.06 GB/FB

Scutaro has been hitting more grounders and fewer fly balls than the past two seasons, but the overall net mark is well within the expected range.

2011: .291 BABIP
Career: .290 BABIP

More of the same.

Obviously Scutaro's value is tied directly to the health and performance of Lowrie, but if the younger fella can't get that shoulder right, Scutaro seems primed to, in the least, be a solid option in AL-only leagues the rest of the way.

BREAKING DOWN: Paul Maholm
3-7, 3.12 ERA, 58 Ks, 1.14 WHIP in 89.1 innings

Come on. The Pirates are just one game under .500 this season at 32-33, yet Maholm is only 3-7? Yet another example of why win-loss records are such a terrible way to analyze a hurler’s performance.

Maholm has made 14 starts this season.
In 10 of those starts he has lasted at least six innings (twice he fell an out short).
In 11 of those starts he has allowed three or fewer earned runs.
In three of them he has struck out more than five batters.

That last figure is one of the main rubs with Maholm, and why his value has traditionally been muted in mixed leagues. Simply, Maholm is a deficient strikeout artist. If you play in a traditional 5x5 league it's pretty tough to count on a guy who has a career best of 139 Ks. Worse yet, Maholm has a 5.60 K/9 mark for his career, well over a batter below the 6.99 league mark during his tenure as a big league pitcher. It's been more of the same this year as well, with a 5.84 mark.

Since Maholm doesn't miss many bats, you'd like to look over at the walk column and see a great mark. You don't. His career mark of 3.06 is slightly better than the league average of 3.39 since 2005, and the result is a terrible 1.83 K/BB ratio (league average 2.06).

When you don't miss bats, and you allow free passes, you are greatly dependent on where the ball is hit. In Maholm’s case, it seems that this season every batted ball is ending up in a fielder’s glove. For the year batters are hitting a mere .216, an unsustainable mark for a pitcher with Maholm’s skill set. The owner of a career .280 BAA, Maholm has kept the mark low this season because of an extreme amount of luck. Though his line drive rate is 19.3 percent, above his career rate of 18.7 percent, his BABIP has dipped all the way down to .243. Given that he owns a career mark of .308, and that his BABIP has been .325 and .327 the past two years, we all know which direction things are going to go when the stats normalize.

Maholm's GB/FB ratio is solid at 1.51, but this continues a trend that I don't like seeing. After posting a mark of 1.93 in 2008, the number has gone down the last two years to 1.74 and 1.69. A further dip this season isn't going to help him sustain his success.

Maholm has been fortunate when it comes to the long ball - his 5.9 percent HR/F would be a career best (career 9.8). As a result his HR/9 mark of 0.50 is also a career best (career 0.82).

To sum up, we have a pitcher who doesn't strike many out, walks batters at pretty much a league average rate, and is operating with an extreme amount of fortunate bounces. I'm not saying he is going to cave and disappear the rest of the way, but the fact is the rest of the way he is more likely to resemble the guy who has a 4.36 career ERA than the guy who is currently at 3.12. Without any upside in the strikeout category, Maholm seems like a guy who is better suited as an NL-only option than a mixed league weapon.

WHO AM I?

With 12 homers, I've gone deep more often than Gaby Sanchez (11), Adam Lind (11) and Joey Votto (nine).

My OBP is .347, which is better than sluggers Ryan Howard (.336) and Adam Dunn (.322).

I have a .482 SLG, which is better than Albert Pujols (.475), Howard (.474) and Billy Butler (.445).

My .828 OPS is better than Pujols (.823) and Howard (.809).

I have more doubles, 14, than Lyle Overbay (13), Aubrey Huff (13), Justin Morneau (12) and Mark Trumbo (12).

Who am I?

BY THE NUMBERS

.180: The batting average of Matt Joyce over his last 13 games. In that time his overall marked has dipped from .377 to .328. The fall comes as no shock though. Nothing in Joyce’s history suggest that he is the type of guy who will get a hit every three at-bats, and his BABIP has been out of control all year. Even with his massive slowdown the past few weeks he is still sporting a .373 mark, 69 points clear of his career mark. I hate to tell you Joyce owners, but there is still a long way for his average to fall if things continue to normalize as expected.

.303: The batting average of Carl Crawford since May 1st. That's not a surprising mark for a guy who has hit .294 in his career, but it's amazing when you think that he hit a mere .155 in March. Another interesting Crawford factoid is that he's hitting an anemic .159 against left-handed pitching this season. For a guy that owns a .264 mark in such situations you have to figure that there is some growth to be had here.

1: The number of pitchers who have tossed at least 120 innings since the start of the 2010 season who have posted an ERA under 1.50. The only man on that list is Atlanta’s Jonny Venters, who has also posted a 1.05 WHIP and 9.90 K/9 mark. The most amazing number though, amidst all the greatness, is the 7.67 GB/FB ratio that he has posted over 123.2 innings. That's a mind-boggling number thanks to a 72 percent ground ball rate.

1.34: The major league best ERA of Jonathon Niese over the last 30 days. While that's an ultra impressive total, it's only 0.02 better than the second best mark, over that span, of the Giants' Ryan Vogelsong. Think of that. If you add together the two ERAs over the last 30 days you end up with just a 2.70 mark. Only six pitchers in the NL have a better ERA than that for the season.

3: The number of homers allowed by Ubaldo Jimenez in his last start, the first time that has ever happened to him. On the year he had allowed only four homers in his first 66.2 innings before that outing against Dodgers. Don't expect too many more fly balls to leave the yard in the near future. Jimenez has HR/9 marks of 0.50, 0.54 and 0.41 over the last three seasons. Currently he is at 0.88 thanks to the beating he just took.

9: The number of consecutive games that Adrian Gonzalez has driven in a run. During that time he has plated 14 runs to boost his RBI total to 60, the best total in baseball. Going back a bit further, A-Gon has 45 RBI in his last 39 games. He is on pace to dust his previous best of 119 RBI, set in 2008.

13: The current hitting streak of Paul Konerko, during which time he's barely made an out. Konerko has hit .460 over that span, and it's not like he is slapping singles either - he has gone deep five times, helping him post 15 RBI. During the streak Konerko has eight games with two hits and one with three, which has helped him raise his average from .287 to .322.

I AM...
The Mariners' Justin Smoak.

Despite playing at Safeco Field, a park that suppresses offense, Smoak has an OPS of .885 at home and a .780 mark on the road. He has also posted a terrible .210 average in 18 day games, and he has simply feasted on the Tigers with five homers and 13 RBI in seven games against them. Smoak has also got the big fly stroke working of late with four homers in June, the same number of homers he hit in each of the first two months of the season.


Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive, 5-8 PM Eastern, on Sirius 210 and XM 87. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.