RotoWire Partners

Circling the Bases: Alex Gordon's Revival

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: Gaby Sanchez
.294-13-47-41-1 in 320 at-bats

Everyone got too ahead of themselves with Sanchez this season. Here's what I mean.

Sanchez had a massive May in which he hit .345 with six homers and 25 RBI, and some were predicting that he would be a top-10 first baseman this season. Alas he has hit four homers with 12 RBI over his last 32 games, and even worse his average has dipped to .246 in that time. As a result, Sanchez is hitting under .300, has the same number of homers as Mark Trumbo (13), has fewer RBI than Adam Lind - who has played only 61 games (50), and has scored the same amount of runs as Howie Kendrick who has appeared in 13 fewer games. It's now looking like Sanchez should be targeting the top-15, and not the top-10, at first base this year.

Let me be fair to Gaby. After hitting .273 with 19 homers, 85 RBI and 72 runs scored as a rookie last season, his current pace of .294-25-90-79 would be a solid effort. However, I'd bet that most people wouldn't be satisfied with such an effort after he came out blazing this year. Those people just weren't being realistic. Though he was a rookie last year, Sanchez is already 27 years old, making him quite a bit older than many top level players entering their second big league season. That should have been at least a yellow flag with Sanchez (huge growth wasn't likely). Regardless of that, what about his on field work this season?

Sanchez has slightly upped his walk rate while maintaining his K-rate from last season. As a result his BB/K mark has risen from a league average 0.56 to a solid 0.70 this year. That's the type of improvement everyone likes to see. That has allowed him to boost his league average .341 OBP from last season to .371 this year. Sanchez has also improved his line drive rate from 17 to 19 percent. As a result it's not a surprise in the least that his BABIP has also improved from .299 to .318. He's also been able to inch his GB/FB up from 0.80 to 0.88. Even more heartening might be the fact that his HR/F rate has gone from 8.7 percent to 11.3 percent.

While all of that speaks to some small growth from Sanchez, there is one big issue. Being that he plays first base, the land of titans, small growth barely allows you to keep up with the Joneses. In addition, his GB/FB, HR/F, BABIP, LD-rate --- all the stuff I just mentioned shows him to be only slightly better than big league average. That's just not going to cut it at first base.

Sanchez is stable and there is nothing he is doing right now that doesn't make sense or seems out of place. That means he could easily hit his projections for this season, but even if he does, again, his numbers wouldn't stand out at all at first base in a mixed league. If you are in a mixed league and have Sanchez on your roster viewing him as a solid corner infield option would be the surest way to end the year as a happy Sanchez owner.

BREAKING DOWN: Mike Leake
8-4, 4.03 ERA, 66 Ks, 1.19 WHIP in 89.1 innings

When he isn't stealing t-shirts from the local clothing store, Leake has been on the hill pitching pretty well for the Reds.

Last season Leake accomplished what only a handful of others have been able to do – he went straight from being drafted to the big leagues. He was solid over his first 17 starts, going 6-1 with a 3.53 ERA before the wheels fell off over his last seven outings (6.91 ERA, 1.88 WHIP). Leak started out 2011 in a funk, which ultimately led to him seeing time in the minors. He only made two appearances there before he was recalled, and over his last seven starts he's been even better than the pitcher he was last season with a 4-2 record, a 2.63 ERA and 0.99 WHIP. All told he has eight wins, more than Shaun Marcum, Tim Hudson, Matt Cain, Zack Greinke and Tim Lincecum to name a few, and his WHIP is better than Daniel Hudson (1.21), Hiroki Kuroda (1.21), Bud Norris (1.25) and Matt Garza (1.27). So, what should you be expecting from Leake in the second half?

Leake has little background to analyze given that his professional career totals 235 innings. Admittedly I'd like to have more data to break down, but you have to work with what you have. Leake has upped his K/9 rate this season by more than half a batter. Still, a 6.65 mark is below the big league average. Leake simply doesn't profile as a pitcher who is ever going to miss many bats. That obviously dings his fantasy value in 5x5 leagues, and it also leaves him a bit open to poor outings given that he has to rely more on his location than his stuff.

Leake has walked a mere 2.32 batters per nine, this after issuing 3.19 per nine innings last year. A control pitcher of some renown, it's not inconceivable that he could maintain his current rate over the course of the season, but it might be best to look at his career number (2.85) as a better barometer of what to expect.

Given his improvement in the above two categories his K/BB has literally improved an entire point up to 2.87. Given a 1.86 mark last season, his career rate is 2.18, slightly better than the league average. I'm inclined to think that at this stage of his development that he is more of the 2.2 guy and not the 2.9 guy, and that is a key here. If he's the pitcher we've seen this year it will go a long way to maintaining his value in the second half.

Leake does a solid job of keeping the ball on the ground, but after last year’s rate of 50 percent, that number is down to 47 percent this year. That's obviously not a huge difference, but with his lack of punchouts every grounder he can get will help. As a result of the slight dip in his ground ball rate his GB/FB ratio has fallen from 1.58 last year to 1.39. Again, a solid total (the league average is usually about 1.10 or so), but nothing that causes me to do cartwheels (I don't think anything could cause me to do one since I'd probably break my shoulder if I tried).

Last season big leaguers posted an 18 percent line drive off Leake leading to a BABIP of .314. This year the liners are up to 20 percent but his BABIP has actually gone down to .280. It wouldn't be a surprise at all if his BABIP rose to more closely match his .302 career mark given his skills and current performance.

So who is Mike Leake? He is a solid pitcher who will likely have a long and successful career. However, he doesn't profile as a strong mixed league option for multiple reasons (lack of Ks, barely better than average GB/FB, some possible regression to a big league average BABIP). As long as the Reds give him the ball every five games there is value to be mined, but don't expect his performance to be any better than what we are seeing right now.

WHO AM I?

I currently have a better batting average than Carlos Gonzalez (.296), Justin Upton (.296) and Andrew McCutchen (.294).

I have more homers than Shane Victorino, Corey Hart, Colby Rasmus, Torii Hunter and Raul Ibanez (all those men have nine).

I have more RBI than B.J. Upton (43), Justin Upton (43), Josh Hamilton (41), Andre Ethier (41) and Matt Holliday (40).

I have a higher OBP than CarGo (.363), Michael Bourn (.359), Carlos Quentin (.351) and Mike Morse (.349).

I have a higher SLG than Jay Bruce (.484), Logan Morrison (.477) and Michael Cuddyer (.469).

I have a better OPS than Nelson Cruz (.844), Andre Ethier (.843) and Mike Stanton (.825).

I was a high draft pick that started out my career well before falling on hard times.

Who am I?

BY THE NUMBERS

.296: The batting average of Jeff Keppinger since the start of the 2010 season. Amongst batters with at least 650 plate appearances in that time only 21 men have been better. Amongst full time second baseman only Robinson Cano (.311) has been better (you can toss Martin Prado in there as well if you want – he's hit .298).

.326: The batting average against Jaime Garcia in games this year on the road. Batters are hitting a meager .173 against him at home. We all know it makes little sense, but it just appears to be the way that it is with this guy. In seven starts at home this year Garcia is 4-1 with a 0.88 ERA. The last pitcher to finish a season with a home ERA under 1.00 was Sandy Koufax back in 1964 when he posted an amazing mark of 0.85 over 127.1 innings. His other numbers at home included a WHIP of 0.78 for the Dodgers' great.

2: The number of runs that Chris Carpenter has allowed in his last three starts. Carpenter has walked only three batters while striking out 15, and he's worked a total of 24 innings. His performance has been fantastic of late. However, you might want to keep an eye on his pitch counts. Over his last four outings he has hit the 120 pitch mark each time. For a pitcher with a long list of injuries through the years, that's a trend that you should keep a close eye on.

5: It may not seem like much, but five is a pretty impressive number for a starting pitcher. Josh Tomlin of the Indians has lasted at least five innings in each of his first 29 starts to begin his big league career. Again, that doesn't seem overly impressive, that is until you consider that he became the first pitcher in baseball since 1919 to start his career with a run like that. Tomlin has also lasted at least six innings in 16 of his 17 starts this year.

25:The number of consecutive save chances that Joel Hanrahan has converted on his way to being named an NL All-Star. That streak is the longest in the history of the Pirates franchise. Take a look at his numbers over his last 19 outings as well: 0.96 ERA, 0.59 WHIP, 6.0 K/BB. The Dude is dealing.

53: The number of bases that Rajai Davis has swiped after the All-Star break the past two years (145 games played). He's also hit .313 over the 533 at-bats he's racked up in the second half during that time so don't give up on him just yet.

87: The number of RBI that Jhonny Peralta has over his 134 games as a Tiger. He had 38 last year in 57 games and this season has a cool 49 in 77 games. Peralta, who's career best total for RBI is 89 back in 2008 is currently on pace for 93 RBI on the campaign, not at all shabby for a shortstop/third base eligible player.

I AM...
The Royals' Alex Gordon who is up for selection to the All-Star game via the Final Vote process.

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.