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Circling the Bases: Not At the Plate, Carlos

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: Carlos Lee, Astros
.277-9-57-41-3 in 376 at-bats

Over the last 30 days, this long time offensive power is hitting .318 with a .381 OBP and a .600 SLG. In addition, he has socked four long balls while knocking in 19. Should Lee be expected to keep up the All-Star level work the ROTW?

Since 2000, Lee has gone deep at least 24 times each year.
Since 2001, Lee has knocked in at least 80 runs each year.
Since 2006, Lee has failed to hit .300 just once (.246 in 2010).
Currently Lee is on pace to go deep 14 times while knocking in 90 runs.

Declining bat speed is certainly a reason that his power production has gone down a bit, and age is also a factor (he is 35 years old). Here's what else that I see.

(1) Lee's fly ball ratio is 44.0 percent. His career mark of 44.2
(2) Lee's GB/FB ratio is 0.82, the same as his career mark.
(3) Lee's HR/F ratio is just 6.0 percent. After an eight-year run of double digit marks, Lee slumped last year all the way down to 9.5 percent. Given the concerns about his bat speed and age, it's fair to assume that his numbers won't simply regress to the norm merely because they are his “norms.”

Lee has done a good job getting his batting average back up. In that respect it wouldn't be surprising if he were able to hold on to his gains of late so as to keep his batting average above the .275 mark. Lee has pushed his line drive rate up to 19.9 percent with his recent work at the dish, and that's just slightly above his 19.6 career mark. At the same time his contract rate on pitches thrown inside the strike zone is just 92.0 percent, the lowest it has been since 2007 signaling, perhaps, that his bat is indeed slowing.

Lee qualifies at first base and the outfield, and he's still driving in runs. The homer rate should improve slightly as we move forward, and his batting average isn't likely to dip too much either. In short, he should be a solid contributor the rest of the season.

BREAKING DOWN: Jeff Niemann

The last 30 days Niemann has made five starts for the Rays, and in that time he has a 2.67 ERA, 7.42 K/9 and a 1.78 BB/9 mark over 30.1 innings. Is that level of performance sustainable?

The first thing I should point out is that the Rays are going with a six-man rotation at the moment. That's going to limit the value of all the guys if it remains the case. Second, it should be pointed out that in 2009-10 Niemann won 25 games with a 4.16 ERA as a pretty solid pitcher for the Rays (he had appeared in only five big league games previously). Third, and this is where the rubber meets the road, he really only has the talents to be of use in a very deep mixed league or an AL-only setup. Here are the facts.

2011: 6.25 K/9, 2.13 BB/9, 1.20 GB/FB, .294 BABIP, 0.93 HR/9
Career: 6.50 K/9, 2.95 BB/9, 1.09 GB/FB, .285 BABIP, 1.07 HR/9

All of those numbers, whether we're looking at 2011 or his career totals, all of them speak to a league average hurler at best. That's just not what anyone wants to hear when they are looking to hit a home run off the waiver-wire. Niemann has been able to induce a 32 percent swing rate at pitches thrown outside the strike zone, well above his 27 percent career mark, likely a result of him getting ahead in the count. Niemann is hot right now, he isn't beating himself, and he could easily continue to baffle hitters the rest of the way. Still, you have to be honest about the skills that scream out 'I'm a league average pitcher' before you count on him to lead your team over the final third of the season.

WHO AM I?

I have a .263 career batting average.

I have a career .324 OBP.

I have a career .334 SLG.

During my career, here is the NL average: .258/.327/.406 meaning I've really never been much more than roster filler with a league average, at best, bat.

Despite all that I'm currently hitting for better average than Carlos Beltran (.289), Carlos Gonzalez (.289), Lance Berkman (.287) and Prince Fielder (.287).

My OBP this year is better than Gaby Sanchez (.367), Michael Morse (.360), Michael Bourn (.357) and Hunter Pence (.356).

Over the past 30 days I'm batting .370, the fourth best mark in baseball. I'm also getting on base at a .458 clip, the second best mark in baseball. If you don't know who I am, this one will almost certainly give me away. Over the last 30 days I have the most steals in baseball - 17 - more than the combined total of Jimmy Rollins (six), Michael Bourn (five) and Chris Young (five).

Who Am I?

BY THE NUMBERS

.183: The batting average against of Josh Beckett, the best mark in the American League. Only one other in the Junior Circuit has a batting average against under .200 and that is Justin Verlander at .191. Over in the NL there isn't a single pitcher with a sub-.200 average, as Tommy Hanson leads the way at .203, a mere two points behind the third overall hurler in baseball in BAA - Jered Weaver (.201).

.290: The batting average of Adam Lind this season. The owner of a career mark of .274, Lind has hit better than .290 in just a single season (he hit .305 in 2009). Lind has seen his star dim of late after hitting .348 over 31 games in May and June. Since that point, in 20 games in July, Lind is batting a pathetic .235.

.505: The major league leading OBP of Yunel Escobar over the past 30 days. Not just getting on base, Escobar is also powering the ball with a .557 SLG in that time giving him a 1.062 OPS. Oddly, Escobar has but one home run in that time and has scored just 12 runs in 21 games. Come on Blue Jays, knock the fella in.

1.06: The amount that Michael Pineda's season long ERA has gone up over his last three outings, from 2.58 to 3.64. Pineda has allowed at least five runs in each outing, and overall he's permitted 19 runs in just 15.2 innings. All of a sudden his ERA is higher than teammate Felix Hernandez (3.47), not to mention Tyler Chatwood (3.64 but slightly lower than Pineda).

7: The number of Rangers batters who had three hits in their 20-6 massacre of the Twins Monday night. That tied the record for the most three-hit players for one team in a game since 1920. In addition, the Rangers scored at least three runs each of the first five innings of the game, only the second time that has happened since 1900 (the Pirates on July 13th, 1900). The only starter without a hit was Chris Davis as he went 0-for-6. Not to be left as an afterthought, he did commit two errors on defense.

8: The number of consecutive games that Jose Bautista has failed to go deep. Dating back to May 29th Bautista has hit 11 home runs in 47 games, a solid pace - something like a 37 homer pace over a full season, but well behind the pace that Bautista has posted the last calendar year (59, the most in baseball a full 15 taters ahead of Curtis Granderson).

25: The league leading holds mark of Tyler Clippard, one ahead of AL leader Daniel Bard. Three others have hit the 20 level in Jose Veras (20), Johnny Venters (21) and Mike Adams (22). On the saves side, eight men have exceeded 25 saves - Craig Kimbrel (31), Brian Wilson (31), Joel Hanrahan (29), Heath Bell (29), Leo Nunez (28), John Axford (27), Jose Valverde (26) and Huston Street (26).

I AM...

I am the Marlins' Emilio Bonifacio and I currently own a 23 game hitting streak.

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.

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