RotoWire Partners

Circling the Bases: Falling Off Stubbs Island

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: Drew Stubbs
.249-15-42-89-37 in 562 at-bats

Back in March people were thinking Stubbs had a shot at going 25/25 this year, after all he did hit 22 homers with 30 steals last season. Flash forward to halfway through September and there are an awful lot of angry Stubbs owners. The question that needs to be asked is this – should Stubbs' owners be upset with his production?

Let's start by looking at his batting average.

Stubbs is hitting .249, a terrible number, but it's only six points below his .255 mark from last season and five points below his career average of .254. So, if you are upset by his batting average, the fact of the matter is that your expectations were out of whack with reality. Stubbs is never going to be a strong producer in the batting average category. Just take a look at this season. He's posted a 19.2 line drive rate, a league average mark, and his speed has allowed him to post an exceedingly strong .347 BABIP. So his average should be better you say, right? Wrong. Stubbs simply strikes out too much. Last year that mark was 29 percent of his at-bats. This year, it's 30 percent. Again, all he has done is to show consistency here. We all hoped to see growth which hasn't been there, but you can't be too upset with a guy who performed exactly like he did last year.

What about the power? You can have a beef here. Stubbs hit 22 homers last year, and eight as a rookie, leading to one homer every 23.1 at-bats heading into this season. This year he has 12 homers in 562 at-bats, or one every 46.8 at-bats. That's a 50 percent fall off. Why has this happened? Stubbs has produced more grounders and fewer fly balls than ever before (his ground ball rate is 48 percent vs. marks of 42 and 44 percent his first two years, while his fly ball rate of 33 percent is below the 37 and 41 percent marks of the previous two seasons). Stubbs still has a better than league average HR/F rate of 12.2 percent, it's just that he hasn't been hitting enough balls in the air to post another 20 homer effort.

What about his run production? He scored 91 times last year and has crossed the plate 89 times this season, so there's been no change at all there. As for the RBI total it has dipped precipitously from 77 down to 42. You can blame the lack of homers for some of that, but you can also blame the fact that 72 percent of his at-bats this year have come out of the leadoff hole. Only 25 percent of them did last year. Face it, as much as you want to blame Stubbs, the real reason that his RBI total has fallen is because the team chose to deploy him differently this season.

The speed? Well that's still there, and in spades. After swiping 30 bases last year Stubbs has 37 this year for the Reds. While 30 steals isn't a huge total, in today's game it's a pretty impressive total and it marks him as one of only nine players who has stolen 30 bases in 2010 and 2011.

In the end, Stubbs is what he is. He's a guy who's going to get a hit every four at-bats, one who will steal 30 bases, and a guy with 20 homer power. His final numbers in the homer and RBI category might cause people to view his 2011 season as a failure, but in truth, he hasn't really performed any differently this season than he did last year.

BREAKING DOWN: Wade Davis
10-8, 4.36 ERA, 94 Ks, 1.37 WHIP in 165 innings

A lot has been made about the fact that Davis changed his pitching style a bit. He backed off his heater a bit so that he could better control the location of his pitches, and with the 2011 season almost done, it's time to review the results. I don't see any improvement that his new style has brought in terms of the final numbers, and in changing his outlook an approach he's actually made himself a less valuable fantasy performer.

A noted strikeout arm in the minors, he had 745 strikeouts in 767.1 innings, Davis has performed as if that pitcher was someone else in his time with the Rays. Davis did punch out 8.92 batters per nine in 36.1 innings as a rookie in 2009, but last year that number fell to 6.05, well below the big league average. This season he's dropped another batter off that mark down to 5.13, a deficient number. That's what dialing back on the heat will do for you.

He has improved his walk rate a bit, but not nearly enough given the loss of Ks. In his first two seasons he was right at the big league average with marks of 3.22 and 3.32. This season the mark has dropped to 2.95, but again, that's not nearly enough of a “savings” in the walk column to give up the strikeouts, a fact that is painfully obvious with his 1.74 K/BB ratio.

Clearly, none of that worked out the way that he hoped it would.

What about his GB/FB rate? Maybe by taking some speed off his fastball he picked up some extra movement? Or perhaps the better control allowed him to hit his spots better leading to more pitches down in the zone and therefore more grounders? The answer is no again. In fact, his big league average GB/FB ratio of 1.08 as a rookie regressed to 0.90 last year and to 0.83 this year. This is strike number two.

What about his actual production? Maybe the move ended up paying dividends in terms of his real world production? I'm afraid we're up to strike three here.

2010: 12-10, 4.07 ERA, 1.35 WHIP
2011: 10-8, 4.36 ERA, 1.37 WHIP

At this point, Davis has no business on a mixed league squad. Even when he's pitching well, he offers nothing in the strikeout column, and his skills are such that league average ratios are likely going to be in tow no matter how well he is going. What was once a promising skill set and bright career path is now nothing more than cloudy day in fall. At this point Davis has nothing to recommend him at all. I know he's pitched well of late, and maybe he'll finish the year with a couple of nice outings, but when you think of him and try to assess his 2012 value, make sure he's well down your list of starting pitchers – there's just nothing to build on here.

WHO AM I?

I'm a pitcher no one pays attention to.

I've currently got a better ERA than Jon Lester, Felix Hernandez, David Price, Shaun Marcum and Tim Hudson.

My WHIP is better than household names like Jeremy Hellickson, Ricky Romero, Alexi Ogando, Zack Greinke, Felix Hernandez, Tim Lincecum and CC Sabathia.

I'm tougher to hit than you might think. My batting average against is lower than the total posted by arms like Bud Norris, Yovani Gallardo, Jair Jurrjens, Sabathia and Matt Garza.

Despite all my success, I've got fewer wins than guys you would never roster on a mixed league squad for an extended period of time like Jake Arrieta, Bruce Chen, Brad Penny, Luke Hochevar, Zack Britton, A.J. Burnett and Brian Duensing.

I've already thrown a career best 197.1 innings. I've never been over 171 in my big league career.

The last two years my ERA has been above 4.00, though this year I'm just a great outing away from it dropping below 3.00 this year.

Who am I?

BY THE NUMBERS

0.83: The number of runs scored, per game, since the All-Star break for Austin Jackson. That equates to 40 runs in 48 games. If Jackson where to keep up that rate over a season of 150 games he would score 125 runs. Last year during his successful rookie season he scored 103 times. Despite all his runs scored of late, that's just not a pace that is sustainable if he continues to get on base at a .329 clip (his OBP over the last 48 games).

.981: The NL leading OPS of Joey Votto, four points higher than #2 man Ryan Braun. Votto is also the NL leader in OBP (.427), well ahead of another Brewer, Prince Fielder (.406). If he kept up his current slash line, he'll damn near replicate the numbers he posted as the NL MVP last year.

2010: .324/.424/.600
2011: .320/.427/.554

1: The RBI per game mark that Carlos Gonzalez has produced over his last 38 games played. Yes, that means he has 38 RBI in that stretch. He's a total slacker in the runs scored column though, he's only scored 36 times. In 38 games since the All-Star game he's also socked 12 long balls, helping him to post a .998 OPS.

1: The number of seasons in his career that Michael Young has produced 100 RBI (he had 103 in 2006). This season Young is just three short as he has 97 RBI for the Tigers. He's also hit only 11 homers on the year. Since the 2000 season there have been seven seasons where a player has hit fewer than 15 homers with more than 100 RBI (obviously one of those seasons belongs to Young). There is only one player who currently has two such seasons in that time – Bobby Abreu. Young is also hitting .334 on the year. If he can keep that average over .330 he will join Edgar Renteria as the only two guys to have had a season of .330, less than 15 homers, and more than 100 RBIs in a season since 2000.

13: The career best hitting streak that the Cubs' Starlin Castro is currently working on. Castro also has a hit in 36 of 39 games leading to a .331 average in that time. He's also had four streaks of hits in 10-straight games this year making him the first Cub to do that since Mark Grace pulled off the trick in 1992. Castro has also reached base in 25-straight games.

43/b>: The number of consecutive saves that Jose Valverde has converted this year as he is a perfect 43-for-43. The next closest player in baseball without a blown save is Jose Contreras. He has five saves on the year. Jonathan Papelbon is close with 29 saves in 30 chances, and John Axford is right there too with 42 saves in 44 chances. Speaking of Axford, the last time he blew a save was on April 18th meaning he's converted 39-straight for the Brewers.

720: The major league leading strikeout total of Justin Verlander since the start of the 2009 season. Tim Lincecum leads the NL with the second highest total in the game – 698. Only one other hurler has more than 650 punchouts in that time and that is Felix Hernandez (664). In fact, only eight men have recorded 600 Ks, or roughly 83 percent of the total that Verlander has racked up.

I AM...

The Tigers' Doug Fister.

Fister has only eight wins in his 197.1 innings, but his ERA is down to 3.06 and his WHIP is 1.12 on the year. A strong performer with the Mariners early in the year (3.33 ERA, 1.17 WHIP), Fister has morphed into a Justin Verlander clone in his eight starts with the Tigers going 5-1 with a 2.28 ERA and 0.99 WHIP. Thank the better than eight to one strikeout to walk ratio for a large portion of that success (he has 41 Ks and just five walks over 51.1 innings).

Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive 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.