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Circling the Bases: Bitter Billingsley

BREAKING DOWN: Marco Scutaro
.298-6-51-52-4 in 366 at-bats

As the Red Sox struggle to hold on to their playoff berth, the team is dealing with a lot of issues. Kevin Youkilis continues to be sidelined, and Carl Crawford, in addition to playing poorly most of the year, is now dealing with a neck issue that is keeping him on the shelf. However, one Sox performer who has been killing it of late is Scutaro, the forgotten man in Boston.

At second base, the Sox have Dustin Pedroia, one of the most complete players in the game (he's hitting .300-20-88-98-26 in yet another outrageous season). At short, the Sox were going to go with some combination of Scutaro and everyone's early season darling Jed Lowrie. Of course Lowrie has been hit with injuries all season long, what a shock, and if we remove his .368 average in April he'd be hitting .193 in 259 at-bats. What about Scutaro? All he has done is hit of course. Hitting nearly .300 on the year, Scutaro has hit .332 over his last 196 at-bats. He's been even hotter than that with 14 hits in his last eight games leading to a .422 average in September.

Should you be surprised by his success? Not if you looked at the numbers. Let's compare his 2009-10 numbers to what we have seen this season.

09-10: .279/.356/.398
2011: .298/.356/.413

Don't know about you, but that looks pretty similar doesn't it?

One of the keys to Scutaro's success has always been his approach at the dish – he just doesn't strike out. As a result, his BB/K mark for his career is 0.80, a very strong mark. This season, for the second time in three years, that mark is 1.00 (it was 1.20 in 2009). This also marks the seventh straight season of at least 0.75 in the BB/K category.

Scutaro has also helped himself this year by hitting the ball on the ground. For his career his GB-rate is 42 percent, though this year he's upped that rate to 45.5 percent. The extra grounders have not come at the expense of line drives either as he's sitting at 19.8 percent right now, one tenth below his career rate. A little guy like Scooter is much better off hitting the ball on the line or the ground – something he has accomplished very well this season.

I mentioned his slash line the last two years above and compared it to his 2011 performance. Let's do that same thing yet again with the counting numbers. In 2009-10 he averaged 546 ABs a season. He only has 366 at-bats, and it's not really fair to do this but I'm going to do it anyway. How would his numbers for 2011 end up if we let him keep up his current pace for 546 ABs?

09-10: 12 HR, 58 RBI, 96 runs, 10 steals, 37 doubles
2011: 9 HR, 78 RBI, 78 runs, 6 steals, 36 doubles

Again, do you see much difference there? I sure don't.

Here's the deal with Scutaro – he's been the hitter this year that he has been the past few years. Is he exciting, a difference maker type of performer? Of course not. At the same time, he's much better than he often gets credit for. The season is short at this point, but if he is on waivers you'd be a fool not to add him for the final week of the season – he's absolutely on fire right now. And please, can't we all put behind us the belief that Jed Lowrie is somehow going to emerge and become a star for the Red Sox.

BREAKING DOWN: Chad Billingsley
11-10, 4.23 ERA, 149 Ks, 1.45 WHIP in 183.0 IP

Disappointing.

That's the word that comes to mind when we look back on the nearly completed season for the Dodgers' Chad Billingsley. For all of us, including myself, who thought he might finally break out this season, he didn't. For those that didn't think he would break out but merely be a solid arm that you could count on no matter the opponent, you too were wrong. In the end, the effort turned in my Billingsley was nothing other than average, and even that is a bit of a stretch.

THE GOOD

Billingsley has made 31 starts this season, the fourth straight year he has done that. He's also crested 180 innings the past four years. When combined those numbers don't seem all that impressive, but as of this writing there are only 12 pitchers in baseball that have hit 31/180 from 2008-11, so you have to give Chad some credit for being reliable and taking the ball every five days for the Dodgers.

THE BAD

Just about everything else.

After winning 16 games in 2008 he fell to 12 each of the last two seasons. He'll need one more win to match that total this season.

His current 4.23 ERA would be a career worst (4.03 in 2009 and 3.68 for his career).

His current 1.45 WHIP would be a career worst. Here are his totals the past four years: 1.33, 1.34, 1.32 and 1.28 (career 1.37).

His 7.33 K/9 mark would be a career worst in a season of more than 100 innings pitched (his lowest mark previously was 8.03 last year).

His 3.98 BB/9 mark would be a career worst in a season of more than 100 innings pitched (his highest previous mark was 3.94 in 2009).

And on and on.

Billingsley's homer per nine mark of 0.69 is ever so slightly above his career rate of 0.67.

Billingsley's BABIP mark is .307, ever so slightly above his career .302 mark.

Billingsley's 70.1 left on base percentage of 70.1 percent is below his 74.1 percent career mark.

Billingsley's xFIP mark of 4.09 is ever so slightly above his career rate of 4.00.

Billingsley's 1.32 GB/FB ratio is ever so slightly below his career rate of 1.35.

Now you might have noticed the use of “ever so slightly” quite a few times above. An optimist would look at this situation and say to themselves – look, Billingsley was bad, but it's not likely he totally collapsed this season.' The optimist would be correct if they said that. However, an honest optimist would also tell you that a 27 year old pitcher shouldn't, after 3-straight solid seasons, all of a sudden post “worst” numbers in nearly every single category. Both would be right.

In the end, when it comes to drafting Billingsley in 2012 you'll need to show some restraint. If we add together the best marks of his career we end up with a season of 16 wins, 3.14 ERA, 201 Ks and a 1.28 WHIP. We'd all take that in a second. At the same time his across the board regression this season would suggest that the chances of him flashing those kind of numbers in 2012 is rather slim.

WHO AM I?

I know people enjoy this portion of the column each week, and I always have a good time putting it together as well. However, I've been hearing from some people that they are often a bit too challenging, so this week I'll give a few extra hints that might help you to discern who I'm talking about.

I have more homers this year than Matt Holliday, B.J. Upton and Hunter Pence. That's not a total shock though since I've hit at least 21 homers each of the past seven years. In fact, since the start of the 2005 season my total of 183 homers is 18th in baseball.

I have more RBI this year than Jeff Francoeur, Melky Cabrera, Carlos Beltran and Adam Jones. That's not a total shock since I've had more than 80 RBI each of the past three years. In fact, since the start of the 2005 season my total of 571 RBIs is 29th in baseball.

I have more runs scored this year than Mike Stanton, Ichiro and Carlos Beltran. That's not a total shock since I've had more than 80 runs scored each of the past five years (I'm just two runs short of making it a sixth straight year). In fact, since the start of the 2005 season my total of 595 runs scored RBIs is 22nd in baseball.

My OBP, a career long calling card of mine, is better than the marks posted by Andre Ethier, Shane Victorino, Andrew McCutchen and Carlos Gonzalez.

I'm married to an actress, and she has reddish brown hair.

Come on, you have to know who I am.

I'm always smiling.

I'm carefree.

I have a huge twitter following.

I play in the outfield in the Junior Circuit.

Who am I?

BY THE NUMBERS

1: The number of steals that Shane Victorino needs for a fifth straight 20-steal campaign. He's also one homer from his career best of 18 meaning he is two homers, and that one steal, shy of his first 20/20 effort.

2: The number of homers that Jacoby Ellsbury needs to go 30/30 for the Red Sox. What on earth is going on here? Ellsbury stole 120 bases in his last two healthy seasons, an average of 60 a year, so this season’s total of 37 steals is disappointing. However, he's channeled Brady Anderson this season. After hitting 20 homers over his first 1,372 at-bats he's somehow managed to go deep 28 times in just 623 at-bats this season. Join the confused club.

7: The number of consecutive seasons that the Indians have had a player go 20/20. Will they make it an eighth straight year? Their only hope is Asdrubal Cabrera who has 23 homers and 17 steals. Obviously he can get there, but the problem is that Cabrera has simply stopped running. He has one steal in September and since August 5, a span of 37 games, he has swiped two bags. That doesn't sound like a guy who is going to extend this impressive team streak.

10: That's the level that the Tigers' Austin Jackson has reached in homers, doubles, triples and steals this season. This is the 18th time in the history of the illustrious franchise that someone has pulled off the trick. Of course, his effort this season doesn't quite match his magical rookie effort, though he failed to reach the “10” club last year because of a lack of homers.

2010: 4 HR, 34 2B, 10 3B, 27 SB
2011: 10 HR, 21 2B, 11 3B, 20 SB

14: The number of RBI from Brent Morel of the White Sox in the month of September. That's not a crazy number or anything, until you put it into context. Morel had all of 15 RBI over his first 79 games this season. He also hit two homers in those 79 games. How many has he hit in September? Try six. So you see what I'm saying right? All of a sudden Morel thinks he's Mark Reynolds after hitting like he was Pedro Alvarez the first 5/6 of the season.

I AM...

The Yankees' Nick Swisher.

From 2006 through the 2011 season, Swisher has hit at least 22 homers, knocked in at least 69 runs and scored at least 78 times each year. None of those totals jump off the page, but that run of consistent across the board production is nonetheless impressive, especially when you compare that run to all the other players in the game. How many guys have gone 22-69-78 the past six years? Just nine.

Swisher
Ryan Howard
Miguel Cabrera
Prince Fielder
Mark Teixeira
Matt Holliday
Dan Uggla
Adrian Gonzalez
Albert Pujols

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.