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Circling the Bases: E5 - Still Alive

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: Edwin Encarnacion
.272-17-55-70-8 in 481 at-bats

EE oozes talent at the dish, he's a butcher in the field (he will qualify at first and third next year, and there is talk of him potentially picking up an outfielders glove as well), but he has a tough time putting it all together. The possessor of prodigious power, Edwin also seemingly goes through a period where he forgets how to hit the baseball each year. Couple that with a handful of injuries the past few seasons and he always seems to fail to live up to expectations by the time the year ends.

Edwin owns a .260 career batting average, so his mark this season was pretty standard fare, though it should be pointed out it was a four year high after he failed to hit .255 the past three years. That's a positive. However, given the following numbers, believing he will sustain a mark that high in 2012 is a reach.

0.56 BB/K ratio. Career – 0.51

0.82 GB/FB ratio. Career – 0.83

19.4 LD-rate. Career – 18./8 percent

.292 BABIP. Career - .282.

On the plus side he did strike out in 14.5 percent of his at-bats, and that's a career best mark (career 17.2 percent).

For the fifth time in six years Edwin hit at least 15 homers. That's not exactly a mark that jumps off the page at you though. Not just that, Edwin hit 34 homers in 2009-10, an average of one every 18.4 at-bats. That marks his one homer for every 28.3 at-bats in 2011 as a disappointing total. Blame his HR/F ratio. For the first time in four years the mark was in the single digits at 9.4 percent (career 11.9). That number could easily correct itself next year.

Edwin did record the second most runs of his career (he crossed the plate 75 times in 2008), but like his homer total his RBI mark would have to be considered a bit disappointing. The past two years Edwin produced an RBI every 6.94 at-bats. This season, that mark was one every 8.75 at-bats.

However, what everyone really wants to know is what to make of his second half. Here are three numbers. First will be his 2011 first half. Then I'll list his 2011 second half. Then, I'll list his career slash line.

2011 1st: .255/.283/.405
2011 2nd: .291/.382/.504
Career: .260/.336/.453

Where does the “truth” lie with EE? I'd put my money square on the career numbers and would forget about his second half next season. I'm not saying that he doesn't have value, as a comparable Adrian Beltre owns a career slash line of .276/.339/.468 which is pretty damn similar to Encarnacion, and he has had a long and successful career, I'm just trying to keep it real. The key for Edwin will be playing time. If he could stay healthy long enough to hit the 500 at-bat plateau, his counting numbers should be plenty good for a third baseman.

BREAKING DOWN: Ryan Vogelsong
13-7, 2.71 ERA, 139 Ks, 1.25 WHIP in 179.2 IP

From 2007-2010, Ryan Vogelsong didn't throw a single big league pitch. Not one. He bounced around organizations, spent some time in Japan, and nearly threw the towel in on his career which started back in 1998 when he was drafted by the Giants. However, he was able to find his way back to the city by the bay, and with that one last opportunity he finally made it big providing a spectacular off the waiver-wire season for everyone who picked him up.

Let's start with the obvious. Everything, pretty much every single column you could think of, was filled with a career best mark for Vogelsong. That wouldn't be overly outrages in many cases, but in this one it is given that his first big league season was 2000, more than a decade ago. History isn't too kind to guys who take such a massive jump at this stage of their career.

Second, his peripherals don't support the 2.71 ERA, or the 1.25 WHIP for that matter.

His 8.22 H/9 mark was only a bit better than the league average of 8.66.

His 6.96 K/9 mark was worse than the league average of 7.28.

His 3.06 BB/9 mark was only slightly better than the league average of 3.13.

That means his K/BB ratio of 2.28 was below the league average of 2.33.

His 1.34 GB/FB mark was solid, but it was far from outstanding.

His 20.4 percent line drive rate was slightly worse than the league average.

His 80.4 percent left on base mark greatly surpassed his career mark of 69.8 percent, and far outpaced the normal 70 percent mark of big league hurlers suggesting, as we will see below when we talk more about his ERA, that there is little doubt that he was very fortunate with his ERA this season.

Third, his performance predictably slowed in the second half. It wasn't that far off his first half in terms of his K/BB ratio and HR/9, but his WHIP did rise to 1.31 while his ERA went up to 3.26. Of course, those would still be strong numbers if he posted them over the course of the year. Moreover, with an xFIP of 3.85 on the season, those second half numbers are way more in line with the level of production we witnessed in 2011. Could it be that his ERA should have been a full run higher than it actually was this season? Look across the bay to the 2010 breakout star, Trevor Cahill, for what can happen when the inevitable regression comes to pass.

Fourth, and this is rather amazing, the guy simply never tanked any of his outings. Sure, some of them were less than elite, and sometimes he left games with a bad feeling in his stomach, but he simply never left his teammates on a lurch with no chance for victory – he just didn't do that. Every time he took the hill the Giants could feel confident that they would have a chance to win. The proof:

He made 30 appearances this season. Only three times did he allow more than three earned runs in an outing. He allowed four earned runs once, and twice he gave up five.

From May 7th through the end of the year he made 26 appearances. Only twice did he allow more than three earned runs.

Amazing is right. However, can you reasonably expect anyone to have that much success year after year? Roy Halladay allowed at least four earned runs five times this season, and he's widely regarded as the best pitcher in baseball right now.

Vogelsong was a waiver-wire wonder from start to finish. In fact, he probably helped many people to win their leagues. You'll want to forget that high at the draft table next year because the odds are very strong that a regression will come making him nothing more than a fifth starter in mixed leagues.

WHO AM I?

I have a better WHIP than a myriad of relievers who have been considered to have a great season in 2011 including Heath Bell (1.15), John Axford (1.17) and Jose Valverde (1.19).

I have a better K/9 mark than such noted marksmen as Jose Valverde (8.32) and Joel Hanrahan (8.00).

I've been harder to hit this season than the likes of Mariano Rivera (.216), Axford (.217), Bell (.223), Brandon League (.239) and Brian Wilson (.240).

Need some more info, don't you?

How about the fact that with runners on base, I really bear down. I've faced 78 batters with RISP this season and they've managed to bat just .172 off me, and their OPS have been a sickly .509. I'm tough to hit when the chips are down.

How about the fact that I've been dynamic in the second half? Not only have I converted every save chance I've been given, batters have hit just .183 off me while I've posted a 0.91 WHIP.

Your last and best clue --- I'm a former infielder, a shortstop actually, who was shifted to the mound after a completely underwhelming start to my career. Honestly, I simply couldn't hit.

Who am I?

BY THE NUMBERS

.000030: The difference between the batting average of Jose Reyes (.333962) and Ryan Braun (.333932) before the last two days in the season.

.301: The batting average of Twins' first basemen this year. Yes, that includes the .242 mark of Justin Morneau at the position. So how did they pull off the trick when Luke Hughes also hit a mere .259 as a first sacker this year? Thanks goes to Michael Cuddyer (.338 in 154 at-bats), Chris Parmelee (.348 in 66 at-bats) and Joe Mauer (.424 in 66 at-bats). Who knew?

1.79: The ERA of Doug Fister since he joined the Tigers. In 11 outings, 10 starts, Fister has limited batters to a .206 average, has posted a 0.84 WHIP and has walked five batters compared to 57 punchouts leading to a a stupendous 11.4 K/BB ratio. On the year the big league leader in K/BB (min. 162 IP) is Roy Halladay at 6.29. Fister is 11th with his 3.95 mark.

5: The number of players who have 200 hits this season – Adrian Gonzalez (211), Jacoby Ellsbury (210), Michael Young (210), Starlin Castro (204), Melky Cabrera (201). Only one of these men had ever had 200 hits before, and that is Young, who has pulled off the trick six times now.

6: The number of innings short of qualification for the ERA title for Johnny Cueto who will end the year with 156 frames tossed. As a result he won't officially end the year as the second best in the big leagues with his 2.31 ERA. The leader in the clubhouse is the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw at 2.28. The last hurler who wore a Reds uniform to win the NL ERA title was Ed Huesser in 1944 with a 2.38 mark. Anyone reading this even alive then?

6: The number of pitchers who have ever had 220 Ks, with an ERA under 2.75 and a winning percentage under .500. That list includes Gaylord Perry, Dupee Shaw, Ed Walsh, Amos Rusie, Ben Sheets and Tim Lincecum. The Giants' ace will finish the year with 220 punchouts, a 2.74 ERA and a 13-14 record.

9: The number of players in the illustrious history of the Pirates franchise to end a season with 90 runs, 90 RBI and 89 walks. Andrew McCutchen has a couple of days left to try and become the tenth player to pull off the triple. He has 87 runs, 89 RBI and 89 walks.

I AM...

The Twins' Joe Nathan.

Nathan will need one save over the season’s final two days to tie Matt Capps for the Twins leads with 15 saves.

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.

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