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Circling the Bases: Early Returns

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.

It's early in the year, we'll keep hearing that for at least another couple of weeks, but that doesn't mean there are some growing trends that we would be wise to pay attention to.

It's super early, we all know that, but consider the situation with the Angels. Bobby Abreu is hitting .231. Vernon Wells is hitting .237. Peter Bourjos is hitting .259. Mike Trout is hitting .420. Of course, Trout is the only player who isn't wearing a big league uniform, but he's been mashing at Triple-A Salt Lake City. Not only is he hitting .420, but he's also got an OPS of 1.094 while he's scored 12 times in 12 games. It's only a matter of time before he's patrolling the Angels outfield so continue to hold fast if you've got Trout reserved.

Through two starts the jury is still out on Yu Darvish. He's posted a solid total of nine Ks in 11.1 innings, but goodness sakes, though eight walks are brutal. His next start will come Thursday against the big bad Tigers as the Rangers decided they wanted to split up their two lefties (Matt Harrison and Derek Holland).

Remember back in spring when Roy Halladay was dealing with a bit of a dead arm that cost him about four mph on his fastball? Did you panic and drop him in your rankings as a result? So far so good for the ace who has gone 3-0 with a 1.17 ERA and 0.78 WHIP in 23 innings. As amazingly good as he is, isn't it amazing to think that he also owns the worst ERA in the history of baseball for any pitcher who threw at least 65 innings in a season? Back in 2000, before he revamped his delivery, Halladay posted a 10.64 ERA in 67.2 innings.

Jason Heyward is back. OK, that may be premature, but he's reminding everyone why he was thought of as an elite level hitter just 12 months ago, a fact most seemed to forget after his dreadful 2011 (.227-14-42-50-9). Heyward has gone deep twice leading to a .375 average and 1.101 OPS. Heyward has also stolen three bases flashing the athleticism we all knew he possessed. It's too early to say that he's ready for the All-Star game, but a start like this will go a long way to making those that took a chance on him on draft day look very smart.

Justin Morneau wasn't in the starting lineup Tuesday since he is just 6-for-43 against the Yankees starter, CC Sabathia. However, Morneau was able to play first base Monday night, his first game in the field this season, an obvious sign that the Twins view him as a player who is able to handle the physical aspect of playing defense at the big league level, a great sign for a fella who has had to be sheltered due to his noggin. While that's certainly a big time positive, it shouldn't wipe away the concerns with Justin's lethargic bat. Off to yet another slow start, Morneau is hitting .231 with 10 Ks in 10 games leading to an OBP of just .286. For the moment the most important thing is that his body appears to be healthy, but it's still worth noting that he's hit hit .228 with six homers and 33 RBI over his last 79 games.

Just for the hell of it. Entering play Tuesday, Matt Diaz has hit .500 against Johan Santana with 17 hits in 34 at-bats.

Is Jose Tabata about to lose playing time in Pittsburgh? If time in the lineup is dictated by the performance on the field, it has to be a possibility. Tabata has no runs or RBI through eight games, and he has only four hits leading to a .118 batting average. He's also failed to draw a walk, a requirement if you're going to hit at the top of any batting order. Going back to September of last season we have a player who hasn't walked in 13 games, one who has one RBI, has scored only two runs, and one who is batting just .143 in that time. Clearly I'm cherry picking a handful of games here to make a point, but I can't be the only one who has noticed the same thing. I'm totally dumfounded that all 34 of his at-bats this season have come out of the leadoff and #2 hole. Tabata should be nowhere near your starting lineup right now unless you're in an NL-only league.

Jemile Weeks is batting .196 through 46 at-bats, a pathetic number. Amazingly, it's actually better than his brother, Rickie, who is batting .184 in 38 at-bats. Back to Jemile. Everyone was super high on the A's youngster, aside from this scribe as I preached tempered excitement. Weeks had only 406 at-bats last season, hardly a large enough total to say that he was going to be a .300 hitter not unless you think he can legitimately post a BABIP of .350, the number he posted last season. Weeks doesn't take a walk, he has four this season and 25 in 108 career games, and he has no power to speak of despite already matching last seasons total of two bombs. He was also being looked at as a potential 40-steal guy coming into the year. Two problems with that. First, last season was the first time he stole more than 20 bases in any professional season. Two, the guy, just like his older bro, was seemingly always dealing with some sort of physical malady. Take a look at his games played totals through the years: 19, 80, 77 and 142 last year. Doesn't that kind of number set sound eerily similar to something that Rickie might throw up there? If you can't stay on the field, you certainly can't rack up any counting numbers, including steals.

BY THE NUMBERS

0: The number of home runs the struggling Mike, er, Giancarlo Stanton has through 35 at-bats this season. Stanton, who has been dealing with a knee issue since camp, was dropped to 6th in the Marlins batting order Tuesday.

1:1: The ratio of the batting average to OBP of Chris Johnson of the Astros who is hitting .326 with a .326 OBP. Juan Pierre of the Phillies can do him one better as he is the owner of an amazing, but true, .292 batting average, .292 OBP and .292 SLG (he has seven singles and no walks through 24 at-bats).

6: The major league leading doubles mark of the following batters: David Ortiz, Ruben Tejada, Jhonny Peralta and Michael Cuddyer. Surprisingly those four batters have combined to hit only two homers in 153 at-bats (one each for Ortiz and Cuddyer).

7: The league leading steal total of Dee Gordon who, through 10 games, is getting on base at a mere .273 clip. The last time a player had an OBP below .275 and stole 50 bases was in the 19th century. Billy Shindle stole 52 bases with a .249 OBP in 1888 while Billy Sunday stole 71 bases with a .256 OBP. Obviously the game was a wee bit diff back in those days. Moreover, since 1900, there have only been eight seasons produced by every player who has graced a diamond, in which they stole 50 bags but had an OBP under .300.

9: The number of runs that Tim Lincecum has allowed in the first inning this season in three starts. He allowed, get this, a total of seven runs in the first inning all of last season. Lincecum has an ERA of 10.54 through three starts, a number that is great than his ERA from the last three seasons combined (2.48+3.43+2.74 = 8.65).

11: The amount of walks that Chase Headley has racked up in just 11 games. That rate obviously will not continue, his walk rate of 22 percent is more than double his career mark of 9.8 percent, and it's also worth noting that in the limited sample size we're discussing that his K-rate of 24 percent would be a four year worst. So is the situation when talking so few games.

15.00: The K/BB ratio of Chad Billingsley who has whiffed 15 batters, while issuing only one free pass, over 14.1 innings. For his career Billingsley has posted a league average 2.08 K/BB mark as he's walked almost four batters per nine at 3.87 in his 1,028 big league innings.

23: The major league leading strikeout total of Jered Weaver through 20.2 innings. Since the start of the 2010 season Weaver had 454 punchouts, the 5th highest total in baseball, leading to an 8.50 K/9 mark (he's thrown 480.2 innings).

66: The percentage of 2011 Opening Day closers who are still their teams primary closer just 12 months later according to Tom Verducci of SI.com. Verducci also reports that of the 53 closers who saved at least 25 games in a season the past five years, 62 percent of them are no longer closing.

Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87 from 5-8 PM EDT, Monday through Friday. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.