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Circling the Bases: Concerns About A-Gone

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.

Raise your hand if you are a bit worried if you're an Adrian Gonzalez owner. The Red Sox star is hitting .270 with two homers an a .705 OPS through 28 games. Clearly he's not on the Albert Pujols path to self destruction, but he's certainly not exactly lighting it up either. Some thoughts. (1) Adrian's 8.5 percent walk rate would be a six-year low. It should climb as the season progresses. (2) His 18.5 percent K-rate would be a four year low but it's only 0.5 percent above his career rate. (3) His GB/FB ratio is 1.11. His career rate is 1.10. (4) His BABIP is .315. His career rate is .322. So what's the problem? Unreasonable expectations certainly are part of this, more on that in a second, but here are three quick hitters to offer some perspective. First, he was never going to replicate his .380 BABIP from last season (last season was his only the second time in his career that he posted a mark over .325). Second, Fenway Park isn't an easy place for left-handed power hitters. Everyone thought that the move to Fenway would lead to 40 homer efforts from AGone. Well it hasn't, nor is it likely, to ever happen. According to Park Indices, from 2009-2011 Fenway was the 11th best ball yard for left-handed home runs hitters meaning there were only three worse parks in the Junior Circuit (Oakland, Minnesota and Kansas City). Third, despite what number two just stated, there's no explanation for Gonzalez to currently having a 5.6 percent HR/F rate which is literally a third of his career rate. So in the end what should you expect? Adrian can still hit .300 this year, but .338 is, and always was, a pipe dream. Adrian can still match last years total of 27 homers, it won't be easy but he certainly can, but he just might be hard pressed to reach 30 bombs. Given that he has just two steals in his career maybe you can now understand why I kept telling people prior to the start of the season that Gonzalez just wasn't worth a top-20 overall pick even though plenty of people were taking him in the top-10.

Jeremy Hellickson had a 2.95 ERA last season while winning 13 games in a wonderful rookie effort spread out over 189 innings. Despite that great first full season effort, I still had concerns which I shared in his Player Profile. Though he's dropped his ERA this season down to 2.75 while posting an unblemished record at 3-0, my stated worries still stand. You'll see them too if you look beyond the flashy ERA. His K/9 rate of 5.75 this season is more than a batter an a quarter below the league average. His BB/9 rate is up at 3.75, a half batter worse than the big league average. Combine those two numbers and you get a 1.53 K/BB ratio, a terrible, and I mean really bad, number (hell, Livan Hernandez has a 1.84 number for his career). So how has Hellickson been successful if some major benchmark type numbers don't support that success? Two numbers immediately jump out. (1) His BABIP, that was amazingly low last season at .223, has only inched up slightly to .234 this year. The big league average is .290-.300, and even the elites of the game in this measure have a hard time posting marks below .260 consistently. This number is bound to come up, especially when his 13.3 percent line drive rate increases (he was at 20.0 last year). I know that Jason Collette keeps talking about how good the Rays defense has been the past few years helping to aid all the Rays' hurlers, but at some point the law of averages is going to catch up to Hellickson. (2) His left on base percentage, which was the second best mark in baseball last year at 82.0 percent, is bonkers high at 88.1 percent this year. There is just no way he can keep this up. Look at that xFIP if you want to end up with a pit of worry in your stomach (the mark was 4.72 last year and is even higher this year at 4.86). It might be a good time to sell high on Hellickson.

BY THE NUMBERS

0: The number of homers allowed this season by Josh Johnson (31.1 IP) and Gio Gonzalez (36.2). Johnson has always been one stingy fella with the long ball surrendering an average of 0.54 per nine innings, a level that is literally half the big league average. As for Gonzalez he has also been better than league average in his career with a 0.87 mark though the last two seasons, his only efforts of more than 20 starts in a campaign, that mark has been even lower at 0.67 and 0.76.

.415: The best batting average in baseball the past two weeks and it belongs to none other than John Jay. A handful of other guys are also hitting .400 the past two weeks, and here they are – Asdrubal Cabrera (.412), Bryan LaHair (.409), Elvis Andrus (.404), Carlos Gonzalez (.400) and Mitch Moreland (.400). Down at the bottom of the barrel here are the guys who just can't seem to buy a hit – Jemile Weeks (.118), Albert Pujols (.135), James Loney (.135) and Justin Smoak (.136).

.457: No that isn't the on-base percent of some hot hitter, it's the BABIP mark of Ryan Sweeney who leads the American League. Sweeney's production has been so off the charts amazing there just isn't any conceivable way that anyone can think he has a chance to keep this up. His line drive rate is up more than 30 percent from his career mark at 31.4 percent. No person on the planet can do that over 162 games. Second, the BABIP is only .127 points above his already impressive career mark of .330. Third, his OPS of .938 is .208 points above his career mark despite the fact that he hasn't hit a single home run this season in 87 at-bats. He has rapped out 13 doubles and a triple though for the Red Sox.

.535: No that isn't the slugging percentage of some hot hitter, it's the BABIP mark of Bryan LaHair of the Cubs. You know that mark is about .200 points high, right? Given the 31 percent strikeout rate that LaHair currently has, and the .388 average, you know that his average is in for a massive tumble the rest of the way. Even if he hits .300 over 550 at-bats, and he's not a .300 hitter, that means he will hit in the .290's the rest of the way. Coming into the season did anyone think he was a .290 hitter? Just some food for thought.

1.667: The major league leading OPS of Evan Longoria with runners in scoring position. In 27 such plate appearances he has hit .550 with 16 RBI. Too bad he's out of the mix for week with that leg injury. The NL lead in OPS with RISP is hardly a shock as it's Matt Kemp at 1.595. The Dodgers superstar has hit .429 with four bombs and 16 RBI in 28 plate appearances with RISP.

2.10: No that isn't the ERA of some hot pitcher, it's actually the WHIP of Francisco Liriano. I can't believe I just wrote that, but it's true. Not only does he have a 2.10 WHIP, remember this guy had a 1.00 WHIP over 28 games in 2006, but he's also given up 28 earned runs in26.2 innings (9.45 ERA). Liriano also has a career worst 7.09 K/9 mark an a career worst 6.41 BB/9 mark. Unless you're in an AL-only league or a 15 team mixed league, it's darn near impossible to have him on your roster at this point.

5: The number of players who have double-digit steals putting them on pace to go well over 50 for the season. They are – Emilio Bonifacio (14), Dee Gordon (12), Michael Bourn (11), Jordan Schafer (11) and Starlin Castro (11). Of course, Bourn is the only one of the group who has ever stolen 50 bases in a season, he has each of the past three seasons, and only one of the other four has ever stolen 30 in a season (Emilio had 40 thefts last season).

6: The number of runs allowed in six starts by Lance Lynn this season leading to his sparkling 1.40 ERA. For some perspective on how bonkers that start is for Lynn let's take a look at Clayton Kershaw who led baseball last year with a 2.28 ERA. Kershaw did not have a single month last season, not one, in which he allowed six or fewer runs (he did allow just five earned runs in five September starts but he gave up a total of seven runs on the month). Is Lance Lynn > Clayton Kershaw? If you say yes can you tell me where you're buying your “stuff?”

94.0: The left on base percentage of Tigers rookie hurler Drew Smyly. Given that the big league average is about 70 percent, and that we rarely see anyone post a mark above 82 percent (only two men reached that mark last year – Jered Weaver at 82.6 and Jeremy Hellickson at 82.0), it's a pretty safe bet that Smyly's 1.61 ERA has a long way to fall, potentially doubling with little out of the ordinary occurring, the rest of the way.

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.