RotoWire Partners

Circling the Bases: Right in Line

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.

Drew Stubbs hasn't been the performer anyone was hoping for this season as he has hit a mere .238 with just three homers, 11 RBI and six steals for the Reds. Clearly he's taken a massive step back in his development at the big league level, or has he? How shocking is it to learn that he's nearly on pace to match his totals from last season? I'm not kidding. Take a look.

2011: .243-15-44-92-40
2012: .237-13-48-96-26 (projections)

Certainly the steals are down, and that really dings his value to be sure, but how amazing is it to see that he's on a nearly identical pace in the other four fantasy categories? It's also well worth noting that while he's never going to be a contact hitter, his current 27.6 percent K-rate would be a three-year best (career 28.8 percent). I know, pretty shocking. He has regressed significantly in the walk column with a 4.5 percent walk rate, down from the 9.4 mark he posted the last two years, and that has caused his OBP to tank to .277. This fact alone goes at least some of the way to explaining why Stubbs' steal total is down he's just not getting on base.

Chris Volstad failed in every conceivable way to impress the Cubs this season and the team finally turned the page Friday when they sent him to Triple-A. Volstad's record stands at 0-6, and his ERA of 7.46 leaving the Cubs with no choice but to make the move. Travis Wood was recalled from the minors to make the start in place of Volstad next Tuesday and it appears likely that he will be given every shot to run with the starting spot. Wood, who owns a career 11-10 record with a 4.19 ERA and 1.28 WHIP, hopes to one day become a Mark Buehrle type a moderately productive fantasy option in mixed leagues who is pretty darn solid in single league setups. Unfortunately, after a strong start to his career in 2010, Wood has regressed at least at the big league level. Even this season at Triple-A his numbers were far from impressive including a 4.98 ERA and 1.54 WHIP. He did flash the old strikeout ball with 36 punchouts in 34.1 innings, but during his big league career he's been just a wee bit below league average at 6.96 K/9IP. He's a fine add in NL-only leagues if he wasn't drafted and held on to.

Chris Young (shoulder) was activated from the DL on Friday. You should think long and hard about activating for action next week as he appears to be ready to return to prominence. Off to a blazing start that included a .410 batting average, five homers and 13 RBI in just 11 games, Young is a pretty dynamic option to say the least. Now he has hit .242 for his career so he's a borderline average killer even in the best of circumstances, but he oozes talent and has gone 20/20 each of the past two years. In addition, he's scored at least 85 times in four of the last five seasons and his career best numbers would equate in a highly impressive fantasy line of a .257 average, 32 homers, 91 RBI, 84 runs and 28 steals. For NL-only leaguers, the bad news is that A.J. Pollock was optioned to Triple-A to make room for Young in a move that is hardly surprising given that Pollock hit just .229 with one homer in 48 at-bats. It should also be pointed out that the return of Young will leave the daily setup in the outfield, more days than not, as Jason Kubel Young Justin Upton. That means defensive ace Gerardo Parra, who has also swiped nine bags, will go back into more of a complementary role dinging his fantasy value to the point that he's no longer really an option in standard mixed leagues.

BY THE NUMBERS

.092: The difference between the current batting average of Carlos Ruiz which is .363 and his career mark of .271. How fancy do you want to get about why something doesn't make sense here? (1) Logic tells you he ain't hitting .363. He's only had one season over .285 in his career (.302 in 2010). (2) His BB/K mark, a stellar 1.00 for his career, is down to 0.67 this year. (3) His career BABIP of .290 is being overshot by .061 points despite the fact that his line drive rate is only up one percent from his 19 percent career mark. And just for fun. Ruiz has a career best of nine homers. This season he has seven in 113 at-bats as his HR/FB ratio has exploded from a poor seven percent to a HOF caliber 22.6 percent mark.

.216: The worst OBP amongst any qualifier the past 30 days an it belongs to Erick Aybar, one point worse than Eric Hosmer who is at .217. Surprisingly, four of the bottom six options play first base with Hosmer, Albert Pujols (.221), Justin Smoak (.229) and Ike Davis (.234). Just a bit further down on the list let us not forget about Mark Teixeira (.257) who is doing his best to prove that he's all or nothing at the dish anymore.

.216: The batting average of Geovany Soto over his last 514 at-bats since the start of last season. Heading to the DL with torn meniscus in his knee, he'll require surgery which will knock him out of the lineup for weeks. Though his production has been far from ideal he has hit 20 homers with 60 RBI and 57 runs scored in his last 514 games, more than acceptable levels of production for a second catcher if you could/can carry that drag of a batting average.

.396: The best batting average in baseball the past 30 days. No it doesn't belong to Josh Hamilton who is a slacker with an AL-leading .391 mark. It also doesn't belong to Carlos Ruiz (.388), Michael Bourn (.385) or David Wright (.379). The big leagues best hitter the past 30 days is the Cardinals' Rafael Furcal who, by the way, also has an OPS of .991 over those 26 games during which time he has scored 23 runs. Wow is right.

4: The number of consecutive starts in which Ervin Santana has allowed three or fewer earned runs while tossing at least seven innings. In those four starts he is a mere 2-2, but look at the numbers he has posted otherwise 2.10 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 6.90 K/9IP an a 2.30 K/BB ratio. For those that panicked and dealt him after his insane beating by the long ball over his first four starts, he's allowed just two big flies in his last four starts by the way, you've missed out on the Santana that you thought you were getting when you drafted him this year.

8.80: The largest run support per nine inning mark of any pitcher in baseball who has thrown at least 40 innings this season. This pitcher is on the Red Sox. No it's not Josh Beckett. He's seventh in baseball with a 6.48 mark. It must be youngster Felix Doubront then, right? Hope. He's second with a 7.77 mark. The leader in the clubhouse right now is Clay Buchholz, he of the 7.77 ERA. How amazing it is to think that Buchholz's ERA is barely a run below his 8.80 RS/9IP number? It just boggles the mind. If Ryan Vogelsong of the Giants, who has the lowest run support mark in baseball this year at 1.99, was getting four times the run support he has received to this point I shudder to think what his record might look like (he's 1-2 despite a 2.66 ERA in six starts). Undefeated anyone?

10.31: The career K/9IP mark of Kerry Wood. An obviously impressive number, it has only been bettered by one man in the history of baseball who has thrown at least 1,300 career innings, and that man is Randy Johnson at 10.61. The only other arm that lasted 1,300 big league innings to strike out 10 batters per nine innings is Pedro Martinez at 10.04. If only arm issues hadn't derailed the career of Wood. At least he didn't devolve into Mark Prior though.

14: The league leading save total of Jim Johnson of all people. Through 18.2 innings Johnson is sporting a 0.48 ERA and 0.80 WHIP, not to mention an insane 5.29 GB/FB. The guy has allowed 13.5 percent of batted balls to be hit in the air, half of his career mark. When that number normalizes, and there is every reasonable expectation that it will, the outlook for Johnson will start to shift. It's also a pretty fair bet he wont continue to undershoot his career BABIP (.281) by nearly 90 points (.192) and that his 100 percent left on-base percentage is going to regress substantially (he's never posted a mark of 80 percent). He's had a special start to the year, but rough times could lay ahead.

19.2: The pitches per inning mark of Max Scherzer, the highest mark in the game for a qualifier. Taking a look a the other eight men with a mark in the 18's, can you pick out one pitcher who is living up to expectations because I can't Phil Hughes, Randy Wolf, Felix Dubront, Matt Moore, Ubaldo Jimenez, Tim Lincecum, Matt Latos and Brian Matusz. A strikeout arm, Scherzer leads the AL with a 10.37 K/9IP mark (the top two men in baseball pitch for the Nationals in Gio Gonzalez at 11.10 and Stephen Strasburg at 10.50), he's always going to throw a lot pitches as evidenced by his 17.4 pitch per inning mark for his career.

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.