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Circling the Bases: The Melk Man Delivers

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.

Jay Bruce has been a wonderful power bat in the early going as he's socked 10 homers while driving in 28 runs. At the same time a down month of May has brought his overall numbers down to the point that he's really not performing any different than he did last season.

2011: .256-32-97-84-8
2012: .252-36-100-81-11 (projections)

Those numbers are of course worthy of praise, but at the same time they would represent a rather disappointing set after Bruce was drafted so highly back in March. Also concerning is his continued lack of patience at the plate. Bruce struck out 158 times last season, and with 44 in 43 games this year he's on a similar pace. He's also walking a lot less than he has the past three years, an as a result his league average BB/K mark the past three years of 0.45 is way down to 0.27. Also, Bruce is sporting a career batting average of .256. That number makes a lot of sense given what we just discussed, but it's a pretty disturbing number for a guy who is supposed to be a fantasy star, isn't it?

Welcome the major league hit leader, Melky Cabrera. With 67 hits in 45 games Cabrera is on pace to blow past his 201 hit total from last season, the first time in his career he had more than 149 hits mind you. His current pace would net him 241 base knocks, a total that has only been bettered 10 times in the history of the game. The record is 262 hits, set by Ichiro in 2004, and if you add 100 to that you'd come up with Cabrera's current batting average of .362. We all know which direction that average is going to go, but the question is how far will it fall? I'm going to say an awful lot. For his career Cabrera is a guy with a 19.4 percent line drive rate. He pushed that mark up a bit last season at 20.3 percent leading to his .305 batting average which was the first time he hit better than .280. Logic says that line drive rate must be pretty huge this year since he's only gone deep two times. That line of thought would be in error. Cabrera has a 19.8 percent mark this season. So how in the world does he have a .362 batting average? Come on down, .404 BABIP. Last year Cabrera had a mark of .332, the first time in his career that he had a mark above .310. While it's perfectly reasonable to think he could repeat last year's number, it does strain credulity a bit to think he's going to keep that mark anywhere near his current rate. It will be hard for him not to hit .300 this year after this 45 game run, but that doesn't mean he is going to hit .300 from this point forward.

Jose Lopez, he's on the Indians if you forgot (don't blame you), has a 10-game hitting streak going into game action Friday. During the stretch of productivity Lopez is batting a robust .354 with a homer, four doubles and seven RBI. You remember Lopez, right? Yes, this is the same Jose Lopez that had 25 homers and 96 RBI for the Mariners in 2009. It's also the same Jose Lopez who hit .239 in 2010 and then .216 last season. Still, when you're this hot you are a must start in AL-only leagues, hell, maybe even in 15 team mixed leagues as well.

Juan Nicasio has 48 strikeouts this season in just 50.1 innings. That's the same strikeout mark as Erik Bedard, Yovani Gallardo and Mat Latos. Unfortunately there is more to the game than mere strikeouts. Three times this season, in nine starts, he's allowed six runs (one of those three outings only five runs were earned) leading to a 4.83 ERA. He's also walked a bit more than the league average (3.58 per nine) while posting a league average GB/FB rate (1.12). There are seeds here that suggest a brighter future lies ahead, but for now you'd be best served keeping those expectations in check until those line drive rate (25.5 percent) and BABIP (.368) marks recede.

BY THE NUMBERS

0.00: No one is paying attention, least of all the people in Anaheim it seems, but this is the ERA of deposed closer Jordan Walden over his last nine outings. In those nine trips to the hill he has permitted just two hits and three walks while working 8.2 scoreless innings. He seems no close to the closing role than he was three weeks ago, and honestly with Ernesto Frieri pitching out of his mind (19 Ks, zero runs in 8.2 innings with the Angels) Walden might actually be even further from the 9th inning than he was.

0.12: The BB/K mark of Will Middlebrooks who has 26 punchouts and just three walks in 20 games. I know he's hitting .296, and that .568 SLG is impressive, and who is going to argue with five homers and 17 RBI in 20 games. Still, there are some major issues here, not the least of which is that logic defying BB/K ratio. You can't hit .300 when you strike out in a third of your at-bats. You also can't hit .300 if your BB/K mark is a quarter of the big league average. Just keep that in mind when you're trying to place a value on Will.

.200: The batting average of Jason Heyward in the month of May. He's not the only big name fella who has hit like the bat was a fungo this month. Here are some other names who have really struggled: Matt Wieters (.203), Jay Bruce (.205), Mike Napoli (.206), David Freese (.208), Michael Young (.209) and Edwin Encarnacion (.210). No one is going to care if they own Encarnacion since he's on pace for 50 homers, 125 RBI and 20 steals, but don't you think you should be at least a little bit worried? After all, EE has never hit 30 homers, has never knocked in 80 runs and has never stolen 10 bases. He's also hitting .269 right now, a mere eight points above his career mark, while his .337 OBP is one point better than his career rate.

.385: The OPS of Nate McLouth this season in 62 plate appearances. The former 20/20 star was placed on waivers Friday by the Pirates so he will look to jump start his career with another organization after returning to the scene of his greatest triumphs didn't get her done (McLouth was a fantasy superstar for the Pirates in 2008 hitting .276 with 26 homers, 94 RBI, 113 runs and 23 steals).

1: The number of homers that Yonder Alonso has in 154 at-bats this season for the Padres. Some perspective for the guy that has hit .305 but just hasn't driven the ball much at all this season. (1) Scott Podsednik has four at-bats this season and he has one homer. (2) Alonso has half as many homers as Chone Figgins. (3) Michael Bourn had a game earlier this week in which he hit two homers (he also hit one Thursday giving him a rather amazing total of three in three games). Alonso has been a solid NL-only bat, but he's got to pick up the power.

1.86: The ERA of the Red Sox bullpen over their last 30 games, the best mark in baseball. Obviously this is a remarkable number that is made even more so by the realization that the pen had a 8.44 ERA through 14 games (thanks at least in part to some memorable blow ups from Alfredo Aceves 24.00 ERA in seven outings, and Mark Melancon with a 49.50 mark in four appearances). For more on the flat out amazing turnaround see the article by Jeremy Lundbald.

6: The American League leading win total of David Price, Jered Weaver, James Shields, Derek Lowe, Yu Darvish and Tommy Milone. Their ERA's range from 3.63 for Shields down to 2.15 for Lowe. How in the world has Lowe gone 6-2 with a 2.15 ERA despite having more walks than strikeouts (18 to 15)? A heaping helping of luck certainly hasn't hurt as he's also been giving up quite a few hits given that his .286 batting average against is .037 points higher than any of the other six games winners. Lowe is also one of only two pitchers who has thrown at least 50-inning this season with a K/BB ratio of under 1.00 as his 0.79 mark is slightly worse than the 0.83 rate of Ubaldo Jimenez.

7.23: The ERA of Ervin Santana on April 25th after he had made four starts. In the five starts since then he's allowed a total of nine runs leading to an ERA of 2.25. As a result of his impressive work of late his season long ERA is down to 4.22. Moreover, after being obliterated for 10 homers in his first four starts he's only allowed two big flies in his last five outings. All is right once again.

9: The number of games in the last 10 that he has played that Albert Pujols has produced a base hit to push his average up to .225. Not just hitting singles, Pujols has gone deep four times in his last nine games and he's also produced 10 RBI in those 10 contests. The end of the slump appears to be at hand. Now it's just a matter of how much of a rebound he can make after being so dismal for so long.

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.