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Circling the Bases: The Enigma in Minnesota

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.

Oh ye wicked temptress. The seductive eyes, the sensual skin, the flowing hair. Ye approacheth the fair maiden and proceed to dance the night away while drinking ale. Upon retiring to your room you prepare for a night of ecstasy only to find out that she is a succubus intent on draining you of your life force. Why start out a column like this? First, let there be no mistake I'm a partial geek, and second because a very similar situation is playing itself out in the fantasy baseball game. If I haven't caused you to go looking for your copy of Dungeons and Dragons in the attic or that adult video set in some castle, why don't I get to the point. The succubus is Francisco Liriano.

Over his last two starts Liriano has permitted one run while walking just three batters and striking out 17 in 12 innings doing his utmost to lure you in to his web of deceit. What will his next move be? To suck the life out of your fantasy squad of course. Some background.

Liriano was on his way to the Cy Young award in 2006 going 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and a 10.71 K/9 mark thanks to a fastball and the most devastating slider in the game not belonging to Randy Johnson.

He then hurt his arm. He missed the entire 2007 campaign.

He returned in 2008 to pitch decently (3.91 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 7.93 K/9) but far from his previous standard. Mechanical issues, as well as some lost velocity and snap on the slider were the main reasons he failed to recapture his previous level of dominance.

In 2009 his effort was awful as he went 5-13 with a 5.80 ERA an a 1.55 WHIP.

In 2010 he seemed to right the ship going 14-10 with a 3.62 ERA and 1.26 WHIP as his K/9 went up to 9.44.

For a follow up last season the wheels fell completely off the wagon and he was running on the rims going 9-10 with a 5.09 ERA, 1.49 WHIP an a disastrous 5.67 walks per nine innings.

So a a quick review.

2006: He was Olivia Wilde.
2007: He was invisible.
2008: He was Emily Blount.
2009: He was Ugly Betty.
2010: He was Natalie Portman.
2011: He was Rosanne Barr.
2012: He has been Eddie Murphy as Mama Klump in The Nutty Professor

As you can tell Liriano has gone from being so smoking hot that it hurts ones eyes to gaze upon them to so unappealing that he's drawing comparisons to Eddie Murphy as a female caricature of an overweight mother.

What in the hell does all of this mean in what has to be one of the most off-topic, rambling articles I've even written in my more than a decade of covering fantasy sports? Let me distill all of this down to one salient fact.

YOU CANNOT TRUST LIRIANO.

Even with his great work the last two outings, you do realize that we're talking about a guy that was so bad that he was sent to the bullpen. We're also talking about a hurler who has a 6.46 ERA and 1.74 WHIP through 46 innings this season despite the fact that he's been brilliant his last two outings (in his first 11 appearances he had an 8.47 ERA an a 2.06 WHIP). We're also talking about a hurler who has posted the following marks over his last 180.1 innings: 10-16, 5.44 ERA, 1.55 WHIP and 5.19 BB/9. I mean, you're really ready to go all in with Liriano moving forward? Really? Hopefully you can't because facts are still facts. Since 2006 he's had only one above average season. Second, the past two years he is walking more than five batters per nine innings. Third, the last two seasons his GB/FB ratios has been below his career 1.45 mark (1.35 and 1.23). Fourth, he could be the most inconsistent pitcher in baseball. Think of it. Last year from May 10th through June 15th he made four starts leading to the following results – 1.38 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 10.04 K/9, 3.63 K/BB ratio over 26 innings. Remember, he still finished the year with an ERA of 5.09, a WHIP of 1.49, a K/9 mark of 7.50 and a 1.49 K/BB ratio.

I'm not saying that you should completely ignore Liriano as he still has an arm that could make him a viable fantasy option in mixed leagues. I'm merely stating that if you think he's “back” based off his last two starts you might as well just let that succubus drain you dry without a fight.


BY THE NUMBERS.

.227: The batting average of Josh Hamilton over his last 18 games. At the end of action on May 16th he was hitting .404 and now that number has fallen to .341. Not only has his average plummeted but so has his OBP (.286), his SLG (.440) and his homer pace as well (three homers in 18 games). It was bound to happen.

.508: The OBP of Paul Konerko since May 16th, the best mark in the AL. On the year Konerko leads the AL with a .451 mark though that lags behind the top-2 performers in the NL – Joey Votto (.477) and David Wright (.464).

1: The number of players who are qualified for the batting title that have an OBP of at least .380 while posting a batting average under .285. The only man to pull off that trick is Shin-Soo Choo who has a .281 batting average and a .384 OBP. Matt Joyce is right on the edge as he has a .399 OBP but a .285 batting average.

9: The number of homers that Alfonso Soriano has hit since May 15th which just so happens to be the biggest total in the game. Consistent during that time frame, Soriano has at least one homer in each of the Cubs last eight series. Soriano has also hit .282 with 17 RBI in those 22 games.

14.73: The K/9 mark of Jason Grilli who pitches for... wait for it... the Pirates. Besides being a simply astounding mark, there's also this little diddy. For his career Grilli has a 7.33 per nine strikeout mark. Double that and you end up with 14.66, a number lower than his total of through 22 innings this season. While he's not likely to keep up his current pace he has greatly increased his whiff rate over the past few years from 4.50 to 7.00 to 8.28 to 9.66 to 10.19 last year. Pretty darn amazing the ascent is.

18: While everyone is obviously focused on the 134 pitch no-hitter that Johan Santana tossed in his last outing, the first no-no in Mets history, few have noticed that Santana is working on back-to-back shutouts, the first time a Mets arm has done that since 1992 when David Cone pulled off the trick. However, that stretch of 18 scoreless innings isn't the longest on the Mets staff as knuckleballer R.A. Dickey has actually tossed 24.2 shutout innings. In his last three outings Dickey became the first Mets hurler to throw 3-straight scoreless games while striking out at least eight guys in each outing.

42: The number of strikeouts this season for reliever Tim Collins who stands all of 5'7”. Given that he has tossed only 28 innings that's a K/9 mark of 13.50. While that's an amazing number, there is another fact about his punchouts that is even more impressive to me. How about the that 43.3 percent of the plate appearances by right handed batters this season have ended up in strikeouts? Not amazing enough for you? One last note. Collins' total of 42 Ks is more than Hiroki Kuroda (41), Rick Porcello (39), Ubaldo Jimenez (37) and Jarrod Parker (35) to name just a few starting pitchers.

69: The number of steals that Reds farmhand Billy Hamilton has this year in 57 games at High-A a year after he swiped 103 bases in A-ball. He may not be a great defender, but he's got the look of Vince Coleman while playing --- shortstop. I'm totally stealing this from @MinorLeagueBlog on Twitter, but here is the tweet. “Billy Hamilton's 69 SBs give him more SBs as an individual then 104 of the 120 active minor league teams.”

107: The RBI pace of A.J. Pierzynski of the White Sox who already has 37 in 50 games. A veteran of more than 1,500 big league games, A.J. has never had 100 RBI in a season. He's never had 90. Hell, he's never even had 80 in a season – his career best is 77 back in 2004. Furthermore, he hasn't even had 65 RBI since that 2004 season. Yeah, he's not likely to keep up this pace. Oh yeah, he's also on pace for more than 25 homers. The last time he hit 15 dingers was 2006 and over the last two years he hit a total of 17 homers. To say what he is doing makes no sense is about as obvious as saying that Ashley Greene can make a fellas knees weak.


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.

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