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Circling the Bases: Matt Cain vs. Tim Lincecum

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.

Circling the Bases
By Ray Flowers
September 4, 2012

Before getting to the numbers that everyone loves, I thought I would spend some time detailing some of the men on the hill. Who is going in the right direction and who is trending toward the waiver-wire? Read on to find out.

Tim Lincecum vs. Matt Cain

Before you go thinking that I've spent one night too many at a bar, or that I'm actually writing this on my laptop in the corner booth of the local saloon, give me a chance to blow your mind. First, compare the work of the two men that are supposed to be the two best pitchers for the Giants.

M. Cain: 13-5, 2.98 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 170 Ks in 187 IP
Lincecum: 8-14, 5.21 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 162 Ks in 157.1 IP

You're right, I must be drunk. But let's see what happens when we shrink that sample size down a wee bit. What if we compare the duo since the All-Star break. Humor me.

M. Cain: 4-2, 3.65 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 7.02 K/9
Lincecum: 5-4, 3.26 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 8.60 K/9

Now don't go thinking I'm saying that Lincecum is a better play right now than Cain. I'm merely pointing out that after a horrible start to the year Lincecum has not only pitched much better in the second half, he's been just as effective a fantasy option since the All-Star game as his more celebrated 2012 teammate.

Hisashi Iwakuma has only made 11 starts this year, but he has exceedingly effective in that role for the Mariners. Over those 67 innings Iwakuma has gone 5-2 with a 2.42 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 7.7 K's per nine innings. Were you aware he was that impressive? I know no one pays attention to the Mariners, and I can't blame anyone for that, but Hisashi has pitched well enough to be a starter in every type of league you could think of in the second half of the season. While he's on an undeniable role, there are some concerns. (1) When he gets the ball up in the zone he gets hammered. Though he has a 52 percent GB-rate, his LD-rate is a league average 20.4 percent, and his fly ball rate really low at 27.8 percent. However, his HR/F ratio is big at 17+ percent. (2) His left on base percentage is 82.4 percent. That mark will likely fall 10 percent as the innings pile up (it may not normalize until next year). (3) Though his K/9 is solid at 7.40, he's walking more than three an a half batters per nine leading to a poor 2.05 K/BB ratio. (4) Though nails at home with a 2.12 ERA and 1.13 WHIP, Hisashi hasn't been very good away from Safeco with a 4.74 ERA and 1.45 WHIP. Solid is a good way to describe Iwakuma, though he's pitching much better than that right now.

As they say, Lance Lynn has wet the bed for the Cardinals. I'm not talking a little accident, I'm talking like he needs to sleep in a pair of diapers. It's a long season, and overall Lynn has 13 victories and 146 Ks. However, his production has bottomed out big time recently. After hitting the break with a 3.41 ERA and 1.23 WHIP, Lynn has seen his numbers over the last 11 games make him look like, well, the pitcher that he might more closely resemble than the star we saw the first two months of the season. Over his last 44.2 innings Lynn has a 5.64 ERA, 1.70 WHIP, a less than 2:1 K/BB ratio and batters have hit .318 off him. Hopefully you gave up on the first half star a while ago.

Paul Maholm has 11 victories, a 3.79 ERA an a 1.22 WHIP this season. Those are impressive numbers, very similar to the totals he posted last year with the Pirates actually (3.66 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, though he was just 6-14). Maholm has been on quite the role as well, at least until his last start in which he was bombed for seven runs while recording just six outs. Even with that horrible outing, the man has put up some remarkable number over his last 12 starts. Check it:

7-3, 2.37 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 3.37 K/BB

Those are Cole Hamels type numbers folks. In fact, since June 25th those 12 starts have results in just three outings of more than two earned runs allowed. Three. It's certainly fair to ponder the chances of Maholm having a September that will match his last two months, but even with that recent hiccup of his it's gotta be damn hard to remove him from your starting lineup at this point.

BY THE NUMBERS
0: The number of games this season that Stephen Strasburg has recorded more than 21 outs. That’s right, in 27 starts this season he has lasted more than 7.0 innings – not a single time. Moreover, in 44 career starts he's lasted seven innings just seven times, not a single effort lasting more than 21 outs. Want some more proof of the Nationals babying ways? Over his last seven starts this season he hasn't lasted more than 6.0 innings in any outing. It's not just Strasburg either. Jordan Zimmerman hasn't been allowed to record more than 21 outs in any of his 27 starts this season either.

0.59: The ERA of Kris Medlen since the All-Star break as he's allowed a total of five runs, four earned, over 61.1 inning. That mark is just about a third of the next best man in baseball – Felix Hernandez who leads the AL with a 1.57 mark. They are the only two men in baseball under the magic mark of two. Medlen also has 61 Ks in 61.1 innings with a 6.78 K/BB ratio since the All-Star Game. Yeah, he's the best guy going right now.

1.144: The league leading OPS mark of Paul Goldschmidt against left handed pitching (minimum 150 plate appearances). Two others have marks above a grand – Billy Butler (1.087) and Matt Holliday (1.036). Josh Willingham is just on the cusp with a .998 mark, and he leads baseball with 15 homers against lefties this year (in a mere 135 at-bats). In fact, if you give Willingham 550 at-bats at the levels he has bashed lefties at this season you would end up with an effort of .244-61-147-130.

5: The number of doubles that the league leader, Alex Gordon, needs to reach 50 this season. He may have gone deep only 10 times this season, but that's a big double total to be sure. There's an outside shot that he could break the team record held by Hal McRae (54 in 1977), and he's on the cusp of becoming just the third man to reach 50 in a season for the Royals (Billy Butler had 51 in 20009). Gordon also hit 45 doubles last season giving him 90 doubles since the start of last season, six more than anyone else in baseball (Robinson Cano and Adrian Gonzalez have 84).

11.43: The K/9 mark of Max Scherzer in the second half as he's struck out 83 batters in 65.1 innings. Scherzer's total of 83 Ks is two more than Justin Verlander for the most in baseball since the All-Star Break. Given that Verlander has thrown 6.1 more innings, Scherzer has the larger K/9 mark. Don't just think it's a sample size thing either. Scherzer also happens to lead baseball in K/9 this season with an 11.29 mark, just slightly better than Strasburg's 11.23 per nine mark which leads the NL.

12: The most caught stealing in the National League this season, belonging to Jose Tabata. It's even worse than you think. Tabata has only stolen eight bases this season, four less than the 12 times that he has been caught stealing. Willie Bloomquist is another steal threat that has been a failure this season as he has swiped seven bases while being caught 10 times. David DeJesus joins the club too. He had six steals and eight caught stealing. To compare. Shane Victorino, who is third in the NL with 32 steals, has been caught just six times this season. Those are the same numbers that Juan Pierre has put up this season for the Phillies.

67: The percent of his last six starts, four, that C.J. Wilson has allowed two or three earned runs. Unfortunately the other two times that he's taken the bump he's allowed a total of 13 earned runs in 9.2 innings. Over those six starts he is saddled with a 6.40 ERA, 1.70 WHIP an a 2.00 K/BB ratio. Even with those four passable outings those two awful starts just killed his value the last month.

Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87 from 7-10 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.