Sounds like Jonathan Broxton is close to a deal, a three year deal, with the Reds, and the belief is that the club would probably install Broxton as their closer while moving Aroldis Chapman back to the starting rotation. As amazing as Chapman was last year as a closer, just look at his numbers (1.51 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 15.32 K/9, 38 saves), I still believe that an arm like that is wasted throwing just 71.2 innings out of the bullpen. Chapman did have some arm issues at times last year, and there is no unanimity that he would be able to sustain his success over 180 innings as a starter, but I think it would make the Reds a better team to have him starting every five games. Be that as it may, I think the idea of trusting the 9th inning to Broxton could be a mistake. Broxton converted 27 of 33 save chances last year, and his 2.48 ERA is a strong number. However, that ERA is deceiving. Broxton was at one point pretty much like Chapman. In 2009 Broxton had a 2.61 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 13.50 K/9 and 36 saves. He's never been able to regain that level of dominance as injury and ineffectiveness have crept into his game. Broxton's fastball was 97.8 mph that season. Last season that number was three mph lower at 94.7. Broxton has seen a drastic dip in his K-rate as a result. After that 13.50 mark in 2009 the number has fallen three straight years. Moreover, the number in 2012 was 6.98. That's four batters below his career mark. Four. Let me repeat, four. Two factors have helped to keep Broxton afloat. He controlled the walks last year. A career 3.60 BB/9 mark fell to 2.64, a career best. The previous four years that mark was at least 3.43. Do you think he can keep the mark that low again? Second, he returned to his ground ball ways. Broxton posted a 2.22 GB/FB ratio, well beyond his 1.49 career mark (he has only one other season over 1.70 in his other seven seasons). Can he hold on to those gains? Chapman to the rotation makes sense to me, but Broxton to work the ninth? Not so much.
Jeff Keppinger broke his right leg in a fall at home, terrible timing for a guy coming off a career best season who was looking to strike it rich in free agency. Sounds like there are still a handful of teams that are willing to give Keppinger the benefit of the doubt since he's expected to be full healthy in time for spring training, so he'll still get his money. On the field Keppinger is a super sub. He played 27 games at first base, 27 games at second base and 50 games at third base in 2012. He can also play shortstop in a pinch though he didn't play there the past two years. That versatility is a huge plus for a guy who can also hit, and hit he did in 2012. Jeff batted .325 with a career best nine homers. A career .288 hitter, Keppinger has failed to hit .278 in three of the past five years. He's also had an OBP under the league average in two of the past four years (his career .337 mark is just league average). He doesn't steal bases, 12 in his career. A great player to have on a squad in the real world, Keppinger is nothing more than a league specific play in the fantasy game, a good one at that because of his flexibility.
Reports suggest that Russell Martin is looking for a four-year deal. That alone seems a bit batty. The fact that he wants $9-10 million a year as well --- give me some of what you're smoking Mr. Martin. Russell is 29 years old and a solid catcher with some pop, but let's be honest here. If any team pays Martin that much they are overpaying, period (reports suggest the Yankees, Rangers, Red Sox, Pirates and Mariners are all in the mix). Is 21 homers really that important? Let's face facts with Martin. He hit .211 last season, and the last time he hit .260, his career average, was way back in 2008. That's a long time ago ain't it? Sure Martin hit 21 homers last season, a career best, but that was fueled by two factors. First, his HR/F ratio was 19.8 percent. He's not going to repeat that (five of the previous six seasons he didn't reach 12.5 percent). Second, the ballpark in New York helps (Martin hit 13 homers at home versus eight on the road). So his average is in the dumper, and his homer total isn't likely to be repeated. Is that it? Nope, there's more bad news. The once fleet of foot catcher, he stole 39 bases in 2007-08, has failed to swipe more than eight bases the last three seasons (his total of 20 steals the last three years is one less than his season high of 21). Finally, two other concerning factors. Martin's once proud BB/K ratio, it was an out of this world 1.08 in 2008, has gone down every year since that career-high (0.86, 0.79, 0.62 and 0.56). That doesn't have the sound of a guy who's batting average is heading back to the .260's. There is also the fact that he just doesn't get on base anymore. After posting a career best .385 mark in 2008, here are his yearly totals: .352, .347, .324 and .311. As a result, his runs scored mark has failed to reach 60 in each of the last three seasons. Someone is overpaying Martin if they give him four years and $36 million. I think everyone, but the teams said to be interested, know that.
Andy Pettitte pitched exceedingly well last year in his return to the big leagues for the Yankees. After sitting out the 2011 season Pettitte returned to the bump with some staggering results: 5-4, 2.87 ERA, 1.14 WHIP over 12 starts. That ERA was his best mark since 2005, but that leaves out the fact that four of the previous five seasons his ERA was in the 4's. Pettitte also posted his best WHIP since 2005, and just like with ERA, only once in the previous five seasons was that WHIP under 1.38. The good times don't stop there. Pettitte also had a 8.24 K/9 ratio, the second best mark of his career (a batter an a half above his career 6.67 rate). Pettitte posted a 3.29 K/BB ratio, his best mark since 2005 and the third best mark of his career. Remember folks, this is a guy who started pitching in the big leagues in 1995. Is it reasonable to think Pettitte will perform at '12 levels in the coming season? Hell no. The guy is 40 years old. The last time he threw 130 innings in a season was 2009. His performance last year was light years better than his work from his mid 30's on. There is nothing, not a thing, that can be held up to suggest that Pettitte is going to excel again in 2013. That won't stop the Yankees from signing him to a one year deal worth more than $10 million according to reports, but it would be wise to avoid going all in with Andy in the fantasy game.
BY THE NUMBERS
.197: The batting average of Carlos Pena in 2012. That mark was partially the result of 182 Ks in just 497 at-bats. Amazingly, Pena was able to post a .330 OBP that was .010 points better than the league average thank in no small part to his total of 87 walks. Back to the average, Pena's season of under .200 while accruing more than 500 plate appearances was only the second such effort of the 21st century. The other was Mark Reynolds in 2010 when he batted .198.
.536: The best opposite field batting average of any big leaguer in 2012. That mark belonged to Carlos Gonzalez who had 52 hits in 97 at-bats. Joey Votto was the only other player to his .500 at .509 (55-for-108).
1.130: The league leading OPS with RISP in 2012 posted by Allen Craig. The Cardinals' hitter had a .450 OBP and .680 SLG. The AL leader was Edwin Encarnacion at 1.080 though Adrian Gonzalez, who played in both leagues, had a 1.083 mark.
13: The league leading caught stealing total of Michael Bourn and Rajai Davis who both stole more than 40 bags (42 and 46). Starling Castro was much less successful as he stole only 25 bases while also being caught 13 times. But if you want to talk about ineffectiveness on the base paths look no further than Jose Tabata who was caught 12 times while successfully swiping all of eight bags.
100: The percentage of the 26 homers that Aaron Hill hit in 2012 that were “pulled” to left field. Every single one of them.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, Monday through Thursday at 7 PM EDT and Friday's at 9 PM EDT. Ray's analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.