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Circling the Bases: Shaun Marcum, Brett Myers

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.

Brett Myers TO INDIANS

One year, $7 million. That is what Brett Myers got for signing with the Indians. Used out of the bullpen for all 70 of his appearances in 2012, Myers will be asked to return to the rotation for a couple of reasons, not the least of which being that he prefers to start and that the Indians have Chris Perez and Vinnie Pestano to work the end of games right now.

Myers was a workhorse in 2010-11 for the Astros, as he threw at least 216 innings in each season. Because of his large innings pitched marks those two years, Myers averaged 170 Ks a season, a solid total in today's game, but not out of the realm of the expected for a guy who owns a career mark of 7.29 Ks per nine innings. Moved to the pen last season, that number was expected to skyrocket (he had posted a mark of 10.88 in 2007 when he made 51 appearances for the Phillies with all but three coming out of the bullpen). Instead, Myers was only able to strike out 41 batters in 65.1 innings leading to a pathetic K-rate of 5.65 per nine. If Myers keeps that K-rate going in 2013 as a starter, his fantasy value is going to be muted to say the least. In fact, it should be noted that Myers hasn't even reached his career K/9 rate since the 2008 season. The only positive in what is sounding like a Debbie Downer moment with Brett is that even though his K's are disappearing his control has sharpened substantially. Here are his BB/9 marks each season since 2007: 3.54, 3.08, 2.93, 2.66, 2.38 and 2.07. Let Captain Obvious state the obvious that's 5-straight years of a declining walk rate for Myers. I like the sound of that a lot. Giving up the strikeout will hurt his fantasy value substantially, but the last three years his K/BB ratio has been solid (2.73, 2.81 and 2.73) and that should mean more success than failure in his return to the starting rotation. Of course, he'll have to keep the ball in the yard, and given that his ground ball rate has been at least 47 percent each of the past five years it would seem like he has a solid shot at doing that, especially when you consider that in two of the last three years he has undershot his career HR/9 mark (1.26) with the only year he missed resulting in a 1.29 mark in 2011. It also doesn't hurt that the Indians home park had the 10th best Park Index mark for homers in 2013. Not someone to target, even in AL-only leagues, but he figures to be a solid innings eater.

SHAUN MARUCM LOOKING FOR A HOME

Shaun Marcum is still looking for a place to pitch in 2013. I know he's not exactly a bastion of good health - he's failed to throw even 160 innings in three of the past five seasons - but the guy is still one heck of a pitcher. Some data points that might actual surprise you with Marcum (apparently this information might be news to some of the teams out there given the lack of urgency to sign him).

Shaun Marcum is a strong contributor in the ERA category. For each of his last four seasons his ERA has been in the three's: 3.39, 3.64, 3.54 and 3.70 (he didn't pitch in 2009 as he was out with injury). From 2008-12 his ERA was 3.57. The league average during that time was 4.06.

Shaun Marcum is a strong contributor in the WHIP category. For each of his last five seasons his WHIP has never been higher than 1.27, and in three of the seasons it was under 1.17. In those five seasons Marcum allowed 10.95 base runners per nine innings. The big league average during that time was 12.50.

Marcum has been a consistent strikeout arm the last four seasons with a K/9 ratio of 7.44. The league average during that time was 7.09.

Marcum has done a solid job at limiting walks the last four seasons with a BB/9 mark of 2.56 in that time versus the league average of 3.19.

That's some solid pitching is it not?

I'm not saying Marcum is great, he's not, and there are lingering issues of concern with the health of his wing, but over his last four seasons we're talking about a guy who has posted an average of a 3.57 ERA, a 1.18 WHIP, 7.44 K/9 an a 2.91 K/BB ratio. Do you know how many hurlers threw 162 innings while meeting or bettering all four of those marks in 2012? There answer is just 12 men, and none of them is anything other than an arm everyone feels comfortable leaning on: Chris Sale, Felix Hernandez, Matt Cain, CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Clayton Kershaw, David Price, Justin Verlander, Jake Peavy, Cole Hamels, R.A. Dickey and Madison Bumgarner.

Maybe we should all start showing Mr. Marcum some more respect.

Matt Garza IMPROVING

Matt Garza was limited in 2012 because of a stress reaction in his elbow. He's recently gained clearance to start throwing again putting him in line to return to the hill in plenty of time to get himself ready for the start of the 2013 season. Garza, one of the most consistent hurlers in the game, threw only 103.2 innings last season. He still was able to post an 8.33 K/9 mark, well above his career 7.58 rate while also posting a second straight 3.00 K/BB ratio. His WHIP was also a career best at 1.18 though that number falls right in line with expectations given that he's always been a rock in the WHIP column. Look at his previous four years worth of work there, and no, this isn't a misprint: 1.24, 1.26, 1.25 and 1.26. I don't even know how that is possible. Garza also posted a sixth straight season of an ERA between 3.30 and 3.95 as he settled in at 3.91. Some might look past him because of the muted ERA and poor win-loss record (5-7), while others might just discount him because of the elbow injury, but if you're asking this fella, I'm gonna be pretty bullish on Garza as long as the medical reports are positive as he'll cost much less than he should on draft day (this situation obviously changes the closer we get to Opening Day).

BY THE NUMBERS

0: The number of seasons in which Jason Vargas has had an ERA under 3.75. It's also the amount of times he's posted a K/BB ratio of 2.60, and if you remove his 73.2 inning rookie season from the mix it would also be the amount of times that Vargas has ended a season with a K/9 of six, a terrible total for the fantasy game. Vargas has also posted an ERA of 3.38 in 361.2 innings at his old home in Seattle (he's now with the Angels). Everywhere else in his career his ERA has been 5.10. You might remember that before you blindly add him in 2013.

3.59: The ERA of Jeff Karstens the past two years over his 253 innings pitched. After being non-tenured he's now a free agent, and teams would do wise to kick the tires here. Among hurlers who have thrown 250 innings the past two years Karstens ERA is 34th in baseball, tied with Yovani Gallardo and one hundredth ahead of Shaun Marcum's 3.60 mark. Among the 250-inning crew the last two years Karstens is also 23rd with a 3.38 K/BB ratio, one hundredth better than Jered Weaver, and his 1.71 BB/9 mark is 7th in the game. There are things he doesn't do well but that doesn't mean that Karstens is devoid of value.

3.69: The ERA of Javier Vazquez the last time he took the mound in 2011. Vazquez, who took a year off as many thought he would hang up his cleats, has apparently got the bug to pitch again so he's looking to latch on with a big league team (he will have some scouts watch him throw Friday during his Puerto Rican League start). Vazquez was very good his last season as he won 13 games, had 162 Ks and posted a 1.18 WHIP over 192.2 innings. Those are very much Garza/Marcum type of numbers.

5: The number of times the last five seasons that Joe Saunders has throw at least 174.2 innings. Do you know how many lefties in baseball can match that string of innings? You'll likely be surprised to learn that only five others are in the group: CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Jon Lester, Mark Buehrle and Cole Hamels.

9.20: The K/9 mark of Rich Harden who recently singed a one year deal with the Twins. Harden missed all of the 2012 season after needing surgery to repair a torn capsule in his shoulder, but he's looking to land a rotation spot with a club that is bereft of starting pitching talent. Harden is always a massive injury risk, the last time he threw 150 innings was the only time he threw 150 innings (2005), but he's always a dominating option who is hard as hell to square the ball up against. Among all pitchers who have ever lived and thrown at least 900 big league innings, Harden's 9.20 K/9 mark is 11th. You might want to let that number sink in a bit.

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.