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Circling the Bases: Curious Cases

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.

The flavor of the week. We all want to sample it in the hope that it becomes our go-to favorite. On the hill this takes the shape of everyone looking only at the obvious and not digging a bit deeper to see what is really going on. Today, I'll peel back the proverbial layers of the onion a bit and take a look at two teammates in particular, one on the hill and one at the dish. From the intro it should be pretty easy to read the tea leaves and discern that I'm not exactly the biggest fan of either guy keeping up their phenomenal start to the season.

THE CURIOUS CASE OF Patrick Corbin

Six weeks ago it was Jose Fernandez.
Five weeks ago it was Tony Cingrani.
Four weeks ago it was Travis Wood.
Three weeks ago it was Kevin Correia.
Two weeks ago it was Francisco Liriano.
Now it's Patrick Corbin.

Corbin is leading the NL with seven wins. His 1.44 ERA is second to that of Clayton Kershaw (1.35). His WHIP of 0.98 is 7th in the league. He's been an outstanding fantasy option this season.

It can't last.

I've been taking a lot of heat on Twitter for my statement yesterday that it was time to sell Corbin. That's what happens when that same guy goes out and strikes out 10 while allowing one run in nine innings hours after you make the claim. I'm still saying sell Corbin after what is likely to be his career best game.

Why sell? The reasons are numerous.

(1) Corbin doesn't have elite stuff. No scout or coach ever thought he would be an ace. None. Just watch him pitch if you think that's wrong. He doesn't blow batters away. He doesn't have darting movement on his pitches. He simply doesn't have that kind of repertoire.

(2) I hate to point this out folks, but there really isn't any difference between his performance this season and last. Oh I know the record is reversed, the ERA is only one third of what it was and his WHIP has caved, but the skills he brings to the bump haven't changed at all. Let's examine.

2012: 7.23 K/9, 2.10 BB/9, 3.44 K/BB
2013: 7.36 K/9, 2.60 BB/9, 2.83 K/BB

Even with his huge 10 K effort Monday his K/9 rate this season is the same as last year. He's also walking half a batter more than his rate from last season. His 2.83 K/BB ratio is still solid, but obviously it's a step down from where it was last season.

2012: 1.47 GB/FB
2013: 1.63 GB/FB

That difference is really white noise. Practically speaking, it's been the same.

2012: 3.73 xFIP
2013: 3.59 xFIP

That's right, even though his actual ERA has gone from 4.54 last year to 1.44 this season, when we look at the things that are in his control, and normalize the old homer ball guess what – he's pitched exactly the same as he did last year. So why has his ERA dropped by three runs? (A) The sample size is too small at 62.1 innings. Things will even out as the innings pile up. (B) He's been lucky. His BABIP of .317 last year has fallen to .246 this season. By the way, over his last 239.2 minor league innings his BABIP was .335. I'll let you be the judge of which numbers doesn't fit. C) His homer rate has plummeted. Last season Corbin allowed 1.18 homers per nine innings. This season that mark is down to 0.29 as his HR/F ratio has gone from 13.5 to 3.9 percent. His minor league marks over his last 39 outings were 0.71 and 11.2 percent. Again, I'll let you decide which numbers stick out and don't seem to fit.

2012: 6-8, 4.54 ERA, 1.33 WHIP
2013: 7-0, 1.44 ERA, 0.98 WHIP
Career: 13-8, 3.40 ERA, 1.20 WHIP

We could get all medieval on Corbin and break everything down, but I hope that the above info is enough for you to at least consider that a pull back is coming. In fact, even with his amazing start, I wouldn't be at all surprised if his 2013 numbers don't even up mirroring his career totals. I know that might sound crazy to you, and it's tough as all heck to deal a guy away that cost you nothing on draft day (you might have even gotten him off waivers in many a league), but I'm telling you it's the right move.

Corbin is not an ace.
He will never be an ace.
His talent does not dictate his current level of success.

If you need one more reminder, how about this. In 2011-12 this guy had a 27-16 record with a 3.05 ERA, 1.24 WHIP & 7.24 K/9 rate, numbers that compare pretty darn closely with the career totals of Corbin (a .628 winning percentage for this guy, .619 for Corbin). Not only are the numbers a close match, but the stuff/talent of the two hurlers is also very comparable. What has happened to that pitcher this season? He's gone 2-4 with a 7.19 ERA and 1.73 WHIP over nine starts. He is Ryan Vogelsong.

Might want to think about that when you consider the value of Patrick Corbin for the rest of 2013.

THE CURIOUS CASE OF Didi Gregorius

Didi Gregorius is batting .369 in 22 games this season, and if you add in his eight games from last season, he's hitting .356 with a .940 OPS over his first 30 big league games. It's a total mirage akin to finding an oasis with a harem of scantily clad middle eastern beauties waiting to serve you. Here are the facts.

(1) In more than 2,000 minor league plate appearances Didi hit .267. Not .367 but .267. How many minor leaguers come to the big leagues and boost their batting average by .100 points? Heck, Didi hit .243 at Triple-A last year and for the season he batted a mere .265. Simply put, he's not a .300 hitter. You can thank his elevated 23.9 percent line drive rate and bonkers high .412 BABIP. His minor league numbers over his last 219 games are 17.6 and .310 by the way. Again I ask you, how many minor leaguers go from being “average” to a superstar literally overnight when they are promoted to the big leagues? I'm still waiting to hear from someone who thinks that makes sense. He's not a .300 hitter. Not even close.

(2) Didi has three homers an a .595 SLG this season. He's not going to come with .100 points of that SLG mark when things are said and done. Didi's career minor league SLG is .375. You read that correctly. In 1,893 minor league at-bats his SLG was .220 points below the mark he's posted in 22 games this season with the D'backs. His current homer pace, over 150 games, would be about 20 bombs. He hit 23 homers in 1,893 minor league at bats. Again, it makes no sense. You still believing this start is legit?

(3) Didi has some speed, but come on now. He's stolen a total of 45 bags as a minor leaguer, an average of 15 per 120 games, but he's also been caught 30 times, a pathetic total. He's yet to successfully complete a steal attempt as a big leaguer.

To review.

Didi has no shot to hit .300.
He's doesn't even have average power.
He's no threat on the base paths.

Good luck with that folks.

BY THE NUMBERS

Over the last 365 days...

0: The number of pitchers who have won 20 games the past 365 days. Four men have won 19: Max Scherzer, Hiroki Kuroda, R.A. Dickey and Gio Gonzalez. Six men have lost 16 games to lead the way: Ricky Nolasco, Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson, Joe Blanton, Bud Norris and Ubaldo Jimenez.

.316: The batting average of Jordan Pacheco over 553 plate appearances, the 11th best mark in baseball, better than Mike Trout (.312), Adrian Beltre (.312), Andrew McCutchen (.311), Robinson Cano (.311) and on and on.

1.94: The majors leading ERA posted by Kris Medlen. And you thought he was disappointing this year. It's all about sample size, isn't it? Some other ERA's of note: A.J. Burnett (3.04), Homer Bailey (3.47), Matt Cain (3.50), Cole Hamels (3.58), Tim Lincecum (4.91) and Ubaldo Jimenez (5.46).

25/25: The steal and homer total of Jimmy Rollins. He, Alex Rios (34/27) and Mike Trout (35/53) are the only three who have reached those marks.

52: The league leading saves total of Rafael Soriano, two more than Jim Johnson. Tom Wilhelmsen has also saved 40 games, Ernesto Frieri has 32, Greg Holland has 23, Steve Cishek 20 and Carlos Marmol 20.

145: The major league leading run total of Mike Trout. Only two players in the 21st century have reached that total (Jeff Bagwell scored 152 times in 2000 and Sammy Sosa scored 146 times in 2001).

152: The major league leading RBI total of Miguel Cabrera. His teammate, Prince Fielder, is second on that list with 121 RBIs. Cabrera also leads baseball with 47 homers, five more than... Robinson Cano.

Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, Monday through Friday at 5 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.