Circling the Bases: Mound Musings
OH R.A. DICKEY
It's been rough for Mr. Dickey. Through 14 starts he is 5-8, has a 5.11 ERA and has allowed six or more runs in three of his last four starts. What gives? I'll tell you what. Because he was so stupendous last season people ignored history with Dickey. They looked past the fact that (A) he had never been remotely that good, (B) that knuckleballers are rarely that impressive/consistent, and (C) that he throws the least predictable pitch the game has ever seen.
From my preseason Draft Guide (everything that follows in quotes).
Last season Dickey struck out 230 batters in 233.2 innings, good for a K/9 of 8.86. From 2004-2011 Dickey didn't have one season, not one, of even six strikeouts per nine innings.
Dickey has seen a major regression this season as his K/9 rate has fallen from 8.86 per nine to 6.55. His career mark is 6.30.
While pointing out that Dickey has kept his BB/9 mark under 2.40 each of the past three years, a great run, Dickey's BB/9 marks for each season in which he has thrown 100-innings follow: 2.93, 2.84, 4.09, 2.17, 2.33 and 2.08.
This season his walk rate, per nine, is 3.58. Even I'm surprised it has gone up a batter an a half from last season, but alas, he throws his knuckle ball 89 percent of the time (his mark this season). When you rely that heavily on a 'trick pitch' sometimes the results just aren't there.
Dickey had never posted a K/BB ratio over 2.48 in his career before last season when that mark jumped to an elite 4.26.
His mark this season of 1.83 would be a four-year low. Still, it's only .039 off his career mark whereas his mark of 4.26 from last season is 2.04 off that career rate.
I think you get the point here with Dickey.
The fact is that people greatly overestimated the success that the 38 year old was going to have this season based off a career best effort last season when every single thing that possibly could have went right. To review.
Dickey's current ERA of 5.11 is 1.04 off his career mark, closer to ďaverageĒ than his 2.73 mark from last season which is 1.34 off his career total.
Dickey's current WHIP of 1.36 is 0.03 off his average. His mark of 1.05 last season was 0.28 off.
Dickey's current K/9 mark of 6.55 is 0.25 off his his career mark of 6.30 whereas last year he was off by 2.56 at 8.86 per nine.
His 1.83 K/BB ratio is 0.39 off his career mark while his 4.26 mark from last season is 2.04 off his average.
It's not as simple as merely looking at those numbers to paint the entire picture, but I think that information is clear enough that you catch my drift, right? Dickey needs to cut down the free passes, and start generating more ground balls (his career ground ball rate is 47 percent, he's posted at least a 46 percent mark for the past five years, but his current rate is 42 percent). If he can just do those two things he'll once again be a solid mixed league option, though that's far from being the fantasy ace that some erroneously thought he would be this season.
Grant Balfour was overlooked on draft day, and at points once the season started as well as the saves were slow to come initially, but he's got 15 saves as of this writing, and he's the only reliever in the AL with more than four saves who doesn't have a single blown chance on his resume. Toss in a 1.37 ERA and 1.10 WHIP and you've got yourself one of the better closers in baseball. The only concern is if the Athletics choose to move him in a deal since he's a free agent at the end of the season. By the way, for those of you wondering about Sean Doolittle as a possible pickup in case Balfour is dealt, Doolittle has hit the skids, catastrophically, of late allowing 10 earned runs over his last 3.2 innings as his ERA has gone from 0.78 to 4.05.
Brandon League has made 24 appearances and the results have been terrible. Over his 24 innings he's posted a 6.00 ERA and 1.46 WHIP. He's allowed batters to hit .298. His K/9 mark of 4.88 is pitiful. He's even been taken deep four times leading to an uncharacteristically high HR/9 rate of 1.50 (literally double his career mark). Oh, he's also blown four of 17 save chances. Meanwhile Kenley Jansen has a 2.53 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, a 12.38 K/9 mark and a 7.33 K/BB ratio. Which guy do you think should be working the 9th inning? The answer seems obvious, and in the fantasy game it's clear why Jansen owners are so upset. At the same time let's cut Don Mattingly a wee bit of slack. OK, just a sliver. How many times does a closer come into the game in the 9th inning with no one on base an a two or three run lead? How hard is it to get three outs in that scenario? More often than not the game is actually decided in the 7th or 8th inning. We want saves in the fantasy game, but in truth it's more useful for a club to use their best reliever when the game is on the line, and that isn't always in the 9th inning.
Please stop asking me, or anyone for that matter, about Ryan Madson. I mean seriously folks, let it go. We just got another update on Madson, and surprise, surprise, he's still not doing that well. Madson has had about seven setbacks with his attempt to come back from Tommy John surgery, and right now he's still unable to do anything other than throw off flat ground. "I really don't have any answers. I just really want to pitch, really bad. I'll do anything. Anything. But it seems like there really isn't much to do, other than let it heal." Meanwhile, Ernesto Frieri has a 12.46 K/9 mark and is 14 for 15 in converting saves. He's walking a ghastly 6.23 per nine, channeling his inner Carlos Marmol, but he's getting the job done. Period.
BY THE NUMBERS
.288: The batting average over the last 79 games for Brett Gardner. If we take that pace of his last 79 games and give him 160 contests we'd be looking at a guy hitting .288 with 12 homers, 60 RBIs and 82 runs scored. That's a nice effort when you add in his... 24 steals? What happened to the guy who stole 47 bags in 2010 and 49 in 2011?
.420: The BABIP of Jarrod Saltalamacchia over the past 30 days leading to a .309 batting average. As a result of the surge Salty is batting .285 on the season. He hit .222 last year. He hit .235 in 2011. He hit .167 in 2010. He owns a career mark of .243. He's not a .285 hitter, but you already knew that. And before you say 'Ray he's grown as a hitter,' take these three things to heart. (1) He's got a 31.2 percent line drive rate. (2) He's got a .406 BABIP. (3) He's striking out at a career worst pace of once every 2.73 at-bats.
3: The combined total of homers (two) and steals (one) that Torii Hunter has in his first season with the Tigers. Hope you're enjoying that .306 batting average cause he's been weak as all get out in mixed leagues. Despite what would be the second best average of his career, he hit .313 last season, his .413 SLG would be his lowest mark since 1999.
5: The number of hurlers who have a K/9 ratio of 10.50 or better the past 30 days. Two of the names you might have been able to guess in Justin Verlander (11.30) and Felix Hernandez (10.62). A third has been killing it all year so you might have come up with his name too (Anibal Sanchez at 11.13). A fourth has dominated like it's 2006 in his new home in Pittsburgh (Francisco Liriano at 11.15). But the 5th? Shocked if you got that one. This Mets arm, and no it's NOT Matt Harvey, has a 10.80 K/9 mark, the fourth best in baseball. Of course that mark belongs to... Dillon Gee.
21: The majors leading double total for an outfielder which belongs to Gerardo Parra. Too bad heís only hit five big flies. Of the other four outfielder with at least 19 doubles none has fewer than 10 home runs (Jay Bruce). Speaking of Bruce, he's gone deep nine times with 32 RBIs in his last 35 games. It all evens out eventually, doesn't it (he had one homer and 11 RBI in April)?
25: The amount of homers that Jacoby Ellsbury has hit in 1,925 at-bats if you remove the 2011 season during which he went deep 32 times in 660 at-bats. I continue to point it out, but Ellsbury has one season of 10/10 in his career, and with one homer in 58 games this season he's not looking like he's going to add to that total this season.
43: The big leagues leading walk total which is owned by ... Jason Marquis. His ERA is 3.59. The other man with 40 walks, the Astros Lucas Harrell, has the more appropriate ERA for a pitcher issuing so many free passes at 4.52.
81: The number of big leaguers who currently have more steals than Ryan Braun who has four. If you recall, Braun has been pretty good on the bases the past few years having stolen 33 and 30 bags the past two years.
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.