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Circling the Bases: Around the Horn

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.

Around the horn we go. Adam Dunn a batting average booster? Yasiel Puig's start losing some luster? The Athletics have three players we'll tough on including an ace on the hill. Finally, what are the Nationals doing in their outfield?

Dunn Dominates

Adam Dunn was a fantasy superstar last season blasting 41 big flies while knocking in 96 runs and scoring 87 times. Given that he was coming off a historically depressing season - he hit .159 with 11 homers and 42 RBIs in 2011 - he was a tremendous bargain. This season people pretty much returned to drafting Dunn as they always would viewing him as a big time power bat that could kill their batting average. Consider him to have lived up to expectations as he's gone deep 28 times with 73 RBIs and 52 runs scored in 117 games (the runs scored are a little light). He's only hitting .239, but that would be a three-year high. He's only got a .343 OBP, but that would be a three-year high. He's only got a .476 SLG, but that would be a three-year high. You're getting the drift here - he's been a pretty solid contributor yet again. However, let's spend a moment talking about his batting average. On June 1st he was batting .156. On July 1st Dunn was batting .198. I know his .239 season average is bad, but that mark is more than .080 points above where his mark sat two months ago. How has he accomplished that? Over his last 69 games, nearly half a season worth of games mind you, Dunn has forgotten who he is and hit like an actual big league batter. In those 69 contests the Big Donkey has batted .299. Yep, not a misprint, Adam Dunn has nearly been a .300 hitter for 69 contests.

Puig Struggling

Yasiel Puig is hitless in his last 11 at-bats. He's still batting .351 so who cares? However, I think you should. He's been an amazing performer this season no doubt, look at that fantasy line in just 259 at-bats (.351-11-27-47-7). However, the down side, and I'm just pointing this out for those of you out there who are looking at keeper league scenarios and thinking it's a slam dunk to keep Puig over guys like Ryan Braun, Curtis Granderson and Matt Kemp, follows.

Puig has seven steals but he's been caught six times.

He has only 27 RBI in 67 games.

He's struck out 68 times in 67 games.

His walk rate has improved as the season has worn on, but he still owns a 0.34 K/BB ratio which is below the league average.

His line drive rate is 20.1 percent. There is no way that a league average number like that is going to sustain a .440 BABIP. In fact, no line drive rate could sustain a number that high. In the 21st century only once has a player with 502 plate appearances been at .400 in BABIP for a season (Jose Hernandez was at .404 in 2002). Puig's batting average could fall below .300 next year.

Lastly, he continues to avoid the fly ball with a 27.5 percent fly ball rate, well below the league average of about 34 percent. He's not hitting enough fly balls to be a big time power bat. The proof is in the pudding. Puig has gone 16 games without reaching the seats.

Three Athletics

Jarrod Parker ended the month of April at 1-4 with a 7.36 ERA and 2.01 WHIP. There was talk of a demotion, a well-earned one I might add if the club had sent him down. They didn't, and he's not looked back since. These are some pretty sick numbers for Parker over his last 19 starts, so brace yourself to check out numbers that paint Parker as one of the better AL hurlers in the game the last four months.

8-2 record
2.86 ERA
1.02 WHIP
6.64 hits per nine
6.6 K/9
2.6 K/BB
Currently he has 4-straight quality starts.
Over his last 18 starts he's allowed more than three earned runs once.

Yes we would all love to see some more punchouts, but honestly, that's about as good a 19-game stretch as 95 percent of AL arms will have had at any point this season.

Jed Lowrie is one of my favorite whipping boys. The reason goes something like this.

(1) He's talented.
(2) Though #1 is true, people seem to think he's an All-Star talent. He isn't.
(3) He cannot stay healthy.

Pretty simple stuff. I've been saying it for years now and I've been right every time I've said it. Do I need to change my tune?

Let's start with point #3 first. For the first time in his six-year career he's been able to play 100 games. In fact, he's appeared in 118 of the Athletics 124 games, and that's damn impressive for him. Kudos to him for staying on the field.

Let's address points #1 and #2.

A career .259 hitter, Lowrie has hit .283. That's nice to see. He's also upped his OBP .012 points to .344 though he's given that back with a three point downer in the SLG column (.413). A few more hits are nice, but his slash line is still nothing to get excited about.

After hitting 16 homers last season in 97 games people seemed to think he was primed for a 20 homer season if he could play a full complement of games. Not so much. In 118 games this season he's gone deep nine times. Worse yet he went deep three times in his first seven games this season meaning he's had six big flies in his last 111 games.

Never a speed demon he's stolen one base to give him six steals in six years. Yippee.

Honestly, I've been wrong about him being hurt in 2013, but otherwise there's nothing that stands out at all in this batting line.

Brandon Moss hit .291 with 21 big flies last season in 265 at-bats and people rejoiced at what was a wonderful season off the waiver-wire. However, those same folks came into 2013 convinced that Moss was destined to hit .280 with 30 homers if he played a full season. I understand how they came to that conclusion, they merely looked at his 2012 effort, but in so doing they ignored all the work that had come before it. In 249 games spread out over five seasons prior to last year, Moss had 678 at-bats and had hit .236 with 15 homers. How were you getting .280-30 from that? What has Moss done this season? He's hit .241 with 19 homers in 348 at-bats. What do you know, he's pretty much been the same type of hitter he's always been with a bit more pop. Compare his 2013 slash line (.241/.316/.460) to his career marks (.249/.317/.447) and you'll see what I mean. Moss is what he is - and that's not an All-Star caliber performer. He's a decent depth play in AL-only leagues.

Shenanigans

When the deal came down to send David DeJesus to the Nationals from the Cubs, I had this to say: "DeJesus could steal some time from Span, who is hitting a mere .264 with a .670 OPS and 11 steals, but it's not like DeJesus has done anything different with the bat this season... What the Nationals really could have used was a player who they could platoon who really hits lefties well (Span has hit .298 with a .761 OPS against righties this season)."

Turns out I was on to something.

Guess what the Nationals did? They placed David DeJesus on waivers the day after they added him to their stable. So, what was the point of adding him? The Nationals wanted to keep another team from acquiring him.

It really has little bearing unless you're in an NL-only league, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

BY THE NUMBERS

.050: The percentage point improvement in the batting average of Jarrod Saltalamacchia who hit .222 last season and has pushed that mark up to .272 this season. Salty also has a .341 OBP and .456 SLG mark this season, numbers that easily outpace his career marks (.245/.309/.425). Obviously he's had a successful season. Still, after averaging a homer every 18.6 at-bats in 2011-12 it's been disappointing to see him hit a total of 10 homers this season or one every 34.9 at-bats.

1: Ryan Dempster threw at Alex Rodriguez and was suspended for five games. For that effort he receives the #1 for him being everyone's favorite baseball player this week. He hasn't been anyone's #1 in fantasy baseball this season with a 4.77 ERA, 1.47 WHIP and 6-9 record. If not for the 132 Ks in 145.1 innings he'd be even utterly useless even in AL-only leagues.

1: The number of earned runs that Mark Melancon has allowed over his last 12 outings. Oh, there's more. He's allowed a total of two earned runs over his last 28 outings. That's how you end up with a 0.93 ERA over 58.1 innings. Only four men in the 20th century have thrown at least 60 innings in a season with an ERA below one: Fernando Rodney (0.60 in 2012), Jonathan Papelbon (0.92 in 2006), Chris Hammond (0.95 in 2002) and Eric O'Flaherty (0.98 in 2011).

1.71: David Robertson's ERA this season. Since the start of the 2011 season, covering a span of 191 games and 180 innings, Robertson has a 1.80 ERA. Among pitchers who have thrown at least 175 innings since the start of 2011 that is the second best mark in baseball. The only hurler who has bettered that mark is Craig Kimbrel at 1.47.

6: The number of quality starts that Jon Lester has in his last seven outings. Over his last three outings he's allowed only three runs and he's walked a total of eight batters over his last six trips to the bump as he's lowered his ERA from 4.58 to 4.09, not an insignificant improvement given that he allowed six run in 4.2 innings to the D'backs August 2nd in his only non-quality start over his last seven outings.

Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, Monday through Friday. Ray's analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.