Posts tagged ‘Cliff Lee’

Monday: 06.20.2011

Sunday Twidbits: June 19th

Here are this week’s MLB Sunday Twidbits which is something I’ll be doing every Sunday throughout the baseball season.  It’s an exercise whereby I tour the league giving a statistical tidbit per team on Twitter feed (@sporer).  Sometimes a team or two will get more than one if I have more than one nugget I really want to share, but every team will be represented at least once.  Check the sidebar on the right for previous editions of Twidbits.

Det – Det bullpen had 6.03 ERA on 5/22; now at 4.65 after a rebuild. In June: 2.92 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 8.2 K/9 , 2 K/BB in 46 IP.

Col – Charlie Blackmon has shown speed right away w/5 SB in 12 G, but he has some pop as evidenced by .572 AAA SLG. Think Shane Victorino 07-09.

Pit – Garrett Jones is hitting .394 in June (13-33) & has started 6 of last 8 GP. Might finally have his job back; cheap pwr source

Pit2 – Why is Jones doing a French Stewart impersonation in his ESPN pic? http://espn.go.com/mlb/player/_/id/28763/garrett-jones

Cle – Carlos Carrasco is on fire the last month: 2.8 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 5.8 K/9, 2.4 K/BB. High GB% mitigates low K. Also 7 K/9, 3.4 K/BB in last 3.

Tor – Since breaking his L-streak, Jo-Jo Reyes is 3-1 w/3.21 ERA. Don’t be fooled though, 1.32 WHIP & 1.5 K/BB thanks to ugly 4.8 K/9.

Tor2 – Reyes was better when he was losing: 6.8 K/9 and 2.9 K/BB in first 49 IP of season. Avoid for now.

Cin – Preached caution w/Johnny Cueto few wks back for a few reas. incl. low K/9. Still lucky, but 6.5 K/9 & 3 K/BB in last 4. Still sell, but less worried.

LAA – Angels have a league-worst 4 (!) HR in June so far. 28 players have 4+ HRs. It’s a small miracle that they’re even 5-10 this month.

NYM – Jonathon Niese has allowed >2 ER just once since April 14th (2.65 ERA in 71 IP, 6.9 K/9) after allowed 5+ in 2 of his first 3 starts.

NYM2 – Need a cheap RP fill-in? Bobby Parnell has been excellent since returning from the DL: 1.17 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 12.9 K/9, 5.5 K/BB in 8 IP.

Tex – Thru May Neftali Feliz had 9/14 K/BB in 19 IP w/10 SV. In June so far, he has 8 K, 1 BB in 7 IP w/4 SV. Appears to have course-corrected himself.

Atl – If you took both Jonny Venters & Craig Kimbrel to lock up ATL SVs, you’d have a 1.73 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 101 K, 6 W & 21 SV in 78 IP.

Atl2 – Vent/Kimb cont. That’s as many Ks as Tim Lincecum, better ERA than any SP, a WHIP equal to Dan Haren & 4th-most Ws… oh and most SVs in MLB.

Bal – Adam Jones is having a strong yr, but perennially wears down w/12 & 14 of his 19 HR the last 2 yrs in the 1st half. Has 10 so far. Sell?

Was – Michael Morse‘s Apr: .211/.253/.268 & cut in many lgs. Whoops!! Since: .364/.418/.729 w/12 HR, 33 RBI & 24 R. DON’T give up after 1 month.

Mil – Randy Wolf is the ultimate matchup guy w/8 starts of 65+ game scores & 6 sub-50s. Some of his best: Pit, Hou2x, Chc, Phi; worst: Cin, StL

Bos – Marco Scutaro is worth a pickup, espec. w/Jed Lowrie on the DL. He’s hitting .371/.421/.486 in June since returning. Nice Runs Scored option.

Flo – All but 3 regulars are at .254 or below in June for the Marlins; only 1 SP w/an ERA below 4.82 and that’s how you get a 1-17 record.

TB – Alex Cobb struggled in 1st 2 MLB starts w/7 ER & 8 BB in 11 IP, but he’s looked sharp since: 1.96 ERA, 1.2 WHIP, 6.0 K/9, 3.0 K/BB in 18 IP.

TB2 – Johnny Damon‘s pace of .277 AVG, 18 HR, 74 RBI, 16 SB, 74 R is somehow not good enough for Y! (54%) & CBS (80%) leaguers. Check your wire.

SD – I don’t care if he has 2 W all yr, how is Tim Stauffer so avail. (C 57%, Y! 40%, E 17%)? On pace for 207 IP w/7.1 K/9 & 3.2 K/BB. Buy NOW!

Min – No Twins pitcher w/5+ IP has an ERA over 3.27 in June. Francisco Liriano‘s last 33 IP (thru Sun.) 1.91 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 10.1 K/9, 2.5 K/BB.

KC – Alcides Escobar is hitting .431/.453/.569 in last 14 G w/7 SB. Cheap speed at thin position if you need someone: E 47%, C 33%, Y! 19%.

StL – Since his Coors Collapse on 5/28, Jaime Garcia has 2.96 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 7.8 K/9 & 4.5 K/BB in 24 IP. In other words, it was a blip.

Hou – Wandy Rodriguez allowed 4-5-7 in 3 of 1st 5 GS (5.40 ERA). Since: 1.31 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 6.9 K/9, 3.1 K/BB in 48 IP; 8 K/9 in last 26 IP.

Hou2 – Wandy (cont.) He’s not 100% rostered at any of major outlets, so don’t assume he’s owned in your league: E 95%, C 90%, Y! 77%

Hou3 – Not sure why Mark Melancon is so avail. He’s been great & Brandon Lyon is now out for yr: E 77%, Y! 50%, C 41%. Free saves!

LAD – Only 1 Dodgers SP has an ERA below 4.41 (Kuroda) & only 2 are below 5.52 (Lilly) thus a 5-11 June record for the tm.

LAD2 – One elite, one brand new, but I’d buy either Clayton Kershaw (5.95) & Rubby de la Rosa (5.52) if any was selling based on June swoon.

SF – Madison Bumgarner had a 7.79 ERA & 2.06 WHIP on 4/23. Since then he’s been among MLB’s best: 2.03 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 7.5 K/9, 4 K/BB in 67 IP

SF2 – MadBum (cont.) Not 100% owned at 3 major outlets: E 92%, C 88%, Y! 67%. Check your lg to be sure. 3-8 W-L may offer discount via trade

Oak – A perennial 2H player, Coco Crisp is on pace for 47 SB along w/modest but useful 77 R, 50 RBI & 5 HR.

Oak2 – Crisp (cont.) Career .276 hitter, hit 8 HR in 75 G last yr. could surge in midsummer. Still available in many lgs. Buy even if just for the SBs.

Phi – Good SP is infectious as Vance Worley‘s 3.41 ERA is highest in the non-Blanton division of Philly SPs. Hamels-Halladay-Lee have 9+ K/9. Sick

Sea – Ichiro coming out biggest slump of his career? 7-game hitting streak w/6 multi-hit gms: .467/.484/.667 and 4 SBs. Could be in for absurd 2H.

CWS – Alexei Ramirez needed 6-for-13 rally at end of Apr. to finish .265/.318/.382. Rarely does well early. Since: .318/.380/.468.

CWS2 – Alexei (cont.) Know who you’re drafting. Career OPS in Apr: .580; only other month below .780 OPS is Sept at .705, he hates cold weather.

Ari – Daniel Hudson had 5.64 ERA in Apr; skills said much better. Skills win! Since: 7-1, 2.67 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 6.9 K/9, 4.5 K/BB. 6+ IP every GS.

NYY – Curtis Granderson‘s career yr is fueled by improvements v. LHP: .277/.337/.651–career .221/.281/.376. 20 HR v. LHP in 1st 5 yrs; 9 in ’11.

Chc – Carlos Marmol since 6 ER in 0.3 IP disaster: 1.00 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 13 K/9, 4.3 K/BB in 9 IP. Was a blip, but nothing to worry about at all.

Chc2 – Is Doug Davis a home spot starter? 2.70 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 6.9 K/9 in 23 IP incl. start v. Yankees. The 3.9 BB/9 suggests some caution.

 

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Monday: 06.13.2011

Sunday Twidbits: June 12th

Here are this week’s MLB Sunday Twidbits which is something I’ll be doing every Sunday throughout the baseball season.  It’s a simple exercise whereby I tour the league giving a statistical tidbit per team on Twitter feed (@sporer).  Sometimes a team or two will get more than one if I have more than one nugget I really want to share, but every team will be represented at least once.

Sea – Michael Pineda has faced 3 tms a 2nd time w/a 4.66 ERA & 1.19 WHIP, yet still a 10 K/BB. ERA elevated by DET start. Don’t worry.

Det – Austin Jackson starting to drive the ball more w/2 2B & 4 3B since being given a June 1st off-day: .372/.426/.605 during the stretch.

Det2 – Protection or coincidence? Brennan Boesch hitting .307/.350/.551 w/all 8 of his HR & 25 of 34 RBI in 3 spot ahead of Miggy.

Ari – Willie Bloomquist = old Sam Fuld. This is why you don’t buy into these guys & sell em ASAP: .190/.227/.214, 0 SB since return from inj.

Flo – Chris Volstad has a 4.29/7.56 Hm/Rd ERA split, but has only allowed >3 once at home. 6.9 K & 2.4 K/BB = worthy home spot-starter.

Cle – 5/22 I said: J.Tomlin has largest ERA-FIP diff in MLB. He will implode bc .175 BABIPs & 85% LOB%s don’t last. Trade now… for anything.

Cle2 – Since 5/22: Josh Tomlin has 8.61 ERA, 1.78 WHIP in 23 IP allowing 6 ER in last 3 starts & 8-9-10-12 H in the 4 start stretch. Hope you sold.

NYY – A-Rod was hitting .259/.359/.463 a month ago w/5 HR. Since 5/12: .310/.355/.569 w/8 HR, 18 RBI & 3 SB… stop writing him off, folks.

Chc – The Chicago Empty Batting Avgs: Fukudome-Castro-Barney-Aramis all hitting .286 or better. All are pacing 10 or < HR & <75 RBI. Sell.

Phi – Top 3 SP (Halladay-Hamels-Lee) continue to lead Philly (5-0 in Jun) as finally whole lineup has struggled (.639 OPS-24th rk’d) so far.

Bos – The Red Sox have scored more runs in 10 June gms, 87, than Seattle scored in 26 May gms. Bos 9-1 in June despite 1 SP w/sub-4.50 ERA.

Bos2 – Dustin Pedroia sure isn’t playing like he’s injured: .389/.522/.583 w/10 RBI & 7 R in June. Only 1 hitless gm, 4 multi-hit ones.

Tor – Not even sure how Kyle Drabek is in the majors at this point. Has 3+ BB in 13 of 14 starts & more BB than K in 73 awful IP.

Tor2 – By the way, Brad Mills has a 2.87 ERA, 1.15 WHIP in hitting-crazy Las Vegas w/8.3 K/9 in case you’re looking for obvious replacement.

Tor3 – Eager to see how many K lovers hold strong w/Brandon Morrow. ERA now 5.63 w/boom or bust season: 4 4+ ER starts; 4 2< ER starts.

TB – On April 28th DH, Ben Zobrist had 2 HR, 10 RBI. Since: 2 HR, 11 RBI in 38 G. Hitting .386/.460/.591 in June. Another HR surge upcoming?

Bal – Mark Reynolds is a must-own. 3B is paper thin & power is light league-wide. On pace for 30-90-10(sb), you eat the .203 avg for that.

NYM – Hope you got Angel Pagan when he was reco’d in 5/29 Twids. His own rates were ESPN 35%, CBS 65%, Y! 36% then.

NYM2 – Pagan (cont.) Rates are way up as he’s remained on fire since return: .349 avg, 5 sb, 9 r, 7 rbi in 15 g. Big help to middle of Mets lineup.

Pit – Horrid start buried James McDonald‘s ERA (10.12 after 4 GS), but 2.84 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 7.6 K/9 & 2.0 K/BB in 51 IP (9 GS) since. Buy.

Atl – A modest hot streak for most could be a start of something for Dan Uggla after big wknd: 4-6, 3 BB, 4 R, 2 RBI, 1 HR in the #2 hole.

Hou – How good has SP been in ’11? Bud Norris‘ 3.67 ERA is 100 ERA+. With a 9 K/9, he’s a must-start even on cusp on below avg ERA, though.

Oak – Not yet an all-format must-start, but Scott Sizemore adds depth to ugly 3B wasteland & he’s hitting early on w/OAK: 6-19 in 5 G w/HR & 4 RBI.

CWS – Phil Humber‘s value gets a major boost if recent K stretch is at all legit. 5.5 season K/9, but 7.0 in 22 IP across last 3 GS. Monitor.

Tex – Derek Holland has skills worth betting on despite modest season-long #s. 3 ugly, 3 great in last 6 incl. 7.9 K/9 & 2.9 K/BB in 40 IP.

Tex2 – Holland (cont.) HRs killing him in latest 6 starts having allowed 2 in ea. of 3 blowups & 0 in 3 gems. 24 y/o so more ups & downs coming.

Min – Francisco Liriano‘s last 4: 26 IP, 29 K, 1.38 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 2 W. Still leery, but confidence growing as 3 were rd starts, 4th was v. TEX.

StL – Jon Jay hitting .309 w/some pwr & speed (pacing 10 hr/12 sb). Held .350 BABIP for 105 G in ’10 so maybe .353 this yr can hold. 50%+ avail.

Mil – Prince Fielder has been insane the last month: .330/.458/.742 w/11 HR, 29 RBI, 23 BB to 11 K… SO locked in. Mil 22-7 during stretch.

LAD – Why is Rod Barajas owned so scarcely across all 3 major outlets? On pace for 19 HR. Doesn’t have enough AB for his .233 AVG to hurt much.

Col – CarGo hitting .452/.485/.710 in 7 gms as leadoff hitter incl. 4 straight multi-hit gms in LAD series. Perhaps the jump-start he needs.

LAD-Col – 63 runs scored in 4 gm LAD-Col series, yet just 11 scored in first 4 inn. of all 4 gm. Sweet lives, relievers… 2.6 R/IP in 20 IP from 5th on.

KC – Alex Gordon still on pace for career yr, but it’s built mostly on hot April. Might be getting going for June: .273 AVG & .377 OBP.

LAA – Mark Trumbo has flaws (.299 OBP), but pacing for 27 HR & 15 SB w/potential OF elig. based on lg (6 GP). His value lies in OF, not 1B.

Was  – In 13 GS, Jordan Zimmermann has re-faced opp. 4x. Just an oddity.  Has allowed >2 ER once since May 1st (3 ER @ ATL, but also 11 K).

SD – It’s a whopping 4 gms, but what stands out about Anthony Rizzo early on is the patience. 5 BB & 4.6 pit/PA in first series ever.

SD2 – Rizzo (cont.) He also went 3-for-10 w/a 2B, 3B and HR. Great debut, hope it lasts for the highly touted prospect.

Cin – Scott Rolen carrying an ugly .240/.291/.380 line in 150 AB. Still nice leather, Juan Francisco toting .309 AVG, .819 OPS in AAA.

SF – Twidbits Curse? Touted Tim Lincecum in 5/22 ST’s. Since: 7.66 ERA, 1.59 WHIP in 22 IP. Still 19 K, 2.7 K/BB & 93 MPH FB velo. intact.

Tuesday: 05.31.2011

Roy Halladay Even Struggles Better Than Everyone Else

How many pitchers would kill to have one of their bad games be one where they go seven, give up four runs and still get the win?  Hundreds, I’m sure.  It wasn’t Roy Halladay’s worst start of the season, no, that was his six earned run in six and two-thirds showing where he yielding 10 hits and allowed walked a season-high two.

His Memorial Day effort during which he allowed three home runs, easily a season-worst, yielded his second lowest Game Score of the season at 46 yet he still managed to strike out five, walk nobody and as I mentioned, earned the win.  Still don’t think wins are a fluky, unpredictable whore of a stat?

What I found most interesting about Halladay’s start yesterday was that he gave up those three home runs yet still got a win.  How often does that happen?  More on that in that in a second.  Halladay doesn’t normally give up home runs, in fact even accounting for his Memorial Day three pack, his HR/9 rate is up to a still-tiny 0.5.

Since becoming a full-time starter back in 2001, his rate hasn’t topped 1.0.  In the parts of three years before that homers were a major issue for the young Halladay (21-23 years old in that span).  That said, he isn’t averse to allowing three or more in a start even during his reign as baseball’s best pitcher, or at least one of them.

In his Cy Young season of 2003 when he went 22-7 with a 3.25 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and league-best 6.4 K/BB rate, he twice allowed three bombs in a game.  The first was against the Royals where the homers proved to be the only earned damage against Halladay as he went six leaving before there was a decision.  Toronto won the game 6-5.

The other was a bit more damaging, but again he didn’t expire the bullpen going 7.3 innings allowing six runs striking out seven and walking just one.  He had a similar outing the following year going 6.7 innings allowing seven, six earned against Detroit, but struck out nine and walked a pair.

He has allowed 3+ home runs seven more times since 2007 which is tied with eight others for the third-most in major league baseball, including Johan Santana interestingly enough.  In those games, he is a seemingly impossible 4-2 (.667 winning percentage) outclassing his mates with a 5.47 ERA (next best is 6.95; worst is 12.20) and 1.31 WHIP (1.43; 1.96).

One of his four wins even came when he allowed four home runs in a game.  That was last year in September against Milwaukee.  They were all solo shots and the only four runs allowed by Halladay.

Now, how often does a starting pitcher give up three home runs and still come out on the other end with a win?  Here’s a clue, it’s not two-thirds of the time like Halladay.  In that same 2007-2011 span, the league is 70-449 (.135 winning percentage) in 3+ home runs allowed starts for major league baseball pitchers.

Not surprisingly, Halladay is also the best at saving the bullpen during those poor outing going 51 innings with Santana and James Shields checking in behind him at 44 each.  Of the 35 players with 5+ three home runs allowed outing since 2007, only he and now teammate Cliff Lee have a complete game under their belt.  Even when he’s doing poorly, Halladay is still better than everyone else.

Friday: 04.15.2011

Cliff Lee’s Amazing Game

I don’t think even the most over-reactionary of fantasy owners had any major concerns about Cliff Lee after his second start where he managed just 3.3 innings allowing six runs on 10 hits and a walk in Atlanta.  Seeing that line for your ace is never fun, but every pitcher takes some beatings over the course of 32 starts.  Even Lee’s teammate Roy Halladay gave up six runs in two separate outings last year.

Just in case anyone was worried about Lee in the slightest, his performance on Thursday alleviated any and all fears a million fold.  He put together an effort so ridiculous that it has only been done 11 times (2 of which were no-no’s) in baseball history (or at least the history tracked by Baseball-Reference).  A complete game 3-hit effort with 12 strikeouts and a walk is excellent enough as is, but when you factor in that Lee performed the feat in just 99 pitches, it’s kind of mind-blowing.

Lee’s control has never been in doubt and it was hyperactive last night with 74 strikes out of the 99 pitches.  He just dismantled the Nationals, that’s all there is to it.  He induced four or more swinging strikes on four of his five offerings (two & four seam fastballs, cutter and curveball) with the curveball generating five swings and misses on just seven thrown!

He had three single digit pitch innings (2nd, 4th and 6th) and topped 12 just twice (3rd w/15 and 8th w/16).  It probably won’t get the fanfare it deserves because it’s not a perfect game or a no-hitter, but it’s a brilliant effort without question.  As I mentioned before, Lee’s sub-100 pitch complete game with 10+ strikeouts has happened just 10 other times and only one other matched his 12 strikeouts (Sandy Koufax, 1964).  Lee’s 74 strikes were 2nd to Terry Mullholland’s 76 which came in one fewer pitch during his 98-pitch gem back in 1991.

Here is the list in full thanks to Baseball-Reference.com’s Play Index (sorted newest to oldest):

Rk Player Date Tm Opp Rslt App,Dec IP H R ER BB SO HR Pit Strks GmSc
1 Cliff Lee 4/14/2011 PHI WSN W 4-0 SHO9 ,W 9 3 0 0 1 12 0 99 74 92
2 Chris Carpenter 9/7/2009 STL MIL W 3-0 SHO9 ,W 9 1 0 0 2 10 0 99 64 93
3 Chris Carpenter 6/14/2005 STL TOR W 7-0 SHO9 ,W 9 1 0 0 1 10 0 95 68 94
4 Roy Halladay 5/29/2005 TOR MIN W 4-0 SHO9 ,W 9 2 0 0 0 10 0 99 72 93
5 Roy Oswalt 4/16/2004 HOU MIL W 2-0 SHO9 ,W 9 3 0 0 0 10 0 94 66 91
6 Mike Mussina 5/1/2001 NYY MIN W 4-0 SHO9 ,W 9 3 0 0 0 10 0 99 69 91
7 Curt Schilling 4/10/2001 ARI LAD W 2-0 SHO9 ,W 9 2 0 0 0 10 0 93 73 93
8 David Cone 7/18/1999 NYY MON W 6-0 SHO9 ,W 9 0 0 0 0 10 0 88 68 97
9 Terry Mulholland 9/18/1991 PHI MON W 1-0 SHO9 ,W 9 2 0 0 0 10 0 98 76 93
10 Tim Belcher 8/30/1991 LAD CHC W 2-0 SHO9 ,W 9 4 0 0 0 10 0 99 70 89
11 Sandy Koufax 6/4/1964 LAD PHI W 3-0 SHO9 ,W 9 0 0 0 1 12 0 97 68 98
Tuesday: 01.25.2011

Three Questions – Seattle Mariners

With the 2011 Starting Pitcher Guide slated for next month, I have a jam packed volume covering all the ins and outs of starting pitching in the 2011 season for your viewing pleasure.  Of course that doesn’t do much to address the offensive side of things so I decided to start this “Three Questions” where I will cover some key offensive issues for each of the 30 teams.  There will be more content here dealing with offense, but this is the beginning.

Will Justin Smoak start to look like the guy who was the centerpiece in a deal for an ace?

Smoak, a blue chip prospect coming up through the Rangers’ organization, drew rave reviews in three minor league seasons ranking 13th (2010) and 23rd (2009) on Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospect list the last two years.  He was being compared to former Ranger Mark Teixeira, likely due to the easy surface comparison of switch-handedness, a deft eye at the plate, first round draft status and first base positioning on the diamond.  It will be tough to find out how apt those comparisons were as Smoak is now a Seattle Mariner.

His career started off with a whimper in 275 plate appearances with the Rangers, but he still showed the ability to draw walks with a 105-point split between his batting average and on-base percentage, although both lagged with the latter topping out at .316.  His 8-home run total wasn’t horrible either.  Across a full season, that projects to the low-20 power Smoak was projected for in his young career.  Results on the whole were slightly better in Seattle (93 OPS+ v. 79 in Texas) though they came at the expense of his batting eye as the difference in average and OBP dwindled to 48 points.

As the centerpiece return for the M’s in the trade that sent Cliff Lee to the Texas Rangers the expectation for Smoak to hit Teixeira likely won’t go away, however the capacity to do so will be seriously diminished in his home park of Safeco Field.  According to StatCorner.com, Safeco Field has a park factor of 91 on home runs for left-handed batters and just 84 for righties.  For the uninitiated, anything below 100 favors pitchers.  So for 81 of his games, Smoak is going to be playing in an environment that eats away at his ability to do the thing fantasy owners need most out of a first base/corner infield option, hit for power.

Factor in the historically bad lineup which has no chance but to improve but will still struggle and you’ve got a player bringing very little to the table in terms of production.  If the low-20s was Smoak’s ceiling for the early part of his career in Texas, then 15-17 is the new ceiling playing in Seattle.  Combine that with below average runs scored and driven in totals and you have waiver wire fodder in most league formats.  He will get drafted because of his name and because of his hot September (.340/.421/.580, 3 HR, 9 RBI), both of which are factors that will price me out for sure.  I don’t need a hit before I pass this Smoak.

Where do I draft Ichiro now that he’s 37 & stuck in that lineup?

I am less concerned about the age than I am his awful supporting cast who last year cashed in Ichiro’s .359 on-base percentage for a whopping 74 runs.  SEVENTY-FOUR!!!  He hit .315 with 214 hits and scored 74 runs.  We have already seen within his early-to-mid 30s that Ichiro isn’t aging normally.  He continues to be an age-defying star and there is no reason to bet that he drops off the table suddenly in 2011.  As I have mentioned many times before, I would be careful subscribing to these trends, but he has an on-off trend with his batting average that is schedule for an on year.  His last four years in order have been .351, .310, .352 and .315 meaning if the trend held he would be in for another transcendent batting average year that can carry a fantasy team.

On-off trends are hardly the statistical work of Baseball Prospectus and company, but maybe he dedicates himself in a different way during the offseason of those “down” seasons to come back and have another huge year.  Flimsy at best, so don’t use it as the reason to draft him.  Draft him because he hits .300+ in a ton of at-bats with 35+ stolen bases.  Unfortunately he cannot be counted on for runs until further notice, but he is a stud in two categories.

In a recent “Experts” Draft held over at CBS, he went at the top of the 5th round.  I might be more prone to take him in the back of the 4th round when all of those picks were being wasted on starting pitchers, but it’s inconsequential to say he is late 4th instead of an early 5th round pick.  Anywhere in that pick 40-60 range suits me just fine.  The age is scary to many so you may even be able to hold off until the 6th round or get a few dollars shaved off of his auction price.  When you are dealing with superstar once-in-a-lifetime players, things like natural age progression and mistrusting the stats is how you get burned.  He is as solid as they get in this game on unpredictability.

Is there anyone besides Ichiro worth caring about in this lineup?

Yes, there is some hidden value.  Off the top, I would be willing to bet on a Chone Figgins rebound.  The price is likely to be ripe for a profit as his .259 average left a sour taste in the over-reactionary populace of fantasy baseball while you are smart enough to wade through the belly-aching and see a guy who still stole 42 bases and hit much better from June on (.280) after entering the month with a .211 average.

But for the purposes of this question, I would like to shift your attention to the former AL West foe who was brought to the Mariners to provide some punch to their lineup, Jack Cust.  You may recall about 500 or so words ago I lamented Safeco Field and what it does to a hitter’s power.  However the “hitter” in that example is a mere mortal when it comes to power hitting, he is no Jack Cust.  Cust’s power isn’t to be stifled by cavernous stadiums whether in the Bay Area or the great Northwest.

Cust popped a .501 slugging percentage in McAfee Coliseum, his former home in Oakland, which has a home run park factor just a point higher at 92 for lefties than his new home.  This means his power won’t be stifled, just as the power of the guy whose shoes he is filling, Russell Branyan, wasn’t during his two stints with Seattle.  Cust has a legitimate shot to replicate Branyan’s 31 home run season from 2009 and he certainly doesn’t cost what 31 home runs should (went 29th round in the aforementioned “Experts” League) so put a star next to him on your draft list.