News, Analysis & UpdatesAugust 13, 2004

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The View From Here V
News, notes, and rants from the fantasy baseball world

By Ryan Fay

It happens to every player. At some point, they begin to lose it. The skills that once made them fantasy studs begin to evaporate as age and other factors creep in. Some players lose it “overnight,” while others see their stats decline more gradually. We, of course, want to snatch up players before their stats dry up. As owners look for that last-minute trade, or ponder who to keep for next season, several tough decisions lie ahead. The players below have certain statistical indicators that might make owners hesitant to obtain them – or ready to deal them.

C/1B Mike Piazza, New York Mets
Age: 36
Neck and neck with Ivan Rodriguez as the top fantasy catcher for many years, Piazza has fallen out of the top five at his position in 2004. Several breakout catchers, like Victor Martinez and Johnny Estrada, along with the wear and tear of catching, has Piazza�s value plummeting.

2000 OPS (on base + slugging): 1.012
2001 OPS: .957
2002 OPS: .903
2003 OPS: .860
2004 OPS: .840

Clear statistical decline. Piazza hasn’t had a 100 RBI season since 2000, and is on pace to strike out 94 times this season, which would be a career high. A .317 lifetime hitter, Piazza hasn�t hit .300 since 2001. He didn’t hit a homer in his final 88 at bats last season – an alarming period for a guy with over 350 career homers – and only had one dinger in his last 109 at bats.

1B Jeff Bagwell, Houston Astros
Age: 36
Bagwell has been a rock for owners since the early 1990s. A .300 average, 35-40 homers, and 100 RBI were locks for the now 36-year-old first baseman. However, age and a chronically ailing shoulder has Bagwell on a five-year decline.

1999 OPS: 1.045
2000 OPS: 1.039
2001 OPS: .965
2002 OPS: .919
2003 OPS: .867
2004 OPS: .824

Nothing is wrong with an .824 OPS. But when has been in decline for the last five seasons, owners have reason to worry. He’s on pace for 23 homers and 76 runs batted in – his lowest totals in any season with 130 or more games since 1993. Bagwell is hitting .262, which would be his worst season in that category, regardless of games played. At this rate, Bagwell isn’t a lock as a top 15 1B in 2005.

1B Rafael Palmeiro, Baltimore Orioles
Age: 38
If he hangs around, Raffy could become the first player with 3,000 hits and 600 homers. He has 542 round-trippers and 2,881 hits right now. He’s going to have to get it going, though, because it looks like his tank is getting empty in a hurry.

2002 OPS: .962           2002 AVG: .273
2003 OPS: .867           2003 AVG: .260
2004 OPS: .766           2004 AVG: .256

Considering how many first basemen are out there, Palmeiro isn’t a great starter anymore. His bat has seemingly slowed, and his projected totals of 22 homers and 91 RBI would be his worst in any non-strike season since 1992.

3B/OF Chipper Jones, Atlanta Braves
Age: 32
As we all know, the usually awesome Chipper Jones is having a miserable year. He hurt his hamstring early in the season, and that probably is a big part of his poor hitting. However, stats show at least some decline is beginning to show as well.

1999-2001 HRs per season: 39.6
2002-2004 HRs per season: 25.0 (includes 2004 projected total)

1999-2001 average OPS per season: 1.025
2002-2004 average OPS per season: .884 (includes 2004 projected total)

Jones’s declining stats are pretty much offset by a return to 3B eligibility. He remains a very valuable asset to fantasy owners, but it seems to me that he’s past his prime.

OF Bernie Williams, New York Yankees
Age: 36
Care to see the effects of age and bad knees?

1998 OPS: 997
1999 OPS: 971
2000 OPS: 957
2001 OPS: 917
2002 OPS: 908
2003 OPS: 778
2004 OPS: 758

Don’t expect a rebound to his .300/25/100 days.

SP Pedro Martinez, Boston Red Sox
Age: 33
Love him or hate him, Martinez might be the most dominating fantasy starter since 1994. He still possesses several weapons to take complete control of a game, but he’s become less dominating in recent seasons.

2001 K/9: 12.57            2001 Opponent OPS: .526
2002 K/9: 10.79            2002 Opponent OPS: .561
2003 K/9:  9.93             2003 Opponent OPS: .585
2004 K/9:  9.19             2004 Opponent OPS: .710

When you’re so high above everyone else, there’s lots of room to fall. Because of his strikeouts, WHIP and wins, Martinez is still a top flight starting pitcher. However, it used to be so much better.

SP Hideo Nomo, Los Angeles Dodgers
Age: 36
Nomo’s fastball was clocked as low as 82 mph this season, well below what it ought to top out at. There’s a reason: he’s hurt. Whether or not he returns this season is up in the air, but a recent trend in his stats should make owners even more cautious.

2001 K/9: 10.00           2001 K/BB: 2.29 to 1
2002 K/9: 7.88             2002 K/BB: 1.91 to 1
2003 K/9: 7.30             2003 K/BB: 1.81 to 1
2004 K/9: 4.97             2004 K/BB: 1.19 to 1

SP Matt Morris, St. Louis Cardinals
Age: 30
Morris is only 30, but has battled several major injuries that seem to have taken their toll:

2001 ERA: 3.16      2001 K/9: 7.70      2001 HR allowed: 13 (34 starts)
2002 ERA: 3.42      2002 K/9: 7.32      2002 HR allowed: 16 (32 starts)
2003 ERA: 3.76      2003 K/9: 6.27      2003 HR allowed: 20 (27 starts)
2004 ERA: 4.71      2004 K/9: 5.38      2004 HR allowed: 27 (23 starts)

Several reports say Morris’s velocity is down, and the stats certainly appear to back that up. He just has fallen off the cliff this season in many regards. So much for the walk year theory, eh? His disastrous season isn’t getting much better – he had a 5.36 ERA in June and a 7.03 mark in July. Considering his injury history, I’m not banking on a second half rebound, and how – or where – he pitches next season is anyone’s guess. Move on with caution.

RP Felix Rodriguez, Philadelphia Phillies
Age: 32
There had to be a reason why the Giants, whose bullpen was already suspect, would deal a good holds guy like Rodriguez for Ricky Ledee. Is this the reason?

2000 K/9: 10.47
2001 K/9: 10.20
2002 K/9: 7.57
2003 K/9: 6.79
2004 K/9: 6.25

RP Armando Benitez, Florida Marlins
Age: 32
When we think of Benitez, we think of a blazing fastball that overwhelms opposing batters. Needless to say, hitters aren’t as quite overwhelmed these days.

1999 K/9: 14.77
2000 K/9: 12.55
2001 K/9: 10.97
2002 K/9: 10.56
2003 K/9: 9.25
2004 K/9: 8.05

He’s obviously not washed up – he has 33 saves and a career best 1.25 ERA – but he’s lost something. And it shows no sign of coming back. Currently sidelined with a sore elbow (coincidence?), Benitez is probably someone you want to hold onto. One must be concerned, however, at least somewhat.

Ryan Fay, who recently penned a piece on Ricky Williams’ retirement for Fantasy Football Cafe, has been writing about fantasy sports since 2000. His Cafe ID is RFay8585.

Just a bump in the road or the beginning of the end? Which veterans do you think will bounce back, and which are nearing the end?

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