StrategyAugust 16, 2009


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Hot/Cold Week 20: You’ve Lost McLovin’ Feeling

By Ray Flores

Welcome back to another edition of the Hot/Cold, where the water is just fine in the deadline day deadpool. Well, today is the default trade deadline for a number of you in your Yahoo leagues and unless you’re in a H2H league, procrastinating to make that game-changing trade might cost you. Nevertheless, making one Hail Mary to get your 10th place off the canvas and back in the title race wouldn’t hurt your team any, and, like a number of you, yours truly is looking forward to fantasy football (both NFL and soccer) after a so-so fantasy baseball campaign. Here’s the last chance saloon of buy/sell tips for the rest of the season.

Hot

Rajai Davis – Last 4 Weeks: 27/79 H/AB, 16 R, 0 HR, 19 RBI, 12 SB, .342 BA

If you missed out on the Nyjer Morgan bullet train off the waiver wire (Morgan is owned in 68 percent of Yahoo leagues), Rajai Davis could be your free ticket to a bundle of stolen bases the rest of the way. Owned in just 18 percent of Yahoo leagues, Davis has just as many stolen bases as fellow speed merchants Michael Bourn and Jacoby Ellsbury over the past four weeks, and is 23/29 on stolen base attempts this season. Not quite known as a plus-average hitter, Davis has rightfully earned Oakland manager Bob Geren’s faith in assuming the Athletics’ starting centerfielder job. The 28-year-old speedster’s average is likely to regress, as he’s batting for a .344 BABIP in a relatively small sample size of games played, but for managers seeking a speed boost that will promise a gain in the standings, Rajai Davis warrants a pickup.

Ryan Zimmerman – Last 4 Weeks: 35/100 H/AB, 27 R, 10 HR, 24 RBI, 1 SB, .350 BA

A number of Mark Reynolds owners salivate over the D-Backs’ third-bagger, sniffing a 50 home run/25 stolen base pace. Ryan Zimmerman, on the other hand, is enjoying a relatively quiet season — yet, “Invader Zimm” is ranked second only to Reynolds in the Yahoo game, and is on quite a career-breaking pace himself. In particular, Zimmerman has picked it up over the last few weeks, as (perhaps not coincidentally) he has gained altitude while the Nationals have gone streaking onward and upward. The 24-year-old third baseman has taken a positive step forward this season after an injury-laden 2008. For the season, Zimmerman’s BABIP of .329 equals the high-water mark of his 2006 breakout year, and he has smashed the ball with authority with a career-high 40.3 percent flyball percentage — along with a healthy 20 percent line drive rate. In addition, Zimmerman is seeing the ball better, as indicated by a near four point reduction in his outside swing percentage from last season (25.2% O-Swing in 2008 to 21.4% O-Swing in 2009). On pace for the first 30 home run campaign of his budding career, it seems that the Nationals’ franchise player is determined to make the best of his potential.

Troy Tulowitzki – Last 4 Weeks: 35/102 H/AB, 23 R, 7 HR, 25 RBI, 4 SB, .343 BA

At the beginning of June, the Rockies’ star shortstop labored to post a batting average 15 to 20 points above the Mendoza Line, and spent several games in the bottom third of the Rockies order. Exit Clint Hurdle, enter Jim Tracy, and witness a torrid two-month barrage of top-level production from the former Long Beach State shortstop. During this span, Troy Tulowitzki has smashed into fantasy’s elite shortstop tier with 51 runs, 18 home runs, 45 RBI, 11 stolen bases, and a .321 batting average in 215 at-bats. Tulowitzki has continued to live and die by the longball, as he’s exhibiting a career-high 43.1 percent flyball percentage at the expense of his line drive rate (currently three points below his career norm of the low 20’s). There are peripheral positives to be gleaned too, as “Tulo” has walked a trace under 12 percent of his plate appearances — and while he’s striking out at a 22.5 percent clip, the Rockies’ shortstop has continued to display above-average plate discipline, having swung outside of the strike zone just 20.8 percent of the time.

Cold

Johnny Cueto – Last 4 Weeks: 24.2 IP, 0 W, 18 K, 6.93 ERA, 1.82 WHIP

In six of his first seven starts, the young Reds ace was miserly with free passes, walking two or fewer opposing batters, but Johnny Cueto’s continued penchant to rely on the flyball for outs — as well as an early six-walk outing against the Astros — were warning signs that the 23 year-old hurler was in a sell-high situation. Since May 19, Cuetohas compiled a 5.46 ERA in his last 87.1 innings, and, along the way, he’s handed out 33 walks to go with 15 home runs, a .291 batting average against, and a 22 percent line drive rate. In addition, Cueto took a step back in his K/9 mark in striking out just 101 batters in 134 innings to date for a 6.78 K/9, whereas last season he posted a healthy 8.17 K/9. There’s also the understandable fear that having logged 308 career innings in just under two seasons, Cueto will bog down in the stretch — a fear attached to any ace managed by Dusty Baker. In his last outing, Cueto had to exit just two innings in, with a tight left hip flexor.

Nate McLouth – Last 4 Weeks: 21/93 H/AB, 15 R, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 6 SB, .226 BA

If not for Nate McLouth’s handful of stolen bases and 15 runs scored, the only thing to report about “Nasty Nate” is the nasty funk he has been mired in. McLouth is still on pace to best a 20/20 campaign, but it has been a relatively underwhelming season for the Pirate-turned-Braves leadoff hitter. The culprit for this appears to be a dropoff of more than three percent in his line drive rate from last season’s breakout success, as McLouth currently sits on a 15.2 percent line drive rate. In addition, “McLovin” hit a career-high 46 doubles last season, but has only half as many halfway through August. McLouth could be worth trading for, but unless he goes on quite a tear, he is prone to falling short of a 25/25 season. Otherwise, the added power and speed from here on out could prove to be only marginal — unless, that is, McLouth brings back that “McLovin” feeling.

Grady Sizemore – Last 4 Weeks: 24/96 H/AB, 16 R, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 1 SB, .250 BA

It has been a frustrating season, to stay the least, for Grady Sizemore and his owners. The first rounder will fall well short of 30/30 expectations, a season removed from setting a lofty bar with a 33 home run, 38 stolen base season. Nothing in Sizemore’s peripherals jumps out as glaringly suspect — his plate discipline still seems up to scratch. However, like McLouth and Tulowitzki, Sizemore has sustained a high flyball percentage for his standards, but he has also seen a noticeable decrease in his line drive rate from previous seasons. Aside from walking less, Sizemore has recorded an unusually poor 10-for-18 in stolen base opportunities. The Tribe’s outfielder has never had his BABIP dip out of the .300’s until last season, where he hit .291 en route to a career year. This season, Sizemore is batting for a .273 BABIP, which might suggest he’s unlucky, but with only a month and half to run with, it still remains difficult to say if he can reverse his misfortune in time for a good surge.

Buy Low of the Week

Jermaine Dye – Last 4 Weeks: 16/94 H/AB, 10 R, 4 HR, 15 RBI, 0 SB, .170 BA

A recent slide and a jammed outfield (with the addition of Alex Rios) could open up an opportunity to nab Jermaine Dye for a possible discount. Dye has posted his lowest line drive percentage since 2002, at 16.6 percent, but he’s still managed a relatively healthy 18.6 percent HR/FB ratio, and a 42 percent flyball percentage. In addition, Dye has had a .300 BABIP at “The Cell” in every year but 2005 and 2007, whereas the veteran slugger has also upped his contact rate from previous seasons.

Three I’m Buying

Josh Hamilton – Having had to go through the motions after recovering from a bruised rib cage and abdominal strain, Josh Hamilton has gotten aboard with 20 hits in his last 46 at-bats, for a .435 batting average with a home run and a couple of stolen bases in the last couple of weeks. A hot streak has been enough justification for manager Ron Washington to move Hamilton back to the heart of the Rangers’ order, and is capable of performing at a first- or second-round clip from here on out.

Jason Bay – Like Hamilton, Jason Bay has heated up of late, with four home runs and a .370 average over the last couple of weeks. A .259 batting average is rather sub-par for his career standards, but Bay has managed to maintain a relatively pedestrian line drive rate of 16.5 percent in the last several seasons, in favor of a flyball percentage in the mid-to-high 40’s. Bay’s strikeout rate may be up four percent, but he’s also walking at a healthy 16.4 percent clip, and is still showing above-average plate discipline with a 20.2 percent line drive rate.

Johan Santana – His reputation is still that of a bonafide first-round ace, although he hasn’t quite pitched like one (posting a relatively lackluster 8.12 K/9). Two glaring things that pop out when assessing Johan Santana: A continued marginal decline of his average fastball velocity, and (possibly related to that) a reliance on the flyball (48.9 percent). However, Johan has still sustained an HR/FB ratio in line with what he’s done in the past (8.3% HR/FB), and has still induced an infield flyball percentage of 17.1 percent. Not one to be a pure groundball pitcher anyway, Johan has still held onto his reputation of being a second-half pitcher, having posted a 2.27 ERA — with much of the damage coming against the formidable offenses of St. Louis and Houston, mixed in with three shutout wins against Cincinnati, Atlanta, and Colorado.

Others to consider buying: Aaron Harang, Rich Harden, Carlos Quentin, Chase Utley, Curtis Granderson

Sell High of the Week

Vladimir Guerrero – Last 2 Weeks: 14/39 H/AB, 7 R, 4 HR, 4 RBI, 0 SB, .359 BA

Bediviled by a season of anonymity (and another year taking its toll on his aging body), “Big Daddy Vladdy” was able to roll back the years a bit in the last couple of weeks with a handful of home runs, including his 400th career home run. It seems that because Vladimir Guerrero figures to be a full-time DH, his body will hold up better down the home stretch; thus, his potential for being productive still remains. However, Guerrero has appeared in his usual right field post just twice this year, and it seemed that the DH time prior to missing a month-long stretch did little to keep Vlad fresh and locked-in. Guerrero’s ISO remains at a shocking .158 this season, and it seems that he won’t be quite as effective at or past 33 cosidering his “devil may care” plate approach.

Three I’m Selling

Dustin Pedroia – On pace for the kind of season expected of him from the most reasonable projections (116 R, 13 HR, 74 RBI, 19 SB, .300 BA), Dustin Pedroia still carries elite name value for his position — a position that still lacks quality, even in light of Aaron Hill’s outstanding season. I’d parlay his past month-long stretch (which had seen him knock out five of his nine round trippers) into better value. While much of his value stems from that 110-plus run total, and a .300-plus average, Pedroia is hitting for a solid .299 average of this writing, but not the .315-325 clip some were hoping for.

Aramis Ramirez – Making up for lost time after being sidelined with a dislocated left shoulder, Aramis Ramirez belted five home runs in the second half of July, and a gaudy batting average to boot. That nagging left shoulder has bothered A-Ram again over the past week, which could open up a spot to Jake Fox, who has been more than decent in his second call-up (having bashed eight home runs in 139 at-bats this season). While Ramirez might not command top dollar or like-for-like value with his original draft value, he could still make for respectable trade bait on deadline day.

Dan Haren – It’s just about an annual landmark, watching Dan Haren collapse like a house of cards when August and September roll around. Oddly enough, it seems as if Haren will finally hold serve against this worrisome trend. In four of his last five outings, Haren has either failed to go beyond five innings and/or has allowed more than four runs (on three occasions). The mastery of the Dodgers in an eight-inning win — in which the Diamondbacks ace held the Blue Crew to one run and eight strikeouts — couldn’t have come at a better time for those managers who were not quite believers in this seasonal phenomenon. The fact is, Haren’s .255 BABIP has nowhere to go but up (and in turn, so does his ultra-svelte 0.89 WHIP), and with his fastball velocity down a trace from last season, his second-half collapses can probably be retroactively blamed on some degree of fatigue.

Others to consider selling: Bobby Abreu, Derek Jeter, Hunter Pence, Ichiro Suzuki, Clayton Kershaw, Jonathan Broxton

That about does it for this week and that about does it for this year’s buy/sell tips. Hopefully, they’ve served you well over the course of the year and happy deadline day trading. Check back for another Hot/Cold next Sunday — until then, as always, be champions…

 
<i>True to his name as</i> The Artful Dodger<i>, Ray Flores is a disgruntled Dodger fan, who makes up for it by supporting his hometown Lakers, Manchester United F.C., and FC Barcelona. While being artful doesn't best describe him, Ray is a web developer, a part-time fantasy football blogger (the game actually played with feet), and head "Wicked Wikitect" of the Cafe's Fantasy Sports Wiki project.</i>
 
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