May 12, 2012 posted by Matthew Dewoskin

2012 Fantasy Baseball: Leaders and Laggards Hitters’ BB/K Ratio Edition

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David Wright, 3B, New York Mets

Plate discipline is important for fantasy GMs to take into consideration. A hitter who can’t judge the strike zone is about as likely to help your fantasy team as a baseball pundit who thinks stats are for losers. A hitter who spends more time making the walk back to the dugout after another strikeout than walking to first base after flipping the bat to the bat boy is likely going to find a way to the waiver wire.(We are looking at you, Drew Stubbs)

Now, not all strikeouts are created equal. Part of the power profile is guys who put up large amounts of strikeouts, but those strikeouts usually come with large amounts of walks as well. Hitters who frustrate fantasy GMs typically post the huge strikeout totals without the high walk rate or competent power numbers. We’ll discuss at least ten of these guys in this week’s edition of Leaders and Laggards…

1. Asdrubal Cabrera 1.67
2. Jose Reyes 1.60
3. Joe Mauer 1.54
4. Carlos Lee 1.50
5. Mark Ellis 1.33
6. Travis Hafner 1.22
7. Ben Zobrist 1.13
8. David Wright 1.11
9. Jamey Carroll 1.07
10. Ian Kinsler 1.06

Asdrubal Cabrera has enjoyed a blazing hot start to the 2012 season. His walk and strikeout rates have a lot to do with it. This is the first time that Cabrera has posted a BB%(12.3%) higher than his K%(7.4%). He’s stopped swinging at pitches outside the strike zone(20.9% O-swing rate) and he’s being more selective overall(career low 43.6% swing rate). The power might not hold up over the long haul. Cabrera owns a 8.0% career HR:FB rate and he’s coming off a season in which he posted a 13.3% rate. He’s been getting a little lucky on fly balls for a long time and at some point he’s going to even out. The high OBP and handfuls of doubles seem to be completely legit at this point.

Jose Reyes’ slow start has been mystifying because he’s doing a decent job of getting on base(11.3% BB%) and avoiding K’s(7.0% K%). He’s putting a lot of balls on the ground(1.75 GB:FB rate), but he’s been the victim of the luck dragon with a .252 BABIP. He actually looks like a buy low candidate right now…assuming he stays healthy.

Joe Mauer still has the same plate discipline that he’s always had, but it looks like the injuries have sapped whatever power he had. He’s also not helping himself by posting a 2.95 GB:FB ratio. He’s run well for a catcher in the past few years, but ground balls are not how he should be putting the ball in play. He’s a solid option in leagues that use OBP, but Mauer is really just a big name in most other formats.

Carlos Lee has cut down on his K-rate since his days with the White Sox and he can still get on base, but age has eroded what was once a mighty bat. His HR:FB ratio has been in decline for the past four years and it’s unlikely he’ll be finding his power stroke any time soon. Last year’s 94 RBI season was likely his last “lightning in a bottle” year before he starts putting up truly gross slash lines. He’s a free agent after this season and it would be a surprise to see him play beyond 2012. He’s waiver wire fodder at this point.

Mark Ellis has done a solid job of getting on base this year(.389 OBP), but sadly that’s about all he offers. Ellis has little speed and less power. He doesn’t drive in very many, but he might be able to score a few. He’s a NL-only guy at best at this point in his career. The higher OBP is likely a function of a change in his approach. Ellis’ 38.9% swing rate is a career low.

Travis Hafner would be a lot more useful if he could simply hit lefties at even a league average rate, but, sadly, he can’t and won’t be anything more than the more productive half of a DH platoon. He’s slashing .303/.440/.439 right now and he looks healthy. His new found selectivity has shown up in his swing metrics. His 7.9% swinging strike rate and his 36.8% swing rate are both career lows. He’s a decent option in daily leagues, super deep leagues or AL-only.

Ben Zobrist will always have value because he’s still able to get on base when hits aren’t falling in. Zobrist has a crazy high BB%(19.7%) while posting a terribly unlucky .222 BABIP. He’s posting a 1.47 GB:FB rate with a 22.9% LD%. His numbers should be on the rise soon.

David Wright is posting a .442 BABIP, but it really hasn’t shown up in his numbers. Sure, he’s slashing .387/.486/.566, but he has three homers(what Josh Hamilton would call a decent afternoon), 21 runs, 18 RBIs and three steals. The batting average is helpful, but it’s fairly empty if it doesn’t come with the counting stats. His GB:FB rate is a career high 1.60 and his LD% is a career high 27.0%. That’s why he’s been able to maintain a .442 BABIP. His BABIP will come down and so will his batting average. Wright is a great player, but he’s really a one category guy right now.

Jamey Carroll is slashing .212/.310/.257. It’s hard to believe that he’s able to draw that many walks. He’s waiver wire fodder.

This is Ian Kinsler doing what Ian Kinsler does. His current walk(10.6%) and strikeout(9.9%) rates aren’t that far off of his career averages(10.2% and 12.1%). This what we should be seeing from Kinsler.

1. Clint Barmes 0.04
2. Danny Valencia 0.09
3. Alex Presley 0.11
4. Brennan Boesch 0.11
5. Alcides Escobar 0.13
6. Jesus Montero 0.13
7. Alexei Ramirez 0.14
8. Chris Johnson 0.16
9. Drew Stubbs 0.17
10. Kurt Suzuki 0.18

Clint Barmes is putting up historically bad numbers. There really aren’t words to describe how bad a .158/.192/.295 slash line actually is. Part of the problem is that Clint has apparently decided if he’s going to go down, he might as well go down swinging. Clint owns a 47.0% O-swing rate and a 58.9% overall swing rate. He’s literally swinging at six out of ten pitches. He has more homers(2) than walks(1). That has to change or Clint is going to be riding buses in Triple-A.

Nothing really jumps out when evaluating Danny Valencia except for the fact that he’s not very good at baseball. His 45.2% swing rate isn’t great, but it’s not terrible. Valencia isn’t exactly a free swinger, but he strikes out a ton. He posts the high strikeout totals, but he’s not capable of producing the power numbers that usually come with it. The problem with labeling Valencia a “Quad-A player” is that he’s never been that great at Triple-A. He’s a fringe major league player at this point in his career.

Alex Presley will need to figure out how to take a walk if he wants to be an everyday player at the major league level. He has the speed to be at least a one-category guy, but he won’t be a useful mixed league guy until he can take advantage of his speed by putting the ball in play more often. His 81.1% contact rate is far too low for a guy with Presley’s wheels.

Brennan Boesch looked like he was on the verge of a breakout after a solid 2011 campaign. He was supposed to be hitting in front of Prince and Miggy and was expected to be scoring runs in bunches. Boesch has regressed so badly that he might find himself back in Triple-A by the time you finish reading this column. He’s been unlucky with a .242 BABIP, but he’s swinging at too many pitches(53.6% overall swing rate) and missing on too many swings(9.4% swinging strike %).

Alcides Escobar will always be a victim of the luck dragons as long as he can’t draw a walk. Escobar has  an 80.8% contact rate, but he owns a 2.83 GB:FB ratio with a .308 BABIP. Escobar is doing a solid job of putting the ball on the ground and using his speed…when he’s not making the walk of shame back to the dugout after another strikeout. If only he could find a way to steal first base…

If there is one guy on this list who could some day figure out how to take a walk at the major league level and wind up being a legit fantasy force, it’s got to be Jesus Montero. Montero has shown the ability to get on base at the minor league level, but Montero has really struggled at the major league level. He also needs to figure out how to put the ball in the air at the major league level. His 47.2% GB rate is simply to high for a guy with Montero’s power potential. He’s still only 22 and this season looks like it’s going to be a year of growing pains for Montero. He’s a guy to be excited about for dynasty leagues, but fantasy GMs shouldn’t expect much this year from Montero.

Someone needs to tell Alexei Ramirez that the season starts in April, not June. We go through this with Ramirez every year. A fantasy GM sees his double digit homers and steals and drafts Ramirez in the middle rounds. Ramirez struggles horribly for two months and the dude cuts him. Some crafty GM snags Ramirez off the waiver wire and he goes on to end up with his double digit homers and steals. There’s not much to see here.

Chris Johnson owns a career walk rate of 4.1% and a career strikeout rate of 24.7%. His current walk rate is 4.1% and his current strikeout rate is 25.6%. Yeah, there might be something to this “guys are who they are” idea. Fantasy GMs should be concerned about a guy with a 31.0% fly ball rate and high K-rate posting a .388 BABIP. Chris should enjoy this hot streak, it’s not going to last for long.

Drew Stubbs has a ton of issues at the plate. Stubbs has speed, puts the ball on the ground(2.09 GB:FB), but strikes out a ton(27.1% strikeout rate). His O-swing numbers have been on an upwards trend for the last three years and he’s sporting a 70.5% first pitch strike rate. He’s down in the count almost as soon as he steps into the box. He’s 27 years old and hasn’t shown much improvement at the plate. He could very well swing and miss his way to the bench in a month.

Kurt Suzuki has a 17:3 K:BB ratio with a .216/.250/.284 slash line. He has a .256 BABIP, but he also owns a 0.64 GB:FB ratio. He fits the low BABIP profile. He currently owns a 0.0% HR:FB ratio. He has a 6.7% ratio for his career. He can’t get any worse and might be worth an add in a two catcher league.


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