By Andy Behrens
April 23, 2007
When a hitter is slumping, all we read about are their strikeout totals. Fantasy writers are particularly fond of citing Ks for batters, even though it's not a standard 5x5 category. The implication is that Ks can tell us something especially important about the depth of the player's uselessness. You'll frequently read things like this: "Player X went 0-for-4 last night with three strikeouts. He looked clueless at the plate."
But you'll never read this: "Player X went 1-for-4 last night with three Ks and a 440-foot home run. He looked clueless at the plate. Except that one time."
Obviously there's no debating the fact that a strikeout is an undesirable result in an at-bat – it's an out, after all. But a high strikeout rate is often the price a hitter pays for being an elite slugger, a selective batter, or both. If you look at the list of hitters who struck out the most in 2006, you'll find a group of players who were taken very near the top of 2007 drafts: Adam Dunn, Ryan Howard, Alfonso Soriano, Jason Bay, Jim Thome, Alex Rodriguez, Bobby Abreu, and Chase Utley are among them.
It's not as if those top-tier hitters do all their whiffing when they're struggling, either. Last week, Alex Rodriguez struck out eight times. Only six players in baseball struck out more often. He also hit .370/.393/1.000 with five home runs. Adrian Gonzalez was K'ed 10 times, yet he hit .353/.405/.618 with two homers. Strikeouts happen. They're outs, and outs are bad – and depending on the game situation, a strikeout can be particularly bad – but Ks aren't the end of the story with any hitter. Unless your league uses Ks as a category for batters, don't base fantasy decisions on them. To be more specific, don't cut Alex Gordon simply because he's struck out 21 times. Don't back off Brandon Wood in AL-only leagues because he struck out 149 times in Double-A last year. Those guys are very likely going to be excellent players who happen to strike out a lot. Such players exist.
By the way, please note that I'm not saying anything negative about guys with low K-rates, and I'm not saying that contact rate doesn't have predictive value. Also, I'm not suggesting that certain hitters wouldn't benefit from an increase in their contact rate. But I don't think an individual player's strikeouts say terribly much about their ability to help your fantasy team or create runs for their real-life employer.
Now let's get to some random, segue-less bullet-points …
Yes, I realize that Troy Glaus and his bone spurs are still in my middle infield slot in the Yahoo! Friends and Family League. When Glaus, Howie Kendrick (broken finger) and Luis Castillo (quad) all went down, it was clear that I had a problem. Dropping Castillo for Placido Polanco only addressed part of the issue. Behind the scenes, I've been making trade offers and contemplating counter-offers. I've had trade discussions with maybe half a dozen teams. However, I've yet to find a deal that helps me now and works long-term. It's only April 23, after all. With Glaus eligible to return from the DL in a matter of days, I'm likely to just wait it out. There's no player on my roster I'm willing to cut to add a sub-replacement level middle infielder. Sure, I could drop Brett Myers or Tim Lincecum for a week of, say, David Eckstein. That would be a panic move, though. I've got something smallish in mind, and we'll revisit the situation on Tuesday.
According to the Buzz Index, Myers was dropped in 4624 leagues on Sunday. Despite my injury woes in the Friends and Family league – and despite the fact that we only have three bench spots – I haven't seriously considered cutting him. The likelihood that he'll eventually close for the Phillies or regain a spot in the rotation makes him, in my opinion, the most valuable middle reliever in fantasy baseball right now. Myers will give you Ks and decent ratios. If you're in a holds league, there's really no dropping him. It's no small thing to own a reliever who qualifies at SP.
Alexi Casilla is the Ryan Theriot of the American League. Is that praise? I think it is. The Minnesota infielder has three stolen bases over his last four games. He had 50 steals in the minors last year, too. Casilla is a reasonable one-category add in AL-only leagues.
Sunday was a good day for a bunch of struggling hitters. Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche, Dan Uggla, and Ryan Howard all homered. If you owned Howard last season in a head-to-head league, I don't need to tell you how freakishly good he was on Sunday.
A surprising number of emailers regard Kip Wells as an ownable pitcher in mixed leagues. There's no question he's been useful so far: 22 K, 9 BB, 3.12 ERA, 1.00 WHIP in 26 innings. But Kip Wells is also a 30-year-old with a career 1.62 K/BB ratio, a 4.42 ERA, and a 1.48 WHIP. If he's found his way onto your roster, try packaging him in a multi-player deal for something more.
Andy Behrens has written for ESPN.com, the Chicago Sports Review, NBA.com, the Chicago Reader and various other publications. In all likelihood, Andy owns more Artis Gilmore memorabilia than you. Follow him on Twitter. Send Andy a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated on Monday, Apr 23, 2007 7:03 pm, EDT
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