Fantasy Baseball: The State of Play (Week 7)

The State of Play – Week 7

By: Kyle Brown (@CavghtLooking)

Week 6 Report Card:

Edwin Encarnacion’s triple slash over the last seven days is .412/.476/.706. Production like that has brought his season numbers back to respectability and his slugging percentage to .500. It would be nice if he could manage to steal a couple more bases, but I’d rather he stay healthy than injure himself during an awkward slide.

Travis Wood has posted back-to-back quality starts and is currently tied with Patrick Corbin and Adam Wainwright for most in the majors. I’m still waiting for the wheels to fall off, but until then Wood remains and excellent streaming option and a lukewarm option for rostering.

Hitters of Note:

My hitter section this week will be a lightning round of underachieving stars and what I think about their prospects for the remainder of the season.

Matt Kemp: I think it is obvious that the shoulder is still bothering him. There simply isn’t another good reason for why his power has completely vanished. Kemp is going to hit less than 15 home runs this season. That’s a guarantee.

Albert Pujols: I warned you about the impending Pujols decline in my preseason rankings and in this State of Play series. We have seen the best of Pujols and his great midseason production in 2012 may be the last time we ever think of him as a truly great hitter.

Jason Heyward: Both Heyward and BJ Upton are hitting under .160 for the season. Heyward seems the better bet to rebound. All he needs to do is shake off the cobwebs that piled up during his appendectomy recovery. However, this abysmal stretch of production will plague his season totals for the rest of the year.

Miguel Cabrera: I guess Miggy is doing just fine. Well, he should probably be hitting .400. That .384 average is pretty weak. Get it together Cabrera, we all know you can do better than this.

Pitcher of Note:

Patrick CorbinAfter Patrick Corbin pitched a complete game, 10-strikeout and 1-walk gem of an outing in Colorado my twitter feed began exploding with hyperbole. The official MLB twitter referred to him as an early front-runner for the Cy Young. I heard things like “Patrick Corbin has arrived,” and “if you don’t know about Patrick Corbin yet, then you are probably not any good at fantasy baseball.” I get it. Going nine innings and whiffing ten batters is very impressive. Sporting and ERA of 1.44 is very impressive. Pitching nine straight quality starts to begin a season is very impressive. That said, I think we are all in need of a little perspective. Here is a list of other starting pitchers who have an ERA under 2.00: Kershaw (1.35), Harvey (1.55), Zimmermann (1.62), Miller (1.74), Buchholz (1.78), Kuroda (1.99). After that, there are eleven starting pitchers with an ERA under 2.60. There are thirty starting pitchers with an ERA under 3.00. Conclusion? There is a lot of good pitching going down in the major leagues right now.

I do not care that Patrick Corbin has a 7-0 record. Pitcher wins do not correlate to talent or production. AJ Burnett is pitching out of his mind for a Pirates team that is nine games over .500 (yeah, the Pirates are good) and his record is 3-4. So let’s look at Patrick Corbin from last season and compare him to his 2013 version and see what we get. As a starter last year, Corbin had an ERA of 4.91, a 4.10 FIP, and a 3.79 xFIP. He gave up 1.23 home runs per nine innings and K%/BB% of 18.2/5.2. One doesn’t even really need to look at the numbers to know that Patrick Corbin has improved his production in nearly all of the aforementioned statistics.

The question, of course, is how has Corbin improved so dramatically? My generous answer to that query focuses on the increase in slider% (16.4-22.7) and the crazy difference between his 2012 first-strike% (58.6) and his 2013 mark (71.4). In other words, he is getting ahead of almost every hitter he sees this year and slamming the door with his devastating slider. One can see the positive results of his slider usage in Corbin’s increased swinging-strike% (9.3). Additionally, the slider usage is definitely helping Corbin suppress home runs and strand more runners. However, my uncharitable answer to the question of Corbin’s production highlights his 3.9 HR/FB%, .246 BABIP, and 88.2 LOB%. The increased amount of sliders has undoubtedly led to the 4% uptick in his groundball%, but his 2012 HR/FB% of 13.5 tells me that Corbin is going to come back to earth sometime soon. One can’t just drop 10% off of their HR/FB% by throwing a few more sliders. Furthermore, the .246 BABIP is the lowest number that Corbin has posted in his entire professional career and is bound to regress. So what is really going on here? Corbin is pitching better than he did last season and, on top of that, he is benefiting from a few lucky breaks.

Corbin, 23, is still very young and is definitely maturing as a pitcher.  But he still has a long way to go before I am comfortable putting him in a Cy Young conversation that involves pitchers like Clayton Kershaw, Jordan Zimmermann, Matt Harvey and Shelby Miller. I am not even really comfortable putting Miller and Harvey in that conversation until they log a full season of innings in the major leagues. Corbin is a better pitcher this year than he was in 2012. However, the difference between his 2012 and 2013 versions is not nearly as large as the twitterverse wants us to believe. My advice: if you weren’t lucky enough to pick Corbin up off waivers or draft him in the later rounds of your draft then you are simply going to have to watch him pitch for another team in your league. On the flip side, I do not think his 2013 value is going to get any higher than it is right now. As such, I am shopping Corbin very hard right now in two of my three fantasy leagues. I would advise you to do the same. 


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