By the Numbers: What's gotten into Lugo?

In replacing Fernando Nieve in the Mets rotation last weekend, Jonathon Niese offers more change than just a letter in Nieves last name.

Though Nieve has a little more zip on his fastball, Niese has been stingier with walks and has done a much better job of keeping the ball down, at least at the minor league level. Niese's first start after his callup could be typical of whats to come: 12 of 20 balls put in play by Astros hitters were grounders, and only five were flyballs. While the Houston lineup doesn't strike out much, Niese's three Ks over seven innings is a ratio that his owners should probably get used to.

Only Jorge De La Rosa and Joel Pineiro have been more popular pickups among National League pitchers this week. Niese won't provide as much value as either De La Rosa or Pineiro, but at least he is still available in more than three out of four leagues on CBSSports.com. In terms of availability and performance, he is the rough equivalent of Jamie Moyer or Ross Ohlendorf. In other words, he is a good enough pitcher to round out your NL-only rotation, and he is just good enough that you will probably have a hard time finding an adequate substitute for him in the free agent pool.

More guys in demand

Josh Willingham, OF, Washington
Week 17 Ownership:
42 percent
Week 18 Ownership: 56 percent
Rank in NL Most Added: 4th
The Skinny: As Willingham has heated up in July, his popularity with Fantasy owners has grown steadily. His double grand slam game just put his surging ownership rate into overdrive. Even though he is finally owned in a majority of leagues on CBSSports.com, Willingham is still very underrated. Whether you judge him by his skill stats or by Fantasy Points, there isn't much difference between "The Hammer" and any number of outfielders, like Hunter Pence and Corey C. Hart, who enjoy the privilege of playing in a much higher proportion of leagues. It's unlikely that Willingham will continue to bang a homer every 15 at-bats, but it doesn't matter. He has already established a pattern of production that puts him on a par with several other mixed-league outfielders.

Year Team Walk Rate Whiff Rate Iso Power BABIP RC/27 SB
2007 Florida 11% 23% 0.198 0.310 6.2 8
2008 Florida 12% 23% 0.217 0.291 6.1 3
2009 Washington 13% 22% 0.293 0.329 9.5 3

Julio Lugo, SS, St. Louis
Week 17 Ownership:
3 percent
Week 18 Ownership: 10 percent
Rank in NL Most Added: 9th (tied)
The Skinny: A change of scenery and a hot week with his new club has put Julio Lugo on the Fantasy radar for the first time since April. During his short time in the Gateway City, Lugo has added 18 points to his line drive rate and, as a result, he's tacked 29 points onto his batting average. He may be at .313 right now, but the only time that Lugo has ever sniffed .300 by season's end was in 2005. That was one of only two times in his career that he had a whiff rate under 17 percent, and his current high average is not due to any extraordinary feats of contact hitting. Lugo is unlikely to sustain his scorching line drive rate, and it won't be long before he returns to being a marginal Fantasy producer.

Year Team Walk Rate Whiff Rate Iso Power BABIP RC/27 SB
2007 Boston 8% 14% 0.112 0.265 3.7 33
2008 Boston 12% 20% 0.061 0.330 3.9 12
2009 Boston/St. Louis 9% 17% 0.141 0.365 7.0 4

Other guys drawing interest

Rank Player Week 17 Ownership Week 18 Ownership Percentage change
1. Miguel Montero, C, Arizona 40% 62% 22%
2. Garrett Jones, OF, Pittsburgh 55% 73% 18%
3. Jorge De La Rosa, SP, Colorado 49% 64% 15%
5. Joel Pineiro, SP, St. Louis 63% 75% 12%

Guys Dropping Like Flies

Cody Ross, OF, Florida
Week 17 Ownership:
67 percent
Week 18 Ownership: 61 percent
Rank in NL Most Dropped: 5th
The Skinny: Six weeks ago, Ross was the most popular free agent claim among NL players, and at that time, I commented on his inconsistency. To be precise, I wrote, "he'll give you weeks like his most recent one (11-for-27, 34 Fantasy Points), but probably also some repeats of Week 1 (2-for-22, 6 Fantasy Points)." I didn't account for Ross giving owners three consecutive weeks like his Week 1 stinker. It wouldn't be fair to say that owners have been hasty to dump Ross, but even in the midst of his extended slump, they still may want to heed this prediction from Week 11: "What you've seen of Ross to date in 2009 is what you're likely to get for the rest of the year." Despite the gigantic egg he has laid over the last three weeks, Ross' ratio stats are nearly identical now to what they were at the height of his popularity back in mid-June, and they'll probably be about the same come September. His owners in NL-only leagues should consider keeping him around, at least on reserves, and owners looking for some outfield help could find a real bargain in Ross.

Year Team Walk Rate Whiff Rate Iso Power BABIP RC/27 SB
2007 Florida 10% 22% 0.318 0.374 10.9 2
2008 Florida 7% 25% 0.228 0.303 5.5 6
2009 Florida 7% 22% 0.198 0.301 5.0 3

Guys wearing roster repellant

Rank Player Week 17 Ownership Week 18 Ownership Percentage change
1. Colby Rasmus, OF, St. Louis 55% 43% -12%
2. Jason Schmidt, SP, L.A. Dodgers 41% 32% -9%
2. Ryan Sadowski, SP, San Francisco 22% 13% -9%
4. Casey McGehee, 3B, Milwaukee 46% 38% -8%
Glossary
Runs Created per 27 Outs (RC/27) -- An estimate of how many runs a lineup would produce per 27 outs if a particular player occupied each spot in the order; ex. the RC/27 for Miguel Cabrera would predict the productivity of a lineup where Cabrera (or his statistical equal) batted in all nine spots; created by Bill James
Component ERA (ERC) -- An estimate of a what a pitcher's ERA would be if it were based solely on actual pitching performance; created by Bill James
GO/AO -- Ground out-fly out ratio
GB/FB -- Ground ball-fly ball ratio
Batting Average per Balls in Play (BABIP) -- The percentage of balls in play (at bats minus strikeouts and home runs) that are base hits; research by Voros McCracken and others has established that this rate is largely random and has a norm of approximately 30%
Isolated Power -- The difference between slugging percentage and batting average; created by Branch Rickey and Allan Roth
Walk Rate -- Walks / (at bats + walks)
Whiff Rate -- Strikeouts / at bats

Al Melchior was recently a Fantasy columnist and data analyst for Baseball HQ and will be providing advice columns for CBSSports.com. Click here to send him a question. Please put "Melchior" in the subject field.

Data Analyst

Al Melchior has been playing Fantasy Baseball since 1994, getting his start in the Southern Maryland Anthropomorphic Baseball League (SMABL). He has been writing about Fantasy Baseball since 2000, getting... Full Bio

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