Commentary

Be wary of one-game wonders

Updated: May 23, 2012, 3:40 PM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com

We've finally hit an important milestone in the season for weekly points leagues.

Vantage Point

If you've been a regular reader to this column, you've probably noticed that, so far, the Top 100 rankings have seen incredible fluctuations from week to week. It may have seemed strange to have a list in which players have gone from not being ranked at all right into the top 20, but there was a method to the madness.

What we try to accomplish with these rankings is to show you more than just which players have tallied the most points in ESPN standard scoring. You can certainly figure that out on your own. But in a scoring system in which you start from scratch each week, what you need to have added to the mix is consistency.

Because we thin slice the statistical universe so much in a weekly league, it takes time to build up enough of a body of work to be able to assert with any confidence going forward that a player, barring injury, can be counted on for a certain amount of production. We've finally reached that point in the season, and this week's rankings, with no new entries in the top 65, are our clearest snapshot so far of what to expect going forward.

It's important, because until now there was very little supporting evidence to try to convince you not to overreact to a player who had one good game. But we've seen enough at-bats now that if a player has one amazing day, we don't necessarily have to spend our entire FAAB just to reach for him after he's already experienced what will likely be his best game of the season.

Case in point, Jonathan Lucroy went 3-for-5 with two home runs on Sunday, including a grand slam, and ended up with 19 fantasy points. His ownership totals in ESPN leagues have risen 15.2 percent over the past seven days, a good portion likely coming as a direct result of that single outing.

Certainly, there's no doubt that solid game improved Lucroy's overall stock, but in terms of a consistency rank, he only leapfrogged ahead of Matt Wieters among catchers. He didn't automatically catapult into the overall Top 100. A few weeks ago, it very well might have.

But while picking up a surging player such as Lucroy might well be a good decision to make, if he's an upgrade over a slumping catcher you currently have, it's very important to not jump to conclusions on any player just because the last box score you checked looked promising.

Consider Matt Adams of the St. Louis Cardinals. Adams made his major league debut on Sunday, and it went very well. The first baseman, who had been hitting .340 in Triple-A with a 603 slugging percentage, went 2-for-4 with a run scored in his first at-bats against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

That game, combined with the news that Lance Berkman's knee injury might be far more serious than the team first thought, made Adams a popular pickup. In the span of 24 hours, he went from zero percent ownership to 3.5 percent. In one expert league I play in, the FAAB price tag for Adams was $28.

While there's no doubt that Berkman will miss extended time and Adams makes a smooth transition to the majors, he could be well worth the price. But we're still dealing with a single game's results to base this decision on. There's still Matt Carpenter and Allen Craig in the mix. One game means nothing.

If it did, Daniel Descalso, who in that same game went 2-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored and earned more fantasy points than did Adams, should be owned in more than 0.3 percent of fantasy leagues. Of course, that's not the reality of the situation. But we only know that because we've taken some time to come to that conclusion.

Pointing Up

Carlos Ruiz, C, Philadelphia Phillies: In Chooch's case, in the fifth month it has been all about the number 4. Ruiz has been raking all May long, with a .404 batting average since the calendar page turned. Only four strikeouts with four walks to cancel that negative out completely. Plus, he's hit four home runs, four doubles and been hit by four pitches. The "fourcast" for the future is solid.

Zack Greinke, SP, Milwaukee Brewers: Since May 4, Greinke has an ERA of 1.33 with hitters managing to bat just .194 against him. More importantly, he's making his strikes count and fooling batters when he has to. Although only 42.9 percent of his pitches this season (ranked 140th) have been in the strike zone, Greinke ranks 25th in terms of called-strike percentage.

Martin Prado, OF, Atlanta Braves: Prado has reached base safely in 15 straight games and has an OPS of 1.110 over that stretch. He also has thrown in a couple steals to pad those fantasy-point totals. Prado is a prime example that you don't have to be a power hitter to have value in this format. While he ranks just 49th on the Player Rater, he comes in at No. 39 with a bullet on our chart this week.

Kenley Jansen, RP, Los Angeles Dodgers: Still a solid pitcher regardless of the role, Jansen is taking advantage of the chance to earn saves -- worth five points apiece -- instead of holds, which are valueless in many scoring systems. As long as he's the go-to guy for Don Mattingly, he's going to be a top-50 fantasy option going forward in points leagues. It's all about opportunity.

Mike Aviles, SS, Boston Red Sox: His latest hot streak is quite impressive. Over the past week, he has hit .400 with three home runs and scored 30 fantasy points. It should be noted that Aviles has been a yo-yo all season, with good weeks following the bad and vice versa, but the valleys have not been all that low and, as we've just seen, the peaks can be quite high.

Carlos Zambrano, P, Miami Marlins: In his last start, Zambrano seemed to do everything wrong. He threw only 52 strikes out of 110 pitches. He gave up 14 fly balls, a big red flag as he had been 0-2 in games in which he allowed double-digit flies prior to this start. He walked five hitters and struck out two. Yet, Big Z won the game against the Cleveland Indians and kept his ERA under 2.00 for the year. With one start in which he has allowed more than five hits, he's definitely doing the job for his fantasy owners, even when it looks ugly.

Pointing Down

Felix Hernandez, SP, Seattle Mariners: We're not saying to panic with the King, but when you have a week in which your batting average against is .438 and your ERA is 8.71, that's not the right direction to be headed. Plus, the run support for Hernandez has been spotty at best. In six of his nine starts, the Mariners have scored three or fewer runs, so every time we see his ERA rise above 3.00, we begin to sweat a bit.

Derek Jeter, SS, New York Yankees: We knew the correction was coming, and here's where stats can trick you. Though he's hit safely in eight straight games and 11-of-12, his batting average over that stretch is just .271 and his overall average has dropped 50 points. Now throw in only two RBIs since April 24 and a bruised wrist and the writing is clearly on the wall here.

Jake Westbrook, SP, St. Louis Cardinals: Another correction in progress, Westbrook has now allowed home runs in three of his past four starts, with four runs in each of those outings. His strikeouts per nine innings rate has been 6.93 in May, which has done little to help him ameliorate the nine points per game he's losing as a translation of his WHIP. He's still a quality starter when he wins, but he's far from ace status.

Jay Bruce, OF, Cincinnati Reds: Not every hitter who has a little slump is someone you need to be concerned about, but this last 2-for-19 from Bruce is certainly a little disturbing when you consider that 11 of his 17 outs were strikeouts. He's now one of only 25 players with 11 or more games with two or more whiffs this season. In points leagues, strikeouts are double deadly.

Michael Bourn, OF, Atlanta Braves: We've pretty much established the base line for Bourn on the basepaths. He'll get you two steals a week, and in category-based standings, that a big help. Unfortunately, he'll also strike out seven times a week, all but negated that speed benefit in points leagues. When he has a week like this past one, with a 3-for-19 finish, he's a complete liability.

Gavin Floyd, SP, Chicago White Sox: It's all about keeping the ball in the park for Floyd. He has an 8.15 ERA in games in which he has allowed a home run. Compare that to just 1.04 in games he does not serve up any round-trippers. The concern comes from his fly balls allowed numbers, which over his past three starts read: 13, 16, 15. It's just a matter of time before the bottom drops out.

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