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Di Fino: Across the great divide

Senior Fantasy Writer
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One of the coolest things about working at CBSSports.com is the fact that because a random idea pops up on Tuesday morning, we can walk 20 feet and ask someone here at the office for a spreadsheet that shows the difference between owned and start percentages for players in our Fantasy leagues. Some people get excited because they get Keurig in the cafeteria. I love that I now have one spreadsheet that can tell me which players are owned in a lot of leagues, but not universally started (also, we can send faxes from the copy machines here, which is pretty cool).

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What's so great about having these numbers? They provide some serious insight as to which players Fantasy owners are holding on to and waiting on. They may be that last guy on the end of the bench, who will get dropped when the Next Big Thing gets called up. Or they could be a fizzling superstar, who they're waiting to break out and plug into the lineup. I personally like these numbers because they can help with trade offers. For instance, Jarrod Parker is owned in 84 percent of leagues, but started in just 38. Despite having just three wins, he has a 3.16 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 71 strikeouts in 91 innings. With 211.5 points so far this season, he ranks 66th in our standard leagues. In short, he's good enough to own, but 46 percent of his owners are deeming him unworthy of their rotations. He is too dangerous, in their minds, to leave on the waiver wire, exposed for another team to scoop up and put into their starting lineups. Yet not dangerous enough to help their team win on a weekly basis.

He's still being traded, though. In fact, Parker has become a popular throw-in on plenty of deals. Of the last 60 trades made involving Parker in CBSSports.com leagues, just three have been one-for-one swaps (one for Troy Tulowitzki, one for Pablo Sandoval, the other for Michael Bourn). And Parker isn't alone in the gap between owned and started. While most of the players at the top of the list are injured, there are plenty of healthy players with whom owners just can't figure out what to do. Ricky Romero, Josh Beckett, Chris Young, and Ubaldo Jimenez are just a few. Does this make them trade targets? Possibly. There are two ways to look at it:

1. Owners of these players have no idea what to do with them and would gladly include them in a trade, just to have them off their hands. The only reason they haven't traded them yet is because they want to try and get some value back for their now-wasted high draft pick.

2. Owners of these players will ask a ton for them because they've held on to them so long and have grown attached to them on their bench. They live in fear of you getting them for pennies on a dollar in a trade, then having to watch as they turn around their seasons and punish them for not holding on that extra week.

Regardless of these players falling into the first or second categories, these numbers still have a great amount of value, just in figuring out how they're perceived among other Fantasy players. What follows is a gift from CBSSports.com to you: the most intriguing and stark differences between owned and start percentages and what they mean in the realm of Fantasy.

Ricky Romero, SP, TOR
Owned: 92 percent
Started: 48 percent
Difference: 44 percent
What it means: From 2009 to 2011, Romero had done a masterful job of improving his stats -- his ERA and WHIP took marked drops each year, while his innings pitched and strikeouts went up. And then 2012 happened. So far this season, Romero is 8-6 with a 5.22 ERA (the highest of his career) and a 1.50 WHIP (the highest since his rookie year). After a strong April (3.18 ERA) and decent May (4.82 ERA), Romero managed a 7.33 ERA in June and has a 6.38 ERA in July. Owners stashing him on their benches are looking at his previous three seasons -- even his April from this year -- and are hoping there will be some return to form for the 27-year-old.
So what do I do?: Trade for him. His velocity is the same, so that's not a concern. Either he's injured, which there's no way of predicting, really, or he gets his walks down and returns to the trajectory he was on after 2011. Romero can likely be had for pennies on the dollar right now and, if he turns it around, could be an asset in the second half.

Josh Beckett, SP, BOS
Owned: 93 percent
Started: 51 percent
Difference: 42 percent
What it means: Beckett has cemented himself as one of baseball's most intriguing pitchers -- since 2006, there has been no real indication of which Josh Beckett will show up: the incredibly good pitcher or the head-scratchingly bad one. His ERAs from 2006 on: 5.01, 3.27, 4.03, 3.86, 5.78, 2.89, 4.44. With the exception of 2010, when it ballooned to 1.54, Beckett has managed to keep his WHIP low, having it hover between 1.03 and 1.22. He's especially erratic with home runs given up, with totals ranging from 17 to 36 (which happened to come in back-to-back seasons). The 32-year-old has made 25 starts in all but one of the previous six seasons and is on pace to reach that mark again in 2012. But everything else this year has been frustratingly inexplicable. His strikeout rate (6.8 per nine innings) is the lowest of his career, while many of his other rates (HR, hits, K/BB) are either at or near his career numbers.
So what do I do?: Trade him away. As brilliant as Beckett can be, there's no way to predict when he's going to be good. There are the every-other-season theories and every-other-start ideas popping up now (driven mainly by his 55-point week following his negative-13 point week, which both gave way to weeks of 20, 1, 17, 0, 14, 0 and 17 points). when it comes down to that, you're dealing with a pitcher who can do just as much harm as good to your Fantasy team.

Chris Young, OF, ARI
Owned: 84 percent
Started: 43 percent
Difference: 41 percent
What it means: Young has put up 20-20 seasons the last two years, while averaging 35.5 doubles in the same span. His batting average has never been great, but it was a necessary burden that his owners had to carry in order to get the slugging and speed. In 2012, though, Young has pulled a bait-and-switch: a .206 average with nine home runs and three steals. Granted, he missed a month between April and May with a shoulder injury, but has been awful since his return -- he went on the DL with a .410 average and five home runs. He has hit .153 with four home runs in the 44 games since.
So what do I do?: Trade him. Like Ryan Zimmerman, Young has a ton of talent, but the only explanation for his power and speed shortcomings this year is his shoulder, which was deeply bruised and had a ligament tear in April. He was given a few days off to clear his head in June and responded with an 11-point drop in batting average over the next four games. And after the All-Star Break, Young is batting just .235 with one home run. The injury theory is just guesswork, but after being given two relatively long breaks (by baseball standards), Young has failed to turn his season around. His start numbers may continue to drop as owners grow more frustrated with him.

Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, CLE
Owned: 77 percent
Started: 37 percent
Difference: 40 percent
What it means: Like Romero, Jimenez saw his ERA and WHIP go down over three consecutive seasons (from 2008 to 2010), while his strikeouts and innings went up. Unlike Romero, though, Jimenez does have one glaring stat that we can point to for an explanation: according to FanGraphs, his velocity has dropped from 95.8 in 2010 to 92.4 in 2012. Last year, he had an average fastball velocity of 93.9. His strikeout rate has dropped to 6.9 per nine innings, the lowest of his career, and his hit and walk rates are at career-high levels. Most disturbingly, Jimenez has seen his home run rate almost double from last year and more than triple from 2010. And he spent his entire career -- up until the second half of 2011 -- pitching half of his games in Colorado.
So what do I do?: Trade him if you can, but feel free to drop him. All things considered, Ricky Romero is a much better bet to turn things around over the second half than Jimenez.

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Eric Hosmer, 1B, KC
Owned: 92 percent
Started: 56 percent
Difference: 36 percent
What it means: After a great debut in 2011, where he finished third in Rookie of the Year voting, batting .293 and hitting 19 home runs, Hosmer has taken a major step back so far this season, sporting a .225 batting average, with nine home runs and nine steals. Owners hoping for a better offensive performance from him have been sorely disappointed, but haven't been willing to cut ties with Hosmer just yet.
So what do I do?: Hold on to him. While his July (.224 average, zero home runs, two steals) has been just as miserable as the months that preceded it, he has shown signs of life. His BABIP is a healthy .310, and he has produced nine home runs and nine steals so far this year. His June (.270 average, three home runs, five steals) was impressive, and his minor league numbers suggest he should be able to produce a much higher average -- with some power and speed.

Some other notable leaders in Owned/Started Gap, who you might be able to get from a frustrated owner for pennies on the dollar:

Bryan LaHair, OF, CHC (63 percent owned, 30 percent started)
Kendrys Morales, DH, LAA (68/36)
Mike Napoli, C, TEX (97/67)
Ichiro Suzuki, OF, SEA (90/60)
Jeff Samardzija, RP, CHC (72/42)
Michael Young, 3B, TEX (95/66)
Ian Kennedy, SP, ARI (95/67)
Jon Lester, SP, BOS (97/70)
Desmond Jennings, OF, TB (92/65)
Chris Davis, 3B, BAL (64/37)
Jemile Weeks, 2B, OAK (54/30)
Ryan Vogelsong, SP, SF (95/72)
Francisco Liriano, SP, MIN (80/59)

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Nando Di Fino at @NandoCBS . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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