Carlos Lee: Is There Anything Left?

Carlos Lee is best known for the 6 year, $100M contract he signed with the Astros. While he has not lived up to it as a player, he has be a serviceable fantasy option. His home run power has been going down steadily and it is degrading his fantasy value.

The 35-year-old is seeing his power numbers take a nose dive over the past few years. His home run total have gone down each year starting in 2006 with 37 HR and ending with 18 in 2011. The drop in power can be attributed to his inability to hit the ball as far. Here is a graph of his home run and fly ball distances over the past 4 years with a LOESS averaging curve added:

Here are the average distances over the last 4 years:

2008: 291 ft
2009: 289 ft
2010: 285 ft
2011: 270 ft

The drop in distance can further be seen in his HR/FB percentage:

2008: 16.4%
2009: 10.5%
2010: 9.5%
2011: 7.7%

I am pretty sure you get the point by now that Carlos’ power is on the down turn. While 18 HRs is not horrible, I would be worried about the time he is not able to break 10 HRs.

Besides home runs, his other stats don’t look enticing. After 4 straight years (2006-2009) of 0.300 AVG, it has been below 0.300 the last 2 years. He looks to probably have around a 0.280 AVG, at best, in 2012. At one time he put up double digit steals. Now he might be lucky to get over 2. Finally, hitting in the Astro’s anemic lineup will leave him with less Run and RBI chances.

One item that will stabilize his value is playing time. He has averaged playing in 157 games over the last 3 years. He can be counted on to be in the lineup every day.

If you are looking for an everyday 1B/OF who can’t steal, will hit around 0.280 and whose home run potential is falling off the map, Carlos Lee is your man.

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Jeff writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first season in Tout Wars, he won the H2H league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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The “nice” thing this year was a return of his BABIP to a more typical (for him) .280 level after it being in the tank in 2010. Then you look at the record-low HR/FB level. So was he unlucky in 2010, or was he actually lucky in 2011? His line drive rate was back at 2008-2009 levels, but more fly balls than ever are turning into outs.

Thinking about it a bit, I think he’ll hit about .250 next year.