D-Lee in The A-T-L

By R.J. Anderson //

With only six weeks remaining, the National League East race is heating up. The Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies are the only teams with realistic shots at hooking the title, but both have endured a rash of injuries in recent weeks. But while Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are now back for the Phillies, the Braves have lost Chipper Jones for the season and Troy Glaus is on the disabled list.

Counting on health with Jones and Glaus on the corners is like playing Russian roulette with a full clip. The Braves have responded by adding long-time Chicago Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee. A pending free agent, the Cubs received more value than they should have for Lee, but that aspect isn’t nearly as important for the short-term as what the Braves received.

Glaus owners in particular should be looking at adding Lee, as he’s still available in 6.5% of ESPN leagues. Lee’s seasonal line is a disappointing .247/.333/.410 with 16 homers and 65 runs batted in. One of the more telling differences between Lee’s magnificent 2009 season, in which he hit .306 with 35 homers and 91 RBI, and his 2010 campaign, is his strikeout rate. In about 100 fewer at-bats, Lee has struck out just five fewer times than he did all of last year. The soon-to-be 35-year-old is striking out at his highest rate since leaving the Marlins in 2003.

Lee is still walking and his non-home run power (22 doubles) is in line with 2006-2008 totals. The raisin in the sun is Lee’s batting average on balls in play. 29.1% of Lee’s balls in play are turning into hits, marking a career-low dating back to 1999 and more than 30 points below his previous low over the past five years. Batted ball data suggest a bit of a change in how Lee is hitting the ball, with a slight uptick in grounders over last year and a steady drop in flyballs. Lee is getting slightly fewer infield hits, but that comes with fewer infield flies too, a worthy trade-off in the big picture.

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Graphic courtesy of Baseball-Reference

Being dropped into a pennant race could revitalize Lee’s spirit (and he has heated up lately) but do not expect him to hit like he did last year. Lee’s 2008 line of .291/.361/.462 line is probably a good best-case scenario for the last six weeks of 2010.

As for the other significant recent waiver acquisition, Pedro Feliz with the Cardinals, don’t bother unless you play in a fantasy league where the goal is to field the worst players. In that case, he is a keeper.

For more on Derrek Lee, Pedro Feliz, and other late-season adds, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits.

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