It’s time to cut to the chase. Theory is good if not necessary. I take as much pride in helping to teach proper analysis as I do correctly evaluating a player. But let’s be honest. You want my opinion on some struggling players so that’s what we’ll do. Well, I’ll drop in just a little more theory to work in concert with our BABIP discussion from last week.
If you recall, the crux of using BABIP in analysis is to flesh out the luck from the performance. What remains is of course skill and the main means of evaluating skill is strikeout rate along with walk rate. So when we go through our player breakdowns, there will be frequent mentions of strikeout rate and walk rate with the occasional contact rate mixed in. Strikeout and walk rate are both measured per plate appearance while contact rate is per at bat. While there subtle differences with contact and strikeout rates, for our intents and purposes (as opposed to intensive purposes – don’t lie, that’s what every kid thought the expression was) we can use them interchangeably.
Part of what I do to make ends meet is answer e-mails. Recently, the same names have appeared in the majority of queries: Ike Davis, Eric Hosmer, Miguel Montero and Salvador Perez so today let’s take a look at these scuffling hitters using the principles of BABIP and strikeout rate.
Ike Davis, New York Mets – The main thing to keep in mind is after June 1 last season Davis hit .253 with 27 homers. This is not to suggest he’ll repeat that this season, but more as an example of what can happen when you give up on a player too soon. The problem is when the example used is the actual player, it can be inferred history will repeat. That’s not what I’m saying; I’m just saying it could happen. In fact, that’s the key to all analysis. None of us know what will happen. All we can do is to discern what the odds say should happen. More often than not it does. But occasionally it doesn’t. This doesn’t mean we were wrong; it just means this time the player defied odds – it happens. In the other hand, if the player does as we suggest, we really weren’t right, the player just did what he was supposed to do. The right or wrong part is knowing the proper process, not getting the proper result. Oops, got off on a little tangential digression there, let’s get back on topic.
Davis is sporting a .189 BABIP, well below his career mark of .285. But here’s the thing: his line drive rate is well above league average and he hits more grounder than fly balls. He’s lost about six hits due to dumb luck. Adding those hits into his numbers and he’s hitting .235 as opposed to the actual .165 mark where he now resides. Granted, .235 is no great shakes, but that’s low due to an elevated strikeout rate – perhaps because he is pressing due his bad luck or perhaps just due to the sample of pitchers he has faced have his number and he’ll fan less as the season progresses.
For kicks, let’s say that instead of his present 30 percent strikeout rate, Davis whiffed at a 24 percent clip. That would mean he would have struck out six fewer times leading to another hit or two. Adding that in to his average and Davis would be hitting between .250 and .260, exactly as he did last season after June 1.
Right now, Davis has 4 dingers. In 2012, he had five through May 31.
Now let’s take a step back since we took a couple of leaps of faith. I’m comfortable suggesting Davis BABIP will correct, but we don’t know to what level. Yeah, his line drive rate is high but we’re at the point of the season where two games without a liner and it’s back to league average. We’re also making a big assumption that Davis will shave those six percentage points off his strikeout rate. There’s no guarantee that happens, though since Davis has never fanned this much for a whole season, it’s bound to get better.
Putting it together, if I have Davis I’m at worse reserving him. There’s no way I am giving up this early. In fact, if his owner is antsy, Davis is atop my hitter buy low list.
Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals – I’m going to come right out and say it; Hosmer is really pissing me off. I’m not the only one that got up on his soapbox and swore up and down last season was a fluke. But that doesn’t make it better.
The weird part is what we said should happen with respect to BABIP has happened. Last year Hosmer was snake-bit but this year the hits are falling. Hosmer’s BABIP is right where it should be, but his average is still middling since the twenty-four year old is fanning at an elevated rate. Part of why I was so adamant that Hosmer would rebound was last year his contact rate was still very good. That was then, now it is down about six percentage points.
All that said, no one is really complaining that Hosmer is hitting just .250. The concern is a total paucity of power. And it’s not like he’s hitting doubles that will go over the fence. Hosmer has a mere four doubles to go along with no homers. Over his first two campaigns, 31 percent of Hosmer’s hits have been of the extra base variety. So far we’re talking 22 percent this season. The question is where has all the power gone?
Hosmer’s margin of error when it comes to power is slim since he lofts balls at a rate well below league average. He relies on a league average HR/FB to carry his power. The hope is over time, like his teammate Billy Butler, Hosmer would hit fit more flies hence more dingers. So far this is not the season.
The homers will come. This won’t be Hosmer’s break out campaign where he tops twenty, but before long, he’ll get off the schneid and end up in the teens. And, he has stolen a couple of bags without being caught. I’m still driving the Hosmer bandwagon but I’d sure like to see a ball clear the fence sooner than later.
Miguel Montero, Arizona Diamondbacks – Montero is one of my favorite fantasy catchers since he plays the majority of his teams’ games and sits in the heart of the order in a hitter’s park. Hence, his runs and RBI potential exceed that of catchers that play fewer games and/or hit lower in the order. But so far this season, he’s knocked in a scant ten teammates while scoring only nine times himself.
Montero’s walk and strikeout rates are in the neighborhood of his career norm. His .236 BABIP is about 80 points under his career mark. As opposed to Davis, Montero’s line drive rate is down which is at least part of the reason it is low. Since 2008, Montero has not sported a line drive rate below 19 percent so this season’s 16 percent should correct. More line drives mean more hits and more hits leads to more run production. That’s why I carry a so-called expert card – because I offer sage nuggets like that one.
Like Hosmer, Montero’s power is also lacking. The veteran backstop has a mere one big fly with just twice as many two-baggers. On the other hand, again like Davis, last season Montero’s pop was slow out of the gate as he smacked only two homers in April and none in May. However, he got the power stroke back with a total of ten in June and July. The message is again not that Montero will have history repeat but solely that he is still capable of the mid-teens power originally projected thus it would be premature to cut bait.
Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals – What makes Perez such an attractive fantasy option is a career contact rate making Joe Mauer envious. Well, a little bit anyway. In a game where so many catchers damage your batting average, Perez was expected to help it while also providing a little pop. The problem is his contact rate has plummeted as he is fanning twice as much as usual. Perez is still carrying a high BABIP at .324, but a 20 percent strikeout rate has tempered his average and associated production.
Perez is also coming up short in the power department, though there is hope. In his rookie campaign, 26 percent of his knocks went for extra bases. In his injury shortened sophomore campaign, that rose to 31 percent. So far he’s back to 26 percent with one homer, one triple with doubles. A gust of wind and he has a couple of homers which is fine for someone expected to settle in the teens.
The conundrum with both Montero and McCann is in shallow leagues with one catcher, there are a couple of receivers available on waivers that profile like their scuffling colleagues. Brian McCann is similar to Montero and Carlos Ruiz is akin to Salvador Perez. A great many e-mail inquiries have asked, “Should I drop Montero for McCann” or “Dump Perez for Ruiz?”
While practicing patience is almost always the recommended course of action, both of these moves are defensible since the alternative is at least in the neighborhood. My advice has been consistent. I’m holding Montero but prefer Ruiz to Perez. I’m concerned that with the emergence of Evan Gattis, McCann may not play as frequently as before, since it’s not like his defense is Gold Glove caliber. I prefer Montero’s home park and his spot in the order. Perez does not have the track record to unequivocally deem his strikeouts will wane. I suspect they will, mostly because we forget that Perez is still working off the rust from missing the bulk of 2012, but still, his history is limited. While Ruiz had a career year and is due some regression, I’ll take his reliability, even at an advanced age, over Perez. This is more a vote of confidence for Ruiz as it is an indictment of Perez.
Now let’s switch gears and finish with a bit of a vent that will segue into some more of that salient advice befitting a so-called expert. I love answering e-mails, I really do. But when the pose is “Smith and Jones for Thomas and Adams, who win”, my blood begins to simmer a bit. Completely ignoring that much more context is needed (league format, size, scoring, needs, etc.), the notion that fantasy trades must be won or lost drive me batty.
Don’t get me wrong, I obviously want to get the better end of the deal, but I want it to manifest via an improved lineup with greater points scoring potential and not winning a trade on paper, based on some arbitrary perception of value emanating solely from the players involved. Trades are about lineup impact, not value in a vacuum, or as many e-mails begin “All things being equal”.
The proper evaluation of a trade involves looking at the roster before versus roster after, by considering the associated balancing moves if the traded players do not simply replace each other. That’s what matters, the end result. If you deal a pitcher for a hitter, the pertinent analysis is your old lineup versus the lineup with a replacement pitcher along with the newly acquired hitter. Chances are you have a downgrade in pitching but an upgrade in hitting. If the net result is more points, you win!
But, there is a good chance your trade partner goes through the same exercise and also enjoys a net gain. Guess what – they win too!
What is this, Tee-ball where everyone wins? No, it’s a properly constructed trade, benefitting both sides.
Too many fantasy players set out to “rip-off” the other guy. I’m not naïve, I know there are a myriad of leagues where this thievery is rampant and to some more satisfying than understanding BABIP. But do you really need to e-mail me just to get a measure of self gratification from a so-called expert?
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