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May 20, 2013 posted by Matthew Dewoskin

2013 Fantasy Baseball Lies, Damn Lies and Advanced Metrics: Week 8 Edition

2013 Fantasy Baseball Lies, Damn Lies and Advanced Metrics: Week 8 Edition
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There are two names among the league leaders in wOBA in all of baseball that are still a surprise heading into week eight of the 2013 baseball season.

Let’s see here… First, of course, is Miguel Cabrera with a .471 wOBA. That’s about right for a guy with a 1.116 OPS who makes clobbering baseballs look easy. Second in the league is Chris Davis. Wait a second.

This is the very same “Crush” Davis that took the league by storm in 2008, but struggled like a hurricane in open water in 2009. He was considered a punch line as recently as 2011. Not only has he resurrected his career, but he’s also matured as a hitter.

Davis is no longer the guy with the strikeout percentage over 30% and the walk percentage under 7%. He’s drawing walks at a 12.6% clip and only striking out at a 23.4% rate.

It’s not just a small sample size. The proof is also in Davis’ swing metrics. His swinging strike percentage is only 11.7% as this is being written. He owns a career average of 16.2% and established a 19.1% career high in 2009. His 76.0% contact rate is also a career high. His 90.1% Z-contact rate, that’s contact rate on pitches in the strike zone, is just another of Davis’ swing metrics currently sitting at a career best. Basically, a baseball is getting hit when a pitcher puts something in the strike zone against Davis.

Davis is also the owner of a .351 BABIP, but he owns a .337 career average and has hit well above his career average for the past three seasons. What’s odd about this year is that this is the first time he’s profiling as a fly ball hitter. Davis has posted GB:FB ratios of 1.17, 1.04 and 1.05 over the past three seasons with line drive rates that have varied between 25.0% and 22.2%. This year his line drive rate has fallen to 20.0% while his fly ball rate his increased to a career high 45.9%.

The higher than average BABIP is likely a function of his crazy high Z-contact rate. He’s also hitting the baseball all over the field. He has one large blob in the area between first and second, but he’s managed to put baseballs all over the park. He’s not a dead-pull hitter or an opposite field hitter. He’s the dreaded “It’s All Good” hitter. Teams can’t defend against Davis the same way they can against Adam Dunn or David Ortiz. The lack of an obvious pattern for Davis is also having an impact on his BABIP numbers.

Davis is absolutely safe to own and could actually be considered one of the few legit “Buy-High” candidates.

We have to go all the way down to number eight on the wOBA leader board before we see another name that doesn’t make a lot of sense. No one, absolutely no one thought Jean Segura would be rocking a .986 OPS after seven weeks. Some thought Segura would be a competent late round option at short for a team in need of speed, runs and batting average, but the power has come out of nowhere.

Segura has never posted an ISO over .151 at any level in the minors for even a few hundred at bats. It makes little sense for Segura to have a .216 ISO in 175 PA’s at the major league level.

We don’t have a ton of data on Segura at the major league level and that’s made him difficult to project, but there are some things we do know about him. We know that he has seven home runs. The problem is that he’s hit only 35 fly balls so far this year. Seven of them (20%, for those scoring at home) have found the cheap seats.

Five of Segura’s seven homers qualify as “Just Enoughs” on ESPN’s Home Run Tracker. A “Just Enough” homer is a home run that makes it over the fence by ten vertical feet or less. The power is likely just one of those weird baseball things that fantasy GMs have to learn to deal with. There’s a very good chance that Segura won’t wind up with 20ish homers. There’s a very good chance that he might not hit seven homers for the rest of the season.

Segura’s .367 batting average is second in the league among batters who qualify. He’s getting by with a .394 BABIP. The good news is that he profiles as an extreme ground ball hitter (GB:FB ratio of 2.09 so far this year) and he owns a 21.2% line drive rate. He fits the profile of a hitter who should maintain a higher than average BABIP…as long as his grounders and liners don’t find gloves.

The speed is absolutely legit. Segura stole bases at every level in the minors and showed success in limited major league duty last year. He can be relied on to run and he should get the green light more often now that he’s proven himself capable.

Segura’s 5.7% walk rate and his 13.7% strikeout rate are both in-line with what Segura has done in the minors and in limited duty last season. It would be nice to see Segura show a little more patience, but there aren’t any underlying red flags in his swing metrics. He’s not the ticking time bomb for fantasy failure that Chris Davis was.

Segura’s value is at an all-time high and it might be a good idea to look into acquiring one of the truly elite shortstops in the game if he can be moved in a package. Fantasy GMs should not expect the power numbers to continue, but the speed and batting average should make Segura a useful commodity.

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