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January 13, 2014 posted by Matthew Dewoskin

2014 Fantasy Baseball Lies, Damn Lies and Advanced Metrics: Hitters to Avoid Edition

2014 Fantasy Baseball Lies, Damn Lies and Advanced Metrics: Hitters to Avoid Edition
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Every year during the off-season a series of events occur that bring us closer and closer to pitchers and catchers reporting. The World Series ends, Free Agency starts, the Winter Meetings, the Rule V Draft, the holiday season and finally websites start posting their rankings for the 2014 season. Every year there is a player coming off a career year who is overrated by the individuals tasked with doing rankings and every year said player disappoints during the actual season.

The first highly ranked player who is virtually guaranteed to regress is…Jean Segura! Jean Segura, come on down! Segura outperformed even the most optimistic projections last year. He somehow blasted 12 homers while hitting .294 and stealing 44 bases. One of those numbers is likely to be repeated next year.

Segura hit exactly one home run after June. He posted monthly HR:FB ratios of 13.0%, 25.0%, 15.8%, 6.3% and then 0.0% for the final three months of the season. That’s regression in action. Segura posted double digit homers exactly once in his career. In 2010. In Single-A. He set a career high for homers in his first full season in the major leagues and there’s a good chance that he won’t break double digits again for the rest of his career.

Segura profiles as an extreme ground ball hitter with a 58.7% GB % last year. He simply doesn’t hit enough balls in the air to post power numbers unless he manages to luck his way into a statistical variance like he did last year.

Segura doesn’t walk very much (4.0% BB % last year) and strikes out a little too much for a player who really doesn’t have much power (13.5 % K% last year). He also doesn’t really hit that many line drives (18.0% LD %). Segura’s batting average numbers also regressed in the second half of last year. He posted a .349 BABIP with a .325 actual average in the first half and slipped to a .285 BABIP with a .241 actual in the second half. That tells fantasy GMs that the league made an adjustment to Segura and he didn’t adjust back.

If you compare Segura’s spray charts from the second half to the first half, there are two differences. First, there are slightly more ground ball outs in the second half. His GB % was slightly higher in the second half than the first (59.7% to 58.2%), but this also indicates better defensive positioning in the second half. Also, Segura stopped bunting in the second half. In the first half, there’s a large blob of black between the pitcher and third base. The blob is much smaller in the second half. He stopped trying to bunt for hits and traded those attempts for outs.

Jean Segura helped a lot of fantasy GMs win a lot of leagues last year, but please remember, that was last year. He was on the right side of statistical variance last year and has already begun to regress. There’s a good chance that Segura doesn’t perform to his 2013 level in 2014 AND fantasy GMs will have to pay full sticker price for him.

Starling Marte is also a name that fantasy GMs should worry about overpaying for. Marte broke out in 2013 with 12 homers, 41 steals and a .280 average. The Pirates are also convinced that Marte should be leading off. The question fantasy GMs have to ask is, “Why?” Marte strikes out a ton (24.4% K %) and rarely walks (4.4%). He survived last year thanks to a .363 BABIP. His BABIP was driven by a more than competent 21.6% LD % and 50.8% GB % with his elite speed.

BrooksBaseball.net rates Marte with a very poor eye against off-speed pitches (43% swing rate at off-speed pitches out of the zone and a 44% whiff/swing %) and an exceptionally poor eye against breaking pitches (49% swing rate at breaking pitches out of the zone and 35% whiff/swing %). Why would a pitcher even think of challenging Marte with a fastball? He might not see a fastball in the strike zone all year unless he can make an adjustment against breaking and off-speed pitches. Marte needs to improve his walk rate if he’s going to have success in the leadoff role.

Marte has the rare power/speed combo that fantasy GMs crave, but he could come with an exceptionally gross batting average when his BABIP normalizes and he isn’t doing himself any favors with his poor batting eye and inability to hit breaking and off-speed pitches.

 

 

 

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