July 4, 2013 posted by Matthew Dewoskin

Fantasy Baseball Lies, Damn Lies and Advanced Metrics: Fantasy All-Stars, Infield Edition

Fantasy Baseball Lies, Damn Lies and Advanced Metrics: Fantasy All-Stars, Infield Edition
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Fans are currently stuffing the ballot boxes to get their favorite guys into the All-Star game. Fantasy baseball has no such tradition. It doesn’t matter if you really like Brandon Crawford (1.7 million votes!?! Really Giants fans?). All that matters in fantasy baseball is the numbers. Either a player is performing or he’s not. The guys here are among the best in the league. These are the guys that have teams sitting in the upper half of the league table. The question we’re going to ask and attempt to answer is, “Will these guys still be as useful in September as they were in May and June?”

There are two catchers that could make the case for best of the half season. Buster Posey is the current league leader in wOBA with a .391, but Yadier Molina isn’t far behind with a .386 mark. The nod goes to Yadi because the two have similar run production numbers, but Yadi is 40 points ahead of Posey in batting average.

Speaking of Yadi’s batting average, Molina is hitting .352 with a .375 BABIP so far in the 2013 season. It’s buoyed by a 24.1% line drive rate. There are two problems Yadi owners need to be aware of. First, his career average BABIP is only .296. Second, 24.1% isn’t his career high line drive rate. He posted a 24.8% last year and that came with a .316 BABIP. Molina is hitting above his weight class and is a solid bet to struggle in the next few months.

His swing metrics don’t indicate a dramatic change in approach. If anything, he’s become slightly more reckless this year. His o-swing % currently sits at 34.9%. He’s swinging at more pitches outside the strike zone than he ever has in his career. He’s essentially the same guy he’s always been, except for an increase in swinging at pitches he should be staring at and the statistical variance he appears to be going through.

The best first baseman in the league, sabrmetrically speaking, is Chris Davis. Davis is so far ahead of the Joey Vottos and Prince Fielders of the world that it should be making fantasy GMs wonder if he really is this good. It’s hard to have a .400 ISO (that’s ISO, not SLG or OBP) without being good at baseball.

Davis has managed to learn a few things about plate discipline. It’s not great, but he’s learned a few things. His K % has fallen to 26.3%. That looks palatable when compared to the 35.8% mark he put up in his second year in Texas. His BB % has creeped over 10.0% for the first time in his major league career. He’s also managed to maintain his high line drive % (over 20.0% every year of his career, even when he was bad), put a lot more balls in the air (44.7 FB % this year) and have more of them reach the bleachers (33.0%). Crush Davis can flat out hit and the calendar shouldn’t have an impact on him.

Second base is also an open and shut case. Matt Carpenter is a nice player who has already outperformed his draft status by a wide, wide margin, but the best second baseman in fantasy baseball is Jason Kipnis.

Kipnis had a bad April and had a lot of fantasy GMs wishing they could press the reset button on their fantasy teams. The power rebounded in May and the speed and batting average showed up in June. You didn’t think he was going to post a .200 batting average with a .265 BABIP for the full year, did you?

Kipnis is one homer away from tying his career high and it’s not even the All-Star Break yet. The batting average should a concern, but the power is absolutely for real. Kipnis is posting a 34.9% fly ball rate with a 17.8% HR:FB ratio. His career averages are 31.9% and 13.5%. 34.9% and 17.8% aren’t anything to be worried about. The batting average is a slightly different story.

Kipnis owns a .360 BABIP with a .301 actual. He’s a career .312 BABIP guy. His 24.4% line drive rate isn’t that far off his career average and he’s putting more balls in the air and slightly fewer on the ground than he has in his career. That’s not a path to a sustained .360+ BABIP. His average is likely to regress in the second half, but he’s by no means a sell-high. He has a power speed combo that hasn’t been seen at second base in a while.

There are two players in Major League Baseball that have double digit homers and over 20 steals. One of them is Ron Shandler favorite, Mike Trout. The other is the shortstop on the fantasy baseball All-Stars, Jean Segura.

The speed was expected from Segura. Not this much, this early in the season, but most had Segura pegged for 25-30ish steals if he kept the job for the season. What wasn’t expected was the power. Segura’s 11 homers are already a career high at every level. His previous high was 10 and that came in Single-A. Segura is posting a 22.9% fly ball rate and a 16.9% HR:FB ratio. There was actually a point this year in which Segura’s HR:FB ratio was higher than his fly ball rate. The power is likely a mirage and it wouldn’t be a huge shock if Segura was sitting on 12 or 13 homers in September.

The other concern is the batting average. Segura has already shown signs of regression in his batting average. He hit .367 and .345 in April and May, but his June batting average ended up at .277. The good news is that he hits line drives (19.4% LD %) and lots of ground balls (57.7% ground ball rate). He absolutely should be maintaining a higher than average BABIP with a his speed and ability to not hit the ball in the air.

The time to sell high on Segura was a few weeks ago. It could be a rough ride from here on out.

The guy that will be staring across from Chris Davis on the fantasy baseball All-Stars is the same guy who Davis will likely be battling with for the MVP and possibly for the Triple Crown. The third baseman on our fantasy All-Stars has to be Miguel Cabrera.

There aren’t any sabrmetric issues with Cabrera. He could post a .500 BABIP with a 50.0% HR:FB ratio and most wouldn’t bat an eye. There’s simply not much to analyze with Miggy. He’s one of the few players in fantasy baseball whose peripheral numbers simply don’t matter at this point in his career. He’s so good that his BABIP, HR:FB ratio and swing metrics really don’t carry much weight…as long as he’s performing at a Hall-of-Fame level.


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