Fantasy Baseball: The State of Play (Week 5)

The State of Play – Week 5

By: Kyle Brown (@CavghtLooking)

Week 4 Report Card:

Andrew McCutchen responded to my article by hitting .375/.400/.625 last week. I expect this trend to continue for the remainder of the summer. Cutch is going to put together another MVP-caliber season.

Matt Cain’s last start was decent, but not great. He walked three in 7.1 innings and only managed four strikeout against the Dodgers. His next start is against the feast-or-famine Atlanta Braves and I am more than mildly concerned that his home run struggles this year will play right into the bat of Justin Upton. Unless you need innings in your matchup, I would advise that you sit Matt Cain for at least one more game.

Hitter of Note:

Mark ReynoldsMark Reynolds is currently on pace to hit 56 home runs and drive in 151 runners. He is also hitting .300. Yes, you read that right. In case you haven’t been paying attention, Mark Reynolds is currently hitting .300. I can’t really blame anyone who is shocked by this. Reynolds is the owner of a career .237 BA and has hit exactly .221 in each of 2011 and 2012. I do not think that his current batting average is much more than an early season hot streak, but deeper statistical analysis makes it hard to trust my gut. After checking out some numbers, I must admit that it may be time to bring Marky Mark back into the fold of your fantasy team. After all, Reynolds managed to slug 37 home runs in 2011 and 23 home runs in 2012. Despite my doubts about him, there is one Reynolds statistic that cannot be overlooked: his 23.9% strikeout percentage. That number is 9% lower than his career mark of 32.3% (thirty-three-point-two!!).

I have only watched Mark Reynolds in highlight form this year, but an analysis of his batted-ball profile shows that he making a lot more contact on balls out of the strike zone (60.3%). In fact, his O-contact% has been rising for five seasons in a row. This discovery made me think that maybe Reynolds is fouling more pitches off and forcing pitchers to throw him a higher percentage of fastballs. Well, neither instinct is supported by statistics. His pitches-per-plate appearance (4.29) is in line with his career average (4.24) and pitchers are actually throwing him a lower percentage of fastballs this year than ever before (49.9). Instead, pitchers are trying to fool him by throwing more cutters and changeups. Needless to say, it is not working out as planned. Here is a crazy thought: maybe Reynolds is maturing as a hitter. His contact percentage (69.8) is the highest of his career and has been steadily improving since 2009. Furthermore, his .308 BABIP is right around his career mark of .306, ruling out the possibility that his .300 average is mere luck. Given all this information, the most important of which is the drop in K%, I can only conclude that Mark Reynolds may have turned a corner. I do not think that he has turned down a road that will lead to a .300 average for the entire 2013 season, but if he can keep his strikeouts down and his contact up then a .260/.350/.530 campaign should be no problem. At this point, I wouldn’t even be surprised if he hit 40 home runs. My advice: take the temperature of the current Mark Reynolds holder in your league and see if he is of a mind to capitalize on his hot start. Reynolds has been a streaky hitter in the past and all this contact could just be the result of a particularly hot start, so don’t go and pay top-dollar for him. That said, the drop in K% is extremely encouraging and I think we could be witnessing a 30-year-old renaissance. 

Pitchers of Note:

I would like to take this opportunity to say that I was wrong about Yu Darvish. He is on pace to strikeout over 300 batters. He may be the second coming. Moving on…

Kevin SloweyKevin Slowey is one of the few things going right for the Miami Marlins. Through 44.2 innings he has a 1.81 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and a 7.25 K/9. Full disclosure: I have been a Kevin Slowey fan ever since I watched him pitch for my hometown Rochester Red Wings in 2007 and he posted a 1.89 ERA in 133.2 innings. Slowey’s greatest strength has always been his pinpoint control. It is a very good thing that he has such impeccable command, because his 89 MPH fastball isn’t fooling anyone. Throughout his career, Slowey has been extremely prone to the long-ball and has never generated a GB% better than 36.1%.

Given that knowledge, there are a couple of early red flags to look at in his numbers. First of all, his HR/FB% is at an all-time low (5.7% compared to a 9.8% career mark). His .250 BABIP is 56 points lower than his career mark of .306. And finally, his LOB% is an unsustainably high 87.9%. In other words, Kevin Slowey is getting very lucky this year. Part of his success undoubtedly stems from the fact that he is a flyball pitcher who gets to pitch in a gigantic home ballpark, but his 2.95 FIP and 3.79 xFIP confirm that he has been lucky this year. Truthfully, I think that Slowey is basically the same pitcher that he has been in the past. By the end of the season his home/road splits will dramatically favor his home performance and he will have endured his fair share of terrible starts. Regardless, when Slowey has been given the chance to start in the past he has turned in adequate numbers. My advice: think of Slowey as a 5th or 6th fantasy pitcher who doubles as a very good streaming option. His hot start has certainly taken him off the waiver wire, but I am pretty sure that he will make his way back to the free agent pool in your league before the season is over.

 

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