Jose Abreu and Carlos Gomez have been great fantasy performers in 2014. They have both exceeded my personal expectations. However, both have seen their production slow the last few weeks. Is this slowdown likely to continue? Will things level off? I'll argue that you should have expected this to happen all along. Neither guy profiles as a .300 hitter, despite all the good they do with a bat in their hands, so you shouldn't be surprised in the least that they have fallen off their earlier pace.
Before breaking down both me let me be clear. I'm not a hater. I'm not trying to prove that Abreu or Gomez sucks because I said he wouldn't be this good. I'm not trying to save face. I'm simply trying to explain to you all why I hold the position I do. I let the data guide me, not personal bias. Please try and remember that before sending in your hate mail.
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JOSE ABREU (.300-21-86-61-1)
Abreu is tied for the major league lead with 31 homers. He's been simply fantastic for the White Sox, and he's blown past even the wildest of expectations for what he would do in his initial season in major league baseball. I still see plenty of cracks here, despite all that goodness, especially in the batting average and home run categories.
Abreu hit .261 in April.
Abreu hit .241 in May.
Abreu hit .313 in June.
Abreu hit .374 in July.
Abreu has hit .262 in August.
We have two blah months, two stupendous months, and half the month of August as blah again. Just pointing that out. Moreover, you should be concerned about his batting average maintain current levels. Here's a list of reasons why.
No scout thought he was a .300 hitter.
As noted above, he's been a .260 hitter longer than a .300+ this season.
He has only 32 walks, of which 12 are intentional. Twenty non-intentional walks through 106 games is just brutal. While not a massive K artist he does have nearly a strikeout per game with 102 in 106 contests. Combine those two number together and the result is a 0.31 BB/K ratio. Last year the league average was 0.39. In addition, if we remove his intentional walks and focus on the walks he has “earned” his BB/K ratio drops to 0.20. That's hideous. It's extremely difficult to be consistent at the dish, let alone hit .300, with a mark that low. The facts.
Only one batter under 0.25 in the BB/K ratio hit .300 in 2013 (Torii Hunter at .304).
In 2012 no one under 0.25 hit .285.
In 2011 no one under 0.25 hit .260.
In 2010 no one under 0.25 hit .285.
In 2009 no one under 0.25 hit .285.
Abreu is living in the danger zone (all of this data will apply to Gomez as well).
Abreu also has a 23.8 percent line drive rate. That's a borderline elite mark, one that places him 26th in baseball. Very few, talking like a handful, of players can maintain a mark that high from season to season. When will the regression come with Abreu, over the rest of this season or next year?
As for the power – the ball jumps off his bat and most thought 30 homers were within reach this season. With 31 already, he has a shot at 40. However, have you noted the homer slowdown? Abreu's last homer was on June 29th as he has failed to go deep in 14-straight games. A slowing of his pace was always going to happen as I repeatedly tried to point out. Why was I certain? Two main facts.
(1) Abreu has a 30.4 percent HR/F ratio. You simply cannot sustain a rate that high. Doesn't happen. The last player to finish a year over 30 percent was Ryan Howard back in 2008. That's 5-straight years with no one reaching 30 percent.
(2) Abreu doesn't hit any fly balls. It's shocking really if you've never seen the information pointed out. Abreu has a 32.4 percent fly ball rate this season. Last year the big league average was 34 percent. That means Abreu hits fewer fly balls than the average bit league batter. He simply must increase his fly ball ratio to maintain the homer pace because his HR/F will come down.
Abreu has been fantastic and when the season is over we will all still say the same thing. At the same time don't be shocked if his production the last six weeks of the season is moderate. The Regression Monster is lurking.
CARLOS GOMEZ (.287-18-59-75-27)
Gomez is two homers and three steals from a second straight 20/30 effort. He's been a terrific fantasy performer and he has a chance to set career bests in four of the five fantasy categories (career bests: .284-24-73-80-40). However, it hasn't always been a smooth road.
Gomez hit .242 in July and has hit .229 in August. That leaves him with a .238 bating average over his last 37 games.
Gomez hit two homers in June and two in July. He's hit three in August. That leaves him with a total of seven homers in 62 games.
Gomez has struck out 38 times in his last 37 games and has a total of 115 in 112 games this season. He also, like Abreu, rarely walks with 31 on the year (his BB/K ratio is a five years best... it's still horrible at 0.27). Remember what I said above about how this approach can leave you vulnerable in the batting average category? I know that Gomez hit .284 last season, but I'm still astounded how many folks believe he's that hitter (if not better). This guy began his career in 2007 and he has one season in which he's hit better than .261 (read that again). His current .287 batting average is .027 points off his career mark of .260. Guess what? His .238 mark over the last 37 games he's played is only .022 points off his career average. Which guy is he? Are you sure?
A lot is depending on Gomez sustaining a career best 21.5 percent line drive rate an a career best .349 BABIP. I would be remiss if I didn't point out that both those numbers are nearly identical to last season (21.3 and .344) but all of those numbers blow past his career levels by a massive amount (18.2 and .317).
Gomez will run and rack up the steals and he certainly has the power to hit 20-25 homers year after year. But folks, he's a flawed hitter. Just the facts. When he's going well there are few better. When the season is complete the fantasy numbers will be there. However, it will be an extremely bumpy ride, of that there should be no doubt. The data should also cause you great pause if you blindly accept that he's a .285 hitter. It's certainly conceivable that he will maintain that pace this season, but the majority of the data points to a .275 batting average as being a pretty risky proposition to lay a big bet on.
Listen to Ray Flowers' show Monday through Friday from 7-10 PM EDT on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87). You can also hear me hosting my own show Sunday nights in the same time slot, 7-10 PM EDT.
You claim that "both [Gomez and Abreu] have seen their production slow the last few weeks," but that's simply not true. Over the past two weeks, Gomez is the 16th best player in fantasy, and the 14th best over the past four weeks. Abreu hasn't been as hot over the past two weeks, but over the past four he's still been the 54th best player (all according to the Yahoo Player Rater). I think it's time for you to admit you were wrong about both these players.
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The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: Mon-Thurs 7 PM, Fri. 9 PM EDT), Ray also hosts a show Sunday night (7-10 PM EDT). Ray has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. Specializing in baseball, football and hockey, some consider him an expert in all three.
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