Which guys are hot when they get to sleep in their beds and have some home cooking on the table? Conversely, which players seem to do better when they can order room service? Is there such a thing as a first or second half player or are we merely fooling ourselves because it seems logical? I'll debate that line of thought with --- myself. I'll also mention a former slugging first baseman who is coming off the DL. I'll touch on a dominating hurler from the NL East who is headed to the DL. I'll then talk about two middle relievers that are being wasted by their teams and tell you whey their clubs should get these two fellas into the starting rotation.
Kendrys Morales leads baseball (min 50 plate appearances) with a .391 batting average at home. Oddly, he's walked only two times in his home action, though with a .409 OBP it's criminal that he's scored only seven runs. David Ortiz is one point behind Morales at .390, but he has been infinitely more effective. He has three more home runs with five, has 10 more RBI with 18, and has 11 more runs scored with 18. However, that's not the highest RBI total of any player at home. No it's not Josh Hamilton, though he matches Ortiz total of 18, it's Carlos Gonzalez who has 20 RBIs (he's hitting just .362 at Coors). Let me spend a moment talking about CarGo.
Carlos Gonzalez career slash line is pretty impressive: .298/.355/.524. If he does that for a decade the HOF might start to show some interest. Yet, he's the tale of two players when you break down his performance at home and on the road. I'll say it like this. At home he is Ryan Braun. On the road he is Ty Wigginton. Here are his career splits.
Per 500 at-bats for his career.
All of this begs the question. Would you be better off platooning CarGo? I know that sounds crazy, but it might be possible to find a more effective outfielder to start when Carlos is away from Coors Field. I know, how crazy is that?
The common assumption is that Josh Hamilton has killed it at home since The Ballpark in Texas is such an offensive environment. Truth be told, he's been the best hitter in baseball on the road. Look at these Bugs Bunny numbers: .433 average, 11 homers, 27 RBI, .494 OBP, .970 SLG in 67 at-bats. That's a 500 at-bat pace of .433-82-211-119. Somehow I just don't think he's going to keep that up.
Adam LaRoche has had a strong start to the year hitting .403 making him one of four men, with at least 50 plate appearances, that are currently hitting .400 away from home. The others are: David Wright (.471), Hamilton and Derek Jeter (.432). With that hot start to the year LaRoche is hitting .325 with six homers and 25 RBI overall in just 32 games certainly poses an interesting question. A traditionally slow starter, will this hot start propel LaRoche to career best numbers?
First/Second Half Splits
Using things like monthly splits, or even half season splits, is an arbitrary process that isn't guaranteed to produce meaningful results. What am I talking about you say? We all know certain players are “second half guys” so how can I be saying that there's too much randomness going on here to simply use July 101th, or any date for that matter, as a break point?
How random is any date? It's easy to use something like July 10th since that's usually right around the All-Star break, but does it make any sense to do so? Does sitting on a couch for two days with the family result in better production in the second half? What about the guys who are in the All-Star game? Would they perform better in the second half if they had a couple of days off? Do they perform better in the second half cause they keep playing and don't have any down time? It's all random, as much as it would be to use the date of May 27th. I know that's not a round number and there's no real reason to use it as a delimiter, but that's the point. It's natural for us to use months and the All-Star game as break points for analysis, but think about it – is there any rational reason that on May 30th a guy is a bad hitter but on June 2 he's a good one? Of course there isn't.
Second, as much as I like numbers and lean on them to help me to analyze and break down players, it's not like numbers always tell the whole story. Let's assume that a player has played three years and in every season he has had 250 at-bats before and 250 at-bats after the All-Star break. Let's say that same player has the following numbers:
First Half: .250-40-120
Second Half: .275-50-150
The natural assumption is that he is a “second half performer,' I mean, look at the numbers. Still, that doesn't have to be completely true. Let's further speculate that these are the first and second half totals for Player X for each of his three seasons.
First Half #1: .260-15-35
First Half #2: .240-10-45
First Half #3: .250-15-40
Second Half #1: .240-13-38
Second Half #2: .340-16-70
Second Half #3: .240-11-42
In the first half the guy is the same stable hitter each three years. In the second half of the year he is that same, stable/boring option in two of the three years. So how is he so “good” in the second half? The answer is obvious, it's his massive second half in Year #2. If you look at the overall numbers you would say he's a “second half player” but in truth he's been the exact same player in five of the six half seasons he has played, the one huge half season just happened to be in the second half of his second season. Does that make him a “second half player?” Not in my book it doesn't.
In the end, be careful about how you evaluate players.
Back to LaRoche...
Adam began his big league career in 2004, so we have a lot more than three years of data to go on with him when assessing his early and late season performance. It's also fairly evident that, for whatever reason, he appears to be one of those rare players that truly does have a lasting trend that indicates he is a “second half player” (remember though, as our example above spoke to, that doesn't mean that any player is always one or the other). Here are Laroche's career splits.
First Half: .251/.329/.441 with a HR every 25.3 ABs.
Second Half: .295/.354/.535 with a HR every 18.3 ABs.
Obviously were not talking a little improvement here, we're talking a major step up in production – a major one. So back to my original query. “ A traditionally slow starter, will this hot start propel LaRoche to career best numbers?” The natural assumption is – of course it will. He's a second half hitter so if he hits this well early on, then does what he always does in the second half, his numbers are going to be elite hit season. That's the assumption of course, but in the real world that just doesn't make a lot of sense. The fact of the matter is that LaRoche has over 3,700 at-bats spread over nine years telling us what kind of hitter he is. He's a .275-25-85 type, we've seen it year after year. Could he use this hot start to hit 30 homers this year for the first time since 2006? Of course he could. That's different from expecting him to hit 40 homers though. Could he post his second 100 RBI season? Sure he could. Still, he's not likely to rack up 125 RBI merely cause he started off hot. Could he hit .325 this season? Well, given that he's never hit better than .285 in a season it's unlikely.
Here's the bottom line. Most of the time, not always but most of the time, players end up with numbers reflective of their talents. Injuries and playing time can always effect the outcome, an it's certainly true that a hot six weeks can propel someone to career best numbers. But at the end of the day players rarely turn out to be someone that their talent says they shouldn't be. Sure you can point out a guy like Jose Bautista who went from a middling four time a week player to an All-Star, but how many other such instances can you think of a player doing that in the recent past? Exactly. In LaRoche's six seasons of at least 450 at-bats he's hit between 20-32 homers, had 78-100 RBI and has hit between .259 and 285. Could be better those totals this season because of his hot start? Absolutely he could, but I'm here to caution you that thinking he's going to post massive numbers this season because that hot start will be followed by his traditionally huge second half is not a position I would agree to support.
Mike Leake, when he isn't out stealing t-shirts from department stores, oh wait that was last year. Sorry Mike. The Reds might have been better off this season if he was in the “big house” as he has been awful with an 0-5 record, 7.11 ERA and 1.61 WHIP. Meanwhile the Reds continues to waste Aroldis Chapman in a setup role. Groomed to be a starter at the start of spring, the Reds put him in the pen this year because they thought their rotation was strong enough. Well, it's time to rethink that position. Chapman has been the most dominating pitchers in baseball this season. Through 14 outings he's yet to allow a run. His WHIP is 0.60. His K/9 mark is 15.71. His K/BB ratio is 6.40. Put him in the rotation Reds. Get a clue.
The Twins activated Justin Morneau from the DL Wednesday. He's thinks his surgically repaired right wrist should be fine. I'm not even remotely convinced. Over his last 338 at-bats he's hit .228 with eight homers and 39 RBI. For me, he's merely an AL-only option until he proves otherwise on the field.
Alexi Ogando's value in standard 5x5 mixed leagues is somewhat limited in that he isn't starting or closing, but there can be no denying the fact that he has been phenomenal this season. Through 17 appearances covering 20 innings he's allowed one run leading to a 0.45 ERA, and he's allowed a total of eight hits this season as he's WHIP of 0.50 is actually even more impressive than his ERA. Oh, his K/BB ratio is also 10.50 as he has 21 Ks and two walks in those 20 innings. All of this begs the question – are the Rangers really best served letting him pitch in middle relief? In 230.2 innings as a big leaguer he has an 18-9 record, 2.85 ERA, 1.08 WHIP an a 3.06 K/BB ratio. You put up numbers like that in a season and you're up for consideration for the Cy Young award.
Vance Worley has hit the DL with right elbow tenderness. An ETA for his return is unclear at the moment. His loss is obviously a huge one for fantasy leaguers since he had a 3.07 ERA and had produced more than a punchout per inning this season. For now he will be replaced in the rotation by Kyle Kendrick. Run, don't walk, from his services.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, Monday through Friday, 5-8 PM EDT. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account Twitter account.
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