MLB Streaks & Trends: May 24
Joe Gallina goes around the league, tracking the notable streaks and current trends affecting most fantasy baseball leagues.
As we head into Memorial Day weekend a little over a quarter of the baseball season has passed us by. Yes, fantasy baseball players whose individual teams are struggling can take comfort in the fact that “it’s still early” in the season, but like Yogi Berra once said, in some cases “it’s getting late early.”
There’s still a lot of baseball left to be played. However, we’re deep enough into the season where there is enough data available for us to be able to take a step back and truly evaluate our teams. You might not want to make too many wholesale changes to your fantasy team but at the same time you don’t want to just sit back and watch your team tumble in your league’s standings either.
There are a number of potential fantasy studs that you drafted in good faith who simply aren’t providing you with the kind of production you expected.
For instance, heading into Thursday’s action Indians third baseman José Ramírez was batting .196 with four home runs and 17 RBI through his first 48 games. On a positive note he’s provided fantasy owners with 12 stolen bases. The fact that Ramirez’s slump dates back to last season is very concerning. Since August 31st of last season he’s batting just .163. Unfortunately fantasy players owning shares in Ramirez are stuck. They can’t drop him. He likely cost them a first round pick. They can’t trade him for anything close to the value that they originally paid for him. The good news is that there’s some cause for optimism. Statcast lists Ramirez’s expected batting average as close to .050 points higher than his current average. In addition, Ramirez’s current hard hit rate is almost seven points higher than his career average and his average launch angle is almost three percent higher than last season’s 18.8 mark. Let’s reevaluate him around July 4th. At the same time if someone in your league is willing to cut their losses and trade him at a steep discount, it might be a chance worth taking.
Cardinals First/Third baseman Matt Carpenter is one of the poster boys of streakiness when it comes to fantasy baseball. In 2018 he batted .155 in March and April, and .170 in September and October. He hit just three home runs during those months. However, between May and August, Carpenter batted .301 and hit 33 home runs. He’s slumping again this season (.203 BA, 6 HRs) and is probably another player who should be considered a value add as a buy low trade target. His expected batting average, slugging percentage, and wOBA are all higher than their current values. While his hard hit rate regressed a bit from his career high 49 percent from last season, it still remains above average at 41.5. His line drive rate and fly ball rates are also both above average. He may not hit another 33 home runs in four months like he did last season, but Carpenter’s got at least one big hot streak in him. Carpenter has dealt with back and knee issues this season, but if he can put his health issues behind him, he should heat up along with the summer weather.
Of course not every slumping batter will suddenly snap out of it and start hitting like an All-Star. Just look at Joey Votto . If you’re a baseball fan you’re pulling for Votto. He’s a guy who averages 27 home runs per season for his career, but last season he hit 12. This season he’s hit four home runs and has just eight RBI in 168 ABs. One of the biggest constants in his career has been Votto’s ability to get on base. He has a career .424 OBP. This season it’s down to .318. Things have gotten so bad for Votto that he even popped out to first base for the first time in his career. Hold onto him for now. However, if he hasn’t shown any signs of life by the time July rolls around and you have an opportunity to pick up a player who can significantly help your team, at that point, Votto may be droppable.
On the pitching side of the equation many analysts and fantasy players alike were very high on Mets starter Zack Wheeler at the start of the season, but he’s had his issues (4.74 ERA), most of which have been against the Nationals and Reds. If you take away his five starts against those teams he’d have a 2.38 ERA. Things are looking up for Wheeler. His velocity is up a tick since last season, all ERA estimators are well below his season long average, and the Mets don’t play the Nationals until August, and the Reds until September.
On average, Phillies starting pitcher Aaron Nola was the sixth starting pitcher being selected in preseason NFBC fantasy baseball leagues. He’s currently pitching to a 4.47 ERA and 1.548 WHIP. Opposing batters are batting .287 against him. Some suggest that Nola’s early season issues have been caused in large part due to the cold and wet weather that the northeast has been experiencing. It almost seems like too simple of an explanation but nonetheless he has been on somewhat of a hot streak. Over his past five starts he’s struck out 32 batters in 27.1 IP and he has also pitched to a 2.30 ERA during that time frame.
One final starting pitcher we’ll discuss who has an opportunity to bounce back after a slow start to the season is Indians hurler Carlos Carrasco . He had a 7.41 ERA after his first four starts of the season but since then he’s pitched to a 2.80 ERA with 37 strikeouts in 35.1 IP. For his career he has a 4.04 first half ERA and a 3.37 second half ERA.
Lastly, let’s take a look at some notable performers from over the past two weeks. Ronald Acuna has been raking since the Braves moved him back into the lead-off spot in their batting order on May 10th. In 12 games since that date he’s batting .327 with four home runs and three stolen bases. Blue Jays third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is showing everyone why he’s such a big deal. He’s batting .368 with five home runs and 10 RBI over his last 10 games. Dodgers starting pitcher Walker Buehler hasn’t given up more than three runs in six straight starts. He’s pitching to a 2.41 ERA with 37 strikeouts in 37.1 IP during that span.