April 9, 2010
Don't Believe The Hype
Every fantasy site has some sort of risers and fallers, hot and cold players type article, and they generally have names that reflect that type of thing. Since this is a brand new venture for us here on the blog, I need a title for the column. I went with Don't Believe The Hype, courtesy of Public Enemy and Flavor Flav. If you start to hear Chuck D in your head as you read about Vernon Wells today, then you're welcome. We'll cover hitters this week, then pitchers next week, and so on, in order to give the stats a little bit of time to add up in between entries.
Vernon Wells is leading the majors in VORP thanks to a .600/.692/1.800 line that includes four homers. Sure, Wells had offseason wrist surgery, so as long as his wrist felt fine there was a chance he would play better than last year (.260/.311/.400 with 15 homers), but this is obviously a little more than was expected. Wells was projected for a weighted-mean line of .276/.333/.453 with 18 homers—after his hot start, he may be able to cross the 20 mark assuming that projection holds, but then again, Wells has also been known to go through long stretches of inactivity at the plate that drag his line down.
The main point here is that Wells hit .245/.304/.402 in 2007, .300/.343/.496 in 2008 and then disappointed again last season. Is it possible that he's in line to have another one of his quality seasons, like in '08? Sure, but we're just a few days in, and there's no reason to run out and try to acquire him on that chance. Sure, his 90th percentile PECOTA is in line with that 2008 season, but his 50th, 40th and 30th percentile performances all match up with his 2007 and 2009 performances. Give this one a little more time—you might even luck out and see someone in your league dump a quality player with a slow start in order to pick up Wells.
Edgar Renteria is another player who has started the season on the right foot, sporting a .727/.786/.818 line after the opening series against the Astros. Renteria avoided striking out over the three games, and even picked up three walks. He had elbow surgery over the winter, so a rebound in performance wouldn't be that shocking (especially given his paltry .250/.307/.328 line with the Giants in 2009) but let's temper our enthusiasm a bit here. Renteria's awful performance in 2009 was just an extension of 2008, when he hit .270/.317/.382 for Detroit.
There are some reasons to hold on to Renteria (or pick him up): he's hitting second in the Giants order, and though there lineup on the whole isn't that great, he's got Pablo Sandoval hitting behind him, which means as long as he's on base he can pick up some runs. Shortstop is an awful, awful position (seriously, I was excited to draft Cesar Izturis in an AL-only league. Think about that for a second) so Renteria has some value as long as he can tread a little bit of water and avoid drowning in his own performance. If he hits .270/.320/.370 or so, as ugly as that looks, it won't kill you if you're desperate for a shortstop, especially if he can pick up some runs at the top of the order. Regardless of how hot he has started 2010 though, the Renteria we know from the Cardinals and the Braves (and certainly not the Red Sox) is long gone. More games and more at-bats will show us this.
Kyle Blanks is hitting .083/.083/.333 to begin the season—outside of a late-game homer against the D'backs on opening day, his bat has been quiet. There's one thing you need to remember when it comes to players struggling early: you cannot give up on them so easily, because you thought they were worth drafting just a few weeks ago. Sure, sometimes it's easy to think that a young player like Kyle Blanks, who doesn't have a whole lot of major league experience under his belt, is going to fail because that's how the season began, but what are you going to believe? The 148 at-bats with 10 homers that caused you to draft him in the first place (in addition to his minor league performances) or the 12 plate appearances that he's begun the 2010 season with? Both are small samples, sure, but panicking and ditching him for someone on the waiver wire who has begun the season with a better performance is even less responsible than the 148 at-bat sample.
I know what a lot of you are thinking—who does that sort of thing? Who gives up on a player after just three games? Take a look at something like the Percentage Owned rates over at ESPN, which wildly fluctuate during the first week of the season, and then you know that yes, it does happen, and often. If you're picking someone up (say, Gio Gonzalez, who just earned the fifth starter job in Oakland) then you have to drop someone, and many people choose to ditch the Blanks type player who doesn't have a huge track record to counter a three day sample.
This doesn't just go for Blanks—don't panic about guys like Jay Bruce (.083/.083/.083, 12 PA), Julio Borbon (zeroes all across the board in 12 PA) or Denard Span (.063/.111/.063 in 19 PA). It's too early to panic about anyone really, so don't do anything you'll regret in a few weeks when their lines stabilize and they become what we thought they would when we selected them.