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January 4, 2011

Fantasy Beat

Hot Spots: Catcher, Second Base, and Shortstop

by Michael Jong

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Bill Hall parlayed a one-year resurgence for the Boston Red Sox into a starting job, landing the second base job for the Houston Astros. Hall had a comeback year filling in for Boston's many injured starters. Racking up 382 PA, about the same amount that he had in 2009, Hall vastly outhit his horrific .201/.259/.338 line from the previous year, slashing .247/.316/.456. The key to his return to glory was improved power; after hitting just eight homers in 2009, Hall smacked 18 away in 2010. He also added 16 doubles and totaled a .209 ISO, which was a pleasant return to his power-laden heyday as a Milwaukee Brewer. What has to be encouraging about this season for Hall is that he did all of this while matching many of his career peripheral marks; outside of a likely fluky 17.0% HR/FB%, Hall's strikeouts, walks, and BABIP all fell within his career norms, signifying less potential regression.

Hall's game remains the same as it was even when he was a good player for the Brewers. He strikes out too much (career 26.0% K%) to be counted on to hit for a high AVG and walks just enough (career 7.8% BB%) to get on base at a slightly below average clip. His meal ticket, both in real life and fantasy baseball, lies with his power. Hall's career .193 ISO is strongly derived from two strong seasons back with the Brewers in 2005 and 2006; he is not likely to be as strong as that next year. Still, Hall has always delivered home runs, having hit double-digit round-trippers in each of his seasons since 2005 except in 2009. As a full-time starter playing half his games in Minute Maid Park, which aids right-handed batters in their long-ball pursuits (RHB HR park factor of 1.17 according to StatCorner), 20 HR would not be too far of a stretch. Unfortunately for fantasy players, it won't help that much of the rest of the Astros lineup, which scored just 3.77 runs per game last year (2nd worst in the National League) is returning to limit Hall's RBI/R chances. While the switch in parks won't hurt Hall's power output, the HR should not be enough to outweigh the bad of playing in Houston to rack up your counting stats. Hall remains what he was last season when he played: a good replacement option if your fantasy starter is injured, but not someone you want out there everyday. Houston will probably find that out as well next year.

Michael Jong is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Prospectus Q&A: Bob Ki... (01/04)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Rankings... (01/04)
Next Column >>
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Hot Spot... (01/05)
Next Article >>
On the Beat: One Man's... (01/04)

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