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May 31, 2011

Fantasy Beat

Who Am I?

by Jason Collette

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One thing many fantasy owners are guilty of is visual bias. We hear a player’s name and our minds immediately jump to the last reaction we had when watching that player. Refusing to deal Coco Crisp for Edwin Jackson in 2009 was one of the main reasons why my AL Tout Wars season suffered and Mike Siano’s competed for the league title in the final hour of the season.  People were down on Leo Nunez coming into this season based on late season struggles and, yet, he is near the top of the standings for save.  Similarly, those that passed on Kyle Farnsworth because, well, he was Kyle Farnsworth have missed out on a nice season thus far.

With that in mind, I would like to revive a column that I ran during my time at the now defunct Fanball entitled, “Who am I?” The column would present a player’s stats in a blind resume format and let you make your own judgment of the player’s merit before the name was revealed.  In doing so, you would have no visual or name bias of that player and would be free to make the move that best suited your fantasy team, avoiding the same type of critical mistake that plagued me in 2009.

Player 1: From 2004 to 2010, I was one of the more valuable players in single league formats despite my lack of power. I stole 40 or more bases five different times during that run, hit as high as .330, and scored 90 or more runs three different times. In recent years, I have developed more plate patience as I’ve pushed my walk rate into double digits, getting on base at a .400 clip in 2007 and at a rate of .397 as recently as 2009, all the while retaining my above-average strikeout rate.

This season, I have made all of those statistics seem like a very distant memory with a miserable performance at the plate. My walk rate has been cut in half from last season, now walking just five percent of the time, but I’m also making more contact as my strikeout rate is just 12 percent. My slash line on the season is .193/.235/.260 thanks to a .213 BABIP and a career low 18 percent line drive rate. In 206 plate appearances, I have swiped just seven bases while scoring 17 times – and those are the two categories most people drafted me for.  In 2009, I earned nearly $30 in single-league formats, but I could find myself out of baseball before next season starts in a season where I went for $19 in Tout Wars.  Who Am I?

Player 2: I ended April with a slash line of .161/.240/.218 while striking out 30 percent of the time with nine walks and just three extra base hits. That is a bit problematic when I am drafted for my run production as a middle of the lineup bat. My home run production was halved from 2009 to 2010 as people wondered if age was finally catching up to me and whether my days as a productive fantasy asset were behind me.

Anyone that cut bait on me before May 1st is regretting that decision as I’m the owner of a .317/.343/.594 slash line this month, rediscovering my historical strikeout rate and becoming more aggressive at the plate with positive results. I have 15 extra base hits this month including six home runs with RBI and run tallies of 17 each.  If you look at the month-by-month splits, there is a disturbing trend in my walk-to-strikeout ratio, which has dropped from .72 to .52 to .35 to .25 over the past five months.  The 18 percent home run to fly ball rate this month is my highest over the past eight months of baseball and coincides with a heavy home schedule for my team as six of my seven home runs this season have come at home.  Who Am I?

Player 3: I am playing for my fifth organization since the start of the 2008 season. During that time, I have been traded three times and was most recently signed as a minor league free agent. My TAv’s over the past few seasons have been .238, .277, .227, and .230 but this season I currently sit at .332. I am not the prototypical player for my position as I have just nine extra base hits on the season and have as many strikeouts (12) as I do RBIs in 132 plate appearances.

I started off the season in the minor leagues and later joined the team in a platoon capacity but have since won a mostly-everyday job in the lineup while possessing a higher TAv than players such as Prince Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez, and Mark Teixeira.  That said, my batting average is currently 29 points higher than my TAv and my BABIP is 72 points higher than any previous career mark, putting my performance in serious doubt moving forward.  Who Am I?

Player 4: On the season, I have a .314/.358/.402 slash line in 227 plate appearances. My peripheral skills are right in line with my career marks, and my slash line this season is better across the board than last season’s efforts. Despite this, my performance in the month of May has been all over the board. I have scored eight times and have driven in ten runs but have a slash line of just .228/.268/.277 in 113 plate appearances this month.  A .237 BABIP and some contact issues have played a large role in this subpar line.

Back in May of 2006, I struck out in 11 percent of my at-bats.  Since that time, I’ve never had a monthly strikeout rate worse than a ten percent until this current month of May. A 40 percent line drive rate helped me hit .398 last month while an 18 percent rate is part of the reason why I have hit just .215 this month.  This one-month swoon should only matter to head-to-head players as I have never hit below .285 in a full major league season and should still be a lock to score 70 times while driving in 50 runs – great production for the $11 price I went for in NL Tout Wars.   Who Am I?

Player 5: I have four wins and a 3.71 ERA on the season heading into Memorial Day. Last season, I had three times as many wins, a 4.07 ERA, and a K/9 rate of 6.1. This season, my strikeout rate has plunged to 4.3 while my walk rate has risen to 4.0 as I attempt pitching to more contact and trusting the defense behind me while trying to conserve pitches and go deeper into games. I have worked at least six innings in eight of my ten starts in 2011, which is an improvement from last season when I failed to make it through six innings in 12 of my 29 starts. In that regard, the process is working, but there have certainly been some speed bumps along the way.

Along with the declining strikeout rate and rising walk rate, my home run rate is still over 1.0, and I have given up seven home runs in May alone, which has pushed my ERA up to 4.80 in 30 May innings. In that time, I have allowed 32 hits, 16 of which have gone for extra bases, while walking 17 and striking out just 15. The damage could be a lot worse as I have stranded 82 percent of my baserunners this month, which is an enormous help given my 1.63 WHIP this month. If that was not enough, the gap between my 3.71 ERA and my 5.84 SIERA should be enough to tell you to stay away from me until I smooth out my process.  Who Am I?

Player 6: I have thrown 180 innings since the 2010 All-Star Break and am 8-13 during that time with a 3.70 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP.  Since then, I also sport a 6.2 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 0.8 HR/9, and a solid 3.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio. May has not been a good month for me as I have gone 1-3 with a 5.35 ERA and 1.66 WHIP. My strikeout rate has held up at 6.4, but my walk rate has risen to 3.4 and my batting average on balls in play is up to .392.

My current ERA and WHIP are career worst ratios for me as I am a pitcher who has enjoyed immense success when I have been healthy. I am also suffering through the worst run of BABIP and LOB% luck since the 2002 season. I’m a little long in the tooth these days, but outside of a declining groundball rate, my peripherals are pretty much right in line with the previous two seasons.  Who Am I?

Jason Collette is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

Related Content:  Walk Rate,  A's,  Out Of My League,  The Who,  Strikeout Rate,  Visual

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