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August 18, 2014

The Buyer's Guide

Jonathan Lucroy

by J.P. Breen


Approach at the plate has been on my mind in recent weeks. I’ve been specifically ruminating on the learned aspect of plate discipline; for example, how gifted 20-something hitters who have otherworldly hand-eye coordination can learn to eschew a simple bat-to-ball approach and focus on quality pitches to hit. That is to say, how can hitters develop the inner filter to discern between pitches they can hit and pitches they should hit, or which pitches they can merely hit and which pitches they can drive.

Obviously, such a development would be desirable for any player, and it can happen for many different reasons. Maybe it’s a maturation process. Maybe it’s a new pitching coach who presents the information in a different way. Maybe it’s trial and error. Maybe it’s studying the numbers. But I’ve been more convinced that most big-league hitters are only able to carve out sustained success over multiple seasons if they can adjust and refine their approach at the plate, at least to some degree.

Bringing this back around to fantasy baseball, I wanted to focus on fastball percentage when it comes to hitters. For one main reason: major-league hitters tend to perform better, on the whole, against fastballs than any other pitch. Now, I’m not advocating something as oversimplified as targeting any player who sees a lot of fastballs at the plate. After all, Ben Revere leads the league in fastball percentage (67.7%), but that’s more because he poses no power threat at the dish.

Thus, I’m much more interested in power hitters who regularly see a heavy dose of fastballs. It’s a working theory that revolves more around anecdotal evidence rather than something that’s been rigorously worked out by statistical analysis, but it follows in my mind that power hitters who see a lot of fastballs have two things going for them: (1) ample opportunity to punish fastballs, and (2) a quality approach that forces pitchers to throw fastballs, when they would otherwise not want to.

That brings me to Jonathan Lucroy. The Brewers’ catcher has burst on the national baseball scene with an All-Star appearance, a .303/.369/.489 slash line, and a postseason-caliber ballclub. He homered, doubled, and drove in five runs against the Dodgers on Sunday afternoon. He was already the no. 1 fantasy catcher in Major League Baseball, but Sunday’s performance only widened the gap.

You know how it is in fantasy baseball, though. It’s about value. Is Jonathan Lucroy really this good? Should fantasy owners pony up and target him on the trade market for the remainder of 2014 (and beyond), or should owners cash in their profits and seek to trade him while his value is at its peak?

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: ... (08/18)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article The Buyer's Guide: Jos... (08/11)
Next Column >>
Fantasy Article The Buyer's Guide: Car... (08/25)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Monday Morning Ten Pac... (08/18)

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