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April 16, 2010

Fantasy Beat

Don't Believe The Hype

by Marc Normandin

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Not every "Don't Believe The Hype" has to be negative—I mean, I'm generally a cheery person, and all that negativity probably isn't healthy. Of course, hype works both ways—sometimes you have players that are underperforming and people are ready to give up on them, and you also have players who may actually have turned a corner. Due to their history, however, no one is willing to give them a look. We'll take a look at a few of those types of hitters today.

Yes, I know I said I would switch off between hitters and pitchers, but until pitchers start to accumulate 30 innings, I don't think there's much value in checking them out. Right around then, I'll bust out SIERA and we'll have a field day taking down hot starts and disappointing beginnings from the mound.

Casey McGehee came out of nowhere in 2009 to help owners in NL-only leagues—he was great in his shortened season with the Brewers, but without a real history of success and at a somewhat deep position, his value in mixed leagues just wasn't there. He's aiming to change that in 2010 though, as the right-hander is hitting .333/.410/.697 over his first 39 plate appearances (and with a normal looking .286 BABIP). I'm not going to get too excited over fewer than 40 plate appearances, but McGehee hit .301/.360/.499 in 2009 and was projected by PECOTA to hit .277/.336/.450. His 90th percentile is about what he reached last year, so it's not out of the realm of possibility that we see a repeat.

McGehee hasn't been whiffing much early, and he's capable of drawing a walk while also hitting for solid power for his position. If you need help at third or for a corner infield slot and can take a flyer on McGehee without dropping anyone of significance, you may end up a happy owner.

Jeff Francoeur is one of the most polarizing players in baseball—he still has excellent tools, and everyone has been waiting for the 26-year old to break out ever since his debut with Atlanta back in 2005. The problem was that Frenchy just didn't understand what he needed to do in order to succeed. He understood he needed to take more pitches and stop swinging at everything, but he looked more like a Little Leaguer listening to his coach say "Take a pitch before you swing" then he did someone who understood how the strike zone works. We've all heard him deride on-base percentage to the point where it felt like we were being IRL trolled by him, but things may have changed in 2010.

Francoeur has six unintentional walks in 39 plate appearances. Six. That doesn't sound huge, but we're talking about a guy with a career high walk rate of six percent. His career high in walks is 42—if he kept up his current pace, he would stroll down to first base courtesy of the pitcher 100 times over 650 plate appearances. Can you even imagine a world where Jeff Francoeur secures triple-digits in walks? That has to be in the Book of Revelation somewhere as an omen that the Four Horsemen are coming, but here we are.

It's a little early to assume that this is where he will end up, but even if his walk rate drops about 5-6 percent, it's still a marked improvement over past rates and may indicate that he has a better idea of what pitches he can do something with and which ones he should lay off of. He's still golfing balls out of the strike zone but seems to be doing so with pitches he can do something with—there's nothing wrong with swinging at bad pitches if you can hit them.

My one concern here is that he's still looking at the same number of pitches per plate appearance, so we're going to have to watch to see which pitches he's sitting on and which ones he's swinging at rather than just one raw figure in order to see what's happening. Pitchers are tossing him fewer first-pitch strikes to start the year, though, and he's making a little more contact (and swinging at fewer pitches out of the zone). It's possible things are looking up. He's certainly worth the gamble if he's available in your league, so what are you waiting for?

Scott Podsednik is hitting .457/.525/.486 with six steals for the Royals. As a team, they are hitting well right now, but he isn't picking up very many runs despite this (just four on the season). The most important thing to remember with Podsednik may be his Isolated Power. His entire game right now is singles, and something tells me the major sports networks aren't preparing "What if Scott Podsednik hits .400?" segments right now. Remember, stolen bases are becoming easier to pick up from well-rounded players that will contribute in more than one category, so there's no reason to use up a roster space on someone like Podsednik if you have other options on the waiver wire.

Now is an excellent time to trade Pods, who is sometimes an overrated commodity due to this steals. You'll reap more from the right return (and the proper replacement via FAAB or free agency) than you will from keeping his one-category show in town.

18 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

lonechicken

Having played 22 games at 2B last year, McGehee probably qualifies there in a lot of leagues as well. Making him more valuable.

Apr 16, 2010 07:57 AM
rating: 1
 
Marc Normandin

True, I don't love him at first given the depth there, but if you're stuck for a first baseman he's worth a gamble. More so than a Kotchman, for sure.

Apr 16, 2010 08:03 AM
rating: 0
 
swarmee

2B /= 1B.

Apr 16, 2010 10:34 AM
rating: 1
 
Marc Normandin

Whoops. Clearly read that comment too fast. McGehee at 2B is pretty swell, yes :-)

Apr 16, 2010 12:08 PM
rating: 0
 
ryanlazenby

I'd point out that Francoeur's swing rate outside the zone hasn't dropped much, but his swing rate inside the zone has. He's also taking more inside, which is good because his long swing and arms make those tough on him. I think he's figured something out, but it wouldn't be the first time a taste of renewed success led the Frenchman to start swinging out of his shoes at everything again.

Apr 16, 2010 09:08 AM
rating: 0
 
Marc Normandin

I'm cautiously optimistic. I'm afraid to be anything higher than that, for the reasons you state.

Apr 16, 2010 09:17 AM
rating: 0
 
ryanlazenby

Hey, props for at least "cautious optimism." Now that Francoeur's worth writing about again I haven't seen anybody even give him that much credit, even to the extent of saying the 7th or 8th guy on a bad offense batting behind him are "protecting" him.

Apr 16, 2010 10:59 AM
rating: 0
 
darktownstruts

I'm thankful for the growing fantasy-specific content at BP, but I'd like to make a comment (and I hope others will weigh in here as to whether I'm right or not)--I suspect that most fantasy players who are committed enough to subscribe to BP are either in deeper mixed leagues (14-18 teams) or NL/AL-only leagues--and therefore subscribe to BP to gain insight and edge on players on the deep margins. That isn't to say that columns such as this one aren't useful; they are. But when I see a line like "If you need help at third or for a corner infield slot and can take a flyer on McGehee without dropping anyone of significance, you may end up a happy owner," I wonder if BP understands this (or if it's me that has it wrong). In my 15-team, 9X9 mixed league, McGehee was snatched up on draft day, as were Podsednik and Francouer.

Again, there's useful info here--just wondering if BP understands that it's writing for a crowd that is looking for more than they can get for free from, say, Yahoo's fantasy bloggers. (Or if I'm wrong, and everyone else here is in 12-team mixed leagues--I decided to join one this year as a supplement to my main league, and I'm constantly amazed at who can be found on the wire and who is dropped...often players who are the subject of fierce FAAB bidding wars in my primary league).

Respectfully,
the Darktown Struts

Apr 16, 2010 13:00 PM
rating: 1
 
Marc Normandin

I'll give you the same response I give everyone for this--we try to do a mix of both, because we have many more of the 12-team mixed league type owners than you would suspect, given the nature of the content here.

That being said, we're definitely open to these comments and requests, so don't feel like I'm blowing you off by saying we need to cater to a larger audience than your specific example includes. We'll make the effort to be as obscure as you need us to be, if that's what is required of us.

Apr 16, 2010 13:27 PM
rating: 0
 
krissbeth

Yahoo is one of the industry leaders and their leagues are twelve teams. Writing with the assumption of a 12 team mixed league, while understanding that you need to include other types of leagues, is a fine assumption to make.

Apr 16, 2010 14:39 PM
rating: 0
 
rjblakel

I'd dare say "most fantasy players who are committed enough to subscribe to BP" play in multiple leagues of various sizes...

Apr 18, 2010 17:36 PM
rating: 0
 
darktownstruts

Haha, thanks for the speedy and good-natured reply, Marc. And again, I wasn't sure myself about the composition of your subscribers. I should also note that I don't see 12-league, 5X5 leagues as inferior--an argument could be made that they're a purer expression of the game (and I enjoy the one I'm in). But as a deeper-leaguer with odd stat-categories at heart, I certainly do appreciate you being obscure as you need to be.

While I may have your ear--a hype question in the opposite direction: as a chronic optimist when it comes to post-hype pitchers, I drafted Homer Bailey (along with Anibal Sanchez, Luke Hochevar, Jason Hammel, and Clay Buchholz--among the young set); I also vowed this year to be somewhat less patient than in years past (a contradictory impulse, I'll grant you, but one that comes from having, e.g., kept Oliver Perez the previous three years, among other disasters). Ordinarily I'd give a pitcher a couple of months before cutting bait but I'm going to have to make a roster move soon and I'm wondering, given Bailey's mechanical issues in his first two starts (and the results they engendered) what you think now of BP 2010's write-up of him. It's absurdly early, yes, but given the demands of roster decisions and the fact that he's my worst performer so far, looking for a gut reaction if nothing else.

Many thanks,
Darktown

Apr 16, 2010 14:38 PM
rating: 1
 
swarmee

My NL-only 4x4 league with 40 man (23 active, 17 bench) rosters has about four owners that subscribe here. But seeing as how we have no waiver pickups in-season (trades only), it doesn't really matter much to me. There's not much on the NL-only waiver wire when you pick 480 players and there's only 400 on the 25-man rosters of NL teams. ;-)

Sitting on my bench are Jermaine Dye, Yu Darvish, and Bryce Harper hoping that they get signed by National League teams.

Apr 16, 2010 15:26 PM
rating: -1
 
Marc Normandin

I feel for you. My AL-only league had 30 man rosters and five outfielders, and I had Jack Cust, who is now in the minors. The best replacement option on my team is Austin Kearns, and not a single person available on waivers has logged an at-bat in 2010. Shoot me.

Apr 16, 2010 15:48 PM
rating: 0
 
darktownstruts

hey krissbeth--yahoo's default public leagues are 12-team and i'm in one...but it also seems to me that custom leagues (on yahoo, as mine is, and elsewhere) seem to be proliferating, that larger leagues seem to be a trend, and that BP might attract an outsize share of people in larger and custom leagues. but it seems i may be overestimating the size of that trend relative to the larger market.

best,
darktown

Apr 16, 2010 14:55 PM
rating: 0
 
darktownstruts

@swarmee: wow, grim.

Apr 16, 2010 15:34 PM
rating: 0
 
pobothecat

Not a bad idea for a whole separate blog --- Deep League Update.

Apr 17, 2010 11:21 AM
rating: 1
 
Marc Normandin

It's something we're considering. We have a lot planned as far as revamping fantasy content this year, but we're also doing some things on the fly based on reader response.

Apr 18, 2010 04:55 AM
rating: 0
 
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