August 7, 2009
Fish or Cut Bait?
Last week we looked at players that had performed better than expected the past two months, checking to see if they could keep it up or if they should be sold at their peak value. Today we will take a look at the other end of the spectrum-players that have been slumming it since the second third of the season began-to see if there is anything worth holding onto here. They may be well past the point of having a successful season in some cases, but that does not mean all of them are useless to you from here on out.
Player HR RBI R SB AVG/ OBP/ SLG Edgar Renteria 0 16 18 2 .259/.291/.307 Aubrey Huff 4 27 21 0 .244/.303/.343 Randy Winn 0 22 28 2 .260/.307/.344 Andy LaRoche 3 19 30 0 .235/.308/.360 Bengie Molina 3 23 12 0 .271/.280/.390 Ian Kinsler 10 24 33 0 .205/.262/.410 Vernon Wells 5 17 25 5 .245/.282/.392 Alex Rios 6 33 24 15 .244/.295/.383 Magglio Ordonez 4 15 14 2 .246/.299/.380 Jeremy Hermida 6 19 18 1 .243/.311/.379 Pedro Feliz 5 27 25 0 .279/.313/.377 Jason Varitek 3 22 18 0 .220/.351/.362 Brandon Phillips 7 33 30 14 .257/.312/.408 Denard Span 3 20 29 6 .274/.353/.369 Victor Martinez 9 37 26 0 .239/.319/.413
Edgar Renteria entire season has been a bust, and his last two months match up with the first two months of the season well (overall line of .254/.311/.318). Renteria has had poor luck on balls in play two years running now, with his nearly 22 percent liner rate not reflected well in his .296 BABIP. Two years with more popups, fewer homers (a more extreme dip this year in the latter), and fewer infield hits, alongside a tendency to be less patient at the plate (a 5-7 percentage-point jump in outside swing percentage the past two years) has kept his value from returning at any point. If he's not picking good pitches to hit, then the hits likely will not come. Even for a shortstop (average EqA of .255) Renteria (.225) is bad; cut bait if you haven't, because nothing good will come of this.
There has to be something in the water in the Bay Area, because the Giants just cannot hit. Randy Winn is another victim of this, as his last two months of struggles have brought his line to .267/.320/.373. Winn's not hitting as many balls on the ground as he normally does, and he's not hitting as well on fly balls as he did last year (.162/.155/.351 against .255/.240/.574 in '08). This dip in HR/FB has killed his value, but even worse is the lower OBP; since Winn isn't on base as often, he's not attempting steals as much, which does away with the one thing he could have done for you to counter the drop in his moderate power production. Given his age, 2008 may have been his last best season, so expecting more of that from here on out or in the future might be asking too much.
Andy LaRoche has a disappointing line, there is no disputing that. But even with that, there are some positives to take solace in. He's hitting the ball better this year, with far more line drives that helped to boost his BABIP and put it up near the league average. He has the same number of homers as last year, and in more plate appearances, but his overall ISO has increased thanks to far more doubles production. He shows a good handle on the strike zone, drawing lots of walks and not striking out too often, and he makes a lot of contact on pitches in the zone. He's hit well since the calendar turned to August, though we're talking about a week (.348/.400/.565); the thing is, LaRoche keeps showing signs that he's improving, with his productive May and the combination of these little things mentioned above. He's not consistent enough yet to merit starting daily, but if these signs mean anything, then he'll have more good months then bad in the future, even if it seems like it's taking forever for it to happen.
Ian Kinsler's low BABIP has been blamed for his low batting average and somewhat disappointing year, but part of that is his fault. After all, it's not his BABIP's fault that he's hitting so few liners-nearly 10 percentage points fewer than last year-and it's also not his BABIP's fault that his infield hit percentage is the lowest it has been in his career. Regardless of that, Kinsler's setting a career high in ISO (.240), with the largest single-year jump in that statistic of his career. Right now, Kinsler looks like Dan Uggla with defensive ability, which may not help you in fantasy, but the Marlins probably wish they had that going for them. Kinsler's liner rate should come back at least a little, which should bring his BABIP (and his average and OBP) up slightly; given the power, as well as the runs and RBI he's still getting despite not being on base often, it's not like he's been hurting you. Stick with him.
In 2008, Pedro Feliz was disappointing because his batting average was terrible, but he showed some power, even if it was unexpectedly lower than what he had provided the Giants with-he did move to Citizen's Bank Bandbox after all. In 2009 he brought the average up, but now he is sans power. His HR/FB rate is the lowest it has been during a full season in the bigs, and to make matters worse his fly-ball rate has dropped once again-between fewer opportunities and failing to cash in on the ones you do get, these shortcoming make you that much less of a productive player. Given these signs, if you've stuck with Feliz because of the average, it may be time to dump him before he is without both power and any way of reaching base.
Jason Varitek's signing this winter made a lot of Red Sox fans unhappy due to his struggles in 2008, but the Captain started the year out with a bang, hitting .239/.327/.522 over the first two months. For the people who looked at his stat line for more time than it takes teammate Jacoby Ellsbury to run to first though, you could see that this was not going to last, despite the return of Varitek's popularity across Red Sox Nation. Against righties, Varitek was disappointing in all areas except for his power, hitting .229/.305/.448. Against lefties, he hit .273/.390/.758 in 33 at-bats that would swell his overall line. While Tek is normally better against lefties, this was a little much, especially for a guy with a slowed swing coming off of a terrible season. When his line against southpaws re-entered reality (.239/.352/.391 since June) so did the rest of his season line-while he's still slugging .441 on the year due to the 10 homers he hit early on, he's gone yard just three times since for a slugging percentage of .362. Things are even worse on the road, where he's hitting .192/.318/.315 during that time frame. If you've still got Varitek-especially now with Victor Martinez in town, potentially stealing away some of the catcher's slot at-bats-then it's time to cut bait like Boston did not.
Let's finish this up with a few quick hits: Victor Martinez should improve with the move to Fenway, as stated earlier this week. Denard Span still hasn't regained the power that he showed last year, but with his ability to make contact, hit liners and control the strike zone, saying it's never coming might be overdoing it. Brandon Phillips isn't hitting for a high average, but he's still stealing bases and has you covered in runs and RBI-that's a little odd given Cincinnati's poor offense, but when you hit behind Joey Votto and in front of Jay Bruce's power (while Bruce was healthy), it makes more sense. Magglio Ordonez hasn't had great power since before both pairs of Sox won their first World Series in ages, but now he's missing the average that helped prop up his line. He's hitting the ball on the ground far too often to fix either problem.