Corey Patterson wasn’t on your radar when you drafted you fantasy team because he was unemployed. After appearing in just 16 games for the Nationals and Brewers in 2009, he was looking for work until he reunited with the Orioles on April 20. After storming through Triple-A with a line of .368/.419/.491 in just 14 games, he was called up as a replacement for Nolan Reimold a few weeks later.
Now, at the age of 30, Patterson seems to have resurrected his career – not to mention his fantasy value – by hitting .289/.335/.423 with a .277 TAv. Since we’re talking about a guy who finished with a TAv north of .260 just twice in his career – the last time when he posted a .264 TAv in 2006 – owners have a right to be highly skeptical of this “new and improved” Patterson.
Skepticism is good… Because there’s no way he’ll keep his slash stats and TAv that high as baseball enters the second half of the season.
For starters, only 67% of Patterson's plate appearances are ending up with the ball in play. A huge part of this issue is due to the fact he’s going down on strikes once every 4.1 at bats, a rate he hasn’t hit since his final glory days on the North Side of Chicago.
Despite the elevated strikeout rate, Patterson is making contact in roughly 74% of all swings this year. That’s below league average, but it’s right in line with his career rate of 75%. Let’s look at his batted ball rates and how they translated into his final BABIP for his two previous seasons in Baltimore and his year spent in Cincinnati. (We’ll skip his 2009 season since he came to the plate only 30 times.)
His highest line drive percentage came in 2006, yet he’s outpacing that year’s BABIP by 45 points. Yeah, there’s going to be a correction. And it’s not going to be pretty.
Let’s be honest. His current .289 batting average is gravy. We’re talking about a guy who’s career high in batting average (.298) came way back in 2003. He hasn’t come within 20 points since. If you picked up Patterson, it was because you felt he could give your team some steals. On this front, he’s delivered. So far, he’s swiped 16 bags in 18 attempts – an 89% success rate. He’s attempting to steal in 22% of his opportunities, but that’s still a way off the pace he set for himself back in the middle part of the decade when he was regularly taking off in over 30% of his chances.
He may not be running as much as he has in the past, but still, 16 steals is 16 steals. However, consider this… The Orioles are reportedly close to naming Buck Showalter as their next manager, and Showalter has never managed a team that finished in the top half of the league in stolen bases. It’s not that he completely abhors the steal – Tony Womack swiped 72 bags in 85 attempts for the ’99 Diamondbacks – it’s that Showalter has always managed teams that relied more on the big hit than the proverbial small ball. As a team, the Orioles lack both speed and power (Among other things… I could go on, but that’s another post). so it will be interesting to see how Showalter manages in game situations.
As Patterson's batting average (and on base percentage) inevitably drops, so too will his steal opportunities. It certainly seems like a good chance Patterson's stolen base rate will take a hit in the second half of the season.
If you have rostered Patterson recently, now would be an ideal time to find a team in your league looking for steals. You’d be selling high. In fact, you’d likely be dealing Patterson at his absolute peak. That’s the best kind of sale.