It’s that time of year again. Fantasy Baseball time. How can you tell? Although we don’t have radio stations blaring fantasy baseball-themed music for the entire month of March to get us in the fantasy baseball spirit (that would be awesome, no?), we have other indicators that inevitably point us towards beginning our draft prep.
For starters, Tim Kurkjian and company awake from a long winter’s nap and begin flooding our morning episodes of SportsCenter. Pitchers and catchers start reporting to spring training — some looking great, others overweight. AJ Burnett attempts to bunt. And $8 fantasy baseball magazines start popping up in Walmart.
All of this means that it’s time to get serious about our upcoming league’s draft in order to not embarrass the family name. So you begin browsing through stats. You refresh your memory about what happened a season ago. Observe the offseason moves. Then you start to have questions. Which surprise players from 2011 were simply one year wonders? Which underachieving performances were a fluke? And how long will Mariano Rivera be so good?
Although your guess on Rivera is about as good as mine, here at MSF we love to answer your other questions. How can you tell when a player has been riding a lucky streak or simply stumbled upon a case of bad luck? The answers lie within the numbers. Statistical trends can give us insight into which players are here to stay, and which are bound to fall back to Earth.
Let’s dive in. Today we’ll explore last season’s lucky hitters, but be sure to also look for more articles in this series that examines lucky pitchers, unlucky hitters, and unlucky pitchers.
After years of disappointment, and nearly being labeled as a bust, Gordon has now become the poster boy for “Post-Hype Prospects” across the fantasy baseball landscape. Last year he flashed a little bit of everything, staying healthy for 611 AB, swatting 23 HRs, swiping 17 bags, and batting over .300.
In a shallow outfield position, most people will have Gordon high upon their drafts boards. But I caution, don’t move so fast. He rode an inflated HR/FB% in the second half, as well a BABIP of over .360. If you need a dose of reality, see his 2010 stat line.
Matt Kemp had a monster fantasy season last year, and probably led most people to a fantasy championship. Preseason talks of the first-ever “50/50” season in MLB history on top of the fact that he is 27 this year has many fantasy owners completely sold. Don’t be one of them. Career high in HR/FB% will lead to a home run regression. Outrageous BABIP will also bring his batting average last to Earth. Again, for a reality check see what his final stat line of 2010.
Couldn’t say it better than Ron Shandler himself, who describes Granderson as “The No. 1 answer to the question: Name something that will regress in 2012?” Expect his batting average to go back to his regular .250 levels, and I wouldn’t count on him for any more than 25 HRs, given his ridiculous 21% homerun-to-fly-ball ratio. Again, somewhere between his 2009-2010 stat line is what you should expect in 2012.
The counterpart of Alex Gordon in Kansas City finally lived up to his potential in 2011 connection on 20 HR, stealing 22 bases, and finishing with a respectable .285 batting average. Signs of caution appear for 2012, however, because his BA spike was caused by a lucky BABIP, and his contact and walk rates showed no improvement from any other point in his career. Regression is coming.
Everyone’s favorite young catcher showed tremendous power in 2011 and backed up his stat line with a batting average a tick under .300. Someone will overpay for him in 2012, but don’t let it be you. While Avila’s 20HR power is likely here to stay, the batting average is not. With the revamped lineup in Detroit, owners will be paying for a 30 HR – .300 BA average catcher. You will know that a 20 HR, .260 season is much more likely and will draft accordingly.
Dashed on the fantasy season last season with his tantalizing stolen base potential, but I have him on this list to take note of the warning signs. He only converted on 64% of his stolen base attempts, a number that could change the color of his green light if it doesn’t improve. On top of that, his abnormally high BABIP from last season warns of a regression in 2012. And as the old saying goes, you can’t steal first base.