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As June comes to a close, we can reasonably start to look at some year-end stat totals given a player’s year to date pace. Let’s look at the Triple Crown possibilities.

Miguel Cabrera, in the AL, ranks second in batting average, tied for eighth in home runs, and leads in RBI.

There are two legit candidates in the NL, Paul Goldschmidt and Bryce Harper. Goldschmidt ranks first in batting average, tied for fourth in home runs, and tied for third in RBIs. The young phenom Harper ranks third, second, and tied for third in the relevant categories.

Cabrera achieved the Triple Crown three years ago and that was the first time it had occurred since 1967. Given the pedigree and tremendous abilities of these three hitters, history may be made once again in 2015.

We start off this week’s Fantasy Lookout with a venture into the fiasco that is the Toronto bullpen. We then will see if a certain hitter in the Bay Area can maintain his career year pace. A rookie pitcher in the Big Apple appears to be struggling; however, looks can be deceiving. Finally, we take a deep dive into team hitting stats against both right handed and left handed pitchers.

Issues in the Great White North

The Toronto Blue Jays can hit. Their lineup basically looks like a team of nine Babe Ruths given the pitching generation that we are in. Their MLB leading run total is 64 runs more than the second place Yankees. To put that into perspective, the Yankees have scored 60 more runs than the 23rd ranked Indians. The gap between first and second is larger the than the gap between second and 23rd! Crazy.

The Toronto bullpen is a mess. Pitching has been an issue for the Jays all year. The starters have the fifth worst ERA in baseball, while their relievers have the 13th worst ERA. The bullpen has also blown 12 saves already this year, which ranks as the third highest total in MLB. In addition, their closer role appears to be currently in flux. Let’s look at the possible candidates.

Player IP ERA WHIP K-BB% BABIP LOB% LD% Hard% Contact% SwStr%
Roberto Osuna 34 2.12 0.91 22.6% .247 75.2% 23.2% 20.7% 72.4% 13.3%
Steve Delabar 18 1.50 0.83 17.9% .132 100.0% 9.8% 30.0% 72.3% 13.9%
Brett Cecil 22.2 5.96 1.37 17.4% .316 65.7% 15.0% 34.4% 69.5% 13.8%
Liam Hendriks 32.2 2.76 1.04 22.0% .295 71.4% 22.2% 24.4% 80.9% 9.6%
Aaron Loup 27.2 4.88 1.01 19.6% .276 52.2% 21.8% 27.8% 78.4% 9.5%

Brett Cecil, who has been the closer and lost the job on two different occasions already this year, has continued to pitch poorly. On Monday, he was given the night off, due to recent usage, and Roberto Osuna came in for a two inning save, striking out five Rays in the process. On Tuesday, Cecil was officially replaced by the dreaded committee. If Osuna grabs the reins, he will be the second 20 year old closer that the Jays have used this year.

For now, I think the closer role is between Osuna and Delabar. Hendriks and Loup are longshots at best, especially when you consider their game usage. However, given that the Jays appear to be all in, I think a trade for a veteran closer is very likely. Jonathan Papelbon, Tyler Clippard, and Francisco Rodriguez are rumoured to be on the move. I think I would stay away from the Jays pen if possible, but if I had to rank the most likely current closers for the rest of the year I would choose Osuna, Delabar, then Cecil.

Brandon Belt, 1B, San Francisco Giants

Overall
Year BB% K% AVG BABIP LD% GB% FB% HR/FB% Pull% Hard%
2015 10.1% 27.5% .266 .347 34.0% 33.3% 32.7% 17.3% 37.7% 44.7%
Career 9.7% 24.2% .268 .334 24.0% 36.6% 39.5% 12.1% 40.9% 33.7%
vs LH
Year BB% K% AVG BABIP LD% GB% FB% HR/FB% Pull% Hard%
2015 10.2% 38.8% .140 .250 25.0% 41.7% 33.3% 0.0% 20.8% 54.2%
Career 7.7% 26.1% .253 .325 24.1% 36.0% 39.9% 10.5% 36.9% 31.7%
vs RH
Year BB% K% AVG BABIP LD% GB% FB% HR/FB% Pull% Hard%
2015 10.0% 24.9% .296 .365 35.6% 31.9% 32.6% 20.5% 40.7% 43.0%
Career 10.5% 23.6% .273 .337 23.9% 36.7% 39.3% 12.6% 42.2% 34.4%

When you look at Brandon Belt’s overall headline numbers, nothing screams out at you from a line of .266 AVG with 9 HR, 33 R, 30 RBI, and 2 SB. At his current pace, he would just slightly exceed his career highs in home runs, runs, and RBI. When you dig a little deeper, two very interesting trends present themselves. First, overall, he is tearing the cover off of the ball. He ranks first in all of baseball in terms of line drive rate and second in terms of Hard%. That combination usually leads to strong BABIP and a decent home run total. His flyball rate is below his career mark, so his home run total is not materially higher, despite his above average HR/FB ratio.

The second trend is Belt’s sudden inability to hit left handed pitching. For his career, he is hitting only 20 points lower vs southpaws; however, this year that has ballooned to nearly 160 points. Basically, all of his counting stats have come against right handed pitching. Of his 49 plate appearances against lefties, Belt has recorded a grand total of two RBIs. His 204 plate appearances against righties has produced all nine of his home runs and 28 RBI.

I think Belt is due for a great remainder of the year. Given his career ability to hit lefties and his current focus of pounding the ball, I predict he will finish the season with career highs in home runs, runs, and RBIs. Watch for him to approach 25 HR and 90 runs and RBIs. He is definitely a player I would target in a trade.

Noah Syndergaard, SP, New York Mets

Month IP ERA WHIP K-BB% BABIP LOB% LD% Hard% HR/FB
May 24.2 1.82 1.05 16.8% .278 74.2% 19.4% 27.4% 3.6%
June 20.0 6.75 1.65 22.8% .439 60.4% 22.8% 21.7% 20.0%
Total 44.2 4.03 1.38 19.7% .349 66.8% 20.9% 24.8% 9.3%

Thor has had an unlucky start to his major league career. Among starters who have pitched a minimum of 40 innings, his LOB% ranks as the 22nd lowest and his BABIP ranks as the 11th highest. He has done a very good job limiting hard contact with a respectable line drive rate and the 23rd lowest Hard%. This has all been achieved with a K-BB% ratio that ranks just outside the top 20, just ahead of studs including Cueto, Bumgarner, Hamels, Greinke, and Price.

As you can see with the monthly splits above, his peripherals have been better in June while his luck has gone the other way. Do not be fooled by Syndergaard’s headline numbers, he has pitched well and I expect his numbers the rest of the way will improve. I think a low 3’s ERA, a WHIP around 1.20, and a lot of strikeouts would be more consistent with his underlying figures.

Deep Dive: Team OPS with Splits

In this week’s deep dive, we look at the updated team hitting stats with both right handed and left handed splits. I again used OPS as an overall gauge of a team’s hitting prowess. The charts below contain the top and bottom five hitting teams for both splits.

Team OPS vs RH Team OPS vs LH
Dodgers .798 Blue Jays .866
Rockies .774 Marlins .788
Blue Jays .768 Cubs .759
Yankees .761 Tigers .757
Cardinals .758 Reds .746
Team OPS vs RH Team OPS vs LH
Marlins .664 Cardinals .658
White Sox .664 Brewers .655
Mets .661 Athletics .646
Mariners .650 Braves .619
Phillies .635 White Sox .554

 

A few things jump out. Avoid pitchers going against the Blue Jays whenever possible, they can hit and they do not discriminate. They crush lefties, and righties do not fare much better. They are the only team that ranks in the top five against both types of pitchers.

The Cardinals and the Marlins are mirror opposites. The Red Birds devour the righties, while they struggle against the southpaws. The Fish hit well against the lefties while they sputter when a righty is on the hill.

The White Sox are brutal; they cannot hit anything thrown by any pitcher. Stream anyway, regardless of any split.

Nearly three months into another great baseball season, 2015 has been dominated by the seemingly weekly announcement of the call-up of another top prospect showcasing generational talent. Many of these future stars are off to great starts already. However, a trio of present day stars; a vet hanging on to his peak, a stud entering his peak, and a kid just starting his much anticipated breakout, have put all of baseball and its fans on Triple Crown watch. Until next week’s Fantasy Lookout, enjoy the games!

Data courtesy of www.fangraphs.com

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