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Behind the Numbers: Second-Half Duds

David Regan

David Regan

David Regan is a five-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner, and was named the 2010 Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year.

If you had one or more of these guys across multiple leagues as I do, it's possible that your teams' second halves aren't going as well as you hoped. The more of these players you owned from April-June and then sold high on the better. There might still be hope for some of them, however. Let's look at a player (or more) from each position.

Note: Stats are through Monday's action.

Devin Mesoraco (C-CIN)

.212/.291/.385, 4 HR, 18 RBI

This analyst rode Mesoraco and Jonathan Lucroy in an NL-only two-catcher league to glory over the season's first half, but the wheels have fallen off a bit somewhat. Lucroy hasn't cratered to this extent, though his .793 second-half OPS isn't helping his NL MVP chances. Mesoraco HAS cratered, as after batting .304/.375/.609 in the first half, well, you see the second-half numbers above. Call it regression to the mean or attribute it to the wear and tear of catching, but Mesoraco hasn't been the same, particularly in August where he's batting .191. Here, though, are Mesoraco's first and second half BABIPs:

1st: .341
2nd: .243

That helps explain the batting average decline, as a .341 BABIP for a catcher likely wasn't going to be sustainable. Where is the power, though? With a .304 first-half ISO and a .173 second-half mark, Mesoraco isn't hitting for the power he showed earlier in the year (though .173 is far from awful). A few more ground balls is part of the narrative, but more so are his HR/FB% splits: 23.9 percent first half and 12.9 percent in the second half. Historically, 11 percent has been about average, so an ISO in the .180 range in September sounds about right. If I were to project Mesoraco the rest of the year as well as for 2015, I'd go with something in the .260/.340/.440 range. Solid enough for a catcher, but far from the guy we saw from April-June.

Chris Davis (1B-BAL)

.167/.244/.395, 7 HR, 13 RBI

Well, this hasn't gone well. Davis was likely a low first-round pick in a lot of drafts this year after bashing 53 homers a year ago, but so far in 2014, Davis has hit just 22 while batting .190. It's easy to attribute the batting average decline to a .240 BABIP, a mark that clocked in at .336 a year ago, but is there more to the story? Davis is actually hitting more line drives this year than last, and while his GB% is up a tick, it's still a reasonable 33.9 percent. Fewer of his flyballs are leaving the yard this season, but a 22-percent HR/FB rate is still well above league average and in line with his 22.4-percent career mark. The walks are still there, and though Davis' strikeout rate is up to 34.1 percent, it was 29.6 percent last year, so that's not the entire story.

The real story lies in the PITCHf/x data. Davis is still hammering fastballs, though not to last year's extent, but he's seeing fewer, and pitchers are getting him out consistently with breaking stuff and changeups. Perhaps he's not seeing those pitches as well or isn't keeping his hands back consistently, but teams are noticing and taking advantage. Whether Davis can adjust will be the big question, but I'm writing him off this year.



Rougned Odor (2B-TEX)

.228/.262/.333, 2 HR, 10 RBI

Odor had just 62 games above A-ball prior to getting the call this year, and though hasn't been a great fantasy option, batting .247/.282/.367 with five home runs in 306 PA, the fact he's done this at age 20 is pretty impressive. His 3.6 BB% should improve over time, and Odor's 81-percent contact rate is excellent given his age, but the Rangers felt that with the injury to Jurickson Profar, that they needed to rush Odor to the big leagues. Long term, that may be the best thing for his development, but he's of little fantasy value outside of AL-only formats.

Brandon Crawford (SS-SF)

.192/.283/.260, 1 HR, 13 RBI, 1 SB

I never thought Crawford was going to be a Ripkenesque force at shortstop, but in his age 27 season, I was at least hoping for a stop forward offensively. It just hasn't happened. Crawford has recorded remarkably similar slash lines the last three years:

2012 - .248/.304/.349
2013 - .248/.311/.363
2014 - .228/.312/.370

Oddly, the left-handed hitting Crawford is batting .283 versus southpaws and .201 against righties this year after batting .199 and .269, respectively, a year ago - essentially reversing his 2013 splits in 2014. Whenever I see a left-handed hitter making this sort of progressing hitting southpaws, it makes me optimistic that we're seeing true progress. I wouldn't expect more than his normal production the rest of this year, but I do think Crawford can take a step forward into .260/.325/.400 territory next season.

Lonnie Chisenhall (3B-CLE)

.187/.250/.271, 2 HR, 6 RBI

I was lucky enough to sell high on Chisenhall in a mixed league about a month ago, but I had no idea the regression would be this significant. Chisenhall batted a robust .332/.396/.519 prior to the break, and now his OPS in the second half is nearly 400 points lower. A 130-point drop in BABIP is certainly part of the story, as is the fact that he's simply making weaker contact:

1st half LD%: 25.3
2nd half LD%: 18.2

Chisenhall was once one of the game's top prospects, so to see his first-half breakout left myself and others to conclude that he'd finally translated his raw skills to production. Not so fast. I think he'll settle into being a slightly above average regular next year - something in the range of .275/.340/.450.

Nelson Cruz (OF-BAL)

.164/.243/.344, 6 HR, 13 RBI

Cruz's 34 homers lead the league, so he's already been a success on a one-year $8 million deal. A .158 second-half BABIP has been the primary culprit for his falloff, but even Cruz's power is down, as his .180 ISO is 104 points lower than his first-half mark. He's hitting fewer line drives, and even his flyballs are leaving the yard at half his first-half rate, so not much is going right at the moment for Cruz. Still, he's hitting a few home runs and given the BABIP, a solid finish looks in order. It will be interesting to see what sort of contract he gets this offseason.

Charlie Blackmon (OF-COL)

.252/.310/.321, 1 HR, 8 RBI

With a .291 AVG, 15 HR and 22 SB, Blackmon has proved to be fantasy gold for lucky/astute fantasy owners this year. Year over year, Blackmon has improved his walk rate from 2.7 percent to a still-low 5.1 percent while cutting his strikeout rate from 19 percent to an excellent 14.4. That said, Blackmon is batting just .244 with one home run in his first 20 games this month, so the regression to the mean looks to have kicked in. He's striking out more and walking less since the break, though encouragingly, Blackmon's GB% has actually decreased in this half from 43.9 to 35.0. The left-handed hitting Blackmon is hitting .270 with good power against southpaws, so he shouldn't be worried about a strict platoon, so I'm optimistic that a solid September is in order. I don't see too many more All-Star appearances in his future, but Blackmon should at least continue to be an average regular.

Jay Bruce (OF-CIN)

.203/.263/.317, 4 HR, 14 RBI, 3 SB

Yeah, I really thought THIS was the year Bruce broke out for .270-40-120, so I was a bit too heavily invested in his 2014. After a .719 OPS first half, Bruce has been even worse since the break, making Billy Hamilton look like Babe Ruth in the process. His strikeout rate has stayed relatively constant and sits at 26.4 percent for the year, while Bruce's walk rate has dropped a couple points to 7.5 percent in the second half. Worse, though, is a 10-point increase in his second-half GB% to 54.5 while for the year, Bruce has hit southpaws at just a .170 clip. He finds himself at a bit of a crossroads, as though Bruce is signed through the 2016 season with a 2017 option, he's far from a lock to be part of the organization's future. He's going to need to figure things out this winter and spring for me to invest much of anything next year.

Stephen Strasburg (SP-WAS)

3-4, 3.93 ERA, 9.5 K/9, 2.5 BB/9

A sub-4.00 certainly isn't awful, but for most fantasy squads, Strasburg is their No. 1 starter and hasn't been performing at that level. Strasburg is averaging little more than six innings a start since the break, and despite the Nationals' winning streak, three wins in eight starts is disappointing. That said, his strikeout and walk rates are excellent, and Strasburg's 3.03 xFIP is probably more of an indicator on what we can expect. Strasburg barring injury is going to toss more than 200 innings for the first time in his career, and he's likely to do so with a K/9 greater than 10.0 and a BB/9 in the 2.0 range, so it's still an excellent season, but being this is Strasburg, we're expecting more.

Jake Odorizzi (SP-TB)

4-3, 4.81 ERA, 9.2 K/9, 2.3 BB/9

The Rays' pitching factory rolls on. The team is getting great second-half efforts from the likes of Drew Smyly and Chris Archer, though Odorizzi has been a bit of a disappointment in recent starts. That said, his xFIP in the second half is 3.88 and though his strikeout rate is down from his 10.3 mark in the first half, he's still missing plenty of bats, and his walks have become less frequent (3.5 BB/9 in first half). Odorizzi has had some excellent second-half starts, but he's also had these two clunkers:

Aug. 3 vs. LAA - 3 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 1 K
Aug. 25 at BAL - 4 IP, 11 H, 8 ER, 4 HR, 1 BB, 3 K

The inconsistency is mildly concerning given Odorizzi relies more on location than velocity, as if the location is off, it appears his raw stuff isn't always able to save him. I'm still optimistic given the strikeout rate, but with a 31.4 GB%, he's going to have a poor start here and there unless he can do a better job keeping the ball in the park.

Casey Janssen (RP-TOR)

0-1, 5 saves, 6.59 ERA, 4.6 K/9, 3.3 BB/9

Janssen has blown two of seven save opportunities since the All-Star break, though he does not appear to be in danger of losing his job just yet. Janssen's first/second half splits though are pretty stark:

1st half - 1.23 ERA, .217/.226/.265, 5.7 K/9, 0.41 BB/9, 0.0 HR/9
2nd half - 6.59 ERA, .316/.377/.625, 4.6 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 3.3 HR/9

The home runs immediately stand out, of course, as Janssen has allowed five HR in 13.2 second-half innings and combined with more walks, the results haven't been pretty. It would be easy to say that he'll turn things around given Janssen had no worse than a 2.56 ERA from 2011-2013, but his strikeout rate has cratered this year from last year's 8.5 to 2014's 5.3, and it's equally concerning to see his GB% trend:

2011 - 47.3
2012 - 42.5
2013 - 47.9
2014 - 35.0

It may be mechanical, but it's getting a bit late in the season to make any sort of adjustments. Should the Jays need to replace Janssen, candidates would include Aaron Loup, Brett Cecil, rookie Aaron Sanchez and now-healthy ex-closer Sergio Santos. No obvious candidate stands out among this group, so continue to monitor Toronto's bullpen usage, especially if Janssen's struggles continue.