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Stathead Sagas: Stats in the Bank (Part II)

Jack Moore

Jack Moore is a freelance sports writer based in Minneapolis who appears regularly at VICE Sports, The Guardian and Baseball Prospectus Milwaukee, among others. Follow him on Twitter @jh_moore.

Last week, I took a look at some streaking players early in the year to illustrate a statistical point: due to the stats these players already have in the bank, even if they slow down to career norms over their next 25 games or five pitching starts, they will still appear to be on a pace to obliterate their career norms or last year's totals.

This week, I'd like to take a look at it from the other direction. A litany of stars have opened the year on horrific rough stretches, making fantasy owners regret their early picks and wonder if there will be time to sell.

It also has certain owners looking to pounce, but as more and more people begin to understand the “sell high, buy low” concept, there will be more and more people adverse to becoming the next victim to it. The question is how patient can these players be? If you can wait and see for 25 games, can you grab a player returning to normal who is still dragged down by his early slump? Obviously it depends on the owner, but it could be worth a shot.

Here are some notable early-round picks who have really struggled out of the gate and what their stat lines could look like in 25 games with normal performance:

Albert Pujols, 1B, LAA
Current: 12-45 (.267), 4 R, 4 RBI, 0 HR, 0 SB
Projected: 179-580, 112 R, 111 RBI, 40 HR, 11 SB
With 25 games: 41-139 (.295), 22 R, 22 RBI, 7 HR, 1 SB

With Pujols, we can illustrate this concept with his performance last week. He entered the Angels' fourth game of the season hitting just 3-for-14 (.214). Since then, he has hit in every Angels game at a 9-for-31 (.290) clip, but his initial four-game slump is still dragging him down by 23 points of batting average.

The power may be a bigger concern, as we would have expected Pujols to have three or four home runs by now. But if he gets back on his pace and hits six by mid-May, owners should be prepared to buy. If you're lucky, you'll be able to pay for his weak home run pace to begin the season and be rewarded with his normal torrid 40-homer pace once he's safely on your roster.

Giancarlo Stanton, OF, MIA
Current: 9-38 (.237), 3 R, 4 RBI, 0 HR, 0 SB
Projected: 148-552 (.268), 89 R, 104 RBI, 40 HR, 4 SB
With 25 games: 33-127 (.260), 17 R, 21 RBI, 6 HR, 1 SB

Stanton's situation with regards to power is very similar to Pujols'. However, when it comes to batting average, what we're seeing from Stanton so far isn't terribly different from what we'll get when he heats up and gets going. He simply strikes out too much to consistently hit for average – he struck out 166 times in 2011 and has eight strikeouts in 38 at-bats already this season. If anything, this may make his owner more willing to sell if late May or early June comes and he's still in single-digits with home runs.

Brandon Phillips, 2B, CIN
Current: 5-25 (.200), 2 R, 0 RBI, 0 HR, 0 SB
Projected: 176-611 (.288), 93 R, 77 RBI, 18 HR, 17 SB
With 25 games: 34-125 (.272), 17 R, 13 RBI, 3 HR, 3 SB

Phillips has gotten off to such a slow start that he hasn't even managed to luck into a few counting stats, like a run here off a fielder's choice or an RBI there off an error. His spot near the top of the order should allow him to correct his batting average relatively quickly, but his counting numbers are going to be towards the bottom of the league for a while because of his struggles early on and the few games he missed due to injury.

Aramis Ramirez, 3B, MIL
Current: 4-39 (.103), 5 R, 5 RBI, 0 HR, 2 SB
Projected: 154-510 (.302), 78 R, 98 RBI , 27 HR, 1 SB
With 25 Games: 33-133 (.248). 19 R, 23 RBI, 5 HR, 2 SB

Ramirez is mired in one of the majors’ deepest slumps, and the Brewers relative lack of depth in the infield hasn’t really allowed for any time off. As such, even a prolonged solid streak of his typical .300 batting average isn’t going to make enough of a dent to really shine. He has managed to pull off a few RBIs and runs in his slump, effectively making him the opposite of Phillips – his rates will suffer for a while, and if owners are scared off by a .230-.240 average in mid-May, he could be a worthy target.

Tim Lincecum, SP, SF
Current: 13.2 IP, 0 W, 16 K, 10.54 ERA , 1.902 WHIP
Projected: 219 IP, 14 W, 204 K, 2.88 ERA, 1.169 WHIP
With 5 Starts: 47 IP, 2 W, 47 K, 5.17 ERA, 1.378 WHIP

Gloom and doom is all that surrounds Big Time Timmy Jim right now, and with that stat line, it’s easy to understand why. With pitchers, it’ll be tougher to fool owners into not noticing a player getting back on track – with hitters, it’s a gradual crawl towards their old numbers, whereas with starters each outing makes up a relatively big percentage of their statistics to-date. Still, Lincecum is going to be staring at ugly rates until possibly the All-Star break even if he does return to his old form.

Jon Lester, SP, BOS
Current: 17 IP, 0 W, 12 K, 5.82 ERA, 1.529 WHIP
Projected: 202 IP, 18 W, 197 K, 3.21 ERA, 1.203 WHIP
With 5 Starts: 48.1 IP, 3 W, 42 K, 4.47 ERA, 1.324 WHIP

With Lester, the problem isn’t three bad starts, it’s one horrendous one coming Tuesday night against Texas. Tacking on seven runs and ten hits plus/walks in just two innings kills the rate stats. Take those two innings out of Lester’s hypothetical 48.1 total, and we’re looking at 46.1 IP with a 3.30 ERA and a 1.165 WHIP. Most likely Texas is just a good offense that was caught on a very hot night – there doesn’t appear to be much reason for concern with Lester just yet.

Yu Darvish, SP, TEX
Current: 11.1 IP, 1 W, 9 K, 4.76 ERA, 2.206 WHIP
Projected: 201 IP, 13 W, 191 K, 3.22 ERA, 1.149 WHIP
With 5 Starts: 43.2 IP, 3 W, 40 K, 3.71 ERA, 1.414 WHIP

Perhaps we were a bit optimistic on how unhittable Darvish would be in the majors. Regardless, his ugly WHIP will stay with him for much of the season. Be sure to look at his starts on an individual basis going forward, particularly over his next two or three outings. He has to make adjustments to pitching to hitters in the major leagues who have an easier time catching up to his fastball, particularly when he tries to bust them inside.

Dan Haren, SP, LAA
Current: 17 IP, 0 W, 14 K, 4.76 ERA, 1.588 WHIP
Projected: 236 IP, 15 W, 205 K, 3.57 ERA, 1.161 WHIP
With 5 Starts: 51.2 IP, 2 W, 44 K, 3.85 ERA, 1.314 WHIP

Although Haren is on a cold streak, the majority of his issues in terms of fantasy scoring can be attributed to a bullpen that has blown two leads in three games. As such, he’s probably already doomed to a mediocre win total this season, but his ERA and WHIP should recover pretty quickly. They won’t be of the elite sort that he is capable of producing, but Haren is one slumping pitcher whose statistical blemishes could be covered in a hurry.