Hold or Fold: Week 5

“The hardest thing you’ll ever learn is what bridge to cross and what bridge to burn.” ~ Heart “WTF”

Stats mean what they mean. Some guys consistently outperform their underlying numbers, some consistently underperform despite excellent peripherals. As fantasy baseball players, it’s our job to determine which of these stats matter, and why they do or don’t. In other words, which players do you cross the bridge with, and which players do you burn your bridges to.

Listen, it’s the end of the first month. Struggling starters are losing their rotation jobs, closers are being replaced, hot bats are being given their due. Everything is being shaken up based on performance. Some Holds and Folds are abundantly obvious – teams are making plenty of decisions, and those decisions will guide your own. It’s all “Oh, Ervin Santana lost his job, probably should cut him” and “Luke Jackson and Emilio Pagan getting saves?” and other such things.

So, instead of telling you what even an ESPN broadcast crew could point out, I’m going to point out some stats of some overperforming and underperforming players and explain why they matter.

Fold ‘Em: Stats To Be Aware Of

Disclaimer: Fold does not mean cut. It might sometimes, but not this week. These are good, even great, players who can help you – just not as good as the numbers so far. So keep them if you want, and mind the regression, or sell high.

Jeff McNeil

Owned in 52% of Yahoo leagues, McNeil is doing his best to prove that nothing about last year was a fluke. He’s continuing his brand of high contact, high average, moderate power baseball – and he’s doing it well. I like McNeil.

That being said: there are two things to be aware of with McNeil. The first is the general playing time mess that is the Mets roster. I assume everyone is aware of this, which is why his ownership rate is so low.

The second issue would be McNeil’s BABIP which currently sits at .395. His batting average is .355. What makes this a concern is that McNeil does not walk or strike out much, meaning that most of his at-bats, roughly 83%, end up with that ball in play. That many at-bats and that much contact without elite power leave McNeil little margin for error. I think he’s good, and I think he deserves a job. But beware that BABIP mark. When he’s hot, McNeil’s quite valuable, but without power or patience to fall back on, a slump could see McNeil without a job in a hurry.

Justin Verlander

Justin Verlander is really, really good. Potentially Hall of Fame good. I’m not telling you he isn’t. But there are several red flags of regression in his performance thus far.

First, he has allowed only a .218 BABIP – the lowest mark he’s ever allowed in his career is .255 with the Tigers in 2016. Second, he’s stranding 90.9% of base-runners. Last year he stranded 85.3% and that was easily his career high. Finally, he’s allowing home runs (as is everyone really) at a career-high rate of 1.42 per 9 innings. The end result is a pitcher whose peripherals don’t support his sterling ERA. If anyone can thrive despite the peripherals, it would be Verlander. But if someone is willing to pay you like he’s an ace, you should listen.

Hold ‘Em: Regression Is Your Friend

Jameson Taillon and Carlos Carrasco

Taillon is generating decent results despite stranding less than half of his baserunners. As that number stabilizes, his results should improve further.

Carrasco is stranding only 65% of his baserunners and allowing an astonishing .420 BABIP. The strand rate should improve, but it’s the BABIP number that tells you regression is your friend here. Carrasco’s luck will either turn in his favor or shift toward neutral. If you can get him before that happens, you should. If you’ve got him, hold him tight.

Eddie Rosario

You’re already thinking about buying or selling Rosario’s 11 April home runs. Let me put that into another context for you. Rosario has hit 11 home runs . . . and the rest of his results have been unlucky.

His BABIP is a mere .200. He’s slashing .255/.305/.643 with a BABIP over 100 points below his career norm. Let that sink in. Now imagine that number starts to normalize. If you’ve got him, don’t move him unless they pay you superstar prices. If you don’t have him and can get him without paying superstar prices, you absolutely should.

 

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Seth Bias

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I'm Seth. I love baseball, especially the Braves, and rock n' roll on vinyl. Books, sandals and tacos too, though I find most of my money for those things going to vinyl these days. Once turned Prince Fielder into Justin Verlander and Paul Goldschmidt in a dynasty league. Also ashamed to say I once cut Jose Ramirez. I don't hate your favorite team unless your favorite team is the Nationals or Phillies. May or may not have cried when David Justice hit that home run in game 6 of the 95 World Series - though if you actually ask me, I'll claim I did not.

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