I’m playing the part of a doom-monger, an inveterate pessimist and I’m in a bad mood. Instead of telling you which players I think will become the hit at your party, I’d rather tell you which ones are likely to poop in your swimming pool. Here are some frontline players that I believe are due for a second half fall.
C – Joe Mauer
This one’s pretty easy and so obvious that I was tempted to go with someone like Mike Napoli instead. Mauer’s BABIP, at .383, is going to fall, though perhaps not too far. Historically, Mauer’s had fairly high BABIPs. Mauer hits a ton of ground balls though and our stats have him at zero (0!) infield flies. Instead he has a Chris Davis-like home run per flyball rate that is about three times his normal rate. Unsurprisingly, most of his rates are starting to revert back to their expected levels.
1B – Adrian Gonzalez
Gonzalez’s numbers could go either way. So far, he’s shown a lot more patience at the plate, with a BB/K ratio double it’s normal level. His BABIP is way below his historical level, so his batting average should go up in the second half. However, his power numbers are way above normal levels and have been lately trending downwards. Considering the rest of the San Diego lineup, teams are pitching around him (which helps explain his better patience numbers). If you’re looking for walks or batting average, AG’s probably a good bet. But don’t expect the same production in the counting stats.(Special Mention: Joey Votto)
2B – Ben Zobrist and Aaron Hill
Second basemen aren’t really playing way over their collective heads this year. Zobrist and Hill are two breakout players (though Hill’s been highly touted for a while), which means that they don’t have much of a track record to go on. Zobrist has delievered on all counting stats so far, but with a HR/F rate of 23 percent, I would bet that his power numbers in the second half are going to be inferior to his first half numbers. Hill’s numbers are even better, in the sense that his BABIP seems completely sustainable and his linedrive, IF/F and groundball rates all seem normal. Still, the big question is the HR/F. At 13 percent, it isn’t at Mauer-ian or Zobrist-ian levels, but it is way above his historical levels. One way to crosscheck his HR/F rate is to look at his home runs versus his doubles. Hill hasn’t hit more extra-base hits per at-bat. Instead, many of Hill’s home runs are Fliners that in the past may have stayed in the park for doubles. This is probably a good thing, but compared to his peers (Chase Utley, Ian Kinsler and Zobrist), the HR/2B rate looks a bit high.
SS – Jason Bartlett
Bartlett’s BABIP and HR/F rates are .392 and 9.5 percent, respectively. His line drive rate is 27 percent. None of these is going to stay so high. When his batting average drops, so will his stolen base rates, since he doesn’t walk much.
3B – Brandon Inge
Inge has been fantasy gold for those that picked him and played him at catcher. His extra-base ratios are even more skewed than Hill’s—Inge has gone from a two-to-one ratio of doubles to home runs to a one-to-two. He’s not playing catcher anymore, sure, but he’s not playing the role of Ryan Howard either. (Special Mention: David Wright: will his power numbers go back up or will his BABIP fall?)
OF – Carlos Beltran and Michael Bourn
Sure, Beltran’s injured, but what about when he returns? His power numbers are below their historical rates, but I’m inclined to believe that the downturn is real and due in part to the Citi Field effect (his ISO shows a tell-tale home-road split). Meanwhile, his BABIP is way above his trend, even if we want to factor in a Citi Field effect here too. There’s not much data on Bourn, but he seems to be getting more hits than he deserves given his batting eye (low BB/K) and high line drive rate. If he can’t get on base, he can’t steal.
SP – Kevin Millwood and Matt Cain
Millwood is walk rates are up but his BABIP is down. The latter should revert to expected levels while the former may not. Mix in the Arlington stadium in the summer and, despite the fact that he’s pitching for a new contract, Millwood’s bound for trouble in the second half. Cain’s a pitcher who has always defied usual conventions on hit rates. His strikeout rate is trending down, but he seems to be pitching deeper into games. That may be helping his other numbers, though I’m not sure why that should be the case. Nevertheless, the troubling number is his strand rate, which at 86.5 percent is very high.
RP – Ryan Franklin
Franklin’s ERA is 0.79 but his FIP is 3.02 and his xFIP is 3.62. As disturbing is his strand rate and BABIP, which are a ridiculous 99.2 percent and .206, respectively.