I don’t often watch Red Sox games, despite living three miles from Fenway Park, but Sunday night’s date with the Angels carried major fantasy implications for me, so I was locked in. At one point the much written about Jose Iglesias strode to the plate, and the discussion in the booth inevitably turned to his newfound ability to hit baseballs.
Like, really frequently, even for a major league player. He’s really been hitting lots of baseballs, and this is something that is quite new.
Then John Kruk said something like this (some modest paraphrasing employed):
Jose Iglesias used to not be able to hit at all. Literally he could not lift his arms high enough to hold a bat. He would just stand there at the plate, looking longingly into the distance while tears rolled down his cheeks and fastballs zipped by. He was powerless. He was lost. Then he met Dustin Pedroia, and Dustin Pedroia told him to stand up more straight, not crouch so much, (it’s bad for the posture) and it’s made all the difference. Dustin Pedroia looked deep into Jose Iglesias’ eyes—nay, his soul—and recovered the hitter—nay, the person —within. All of this is what actually happened, and my name is John Kruk.
Some things I think about this:
1. Don’t the Red Sox have hitting coaches? Must Dustin Pedroia do everything?
2. Does John Kruk think Dustin Pedroia taught Jose Iglesias to have a .475 batting average on balls in play? Yes. Yes, he does. John Kruk believes Dustin Pedroia taught Jose Iglesias to have a .475 batting average on balls in play.
3. Why wasn’t this mentioned sooner? Could we not have saved Will Middlebrooks an exile to the wasteland they call Pawtucket?
4. It’s weird that John Kruk ends everything he says with “My name is John Kruk,” right? Strange fellow, that one.
5. I am mostly just grumpy because those aforementioned fantasy implications did not work out well, and I lost my match-up last week by a point differential equating to exactly 0.4056993904709641 percent. Yes, I carried it out to the 16th decimal place. That’s how angry I am. And I am taking it out on John Kruk and Jose Iglesias.
Last week my intro acted as a kiss of disabled list for Roy Oswalt, who heard a pop in his left hamstring and headed straight to the DL. So much for his luck turning around.
In the hopes of stemming further injury, and because this column is being written by a grumpy pants, let’s rain on two more parades. I promise next week I will be in a better mood.
Raul Ibanez | Seattle Mariners | OF | ESPN: 98.2 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 56 percent; CBS: 75 percent
YTD: .260/.306/.563 in 271 plate appearances
ZiPS projection: .253/.302/.516 474 plate appearances
A co-worker hit me with a fun fact yesterday: Raul Ibanez is just eight home runs shy of the single season record for a player in his 40s. Ted Williams‘ 29, from 1960, stands as the current mark. Another fun fact I found in writing this: Ibanez has hit more home runs in his 40s than he hit in his 20s. Credit to Jonah Keri via Twitter.
While Ibanez’ 22 home runs have been a fun surprise, my response was essentially “That’s nice, don’t expect it to continue.”
Ibanez’ current ISO of .303 is the best mark of his entire career, even better than the last time he had an out-of-nowhere power surge like this, his age-37 season in 2009, when he smacked 34 dingers for the Phillies. His ISO that year was .280. This season, four years later, it’s 20 points higher. And that 2009 ISO was the highest of his career by 37 percentage points. His ISO has been aided by the fact that an absurd number of flyballs are leaving the yard right now. Ibanez’ HR/FB rate of 27.5 is currently double his career average of 13.5, and nearly triple the league average of 10.8 percent.
It’s hard to imagine all of that continuing, especially when you consider that (despite moving the fences in) Safeco Field has been a home run depressant again this year. It is also troubling that Ibanez finds himself among the league leaders in Just Enough home runs, with eight.
In other words, the power pace will likely slow dramatically, and when it does Ibanez’ value will dry up. It’s been fun, I hope it continues, but if he’s on my team, I am selling. Hard.
Recommendation: Enjoy the story as a baseball fan, jump ship as a fantasy owner.
Gordon Beckham | Chicago White Sox | 2B | ESPN: 16.3 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 9 percent; CBS: 33 percent
YTD: .338/.364/.426 in 144 plate appearances
ZiPS projection: .293/.337/.406 in 381 plate appearances
When we last checked in on Beckham, my stance was that I would need to see it (
unicornsproduction) before I believed it ( unicornsproduction).
Well, a source tells me Beckham is hitting .338 right now, so do I believe it? Not really, but I am more encouraged by this profile than I have been in a long, long time.
It’s true that Beckham’s shiny average is bolstered by the fact that he has a BABIP (.391) that far exceeds his career average (.286), but most of that career has been Godawul Gordo, rather than the player we once thought he might be after burning through the minors and excelling in his first major league season, as a 22-year-old in 2009. Furthermore, Beckham is currently stroking line drives on exactly one quarter of his batted balls. That’s very good, and well above his career norms between 16 and 20 percent. He’s also striking out marginally less than in previous horrible seasons, and that’s always good news.
The bad news? Well, he isn’t hitting for any power whatsoever. His .081 ISO is (dare I say) Barmesian. He isn’t walking much, either. And if that line drive rate drops down closer to his career average, I would expect his batting average to do the same. Since that’s the only place he can provide value right now, this is all very bad news. Nobody on the White Sox is going to drive him home much these days (besides Josh Phegley), and nobody will be on base for his singles to plate, either. (Again, besides Josh Phegley.)
It is worth noting that Beckham played one game at shortstop this week, and while that won’t be a thing that continues (Alexei Ramirez had to leave the game early) if your league has one-game qualifiers for position eligibility, and Beckham can slot at short, his empty average will certainly play much better with that flexibility.
Recommendation: It’s a bit unsatisfying, but my stance here hasn’t changed much. Beckham remains firmly on my watch list, but he hasn’t shown me nearly enough to turn me into a believer. The line drive rate is encouraging, but it’s also the only thing propping up an otherwise completely useless fantasy profile.
A.J. Ellis | Los Angeles Dodgers | C | ESPN: 2.5 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 6 percent; CBS: 20 percent
YTD: .265/.356/.380 in 236 plate appearances
ZiPS projection: .260/.356/.370 in 417 plate appearances
Trying to finish on a positive note.
I’ll admit Ellis popped onto my radar for this column because I noticed he was the only starting catcher (as per CBS’ depth charts) who was unowned in my dynasty league. I’ve had poor success with catchers this season, as Welington Castillo, John Jaso and Derek Norris have been mixed levels of meh, so I went searching for someone undiscovered who might be able to help.
Ellis is not going to win any beauty pageants (in baseball sense, just go with it) but he is a steady performer who is playing a lot these days. His current line is basically exactly his career average (.267/.366/.385 in 985 career plate appearances). He walks (12.3 percent this year, 12.4 percent career), doesn’t strike out too much (19.9 percent this year, 19.4 percent career), and hits for modest power (.115 ISO this year, 118 career).
He’s also been getting the lion’s share of playing time behind the dish, in an offense that could be poised for a very big second half. He won’t blow your socks off (better?) but there’s a lot to like, and you know what you’re getting here.
Ultimately I decided he was too much like John Jaso, with fewer walks, more power, and better health, and while I like Jaso, I was looking for a bigger potential upgrade. So I traded for Buster Posey.
Recommendation: Do what I did and trade for Posey. Otherwise, hey man, consider A.J. Ellis! He does some things!