Monday, July 09, 2007
Second half splits and tradingPosted by Derek Carty at 12:51pm
The All-Star break is upon us. While most baseball players have the next few days off, this is a great opportunity for fantasy owners to be at their most active. As there are no games until Thursday, this is the time when fantasy owners start to examine their rosters and determine what they think they need to make a title run. I hope you have had a clear plan in mind all along and are constantly making adjustments as necessary, but not all owners do this.
The All-Star break serves as a great kick in the pants for these lazy owners. They realize that half the season is gone and that win, some changes probably need to be made. Make sure to talk with the owners in your league and find out what they are looking for. If it's a league with your friends, have them all over for the Home Run Derby tonight (or the All-Star Game tomorrow night) and lay the groundwork. Then follow up with a call tomorrow and see if you can hammer out a deal.
Second half splits
Don't be fooled by "second half splits," but be sure to use them to your advantage. Very few players are able to play better in the second half consistently, despite what many people believe. From 2004 to 2006, Ray Durham has batted .275 in the first half compared to .301 in the second half. It may appear that Durham turns it on after the All-Star break, but if we look more closely, we see that in 2004 Durham hit .287 in the first half and just .279 in the second half.
When we look at three-year, five-year, or career splits, what we are looking at is an aggregate number for each half. This does not mean that the player always hits better in one half, just that over a long period of time he happened to have done a little better in one than the other. It is perfectly reasonable to see him hit .260 one year in the second half, .340 the next, and .280 the next. Overall, he may have hit .300 in the second half over the past three years, but that does not necessarily mean he will hit well in this year's second half.
If Ray Durham—or any other player for that matter—is to perform better in the second half this year, it will not be because he is a "better second half player." For Durham, it will be because his career-low BABIP improves and because more of his shorter fly balls start clearing some fences.
First half versus second half
What is the difference between the "first half" and "second half" anyway? Let's say, for a minute, that a player does drastically change his approach in the middle of every year and can consistently go from putting up average numbers to great numbers. Why do we automatically assume that the All-Star break is when this happens?
In all honesty, the All-Star break is just an arbitrary point in time that we have gotten accustomed to using as a point of reference. Manny Ramirez started hitting better a month ago, and Durham might not start hitting better until the middle of August. But at the end of the year, we'll examine their seasons as two halves, divided at this day.
So why do we break down splits at the All-Star break? Is there some kind of magic in the air that suddenly changes players at this time every year? The answer, as I'm sure you've picked up by now, is "no." For whatever reason, though, many baseball fans seem to think something happens during these three days that can make a player perform better in the coming months. If you're lucky, you've got a few of these believers in your fantasy league.
After reading this article, make sure to look up the aggregate splits for your players and those you'll be targeting. Make sure the favorable ones are brought to the attention of the other owners in your league. Use these splits to your advantage. You don't have to believe in them to use them as a selling point in negotiations.
"Rafael Furcal is a great second-half player. Over the last three years, he's hit .314/.377/.473 in the second half and .265/.335/.391 in the first. Eric Byrnes, on the other hand, has hit just .244/.297/.404 in the second half over that span."
"Remember last year, when David Wright hit just six\ home runs in the second half? That would really hurt your team if he does that again. As the year goes on, he's bound to get tired, and Shea Stadium isn't helping him any. Carlos Pena already has 20 home runs and is showing no signs of slowing down."
Pitching stats are even better to use because of how riddled with noise they are. Any pitcher, no matter how talented, can post an ERA north of 4.00 over two and a half months. Chances are, there are a number of high-quality pitchers with seemingly poor second half splits. Be creative when trading.
I am not saying certain players will not perform better from this point on. Absolutely, a number of players will put up better numbers in the coming half than they did in the first. But the reason will not be that they "always do better in the second half."
Frank Thomas might do better because he stops getting unlucky. Ryan Freel might do better because he stays healthy. Edwin Encarnacion might do better because he gets regular playing time. Alex Gordon might do better because he's a rookie and starts to get better accustomed to the league. Milton Bradley might do better because he has switched leagues. Juan Uribe might do better because he plain old gets lucky.
And still there will be players who just play better. While there will be more than a few cases like this, the point is that trying to predict these players based on previous second halves isn't the best idea. Instead, try to predict these guys the same way we've been doing it all year. Look for those who are under-performing and have the peripheral stats to indicate that better times are ahead. Just because there is a break in the action, you shouldn't feel the urge to change your strategy or start viewing players differently than you did a week ago. Stick to your guns, and you'll be fine.
Derek Carty, 23, has also been published by NBC's Rotoworld, Sports Illustrated, FOX Sports, and USA Today. This season, he'll be contributing to FanDuel and will be linking to all of his work at DerekCarty.com. In his three years competing in expert leagues, he has won 2 titles with 4 top three finishes, including a LABR NL title in 2009, making him the youngest person to ever win a major expert league title. Derek is a proud graduate of the MLB Scouting Bureau's Scout Development Program and is a firm believer in the importance of combining stats and scouting. He welcomes questions via e-mail, Facebook, or Twitter.