Welcome back to Patience or Panic, where I tried to read the rotten tea leaves of the league’s most frustrating players and try to assess whether you should sound the alarms or keep calm and carry on. The reality is, it’s generally folly to assume any of these players will end the season with normal-looking numbers at this point, as that would be gambler’s fallacy. But nobody wants to be the guy to sell low on a player right before they figure things out again, so let’s see if there is reason to hold out hope for these downtrodden few.
Carlos Gonzalez – .227 AVG, 5 HR, 32 R, 19 RBI, 1 SB in 241 PA
Especially on a team where even a guy like Mark Reynolds can experience a resurgence, it’s all the more frustrating to watch a supposed superstar go nearly 250 plate appearances while getting outproduced by Andrelton SImmons and Jed Lowrie (not to knock them, they’ve been great). He hasn’t been any better in the month of June either, with just 1 Home Run and a .160 AVG. If there’s anything to point to in the positive direction, you could say his 6/7 BB/K ratio in June is showing improvement, and his 10.8% BB% is a career best and his 19.9% K rate is the best since 2012. But the quality of his contact has been the major issue, as his 29.9% Hard Contact against 20.4% Soft Contact% is far below his career rates, while he’s also hitting the lowest FB rate since 2012 and a a nearly 50% GB%. With those rates, his 9.4% HR/FB may not regress to the level the optimists hope it will. At 31, it’s probably folly to assume the star is washed up, but he’s right in that middle ground where both optimists and pessimists have strong arguments. But I think he’s just not worth the name value and I’ll be in the PANIC camp.
Kyle Schwarber – .167 AVG, 10 HR, 26 R, 25 RBI, 0 SB in 223 PA
It was hard to know whether to value Schwarber as a star or merely an elite power bat, but even the most pessimistic expert didn’t expect him to look as bad as Ryan Schimpf. But here were are, and while it’s nice to see he can still hit for power, he hasn’t hit for much of anything else. But if you just look at the K/BB, you wouldn’t expect such an extreme Avg. as his 30.5% K rate, while not good, is softened by a strong 13.7% BB%. Then again, while the .197 BABIP screams positive regression, Schwarb might not get a major bailout with his 46.8% FB rate and 16.8% IFFB rate, which remind me of one Todd Frazier. But what’s different are his contact rates, in which his 81.3% Z-Contact% and 11.0% K rate are career best marks, and indicate he should be striking out less. The reality is he won’t return to his inflated draft day value as the league’s power bonanza has made that a more common and therefore less valuable skillset. But since the power is there and it seems like the average should be more palatable from here on out, I’d exercise PATIENCE since he’ll launch plenty more schwarbirds over the fence.
Matt Joyce – .198 AVG, 7 HR, 26 RBI, 21 R, 1 SB
Granted, he doesn’t possess the name value of some of the others on this list, but we was acquired by the A’s to be their cleanup hitter, and instead needed someone to clean up his mess. But despite the scary surface numbers that indicate his 2016 half-season surge was a fluke, I l still believe he’s mostly the same hitter as the 2016 version, but just with worse luck. as he still has a reduced but still good 32.5% Hard% (36.0% in 2016) countered by a reduced Soft of 13.5% (17.1% in 2016). He’s also hitting more flyballs at 40.5%, and a career-low 2.0% IFFB% (career is 11.1%). His plate discipline numbers are also just as good this year as last, as he has kept his O-Swing% under 20% with similar contact rates, so that walk rate, so his already good OBP should climb higher still. And Joyce should continue to hit for significant power with a 8.7% Barrel/BBE and 93.3 mph eV on FB/LD. His BABIP has made him among the unluckiest hitters in baseball, with a .260 xBABIP compared to his .209 actual BABIP. While you can probably do better in shallow a 12-team mixed leagues, in AL-only and deeper OBP leagues you should exercise PATIENCE.
Kevin Gausman – 3-4, 5.86 ERA, 1.788 WHIP, 47 Ks in 66 IP
Gausman carried a ton of preseason hype going into 2017 after a lights-out finish to 2017, but he’s been bloodying up fantasy teams so bad they need gauze, man. With only more than 5 Ks in one start all season (against Washington, no less), combined with a merely average 4.41 K/9 and mediocre 3.82 BB/9, his struggles certainly indicate more than just bad luck. If there’s anything good in his profile, it’s that he appears healthy as the velocity of his fastball and other pitches has remained remarkably consistent. But the main culprit appears to be related to his KO pitch, his splitter, which with a .274 BAA (last year was .208), has performed more like a gentle parry. With his best weapon nerfed, the fastball has been hit harder and his slider downright walloped, with a .407 BAA and only a 6.3% Swstr%. Oof. And yet, instead of scrapping that, he all but scapped his two-seamer, thrown only 3 times all year after throwing it 144 times in 2016. While he could round back into form if he can regain feel for the splitter, I think based on the numerous concerning things in his profile, I’d be in PANIC mode, though with his youth and perceived upside, there may be someone foolhardy enough to take interest in him.
Masahiro Tanaka – 5-6, 6.55 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, 58 Ks in 66 IP
He hasn’t lived up to his name thus far, as he’s pitched much more like a MasaZero. The strange thing is, nobody really knows why. I mean, yes, he has an extensive injury history, but the velocity on all his pitches has been fine. And unlike Gausman, the problem isn’t that he stopped missing bats, as his 12.7% Swstr% is stronger than he posted in 2015 or 2016. And he gave owners hope with a 13 K gem recently, only to follow it up with another clunker. Now, a 23.3% HR/FB is horrendous, but it’s not like he’s giving up a freakish amount of Hard Contact at 34.7%, which is still not good but not bad enough to justify that rate, and his 34% FB rate is also in line with his career norms. Like Gausman, Tanaka needs to regain command of the splitter, but unlike him, he’s still getting Ks with low walk rates and recently showed what he can do when everything is working. While he’s probably not going to make a full rebound as a top-25 pitcher the rest of the way, I still believe he should perform at least like a top 50 pitcher, and considering how little you’d get for him at this point, it’s wise to exercise PATIENCE and hope this begins his journey to no longer get Tanakked around and once more becoming a MasaHero.