Patience or Panic 6/19 – Story, Lucroy, Machado

Welcome back to Patience or Panic, where this week we’re examining a slew of hitters who are particularly tough to pin down. That’s because instead of being all-around disastrous, there...

Welcome back to Patience or Panic, where this week we’re examining a slew of hitters who are particularly tough to pin down. That’s because instead of being all-around disastrous, there are positives mixed in with their negatives, and it can be hard to make sense of what it all means in the big picture.  Well, in the big picture, all of this means nothing, since it’s just a game to distract us temporarily from the harrowing realization that life is meaningless.  But let’s not get that big picture, because fantasy baseball is way more fun than Camus.  So let’s do a deep dive on these big names and see if there are hidden treasures to be discovered, or if they are just old boots caught on the fishing line.

Trevor Story – .221 AVG, 9 HR, 29 R, 27 RBI, 2 SB in 190 AB

Despite the amazing numbers last year, if you were hoping for repeat production, you can cry me a Trevor.  See?  You can avoid the low-hanging fruit puns on his last name, so let’s raise the bar here.  Now, on the one hand, there seems to be causes for optimism, since his K rate of 32.9% is only slightly worse than his 31.3% mark in 2016, and his walk rate of 12.0% is an improvement over his 8.9% previous mark.  While that still isn’t good, with massive power, it’s certainly workable to be a contributor to fantasy teams, especially at Shortstop.  And especially for a hitter playing half his games in Coors Field, it’s generally a good strategy. But Travis Sawchik wrote back in May how Trevor Story may be overdoing his flyball-heavy approach, and that really hasn’t changed as he’s hitting a whopping 57% FB% to just 24.4% GB% and 18.5% LD%, compared to a still extreme but less outrageous 47.1% FB% in 2016.  Flyballs have the lowest expected BABIP of the Batted Ball types, and hitting balls in the air which aren’t meant to be hit as flies has increased his infield fly ball rate to 14.7%, nearly double his 2016 mark.  All of which is to say, that his current .300 BABIP, even while playing at Coors, shouldn’t be expected to have positive regression.  But the biggest reason for his decline is just not being able to match his excellent 44% Hard Hit Rate, as his 34% mark, while still good, is hardly exceptional, and his 90.0 mph eV, 93.2 mph eV on FB/LD, and 11.3% Barrel/BBE, while perfectly cromulent, are far from exceptional and below the likes of, say, Hunter Renfroe and Steven Souza.  What I suspect is that he over-performed in his rookie year, since he was never projected as having that level of extreme power in the minors, even for Coors.  Then pitchers adjusted, and instead of making a counter-adjustment, he just doubled down on his flawed approach.  His power could regress to hit 12-15 HR ROS, but I would not expect him to hit over .245 from here on out with only a handful of Stolen Bases, so while I’m currently holding and benching him in the writers’ league (12-team), I think it’s reasonable to PANIC.

Jonathan Lucroy – .269 AVG, 4 HR, 16 R, 18 RBI, 0 SB in 193 AB

Admittedly, Lucroy was looking much worse a month ago, but owners hoping for another 20+ homer season are probably Lucrying themselves to sleep.  Just four tates does not look good, and the worst thing is, he doesn’t deserve better.  His 3.5% Barrel/BBE is right there with Nick Markakis (puke), and his 86.2 mph eV and 89.1 mph on FB/LD, and his 23% Hard Hit% is just AWFUL.  The weird thing is that this might be intentional, as his Z-Contact is way up at 97.0%, which would lead the league if he qualified, causing his K rate to drop to a Betts-ian 8.5%.  So whereas many hitters are selling out for power, it seems Lucroy might be trying to sell out for contact.  But unlike Mookie, Lucroy doesn’t derive as much benefit from a contact-heavy approach since he’s slow and in Texas and WHAT THE BLAZERS IS HE THINKING?  Now he’s been prone to long slumps before, and while the lack of velocity is concerning, at least he is making enough contact that he can adjust.  But most of it has been on worm-killers, with a career-high 52% GB%, with career-low 18.9% LD% and 28.9% FB%.  He may still hit for a .290 AVG. from here on out, but it’s likely to come with single-digit homers.  Now that more hits are falling in, I’d shop him, since the issues with his batted-ball profile and power indicate this is more than just bad luck, and perhaps he’s playing hurt.  Someone in your league might be assuming he’ll come back around to his 2016 self, so talk to him, since I’m a step and a half over on the PANIC side.

Manny Machado.215 AVG, 13 HR, 29 R, 31 RBI, 4 SB in 246 AB

Well, on the bright side, 12 Homers isn’t too shabby.  But also, this is Manny Freakin’ Machado, you know, the guy who was taken in the second round of most drafts, and the first for especially bullish owners.  And he’s hitting .214.  You could say this is the Anti-Lucroy story, in that his power is doing pretty great, with a career-high 39.5% Hard Hit% and 93.4 mph eV (98.5 mph FB/LD eV).  But along with that is a career-worst, and surprisingly bad 13.2 LD%, and a career-high 17.9% IFFB.  It seems he may have been trying to join the launch angle revolution, as it’s one of the only plausible explanations for such a young player upping their FB rate to a career-high 44.4% but with a big dip in contact with a career-worst Z-Contact% of 83.1% (Career 87.8%) and career-high 12.2% Swstr% (career 9.3%).  The good news is that the power numbers should improve, as he deserves better than his current 15.5% HR/FB with his hard hitting, and he should hit some more liners going forward as that’s a rather volatile stat.  And I still believe he should eclipse 30 Homers on the season, with some stolen bags to boot.  The average may be more in the .260-.270 range than the .290 we’ve become accustomed to, but you’re best off showing PATIENCE and soon he’ll make your team healthier than tea with Matcha-do.

Rick Porcello3-9, 5.05 ERA, 1.532 WHIP, 85 K in 92 2/3 IP

After winning the Cy last year, his performance lately sure has been poor…cello.  Maybe he needs to bury the trophy under the mound at Fenway to reverse the curse.  His last two outings have been particularly brutal, but his numbers had been declining since earlier in May.  While he actually is sporting a career best 8.26 K/9 and a strong 1.75 BB/9, he’s giving up hits like crazy, with a .366 BABIP His Hard Contact was at 41% a few starts ago, and now it’s a league-worst 43.1%.  That’s a major aberration from his career 28% Hard Hit%, and it’s not encouraging that it’s coming with a career-low 37% GB% and career-high 40.8% FB%.  So his 12.7% HR/FB might actually be lucky.  That said, he’s inducing the same amount of Soft Contact at 16.4% (Career 16.9%).  From all of this, it would be fair to assume that his velocity is down, and that he’s not striking out as many batters.  And you would be wrong.  In fact, his 10.2% Swstr% is the best of his career, his fastball velocity is the same at 91.0 mph as normal, and his pitch mix also hasn’t changed substantially.  The problem may be at least partially that Porcello is getting too much of the plate by trying to establish first-pitch strikes, and batters are expecting it… His 68.4% F-Strike% is a career-best, but it’s also being met by a career-high 71.1% Z-Swing% against (career 64.3%), whereas the O-Swing rate hasn’t changed, so he’d probably benefit from being less Musgrove-y and throwing more pitches out of the zone to keep hitters honest.  It might take a few more starts to figure out how to be good again, but it seems that he’s healthy and just needs a few tweaks to fix himself.  I can get behind dropping him in 10-team, but in deeper mixed leagues, his value should rebound, so don’t be a poor seller, and have PATIENCE with Porcello.

Mark Trumbo – .259 AVG, 9 HR, 43 R, 30 RBI, 1 SB in 266 AB

Trumbo may seem a bit similar to Story in that his 2016 was fantastic and he kept defying expectations to cool down by hitting more and more yaks and regression as hit hard this year.  But I think overall he’s more like Lucroy in that he’s a guy who, despite coming off a career-best power year, is changing his approach by trading off power for a low strikeout rate..  After posting a 39% Hard% last year, now it’s at merely 30%, and his Barrel/BBE is at 5.4%, which are both quite pedestrian and far below what you’d expect from an elite slugger, as is his 20 Home Run pace  after hitting 47 last year.  But he is apparently trying to mature as a hitter, as his 20.3% strikeout rate is a career best  and it’s backed by  the 2nd-lowest Swstr% of his career, helped in part by a career-best chase rate of 31.2%.  The only problem is, while he’s posting the 2nd-best contact rate of his career, it’s due to pitches off the plate, with a very high 64.2% O-Contact% next to an below-career Z-Contact% of 79.2%.  So instead of striking out, he’s making more weak contact, as evidenced by a very poor 20.8 Soft Contact% and 15.9% IFFB.  But unlike Lucroy, I have faith he’ll still contribute considerably more in the 2nd half in the power department, as he still has a strong 91.1 mph eV (94.5 mph on FB/LD) that show that he’s still hitting the ball plenty hard.  So show some PATIENCE, and now that Camden’s heating up, let’s get ready to Trumbo!

Ben Pernick

I've been writing for Pitcher List since the beginning, and have been a fantasy baseball addict now for 20 years. I grew up as a Red Sox fan in New York, but now I declare allegiance only to my fantasy teams.

8 responses to “Patience or Panic 6/19 – Story, Lucroy, Machado”

  1. Mrs. Alice Larson says:

    Hi this is your english teacher from grade school, and I’m the one who taught you that it was proper to put two spaces between sentences. Listen, I’ve changed my mind. I was wrong, and I’m glad I was able to track you down to let you know. Let’s use just one space from now on.

    • Jon Mosier says:

      Okay, folks, let’s tone down the grammar/punctuation/usage policing. I’m a stickler for those things at work, but given that the content (and formatting) here is generally better than anything else on the internet (I’m looking at you, ESPN), let’s cut Nick and the boys some slack.

    • Ben Pernick says:

      LIES! And Pluto is still a planet, damn it!

      Just kidding, I double space out of habit but usually correct the spacing after writing. Inefficient, I know. But I’ll fix it next time.

  2. Disagree on Trumbo. He consistently always does worse in the 2nd half of the season and he hasn’t done much the first half so far. I had him all last year and this year up till this morning when I dropped him for Dickerson. He could provide some value, but only for deep leagues.

    • David says:

      Thanks for the good news Ryan :)…..

      I have both Story and Trumbo on my team right now and not feeling too good about that. I am leaning towards being patient with both, get good back-ups and hope for the best….

      Though Trumbo might have some trade value…..Trevor is another “Story”.

      • Ben Pernick says:

        The thing to remember with Trumbo is for most of his career, he’s been more of a 25-30 Homer bat. I think he can return to that kind of pace (so 12-15 HR ROS), but last year was probably an aberration.

    • Ben Pernick says:

      Dickerson, as in Chris Dickerson, as he was still available? Well I’m 100% behind that, Dickerson is a beast. Trumbo probably won’t be that good, but better than this. I don’t think 1st half/2nd half splits are very reliable data, and even less so for pitchers. I mean, he didn’t really slow down much second half of last year. I’ll keep my eye on him though.

  3. The Kraken says:

    Wasn’t Machado a 1st in every draft? He was SS eligible – not that he needed it.

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