Relevant geeky stats
Hidden numbers hold clues to players' current, future performance
The geek has gone berserk ... but not on Tuesday's Fantasy Focus podcast. Ran out of time, yeah, that's the ticket.
Still, collecting neat, "geeky stat" nuggets is a bit of a project, and after doing the research work, some of them are worth using, if not there, elsewhere. That's where today's column comes in.
You know the drill: You can craft most any stat to cater to your argument, and many such numbers shouldn't be exaggerated. That said, stats help illustrate points, skills improvements, trends, whatever, and they're facts well worth sharing as you make fantasy roster decisions. Here are some "geeky stats" I consider particularly relevant to the players in question:
• In 2013, Brandon Moss had a weighted on-base average (wOBA) 101 points higher against right- than left-handed pitchers. This season, he actually has a wOBA 41 points higher against lefties (.431) than righties (.382).
That's a substantial gain for Moss, for two critical reasons: (1) He previously had that "platoon-man" reputation, and (2) He plays for the Oakland Athletics, one of the most matchup-conscious teams in baseball. Bear in mind that Moss started just seven of the Athletics' 2013 games against a left-handed starter, while his platoon partner Nate Freiman started 41. This season, Moss has started eight of the team's past nine games against a lefty starter, compelling evidence that he's now an everyday player ... and a trustworthy one at that.
• David Price has the majors' fourth-lowest SIERA (2.61), the fourth-lowest xFIP (2.68) and his 1.00 differential between his FIP (2.97) and ERA (3.97) is sixth largest among ERA qualifiers.
The struggling Tampa Bay Rays -- and the resulting impact on Price's win number -- might contribute to some of the skepticism regarding Price in fantasy going forward, but it shouldn't. His command has been outstanding all year, he has walked two or fewer batters in every start, and his FIP, xFIP and SIERA all represent personal bests. By season's end, his stat line might not look all that dissimilar to Felix Hernandez's during his Cy Young season of 2010, and here's another thought: What if Price is traded to a team that might provide him the run support to finally win some games?
• The Detroit Tigers have surrendered 50 runs from the ninth inning onward in their games; no other team has allowed more than 41.
Joe Nathan should be thankful that Joba Chamberlain blew his second full-ninth-inning save chance of the season Sunday; job security is one thing Nathan should have in his corner. Still, the Tigers' bullpen is one of the messiest in the game, and Nathan has afforded 12 runs on 14 hits in 6 1/3 innings in his past eight appearances, swelling his seasonal ERA (7.04) to more than double Chamberlain's (3.29). Call it a must-handcuff situation if you wish, but this is actually closer to a stay-away bullpen.
• If we were to divide the season to date in half, using May 5 as the "midpoint," we'd find that Corey Kluber has experienced the largest increase in average fastball velocity from before that date to after it; his has averaged 1.4 mph faster since that date.
What more could be said about Kluber's season? Well, this: He has a 2.55 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 64 K's in 49 1/3 innings in his seven starts since May 1. I've been asked many times why he hasn't placed higher in my going-forward rankings; the only hesitation I have is track record. But that's quickly dissipating, and I've made no overtures that you should even entertain cashing him in.
By the way, you might be interested to learn that David Price experienced a 1.1 mph increase in average fastball velocity after May 5 compared with before it.
• Lonnie Chisenhall, on Monday night, did something that nobody else in the majors has done in 21 seasons: He hit three home runs, drove in nine runs and tallied 15 total bases. In fact, he's only the sixth player to do that in the past century, plus, per Elias, he's the fourth-youngest player in history to manage at least three homers, five hits and 15 total bases in a game.
What's more, Chisenhall, a .194/.225/.387 hitter against lefties in his career entering 2014, has managed .520/.556/.680 rates against that side in his 28 trips to the plate against them this season. The small-sample caveat applies, but his performance thus far should afford him the benefit of not being locked into a platoon role going forward, and experience might only help fuel continued success on his "weak" platoon side. Incidentally, Chisenhall has made substantial improvements in two other regards: He has lowered his swing-and-miss rate from 18.5 (2011-13) to 7.9 percent (2014) on the first pitch of the PA, and from 10.8 (2011-13) to 7.3 percent (2014) on pitches within the strike zone. It seems he is taking a more selective, yet aggressive, approach this season, so there's reason to believe he might finally have arrived as a useful fantasy asset ... even if that might not yet be at the level of a top-10 third baseman going forward.
• In the past calendar month, Doug Fister has averaged 13 K's per walk (third-best among ERA qualifiers), afforded hitters a .066 hard-hit average (second-best) and generated a 59.0 percent ground-ball rate (sixth-highest).
Dallas Keuchel is the only other pitcher with numbers in those ranking ranges during that same time span, which shows how low-risk either pitcher has become; remember that walks, flies, and line drives and hard contact are most precarious for a pitcher. Fister's 39-day absence due to a lat injury might have his owners skeptical that he's the true top-30 starter he was shaping up to be following his trade to the Washington Nationals, but it could be argued he might be better than that going forward: Perhaps a top-20 starter? You shouldn't wait to find out, if you can still nab him for cheaper.
• Billy Butler currently finds himself on pace for three home runs and 54 RBIs, despite having played in every one of the Kansas City Royals' 63 games to date. If that holds, he'd become the first player in the history of baseball to manage fewer than 10 homers and 60 RBIs in a season while playing at least 150 games, half of those as a DH. Jose Vidro was the closest: He managed six homers and 59 RBIs in 147 games, 122 of them at DH, in 2007.
Butler's 2.1 home run/fly ball percentage and .293 BABIP despite similar hard-hit ball, swing-and-miss and chase rates this season to any previous year of his career suggest that he's due some greater fortune going forward, but the days of dreaming of 30-100 future years for the slugger are clearly in the past. He has a 53.4 percent ground-ball rate, the highest in his career, and if he's even a .280/10/55 player going forward, he's not going to offer enough to be a buy-low.
• Martin Prado has a major league-leading 18 hard-hit line drives that resulted in outs.
Seeking a possible explanation for Prado's sluggish start to the season? Look no further than that. In his defense, Prado has batted .338 in his past 20 games (past three-week span), so he's recapturing some of his former form in that particular category, but that his 12 to 15 homer form has yet to return might have him on a list of buy-low candidates. He's a lifetime .296/.342/.434 hitter -- plus per-162-games-played averages of 73 RBIs, 79 runs scored and six stolen bases -- from June 1 forward in his career.