McCullough Debuts – 10 Players on His Mind, Keith Hernandez Soap Box, Not So Godley

Knowledge Drop – May 3, 2018 — Keith Hernandez Edition

The Big Mac team is growing. Today we welcome Fantasy Sports legend Tim McCullough, the reigning FSWA “Baseball Article of the Year” winner, to team Big Mac. Lord knows, he’s a Bigger Mac and we are thrilled to have him contributing to your Fantasy Knowledge.

Keith Hernandez wore #17 for 8 seasons, after his trade to the Mets. He has 60.35 career WAR, within one of Todd Helton (61.20) and is a brilliant newly-active member of the Twitterverse (@KeithHernandez). You’ll love his cat, Hadji.

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Tim McCullough Debuts:  10 Players on His Mind

By Tim McCullough

Big Mac Contributor

All it took was few phone calls and a persuasive email or two, and just like that, I am back doing what I love – analyzing and writing about baseball for the fantasy crowd. A big time shout out and thank you to Tom McFeeley for agreeing to put up with my shenanigans…again. As soon as I get my act together, I’ll come up with something formatted that you can count on seeing in this space every week. Right now, I’m stuck on the idea of 10, so here are 10 players I’m thinking about today.

The Cardinals have a new closer for the foreseeable future, as Bud Norris notched his sixth save in as many tries Wednesday night. He’s holding down a remarkable 1.72 ERA over 15.2 innings of work and his 2.13 xFIP should tell you it’s no fluke. Norris has always had good stuff, but it’s never really been effective more than once through a batting order. He’s struck out 22 and allowed just two walks so far and his Swinging Strike rate is a healthy 15.0 to date. There may be some regression to the mean over the long haul, but Norris is worth acquiring as long as he keeps this up.

Sticking with the Cardinals for a minute, Carlos Martinez is looking great since his disastrous Opening Day turn, when he allowed four earned runs (plus one unearned) on four hits and (gasp!) six walks in just 4.1 IP. Since then, he’s put together six strong starts for a record of 3-0 with a 0.66 ERA, 40 strikeouts, 13 walks, one HR and a .173 BAA. His overall FIP stands at 3.24 and he’s carrying an 87.5 percent Strand rate, so there will be a correction somewhere along the way. Still, Martinez is worth hanging onto until he runs out of gas. Keep an eye on his walk rate. If he starts allowing free passes at a high rate again, you should consider trading him.

Anthony Rizzo has been a fantasy disaster so far, batting just .171 with three home runs. However, most of his woes can be attributed to his .175 BABIP, which is well below his .284 career mark. The rest of his peripherals are in line with career norms, so I’m betting he’ll turn things around in May. Rizzo is a great buy low candidate if his owner is frustrated.

Mike Minor, a left-handed pitcher, will be facing the Red Sox today. I’ve already told you about their woes against southpaws, so get off your duff and grab Minor off the waiver wire. He is pitching at home today, where he has a 2.25 ERA, a .193 BAA and a strikeout rate better than one per inning. The Sox could make Minor look really good. Make sure you drop him after this game, though.

If you own Johnny Cueto and his terrific 0.84 ERA, you are going to be very sad to hear that his season is very likely over. He’s headed to see Dr. Andrews in the next few days, and you know what that likely means. Manager Bruce Bochy refused to rule out a potential ulnar nerve tear, which means Tommy John surgery could be on the table.

After a lousy first half of April, Yoenis Cespedes looks like he’s finally turning the corner. Over the first two weeks of the season he was a pitiful .190/.266/.362 with a 24 percent Hard Hit rate (Hard%). Over the last two weeks his numbers have soared to .327/.358/.612 with a 40.1 percent Hard%. Last season, Cespedes gave his fantasy owners all of 81 innings due to nagging injuries that kept him off the field, and his 2016 season was littered with prolonged slumps because he played through multiple injuries. He’s already had shoulder, wrist and thumb injuries this season that have cost him a couple of games. Therefore, it would be wise to shop him around your league now to see if you can take advantage of his current surge. Given the Mets’ history of handling injuries like the worst quack doctor you can imagine, Cespedes is a definite sell high candidate.

Matt Adams is kickin’ butt and takin’ names, batting .500 with four home runs over his last six games and six home runs overall. Ride him while he’s hot but beware his tendency to slump and disappoint. He tends heat up in the early season months and slump badly during the dog days of summer in July and August. His career batting average from May through September reads as follows: .291, .277, .243, .219, .271.

One set of stats I always like to check on Baseball-Reference.com is on the MLB summary page. You can look up Runs per Game by team and see which ones have the most prolific lineups. It’s no surprise to see the Yankees on top at 5.73 rpg, but I was surprised to see the next two teams on the list – the Red Sox and the (whoa!) Atlanta Braves. Why the Red Sox, you ask? Well, while they are MLB’s top team against right-handed pitching with a .366 wOBA, they are also the worst team in MLB against southpaws with a .252 wOBA and a strikeout rate of 24.7 percent. Conversely, the Braves are the top MLB team against southpaws with a .372 wOBA and they hit righties at a .333 wOBA. I’m surprised the Red Sox are second overall with such a weak average against southpaws, and I’m equally shocked that the Braves are that good. However, the team I really like to see up there among the top five offenses is the Toronto Blue Jays. They’re getting it done with a lineup that features rookie Teoscar Hernandez in the two hole, Kevin Pillar batting sixth and Yangervis Solarte in the cleanup spot. Pillar, in particular is off to a torrid start this season, batting .324/.374/.577 with four home runs and five stolen bases. I’ve always believed that Pillar could be a 20/20 player with a decent average. He went 16/15 last season but only hit .256. Pillar is in his age 29 season, so it would be a surprise to see him suddenly become a 20/20 player but he’s doing his best to make it happen.

Another player I believed could go 20/20 someday is Gregory Polanco and he certainly started the season like he was going to do it. Over the first 12 games he batted .265 with five home runs and 15 RBIs. Unfortunately, he’s dropped to .177 with one HR and one RBI over the 16 games since. Even worse, he is striking out 22.7 percent of the time with a career low contact rate of 75.4 percent. Those are hacker numbers. However, there are signs he will pull out of this slump. His Hard% is up there at 33.3 percent, well above last year’s 25.9 percent, and both his 51 percent FB rate and .213 BABIP indicate good things to come. I’d still take him in a trade if he can be had.

THE SOAPBOX

If there is one typical sports debate we hate it’s “Is Player X a hall of famer?” We get it, you don’t want to think about the difference in spin rate for different pitches and how that affects a hitter’s view of the baseball, but to us the Hall of Fame debates are silly. They are usually a waste of time and in an arena where very little matters to our real life – sports – these conversations matter less than most others.

That said: We think Keith Hernandez should be in the Hall of Fame.

As we looked up his career WAR for your information today, we glanced at all his other career marks, and many of them jump out. No, 162 career HR does not qualify you for the Hall of Fame. A .296 career average will perk up some ears to allow you to speak some more. So we shall. Consider:

  • 226 former MLB players are in the Hall of Fame;
  • Keith Hernandez ranks 179thall time in WAR and 119th among position players (60.35)
  • He won 11 consecutive Gold Gloves, from 1978 to 1988;
  • He co-won the MVP with Willie Stargell in a year in which he hit just 11 HR (hit .344 with 116 runs, both led the league);
  • Hernandez is 4th all-time in career assists for first basemen;
  • He is 10th all-time among first basemen involved in double plays;
  • Hernandez is 138thall-time in On Base Percentage;
  • He had more career walks than strikeouts;
  • Even with just 162 HR, Hernandez is 244th all-time in extra base hits;
  • He actually had 5 consecutive seasons with double-digit SB

Hernandez, offensively, is everything we tell kids they should be – have a good knowledge and command of the strike zone, use a line drive swing, take your walks. I remember a survey of MLB pitchers in the mid-1980s which asked them which batter they’d least like to face in a pressure situation late in a game. Hernandez led the poll, by a wide margin. (He’s also 71st all-time in receiving intentional walks – there were only 70 hitters pitchers chose not to pitch to more often than Keith Hernandez.) We love the longball, but Hernandez did everything you want a batter to do for a team win. And he did it every day.

But it’s the 11 Gold Gloves and the complete defensive dominance that should put Hernandez in the Hall. He changed so many innings, and games, by virtually taking the first-base-side bunt away from opposing hitters. Fourth all-time in assists means he made a career scooping bunts and throwing out the lead runner, and saving runs. And that also led to many double plays, as did his best-in-the-league range.

Hernandez held runners on differently, with one foot in foul territory, and even occasionally was the reason for a balk call against his pitcher. He re-invented how first base was played and was the most feared hitter in pressure situations in his dominant decade. That spells Hall of Fame to me.

The elephant in the room was the cocaine “scandals” that bogged him down, and was probably the reason the Cardinals traded him for a song to the Mets. But let’s be clear – do we hold cocaine use against, say, Lawrence Taylor, who made a career as a defensive leader as a high-energy, legendary athlete who re-created his position?

For a sport that unofficially prides itself on being the thinking person’s sport, baseball really should have thought harder about putting Hernandez in the Hall of Fame. There’s not been another player like him, when every teams needs a player exactly like him.

A THOUSAND WORDS

Today, @BatFlipCrazy tells us why Zack may not be so Godley this year:

Zack Godley’s problems started 2H last year. His success requires hitters swinging at pitches outside the zone bc he can’t throw his best pitches for strikes.

Skills down:

O-swing: 29.0% 2018 / 33.1% 2017

F-strike: 55.5% / 60.8%

SwStr: 11.5% / 13.3%

#FantasyBaseball #DBacks

Follow @BatFlipCrazy on Twitter and read more in-depth data analysis at batflipcrazy.com

 

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