Based on his minor league numbers, Wong looked like a batting average-and-steals type, providing just enough power to be worth considering in mixed Rotisserie leagues. Wong didn't disappoint in the stolen base category, providing 20 of them over 113 games, but his .249 regular season batting average didn't fit the profile of someone with a history of good contact skills. A .305 hitter over his minor league career, Wong figured to fit the
Instead, Wong is looking more like
Though three months of play doesn't constitute an ideal sample, the improvement has been dramatic enough to trust to at least some degree. Prior to his DL stint, Wong's flyballs travelled a mere 241.4 feet on average (per BaseballHeatMaps.com), but upon his return, he averaged 273.1 feet per flyball. That latter mark trails Dozier's 2014 average by just over two feet. Wong's .181 Isolated Power from the season's final three months actually bests Dozier's full-season mark by seven points, and that gap could have been larger if not for some apparent bad luck. This season, Wong was 2 for 77 (.026) on flyballs in play, so he missed out on some potential doubles.
My initial projection gives Wong 16 home runs and 25 stolen bases for 2015, and the home run projection assumes some dropoff from the pace he's set over the last three-and-a-half months. He has a legitimate shot to be a 20-20 hitter, though I've projected him for a .260 batting average. Even if he reaches that average and overshoots my home run projection, Wong won't likely be on a par with Dozier. He has yet to achieve a high walk rate, and between platooning and hitting lower in the order, he won't get as many at-bats or run producing opportunities as his Twins counterpart.
Still, Wong looks like far more valuable than the borderline Rotisserie option he appeared to be earlier this season. Given his upside and the thinness of the second base player pool, Wong will be a must-own in all standard mixed league formats and a legitimate mid-rounder in mixed Rotisserie leagues.
Though he's a long shot to win the award,
Lucroy's bat has made him a favorite in Fantasy, but should his pitch framing prowess matter to us outside the domain of baseball fandom? Early this season, it looked like he might have been having a profound impact on the Brewers' rotation. Specificially,
According to pitch framing data on StatCorner.com, the Brewers' catching corps totalled the second-highest number of extra strike calls in the majors, but neither they nor the leaderboard-topping Padres helped their pitchers to achieve a called strike rate much above the major league average of 17.7 percent (per Baseball-Reference). More to the point for Fantasy owners, neither staff was elite in terms of their pitchers' strikeout rates. And even the best (and worst) catchers in terms of pitch framing only get two or three calls changed above and beyond the major league average over the course of a game.
Before we completely dismiss the impact of pitch framing on pitchers' Fantasy fortunes, there is a trend that is worth noting. The Twins, Cubs, Rockies, Marlins and Braves had the most missed strikes among major league catching corps, and only the Marlins' pitching staff mustered a called strike rate above 16.8 percent. It's enough to make you wonder if
Pitch framing is probably far more valuable for real teams than Fantasy teams, but Teheran in particular provides a good example of why we may need to pay attention to it. In my last blog post, I was ready to flag Teheran as a potential disappointment in 2015 due to his underwhelming strikeout rate, but there may be more to his story than what we see on the surface.
Now that the 2014 regular season is in the books, we know that Major League Baseball has achieved its second straight season of offensive decline. Run-scoring was down again just as it was last year, and it's the seventh time it has fallen in the last eight years. Just about every conceivable rate stat for pitchers -- from K/9 to BB/9 to ground ball rate to ERA -- has improved.
The steady tilting of the game in favor of pitching means that the benchmarks for Fantasy relevance keep getting ratcheted up. In a 12-team mixed league, a pitcher with a 3.50 ERA and 1.25 WHIP probably did your team more bad than good, while the opposite was true just two years ago. Similarly, a K/9 ratio of 8.0 was above average for a standard mixed league pitcher in 2012, but this season, it was slightly subpar.
A number of high-end Fantasy pitchers, like
A pitcher who is maintaining his stats is actually losing ground, and one who is declining a little is decidedly falling behind the pack. The fact that
Though Wainwright remains very good at pitching with control and avoiding hard contact, he is allowing too much contact altogether. This season, his K/9 rate fell from 8.2 to 7.1, as his swinging strike rate dipped from 10.3 to 9.7 percent. Again, those may not sound like large declines, but in an era in which standing still means falling behind, Wainwright is in danger of failing to keep pace with other Fantasy studs. While he finished 2014 as the fifth-ranked starting pitcher in standard Head-to-Head and Rotisserie formats, he did so with help from a .271 BABIP and 78 percent strand rate that he probably won't match in 2015.
If we assume that Wainwright doesn't increase his K-rate but does experience BABIP and strand rate regression, there won't be much that separates his 2015 stats from
Wainwright still does enough things extremely well to warrant consideration as a No. 1 starter, but given his trajectory, I think he is more likely to perform like a solid No. 2 starter than like a true ace. He's far from the only Fantasy stalwart who has failed to keep up with the increasing pace of strikeouts, though, so here are a handful of other pitchers who may have less value next season than their 2014 rankings would suggest.
1 October 16, 2014
Doug Gottlieb: Was the Angels season disappointing?
2 October 14, 2014
We Need To Talk: MLB strike zone expanding
3 October 13, 2014
Wong and Adams on win in Game 2 of the NLCS