Reality Check: A tale of two halves
What happens when you split the season in two? Some interesting trends pop out. Our Scott White highlights some of the more intriguing stories in his latest Reality Check.
Adam Dunn ... he's a terrific source of power, but a drain on batting average with his all-too-frequent cold streaks.
That's the book on him, right? It's the way he started this season, and looking at his numbers now, yup, it seems about right.
But hidden within that .239 batting average are actually two different players: the one who hit .163 over his first 56 games and the one hitting .311 over his last 61.
That's right: Since June 9, or about half the season so far, Dunn has hit .311 with 14 homers and a .967 OPS. He's the 23rd-best hitter in Head-to-Head leagues and 22nd-best in Rotisserie during that stretch.
Kind of changes your perspective, doesn't it?
Now, you may argue fluctuations in batting average are expected for streaky players, and you wouldn't be wrong. But this goes deeper than that. It's a tale of two players. Labeling Dunn nothing more than a hot-hand play undermines just how much good he's done for his Fantasy owners.
In the long run, is he really a .300 hitter? He has a pretty lengthy track record suggesting he isn't. But knowing he's been one for the last 10 weeks should influence your approach to him over the final five. Until he gives you reason to believe his successful run is over, he belongs in your lineup. And again, we have only five weeks to go. I'm not sure he's capable of falling that far that fast.
Dunn is probably the most extreme example, but he's not the only player whose season takes on a different look when split in two. Most teams have played about 124 games so far, so the goal here is to look at Game 63 on. Just to keep things simple, though, I'm using June 9 as the halfway point for every player, examining their numbers since then.
Here are the ones who, for one reason or another, stand out to me.
Erick Aybar, SS, Angels
Season numbers: .281 BA, 3 3B, 4 HR, 10 SB, .696 OPS
Since June 9: .292 BA, 3 3B, 3 HR, 9 SB, .734 OPS
How much difference can a few extra-base hits and stolen bases make? From June 9 on, Aybar is the fifth-best shortstop in Head-to-Head leagues, making him quite the remedy for Everth Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta owners. For the season, he's only the 15th-best.
Brandon Belt, 1B, Giants
Season numbers: .271 BA, 15 HR, .348 OBP, .421 SLG
Since June 9: .290 BA, 9 HR, .374 OBP, .529 SLG
OK, so most of Belt's numbers since June 9 have come over the last two weeks, during which he's batting .345 with four homers. But no matter how it happens, a .900 OPS over about a 60-game stretch is special. The only reason Belt doesn't rank higher than 19th among first baseman in Head-to-Head leagues during that stretch is because he used to sit against left-handers. Not anymore.
Jhoulys Chacin, SP, Rockies
Season numbers: 11-7, 3.24 ERA, 1.22 ERA, 5.5 K/9
Since June 9: 8-4, 2.34 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 5.3 K/9
Even in the thin air of Coors Field, Chacin still gets enough sink on his pitches to keep the ball on the ground, and it's given him more Head-to-Head points since June 9 than both Matt Harvey and Adam Wainwright. He had a bumpy seven-start stretch after returning from a back issue in early May, but otherwise, he has a 2.06 ERA and 1.10 WHIP this season.
Brian Dozier, 2B/SS, Twins
Season numbers: .243 BA, 12 HR, 27 2B, .728 OPS in 408 at-bats
Since June 9: .251 BA, 9 HR, 23 2B, .813 OPS in 235 at-bats
Dozier hasn't impressed with his batting average at any point this season, but virtually all of his power numbers have come since June 9. And it's not just because of increased at-bats. He got 43 percent of his before then. At shortstop, just a few doubles can go a long way. Dozier is third-best at the position in Head-to-Head leagues (eighth-best in Rotisserie) during that time.
Andre Ethier, OF, Dodgers
Season numbers: .268 BA, 9 HR, .350 OBP, .405 SLG
Since June 9: .306 BA, 5 HR, .382 OBP, .459 SLG
Ethier's power numbers are still lacking, keeping him just a fringy option in Rotisserie leagues, but in Head-to-Head formats, he's more useful than his 72 percent ownership would have you believe. Since June 29, he ranks 24th among outfielders, ahead of Carlos Beltran and Alex Rios, and that's mostly because of on-base numbers that he's perfectly capable of sustaining.
Dexter Fowler, OF, Rockies
Season numbers: .264 BA, 12 HR, 18 SB, .788 OPS
Since June 9: .222 BA, 2 HR, 8 SB, .660 OPS
Remember back in April, when Fowler hit .305 with eight homers, four steals and a 1.032 OPS? He's gone from being one of this season's biggest breakouts to ... kind of waste of a roster spot. Granted, health has been an issue -- his wrist hasn't been right since before the All-Star break -- but he needs a sustain hot streak before you trust him as more than a fourth or fifth outfielder.
Dillon Gee, SP, Mets
Season numbers: 9-8, 3.60 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 6.7 K/9
Since June 9: 5-2, 2.44 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 5.9 K/9
It's hard to believe now, but Gee had a 6.34 ERA after his first 10 starts this year, which should give you some idea just how effective he's been since then. He's not a great source of strikeouts, but he eats innings, which makes him kind of a poor man's Jered Weaver. Except Weaver is averaging 13.96 Head-to-Head points per start since June 9 while Gee is averaging 17.38.
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Diamondbacks
Season numbers: .296 BA, 30 HR, 96 RBI, .939 OPS, 13 SB
Since June 9: .267 BA, 15 HR, 38 RBI, .876 OPS, 7 SB
... And yet he's still fourth among first basemen in both Head-to-Head and Rotisserie during that stretch, ahead of Joey Votto, which suggests he'll maintain his value no matter what his numbers do. We don't need no stinking batting average.
Jason Heyward, OF, Braves
Season numbers: .257 BA, 13 HR, .349 OBP, .431 SLG, 2 SB
Since June 9: .299 BA, 10 HR, .378 OBP, .509 SLG, 1 SB
Heyward ranks a modest 19th among outfielders despite his impressive numbers since June 9, so clearly, he's missing those steals he had last year. But he's at least proven he can hit, as his career-high line-drive rate and career-low strikeout rate have suggested all year.
Eric Hosmer, 1B, Royals
Season numbers: .294 BA, 14 HR, 59 RBI, .787 OPS, 10 SB
Since June 9: .308 BA, 13 HR, 40 RBI, .865 OPS, 6 SB
Reminder: The displayed numbers are season-to-date, followed by half-season-to-date, which means Hosmer has pulled a Stanley Ipkiss and gone from zero to hero in his last 60 games or so. Amazing what can happen when he works with a hitting coach who doesn't suppress his power. He's been one of the 10 best hitters in Fantasy since June 9, and he's had that kind of potential all along.
Kyle Lohse, SP, Brewers
Season numbers: 8-8, 3.17 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 5.9 K/9
Since June 9: 7-2, 2.26 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 6.3 K/9
Only two pitchers have outscored Lohse since June 9, and they just so happen to be expected Cy Young winners Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer. OK, so Jose Fernandez also passed Lohse with his win over the Dodgers Tuesday, but it sounds better with just Kershaw and Scherzer. Lohse was the eighth-best starting pitcher in Head-to-Head league last year, so his success shouldn't be too surprising.
Jonathan Lucroy, C, Brewers
Season numbers: .287 BA, 17 HR, .823 OPS, 29 BB, 46 K
Since June 9: .317 BA, 11 HR, .919 OPS, 16 BB, 25 K
Over the last 10 weeks, the top catcher in Fantasy -- both Head-to-Head and Rotisserie formats -- isn't Buster Posey or Joe Mauer. It isn't Carlos Santana, Yadier Molina or Brian McCann. It isn't even Matt Wieters. No, it's Lucroy, who was batting .208 on May 20. Guess that breakout 2012 was just the tip of the iceberg.
Nick Markakis, OF, Orioles
Season numbers: .279 BA, 19 2B, 8 HR, .366 SLG, .700 OPS
Since June 9: .267 BA, 7 2B, 1 HR, .308 SLG, .637 OPS
Remember how Markakis had a power resurgence of sorts last year, posting his highest slugging percentage since 2008? Now, he's lucky just to hit the ball out of the infield. The result is a player who ranks 53rd among outfielders since June 9 -- behind the not-so-impressive Logan Morrison, who has 60 fewer at-bats during that stretch -- and is started in far too many leagues.
Victor Martinez, 1B, Tigers
Season numbers: .282 BA, 27 2B, 10 HR, .337 OBP, .740 OPS
Since June 9: .319 BA, 17 2B, 5 HR, .380 OBP, .828 OPS
Considering Martinez was batting .225 as recently as June 28, you wouldn't have been crazy to think he was a lost cause at age 34. Turns out he just needed a few months to find his stroke after losing all of last season to knee surgery. No reason to doubt him now, given his track record.
Nate McLouth, OF, Orioles
Season numbers: .272 BA, 8 HR, .341 OBP, .747 OPS, 28 SB
Since June 9: .257 BA, 4 HR, .315 OBP, .712 OPS, 7 SB
Most of McLouth's numbers have sloped gently downward since his impossibly hot start, but the stolen bases have dropped a cliff. Unfortunately, they were the meat of his Fantasy value. His year-to-date ranking among outfielders in both Rotisserie (28th) and Head-to-Head (30th) leagues couldn't be more misleading.
Daniel Murphy, 1B/2B, Mets
Season numbers: .275 BA, 10 HR, .307 OBP, .397 SLG, 14 SB
Since June 9: .268 BA, 6 HR, .298 OBP, .373 SLG, 13 SB
Remember how Murphy was one of the hottest claims off the waiver wire in April? He has managed to stay as productive as ever since then, ranking third at second base in Rotisserie leagues since June 9 despite declining percentages. The stolen bases have been a complete game-changer for him, so we can only hope they continue. His other numbers are pretty scary.
Wily Peralta, SP, Brewers
Season numbers: 8-13, 4.60 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 5.9 K/9
Since June 9: 4-6, 3.26 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 6.3 K/9
Steady improvement is the expectation for rookies, so this process makes even more sense for someone like Peralta than for established veterans like Adam Dunn. As you can see, he's been far more useful over his last 13 starts than his 29 percent ownership would have you believe, outscoring both Jordan Zimmermann and Cliff Lee during that stretch.
Martin Prado, 2B/3B/OF, Diamondbacks
Season numbers: .280 BA, 11 HR, .410 SLG, .742 OPS
Since June 9: .311 BA, 7 HR, .480 SLG, .846 OPS
Well, that was predictable. Prado's strikeout and line-drive rates have been as good as ever this year, so it was only a matter of time before his batting average (and, consequently, his power) returned. Whether at second base (where he ranks fourth since June 9 in Head-to-Head leagues), third base or the outfield, you have no cause to bench Prado the rest of the way.
Alex Rios, OF, Rangers
Season numbers: .276 BA, 12 HR, .415 SLG, .740 OPS, 28 SB
Since June 9: .264 BA, 2 HR, .345 SLG, .646 OPS, 19 SB
A hot start has kept Fantasy owners believing Rios is the same well-rounded 20-20 threat he was last year, but since June 9, he's been little more than a steals specialist. Maybe that's enough to keep him 24th among outfielders in Rotisserie leagues during that stretch, but in Head-to-Head leagues, it puts him just 2 1/2 points ahead of Josh Hamilton.
Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Cubs
Season numbers: .230 BA, 18 HR, .425 SLG, .748 OPS
Since June 9: .204 BA, 8 HR, .368 SLG, .688 OPS
Rizzo's year-to-date numbers already don't look so hot, and it's not like the 24-year-old is making progress. Clearly, he still has some developing to do. The only thing keeping him respectable in Head-to-Head leagues since June 9 is an improved walk rate. In Rotisserie leagues, he ranks just 42nd at first base and belongs on the bench.
Jeff Samardzija, SP, Cubs
Season numbers: 7-11, 4.12 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 9.0 K/9
Since June 9: 4-4, 5.08 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 7.6 K/9
The good news is Samardzija still has electric stuff and has shown flashes of dominance in his 13 starts since June 9, including last time out against the Nationals. The bad news is, at age 28, he should be over these bouts of inconsistency. I wouldn't be shocked if he pitched like an ace down the stretch, but I wouldn't trust him just yet.
Jean Segura, SS, Brewers
Season numbers: .309 BA, 12 HR, .799 OPS, 36 SB
Since June 9: .278 BA, 3 HR, .673 OPS, 19 SB
On the surface, Segura's regression isn't such a big deal considering he's still the eighth-best shortstop in Head-to-Head leagues since June 9. I mean, you're obviously still starting him. But when you consider he's two spots behind the comparatively ordinary Erick Aybar during that stretch, you get a sense of just how far Segura has fallen. Good thing I gave up Hanley Ramirez and Hiroki Kuroda for him in a long-term keeper league in mid-June ...
Shane Victorino, OF, Red Sox
Season numbers: .285 BA, 20 2B, 7 HR, 17 SB, .743 OPS
Since June 9: .284 BA, 16 2B, 5 HR, 13 SB, .763 OPS
Turns out all Victorino needed was a dose of good health. After fighting his hamstring early on, he's back to stealing bases and splitting gaps, making him 11th-best outfielder in Head-to-Head leagues and 16th-best in Rotisserie since June 9. That's more or less who he was in his glory days with the Phillies.
Jordan Zimmermann, SP, Nationals
Season numbers: 14-7, 3.37 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 6.7 K/9
Since June 9: 6-4, 4.78 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 8.1 K/9
Two things strike me about Zimmermann's numbers since June 9. One, his strikeout rate has improved significantly, which is no surprise given how hard he throws. Two, he's not on the level of Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, as so many tried to claim he was back in May. He's a solid, nearly-every-week starter in Fantasy, but closer to Justin Masterson than Justin Verlander.
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