The All-Star break is a reset where the season slows down and you can take a hard look at your roster. Fantasy categories are a very seductive mistress and we have a natural bias toward dismissing those disappointing regardless of how strong their peripherals may be.
For pitchers, I look at dominance as the predictive foundation. We define that this way: percentage of 1-2-3 innings of total innings (league average is 37%), percentage of Ks on four pitches or less (average 14%) and swing-and-miss rate (17% of strikes). The model is simple: if you’re above average here (across the board) you should crushing ERA and WHIP (plus obviously Ks).
For hitters, we’re really looking at one stat: well-hit rate of at-bats (league average .155). If a hitter is crushing this stat and not crushing fantasy stats, bet the hard-hit rate — he’s just hitting in really tough luck.
All stats courtesy of our friends at Inside Edge, stat provider for Major League Baseball teams. Note their well-hit data is according to their video scouts and not based on exit velocity data. But for the most part, this is a distinction without a difference.
Players to buy in a trade
Sonny Gray, SP, A’s: He’s 74% owned but the objective here is to identify the pitchers who should be a lot better, i.e., championship assets, in the second half. We’re not focused this week on free waiver-wire loot, though that’s typically our objective. Gray’s averages are not very helpful at 4.00 and 1.21. But his dominance overall is above average: 16% Ks in four pitches or less, a stunning 47% of 1-2-3 innings and a sterling 20% swing and miss. If you need a pitcher and have and extra bat, this trade market is very tough. But Gray is gettable and a sneaky No. 1 starter if the dominance holds.
Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Tigers: His .256 well-hit is the tops in baseball. But his slugging is barely above average at .440 and his on-base (.346) seems more like the batting average we’d expect. And that average of .264 is a career low. Beyond the well-hit stat is the old-school line-drive rate of 28.1%, a career high. Career-low average with a career-high line-drive rate? Order will be restored in the second-half.
Yuli Gurriel, 1B/3B, Astros: He’s only 53% owned. But his well-hit is essentially tied with Cabrera (.256). So he should be hitting even better than .297 and for more power even though his slugging-minus-average is solid at about .200. Another old-school way of looking at his numbers so far is 24 doubles and 11 homers. More of those doubles are likely to be homers (let’s call it 15) going forward.
Jose Quintana, Cubs: It’s been a tale of two seasons for Quintana. Since June 1: 10th in ERA (2.70) with 45 Ks and just 12 BBs in 40 innings. Normally, this is all about arbitrary endpoints and you should just value the entire sample. But Quintana’s multi-year record of pitching is excellent. Overall, he’s been poor and deserving of his elevated ERA. He’s right at the average or below in all of our dominance stats. But 32% of baserunners who score is more fluke than fact (league average is 20%). While he will have elite defense on the North Side, the Cubs (.290) actually have allowed a higher batting average on balls in play than the White Sox (.289).