2013 Fantasy BaseballFantasy Baseball

2013 Fantasy Baseball, Plate Discipline: First Basemen

“On a long enough timeline, the survival rate drops to zero.”

The above quote is one of my personal favorites and one I reference quite often. It serves as a reminder as to why I love looking at numbers so much. Without proper context, numbers are just numbers. So, I think about that quote quite often because it helps remind about why I reference these numbers in the first place.

Over a long enough timeline, players will regress to their normal self. Looking at pitch f/x data has a way of revealing who really is behind the curtain. In my last article on catchers, I gave a simple explanation behind the numbers I am using in the series. If you are just joining us and aren’t familiar with these statistics I’d recommend going back to it.

For those familiar with the numbers, we are simply taking a look at the best and worst performers at the position. A few prominent players (most notably Prince Fielder) will be left out because they exist in the middle. Simply put, we are looking for players that are either outperforming or are underperforming. I’ve highlighted a few of those cases in each table. We will fist look at the top 15 performers at first base.

SWSTR SO/BB SWB% Contact
James Loney

4.8%

1.23

32.5

90.1

Adam Lind

6.0%

1.39

23.4

83.9

Billy Butler

6.0%

1.05

23.3

84.3

Edwin Encarnacion

6.4%

1.13

27.1

84.6

Allen Craig

7.2%

3.14

33.1

84.0

Albert Pujols

7.9%

1.31

36.8

82.6

Paul Konerko

8.1%

1.99

27.6

82.0

Yonder Alonso

8.6%

2.00

31.4

81.8

Joey Votto

8.7%

1.16

22.2

76.8

Lance Berkman

8.8%

1.20

20.4

77.1

David Ortiz

9.0%

1.00

25.0

78.4

Anthony Rizzo

9.0%

1.99

30.8

80.7

Eric Hosmer

9.0%

2.27

28.9

81.0

Justin Morneau

9.0%

2.12

38.0

82.4

Brandon Belt

9.1%

2.15

31.7

81.1

Adam Lind– Toronto Blue Jays

Our very own Davis Mattek looked at Lind earlier this week. Of course, the question of whether to buy him now is a loaded one. If you are expecting the .330/.400/.520 Lind to continue for the rest of the season you are probably deluding yourself. That being said, he’s been a marginal big leaguer the last several seasons, so seeing him high up on any list is a surprise.

The long and short of it is that he will likely to return to the kind of player we thought he would be when he first came up. In his first full season in the big leagues, he produced a .305/.370/.562 slash line. That slugging percentage might be a bit much to ask, but somewhere between an .850 and .900 OPS is certainly possible. If that will help your team then go ahead.

Albert Pujols– Los Angeles Angels

There is what we would call process and what we would call results. No one doubts Pujols ability and barring anything groundbreaking, he will go down somewhere between Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx as an overall first baseman. Every result above indicates that he still has it, but there are signs of erosion in those numbers.

He is swinging at a higher percentage of balls outside the strike zone than he ever has. Even though he is still making contact, it has brought him from the elite status to mediocre at the position. His walk rate is down overall and he is not hitting for the elite power numbers that he used to. Pitchers know he will chase, so they aren’t giving him much to hit these days.

Justin Morneau– Minnesota Twins

Morneau will likely serve as a cautionary tale to teams that want to lock up their own stars to long-term deals. It often works out better than locking up outside free agents, but sometimes things don’t work out either way. Since his concussion late in 2010, it has been a rough go for Morneau. He’s battled back to become mediocre and his ranking near the bottom of this list confirms that.

For fantasy baseball players, it has been awhile since Morneau has been a major factor. His numbers are solid but unspectacular. For the Minnesota Twins, it is a waiting game until they can get out from under the huge contract they gave him. At least Joe Mauer is still an elite player.

SWSTR SO/BB SWB% Contact
Ryan Howard

17.3%

4.71

35.6

64.0

Carlos Pena

15.4%

2.10

31.0

66.0

Chris Carter

14.9%

3.46

26.3

64.8

Brandon Moss

14.5%

2.77

31.2

69.0

Garrett Jones

13.5%

4.03

34.3

70.8

Chris Davis

12.9%

2.11

33.6

73.3

Mark Trumbo

12.9%

2.26

33.2

72.1

Adam Dunn

12.1%

2.82

23.1

71.2

Freddie Freeman

11.7%

2.57

33.1

77.4

Mitch Moreland

10.3%

3.28

32.4

77.3

Nick Swisher

9.8%

1.80

25.0

76.1

Travis Hafner

9.8%

1.93

26.2

76.5

Kendry Morales

9.8%

2.38

30.4

78.5

Adrian Gonzalez

9.4%

1.27

33.9

81.3

Paul Goldschmidt

9.3%

1.94

24.8

78.1

Ryan Howard– Philadelphia Phillies

We tried to warn them. The Phillies gave Ryan Howard that stupid contract and like a freshman at pledge week, they are suffering from a hangover of epic proportions. He is reaching the end of his timeline a bit early, but this is where a careful study of performance helps you out. You could see signs of decay even three or four years ago if you looked hard enough.

Now, he is barely viable as a fantasy player or as a big league regular first baseman. He will still hit the occasional home run and drive in runs, but most regular first basemen will drive in at least 75 to 80 runs on accident. I’m not sure if Howard is capable of much more than that.

Chris Davis– Baltimore Orioles

One can’t help but wonder whether Dan Duquette made a deal with the devil. He takes over as the Orioles GM and suddenly they win every extra inning game under the sun. This year, Chris Davis has gone from being a marginal big league regular to being an MVP candidate. No doubt, if he wasn’t drafted in your league, he was picked up early in April.

If you happen to be a happy Chris Davis owner you might consider dealing him while the getting is good. His swing and miss rate is an indicator that he will likely hit a slump somewhere along the way. His power has certainly improved and that isn’t shown here, so he still has value, but he isn’t the second or third best first baseman in baseball.

Freddie Freeman– Atlanta Braves

There has always been something about Freeman that I didn’t like. People kept telling me that he would eventually turn into a .300/30/100/100 guy and that certainly sounded fine, but he hasn’t done it yet. Being towards the bottom of the list here means he is actually closer to average than near the bottom. When you think about Freeman overall, average sounds just about right.

There is certainly a place for average on your fantasy team. I’m just not sure if it is in the starting lineup. First base is the strongest position of the diamond offensively when you count the legion of DHs that are also eligible at the position. So, having someone that hovers between 20 and 25 home runs with 90 RBIs is nice, but not elite.

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