One of the more puzzling cases for fantasy owners this season has been Ricky Nolasco’s rapid demise. Despite showing solid skills (.85 K Rate, .30 BB Rate), Nolasco’s been crushed to the tune of a 26.3% LD Rate, which has resulted in a .377 BHIP%. The Marlins believe the issue is a mental one and sent Nolasco down to AAA to regroup. In his first outing, Nolasco went 8 innings allowing 6 hits, 2 BB’s, and 3 ER’s, while striking out 7. He was pitching in Las Vegas, a strong hitters’ environment and once again showed the good K Rate and Strike Rates, throwing just under 70% of his pitches for strikes. If the problem IS just a mental one, Nolasco could need just one more start to get some confidence before returning and while he’s likely demolished fantasy teams with his horrid start, he’s worth rostering for the upside we saw in the 2nd half last year.
I haven’t had a chance to reinforce Dan Uggla’s career splits in a while, so let me take the light Thursday schedule as my opportunity. For his career Uggla has posted this OPS by month: March/April .750, May .996, June .913, July .749, August .773, Sept/Oct .735. Now here in 2009: Uggla posted an OPS in April of .745, right in line with his career numbers, but hasn’t had the monstrous May we have been accustomed to, positing just an .807 OPS. While some of this is due to a decreased EXBH Rate compared to years past (11.9% vs. 15.4%), the majority of it is simply due to poor luck. His HR Rate has been practically the same as his May career rates (5.9% vs. 6.2%), but his Singles average has been drastically different (.148 vs. .251). The Singles average has been down all year and is the primary reason for Uggla’s depressed value (50 pts below 3 year average). His HR Rate is down “slightly”, but his EYE has improved significantly and his batted ball type is nearly identical in GB, LD, and FB Rates. Uggla is the same player he’s always been his power pace just isn’t able to keep up with last year’s monster season. Expect the continued build in his stats through June and then the slow decline that accelerates in the final months, which we’ve seen from Uggla throughout his career. He’s a nice buy-low opportunity now that if you can flip in July would be the best possible play.
The Big Unit picked up win #299 on Wednesday night with 6 terrific innings against the Braves. He allowed just 3 hits and continued to show good command, walking none, while limiting the Braves to 1 ER and striking out 5. The K numbers continue to be there for the Big Unit as he now has compiled 54 K’s in 52 innings, but the stamina isn’t as Johnson through 6 innings just 3 times in 10 starts this season. The stamina issues are leaking into his numbers as indicated by his OPS against by inning which goes: .487, .450, .618, 1.086, 1.193, 1.504 through the first 6 innings of games. As a result he’s just a matchups play right now and can’t be trusted against patient lineups that work counts. Fortunately he plays in the NL West where matchups can be plentiful, so he’s still roster-worthy in formats because of the strong K potential. He’ll get the Nationals next week for his first chance at 300 in what would typically be considered a good matchup. But this year’s Nats team with the addition of Adam Dunn is actually 7th in MLB in OBP, making this a difficult outing for the stamina challenged Johnson. In Big Unit’s first outing against the Nats he struck out 9 in 5 innings, but was pulled after allowing 8 hits (3 HR’s) and 4 ER’s. He’s worth a go with the K potential and the motivation for win 300, but this isn’t a terribly great matchup for Big Unit next week. The Marlins who he’ll get after that rank 24th in MLB in OBP and are a much more favorable matchup.
Reynolds is putting up one of the more interesting statistical profiles early in the season. He’s on pace for a 40-30 season right now (that’s not happening) and has shown genuine improvements in both his BB and K Rates. The improved plate discipline has led to better AB’s and a slightly higher EXBH Rate which at age 26 (as Mike Leone) mentioned would be expected (12.0% vs. 11.0% in ’08). All these are good signs and reasons to suggest some of Reynolds improvements are quite legitimate, but then looking at the batted ball data some confusing trends come out. His GB Rate is higher and his LD and FB Rates are lower, an unusual combination for a guy with an increased exbh rate. In addition his EXBH distribution has become heavily unbalanced driven by a HR/FB Rate above 28%. While Reynolds has enormous true power, he’s probably having “some” good fortune in this space, so look for the HR pace to slow to closer to the high 30’s than low 40’s. And finally, the one real outlier in Reynolds profile are the 10 SB’s. Reynolds stole just 12 bases in his entire minor league career and picked up 4 of those 10 SB’s in one game earlier this season. He’ll likely finish in the high to mid teens in SB’s. Third base is in a down year offensively for fantasy and Reynolds is making some legitimate improvements, so he’ll continue to hold great value, just expect a slowed pace as the season wears on in both the HR (we’ll see more 2B’s) and SB numbers.
Wolf was terrific again on Thursday night limiting the Cubs to just 1 ER on 6 hits and 1 BB, while striking out 7. He consistently worked ahead of Cubs hitters and put away a number of hitters with his good curve ball. He lowered his ERA to 2.84 in the process and continued to benefit from a great singles average against (.234). Wolf’s always had fantasy potential due to his high K Rates and his move to Dodger stadium should help as he’s been an extreme FB pitcher throughout his career, but Wolf always brings some risk to the table because of his propensity for wearing down as the season goes on and becoming ineffective or injured. Wolf’s career ERA splits by months are as follows: 4.45 in March/April, 3.25 in May, 4.14 in June, 4.58 in July, 5.25 in August, and 3.77 in Sept/Oct. He’s had less career outings in Sept/Oct largely because of injuries ending his season in August. When healthy Wolf will continue to be a fantasy asset as he’s finally in the perfect setting for his skills and in a division that generates plenty of fantasy friendly matchups, but his fantasy owners should be aware of his tendency to breakdown, especially after throwing 190 innings in 2008.