I am always hesitant to ask a player-related question, since we give the knights the week to discuss the query and situations change. Such is the case this week, but in a way, it serves to help hammer home a point or two. You'll see what I mean. Remember, this was posed at the end of last week.
Which of these Mendoza-wannabes are you most confident will return to form and which are you the most worried about?
Tim Heaney leads us off this week:
Weeks and Hosmer should turn things around soon. Weeks' issues most likely have to do with a fouled-up swing, as noted by his infield fly-ball percentage and observations that he has been diving over the plate when he takes hacks. He has outperformed his makeup flaws for a long time, and I think he has enough raw power to continue doing so.
Hosmer has had to deal with an increasing amount of defensive shifts, which has undoubtedly hurt his BABIP. He still has excellent plate discipline, though, and boasts all-fields capability. He's still on track for about 20 HR, so that's enough reason to hang on with the faith that he'll have some more favorable in-play luck, especially since he has nearly the same dispersion of batted-ball results as he had in 2011.
Ramirez worries me the most. He already relies on doing a little bit of everything to return fantasy value and isn't particularly good at any skill. He hits too many ground balls to hope for a power outburst without some good fortune, and not enough SB to make up for his deficiencies.
Perry Van Hook is always looking for the hook:
Well the crack in the question is which form we expect them to return to? Better than first two months? Better than last year? Better than projected?
Hosmer - currently at .201 but 9-for-23 last week. Hosmer had been very unlucky and still had five home runs despite the average. I expect him to hit .280+ for the balance of the year so he won't come close to the Mastersball projected .286, but I think the home runs will still be close to twenty and the 12 projected stolen bases will be greatly exceeded.
Ramirez - currently at .219, but again a breakout of sorts last week with a 7-for-23 performance. I think the final average will be less than the projected .276 - maybe .255+ and he will be well short of the projected 16 home runs. Again there may be a slight compensation on the bases as I expect him to have more than 10.
Weeks - has worked hard to earn the runt of the litter title as he currently sits at .152. While I expect that to get over .200 for the rest of the year he will be at least 20+ points shy of the projected .269. But Weeks is the one that may come closest to projected home runs, an outcome of his swinging so hard so often - damn the contact, put it over the wall. And he is the one most likely to be short on the projected 10 stolen bases.
Lawr Michaels always has an anecdote to share:
My mate seatmate Jeff Specific noted the other day at the yard that it was hard to believe, for example, Oakland was starting a couple of guys with sub-.200 numbers, and last Friday, when Collin Cowgill and Josh Donaldson were gracing the starting lineup, it was true (Cowgill has since bagged six hits over his last seven at bats to raise his average to .239).
But, the truth is every team has a couple of these guys, and the problem is not limited to role players like Josh and Collin.
Erick Aybar just moved his average over .200 to .215, and Rickie's brother is hovering near Mendoza at .207 after hitting over 100 points higher just a year ago. And, right above Hosmer in the stat base is Ben Zobrist at .206 to Hosmer's paltry .201.
To me the reality is that hitting is not only not as good as it was when walks and getting on base seemed to be favored over home runs and free swinging. But as a result hitters get in a funk that is hard to extricate from.
Witness Adam Dunn.
And, especially for young players with promise - like Gordon Beckham.
So, I don't expect any of these guys to pull their average much over .220 when the season ends.
Of the three, I have the most hope for Hosmer, who with 15 walks to 25 whiffs is showing the most plate discipline, and that tells me he is being selective, but the balls are simply not dropping for him. Ramirez has the lowest OBP of the group, and he is flailing, while Hosmer is simply going through a nasty sophomore slump. All three have OBPs less than .300, which is simply terrible.
Ryan Carey offers his analysis:
I am most confident that Hosmer will return to form, and as Perry noted above, despite his struggles with batting average, he is still on pace to post respectable numbers in homers and stolen bases. He's been unlucky and he has been pitched around more often this year. I remember reading the other day that he was one of the league leaders in least amount of pitches seen in the strike zone per at bat. I believe he was sitting at about 43%. Throw in the shifts that Tim mentioned, an increase in GB% and some unlucky results on hard hit balls and we see the results. I went out and traded for him in a keeper league, not only for the future, but also for the rest of this year.
Weeks and Ramirez both have track records that say they are better than this and so a rebound for both seems in order for both. Personally, I have a little more faith in Weeks' overall talent, and think that his power and speed should again begin to manifest in results. The biggest fear with Weeks is always injury, but for the most part, he's been injury free. I'll admit, he is one of those guys I don't own anywhere this year, so I haven't watched him play that much. I just can't see him being this bad for the entire year.
Ramirez is a different case for me, as he never has had the same upside as Weeks, but has always been a reliable producer at SS. This year he has been pretty bad. I know that they say your spot in the batting order doesn't really matter, but in Ramirez case I think it has made an impact. He performed well late in 2011 after Robin Ventura installed him in the No 2 spot in the lineup. He saw pitches to hit, and had opportunities to steal bases and score runs. This year he has been mostly buried in the bottom third of the order, and he just isn't the same hitter down there. If I owned him, I would be hoping Ventura moves him back up to try and get his bat going again. If he stays in the 8th spot, I don't expect things to get better anytime soon.
Nick Minnix with the final shot:
I guess I cheated. I waited the longest. I think I'm crowd-sourcing when I say that Hosmer is the one in which I have the confidence to get back into form. He has the best approach of the three. Plus, he's been ripping it for about a week.
Next, I have some faith in Alexei Ramirez. Let me tell ya, it ain't a ton of faith, although I wish it was for a few of my teams. I haven't watched him much, so I'll keep an eye on this White Sox-Rays tilt on Wednesday, but obviously his results lately are encouraging. The primary allure, to me, of the Cuban Missile is that he was a decent consolation prize at shortstop, the kind of player who could net you 15 homers and 10 steals. The paces of those numbers aren't encouraging, and neither is his apparently declining game.
Obviously, Weeks could easily outdo Ramirez and could give Hosmer a run for our money, but something about his first two months concerns me. It's not really that he's striking out a bit more often than he usually does. It's that, at least to me, there have been no encouraging signs yet. I feared that Milwaukee might be doing the club a disservice by bringing him back too quickly from that severely sprained ankle he suffered last July. Instead of letting him rehab it completely, they played him on and off and then as much as they could in the postseason. But we all saw that he was a shadow. He was supposed to be 100 percent entering spring training, but he still doesn't look the same. I just wonder how much effect that had. He's just been a less aggressive, more tentative hitter.
Lord Zola's Wrap-Up
As usual, the knights were spot-on in their analysis. I chose these three players for specific reasons other than they were scuffling. Hosmer was selected based on his skills being consistent with last season, it was just his BABIP was really low. Weeks was chosen because of his high strikeout rate while Ramirez was chosen because he has quietly been one of the most consistent players the past three seasons.
My responses would have been built around those reasons:
- Hosmer has just been unlucky. Skills-wise, he is already "in-form."
- Ramirez's track record is so strong that I fully expect the hits start falling, though the power worries me a little.
- I am most concerned about Weeks since his already suspect K rate is even worse.
The fact that Hosmer and Ramirez have already shown signs of life is encouraging. I like it when the principles I adhere to come to fruition. This speaks towards being patient and using skills, not results to best judge how a player has performed, thus how he is likely to perform going forward.
Focusing primarily on the science of player valuation and game theory starting in 1997, Todd Zola and Mastersball carved out an important niche in the fantasy industry. In 2006, Todd became the Research Director for fantasybaseball.com, and in 2009, he relaunched Mastersball and is now a managing partner.
Todd competes in Tout Wars and the XFL, and has been a multiple-time league champion in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. He has been a contributor to the fantasy content at MLB.com and SI.com, is a frequent guest on Sirius/XM and Blog Talk Radio and is an annual speaker at the spring and fall First Pitch Forum symposiums.