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Hit It Or Quit It 7/4: Bour, Bauer, and Upton Jr.

Welcome to Hit It Or Quit It, a weekly column where I will take a look at five of the most added players in fantasy baseball and tell you whether...

Welcome to Hit It Or Quit It, a weekly column where I will take a look at five of the most added players in fantasy baseball and tell you whether or not what they’re doing is likely to continue. In other words, should you buy (hit it) or sell (quit it)?

Note: if you’re unfamiliar with some of the sabremetrics I reference, click here for a glossary.

Let’s dive in:

Melvin Upton Jr. – .266/.317/.444, 13 HR, 40 R, 39 RBI, 19 SB

Maybe I have some kind of personal bias against Melvin Upton Jr., I don’t know, but when I saw him first start to succeed, everything in me screamed “Don’t fall for it!” and yet those home runs and those steals looked so tempting.

But Upton’s success is not long for this world it seems. There are some red flags in his stats that suggest what he’s doing isn’t going to keep happening. The first, most glaring thing, is that his average is sitting at .266 (which is honestly pretty good for him) while his strikeout rate is sitting at around 26%. Hard to keep up any kind of decent average when you strikeout one out of every four times you come up to bat.

Now, credit where credit is due, his strikeout rate this year is actually down from the last few years. In fact, it’s currently at its lowest point since he was still called B.J. with the Rays in 2011 when he hit .243 with 23 home runs and 36 steals. Now, his walk rate was also at about 11% at the time (it’s a career-low 6.5% right now) so that helped, especially with the steals.

Upton also has a pretty elevated HR/FB rate, at 18.3%, which is not something he’s going to sustain, especially since he’s hitting fly balls at the lowest rate of his career since back in 2006.

Also, oddly enough, while Upton has already more than doubled his home run total from last year, his ISO sits at .177, which is only slightly higher than last year’s .171. What’s that mean? It means he’s not hitting many extra-base hits, rather he’s just hitting home runs. Another (obviously related) testament to that is the fact that his SLG is essentially the same as it was last year, despite the significant increase in home runs.

So enjoy Melvin while he’s hot, but that’s not going to continue. The average is going to drop, and it’s going to drop hard. He’ll still hit a handful of home runs, and he’ll still steal some bases, but that average is going to kill you. I’d project him to hit about .230 with another eight home runs and 11 steals for the rest of the year.

Ruling: He’s useful in an NL-only league, and if you’re in a really deep league (like 16-teams+) but for your standard leagues, quit it.

Justin Bour – .268/.347/.526, 15 HR, 30 R, 46 RBI

In most leagues, Justin Bour didn’t get drafted, he wasn’t even on most people’s radars. But as of right now, he’s ahead of big-name players like Jose Abreu, Freddie Freeman, and Adrian Gonzalez on ESPN’s player rater.

Whenever a player starts doing really well, I look for a definitive, noticeable skill change to tell me that he’s not just getting lucky. With Bour, we have a few noticeable skill changes.

First of all, his plate discipline has gotten a lot better. His K% has dropped dramatically, from 22.6% last year to 19% this year, and his BB% has increased equally, from 7.6% last year to 11.2% this year. His eye has gotten better, and it’s resulted in a lot of success for him.

Bour’s also hitting the ball pretty hard. His hard hit rate is at 37.9%, and his ISO is at .258 to go along with a 24.2% HR/FB, which suggests to me that his home runs are going to cool off a little bit, but considering Bour is the type of hitter he is (a big-time power hitter), I don’t think he’s going to majorly regress. Hitters like Bour tend to have high HR/FB rates and high ISOs.

Why Bour isn’t owned in 100% of leagues is beyond me. While I don’t think he’s going to hit over 30 home runs like he’s on pace for, it’s certainly not outside the realm of possibility, and considering his BABIP is at .273, I don’t necessarily think his average is going to come down too much, especially considering how much his plate discipline’s improved.

Ruling: I’d project Bour to hit about .265 the rest of the way with another 10-13 home runs, and that is absolutely useful. His ceiling is higher than that, if he ended the year with 30 home runs, I wouldn’t be shocked. If he’s available, hit it.

Trevor Bauer – 7-2 (9 QS) 3.02 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 87 K

It feels like people have been talking about Trevor Bauer’s potential forever and now it finally seems like he’s poised to fulfill that potential to an extent.

Bauer has completely changed as a pitcher this year. He had a rough 2015, and his biggest issue was control.  He had the worst walk rate in baseball last year, at 10.6%, and its dropped all the way down to 8.4% this year, which is huge. His percentage of pitches in the strike zone has increased dramatically too, from 45.7% last year to 50.4% this year (a career best).

The home runs have gone down too, last year his HR/9 was 1.18 (good for 17th-worst in the majors), and now it’s 0.66. He’s also increased his ground ball rate dramatically, from 39.2% last year to 50.6% this year.

Probably contributing to all these changes is his change in his use of pitches. He’s always been a fastball-first kind of pitcher, but this year, he’s throwing his fastball just a little less, has all but completely eliminated his slider (something he threw around 21% of the time last year), started throwing a cutter again, and has increased his use of his curveball and changeup a lot.

Ruling: I’d project Bauer to pitch about a 4.10 ERA the rest of the season, but considering he’s got a K/9 that’s gonna hover around 9 and potential through the roof, I’d say he’s useful in most formats, especially in keeper leagues; hit it.

Lonnie Chisenhall – .305/.358/.476, 5 HR, 24 R, 22 RBI, 4 SB

It seems like Lonnie Chisenhall always has a streak each season where he gets really hot and everyone picks him up and then everyone gets disappointed when he cools down.

Over the last two weeks, few hitters have been hotter than Chisenhall. He’s batted .422 with three home runs and 10 RBIs, so naturally, people have been adding him. There are some positive things to say about Chisenhall, but it’s best to temper your expectations.

Let’s start with what’s legit, and that’s his average, at least, to the extent that batting average can be even remotely predictable. He’s decreased his K% (from 19.1% last year to 16.6% this year), increased his BB% (from 6.4% to 7.3%), increased his line drive rate (from 19.5% to 27.3%) and increased his hard hit rate (from 23.4% to 27.7%).

But I say temper your expectations, because he’s not gonna hit over .300 all year. He’s got a .349 BABIP, so the average will regress a bit. And while he’s hit four home runs in the past four weeks, that pace isn’t likely to keep up, especially considering he’s never hit more than 13 home runs in a single season.

Ruling: I’d say Chisenhall is gonna do what he’s always done, he’ll hit for a decent average, probably around .270 and not much else, maybe another five home runs and around 20-25 runs and RBIs each. Ride the streak if you feel like it, but you can generally find batting average anywhere, so unless you’re in an AL-only league or a really deep league, I’d say quit it.

Danny Duffy – 4-1 (5 QS), 3.11 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 87 SO

Danny Duffy sure has come out of nowhere this year, we’ve never seen anything like this from him. The closest we’ve seen is his 2014 campaign, when he pitched a 2.53 ERA over 149.1 innings. But with an xFIP of 4.42, a BABIP of .239, and HR/FB of only 6.1%, there was a lot to suggest that he was pretty fortunate that year.

That’s not so with this year, Duffy has changed and he’s reaping the benefits. Everything says most of this is legit. His FIP and xFIP are virtually identical (3.59 and 3.57 respectively), which is pretty in line with his ERA, and his BABIP is only .286. So perhaps his ERA will go up a bit, but not significantly.

The big thing that’s changed with Duffy is the strikeouts. He’s gone from a K/9 of 6.72 last year to 10.39. That’s a gigantic jump, that’s a change from below average to one of the best in baseball, so naturally the question is, what changed?

Well, first, his control has changed dramatically. His BB% has dropped from 9% last year to only 5.3% this year, and correspondingly, his percentage of pitches in the strike zone has risen almost 2%.

He’s also changed his repertoire around a bit. His fastball velocity has risen almost two MPH and his slider has risen about four MPH. He’s also completely abandoned his curveball and increased the usage of his changeup, which with the increase of velocity in his fastball, is now a full 10 MPH slower than his heater. This has resulted in a chase rate that’s risen about 2%. While his current K/9 is pretty generous, he’s not gonna stop striking people out.

Ruling: I’d say Duffy will probably pitch to around a 3.40 ERA the rest of the year with a K/9 around 8.5-9, and that’s good enough to be used in any league. This guy’s legit, he’s changed his approach and its improved his game exponentially. In any and all leagues, hit it.

Ben Palmer (@benjpalmer) is a writer for Pitcher List who’s obsessed with sabremetrics, virtually all Baltimore sports, music, and playing guitar. He currently lives in Annapolis, Maryland and spends his summers watching way too much baseball.

Nick Pollack

Founder of Pitcher List. Creator of CSW, The List, and SP Roundup. Worked with MSG, FanGraphs, CBS Sports, and Washington Post. Former college pitcher, travel coach, pitching coach, and Brandeis alum. Wants every pitcher to be dope.

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