As we reach the end of June, and therefore the midpoint of the regular season, it’s time to re-evaluate things and come to realize that maybe players or teams who have uncharacteristically struggled to this point might not turn things around this year. Teams like the Yankees and Braves, who were expected by many to lead their respective divisions, might never reach that level of success. Or at least not this season. Is it still possible for them to turn things around? Absolutely. But this becomes less and less likely with every passing day.
The same is true for players. Which is why this weekly edition of Patience or Panic will be re-visiting three players who have already appeared in earlier issues. These are three players who, after receiving a “Patience” verdict at the time, have either continued to struggle or have reverted back to an underwhelming level of performance. As a result, it is time to re-examine their production to determine whether or not we should still have the same amount of faith in them as before.
.238 AVG, 22 R, 3 HR, 23 RBI, 4 SB
After getting off to a slow start to the season, Gleyber Torres had a terrific stretch in May that brought his batting average up from .208 to .282, while beginning to look like the 2019 Gleyber Torres who was one of the most exciting young players in the league. Over the past couple of weeks however, Torres has gone ice cold at the plate, quite possibly looking like the single worst hitter in the game since June 13th. Since that time, Torres is 3-for-42 with no homers, no steals, no runs scored, and no RBI. Yuck. All three of those hits were singles, and he had five multi-strikeout performances during the stretch, including a golden sombrero on June 22nd.
Looking beyond those surface stats which look as bad as they possibly could, Torres is making incredibly bad contact when he does put the ball in play. His 86.1 mph average exit velocity ranks among the bottom 6% of the league, while his 33.7% hard-hit rate isn’t much better by comparison. Both are not just career lows, but are considerably worse than that of 2020, when he limped to a .243/.356/.368 line with only three homers and 16 RBI in the COVID-shortened season. Torres is also making weak contact more than twice as often as he had in his career to this point, and he is hitting more grounders (43.7%) than ever before.
When all else fails, the one constant is usually some nice production in terms of runs and RBI simply due to hitting in the middle of a powerful Yankees lineup, but even that has not been the case this season. With the Yankees having scored the second-fewest runs in the American League thus far, Torres needs to create his own production, and he simply hasn’t been able to do that. It seems like it is well past time to acknowledge that Gleyber Torres is a long shot to replicate his performance from his first two seasons in the league. There are better options for your middle infield.
3-3, 5.29 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, 90 K, 66.1 IP
Since May 1st, Blake Snell has had an unfortunately predictable pattern of having one great start followed by two bad ones. Interestingly enough, that pattern is completely identical with his home and away starts. As a result, his home ERA sits at a lovely 1.43 on the year, while his road ERA is an abysmal 10.36. That also comes with a 1.04 WHIP when pitching in San Diego, versus an alarming 2.23 WHIP on the road. This is one of the most drastic home and away splits you’ll see from a player, so the easy solution here might honestly be to simply start him at home and bench him on the road in fantasy, at least until he hopefully figures things out away from Petco Park.
Looking a bit deeper however, his control is uncharacteristically bad this season. After posting a walk rate of 9.1% or lower in each of his past three seasons, that number has ballooned to 13.2% through these first three months of 2021. And after putting up first-pitch strike rates of 68% and 63.5% each of the past two years, that mark currently sits at 55.6%. That is his worst output since 2017, his second year in the league, when he finished the year with a 4.04 ERA. Snell has walked multiple batters in 13 of his 15 starts this season, walking at least three in seven of his last ten.
Walks aside, Snell is giving up hard contact 41.5% of the time, a 27% increase from his career rate. His 88.9 mph average exit velocity against him and a miserable 11.7% barrel rate against him are also career worsts. Truthfully, the only thing Snell is doing well this year aside from pitching at home is striking people out. He still has managed to collect 90 strikeouts in 66.1 innings pitched on the year, and his 31.7% whiff rate is right in line with his career average of 32.2%.
Due to his swing-and-miss ability, combined with his track record, I am still a believer in Blake Snell, and I am not of the belief that he was only good because he pitched for the Rays. Until he can figure out how to pitch on the road again, I would certainly be wary of matchups, but I remain confident that the former Cy Young award winner will find his form before the season’s end, and he will hopefully be at his best when fantasy teams need him most down the stretch.
.256 AVG, 30 R, 4 HR, 37 RBI, 0 SB
Turning 35 in two days, Charlie Blackmon is no longer the hitter he was in his prime. And unfortunately, he doesn’t appear to be anywhere close to that hitter anymore. After batting .283 or higher in nine straight seasons, Blackmon is down to just .256, while only putting up four homers. He is also on track to not steal a base this year, something he has never gone a full season without doing.
Blackmon has clearly lost a step, and despite becoming a smarter hitter, who is striking out less (12.9%) and walking more (12.2%) than ever before, he has been unable to produce the way he has for the majority of his career. While his 42.4% hard-hit rate is actually a career-best, and his 87.6 mph average exit velocity is his second-best mark in the last five years, both of those numbers have been trending down over the past month, along with his batting average which was sitting at .282 earlier in the month.
Blackmon’s last extra-base hit came all the way back on June 8th, while his four homers occurred sporadically throughout the earlier part of the year, with his last one coming on June 3rd. He has yet to hit a single ball out of the park this season when playing away from Coors Field, and he isn’t giving himself much of a chance with a career-high 51.2% groundball rate. For reference, this number has been below 43.5% in each of the past eight seasons, so he has really taken a downturn thus far in 2021.
Like I said before, Blackmon has lost a step offensively, and it is showing in nearly every aspect of his game. He simply isn’t the same hitter that helped lead a dynamic Rockies lineup for the last decade, and it’s long past time we accept this. Charlie Blackmon’s days of being a fantasy baseball stud are over, and it has reached the point where he is no longer an asset at all.
Featured image by Michael Packard (@designsbypack on Twitter and Instagram)