(Photo by Adam Bow/Icon Sportswire)
It’s nearly August. Take a moment and let that sink in. For most fantasy leagues playoffs are not too far away and time is running out quicker than we would all like. It’s making it excruciatingly hard for you to continue showing patience in your “guys”. As always with this series, we will take a look at some big-name players who are scuffling. We will look deep within the sabermetric force and try and determine whether better times are soon ahead.
This week was especially tough for me because I seem to have shares in each of these guys. I was (and still am) a huge fan of Robbie Ray. A guy who strikeouts the world but may allow way too many runs? That’s my weakness. Bumgarner and Ozuna were players who I viewed as safer floor guys, but unfortunately, that floor is collapsing. That’s the story of my shares in these three players who all had ADP’s in the winter of in the top 50. Each was a projected to be top-20 at their respective positions, but yet here we are.
Robbie Ray – 60.2 IP, 3-2, 4.90 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 81 Ks
As I am writing about Robbie Ray he is currently spinning a 7 IP, 1 earned run gem versus the Cubbies. Ray has been a disappointment this fantasy season. Getting off to a slow start to the season, which then compounded when the south-paw injured his Oblique and missed nearly two months. It hasn’t been all rainbows and unicorns for Ray since returning from injury. The lefty has given up 18 earned runs in his 30 innings since his rejoined the Diamondbacks.
This afternoon versus the Cubs, Ray reintroduced his curveball. He threw the pitch 25 times today versus using it only once in his most recent start versus the Rockies. Ray’s curve is a key to his repertoire, and a pitch he reintroduced in 2017. In 2017 he saw a handsome amount of success with it, throwing it 20% of the time. Hitters struggled to square up the pitch with an 18% whiff-rate, and a slash of .198 AVG /.283 SLG /.247 wOBA. However, 2018 has been a different story, hitters have a .294 average and a .500 slugging percentage versus his curve. It was good to see Ray have success and grow in confidence with the pitch since nearly dropping it out of his arsenal versus the Rockies. He has been bitten by some bad luck, and the pitch currently has an xBA of .188 over .100 points lower than his actual batting average produced.
After having one of the worst hard-hit rates in the majors in 2017, 2018 is looking to be no different. Hitters have a 90.1 average exit velocity versus the southpaw, which is actually worse than last season. This was to be expected with Ray, and with it comes the predicted regression. You didn’t draft Robbie Ray with the expectation of another sub-3 ERA season (well I hope not), you drafted him for the 30+ % K-rate he is producing. I’m expecting him to get his legs under him and his ERA to continue to drop.
Marcell Ozuna – .261 AVG, 10 HRs ,39 Rs, 51 RBIs, 2 SBs
Since the start of July Marcell Ozuna is slugging .200. He has two total doubles, which make up his only extra-base hits this month. His wRC+ is currently 12, and his wOBA of .186 is the 5th worst in the majors, and all-in-all the left fielder has failed to be the impact bat that the Cardinals were hoping for.
It’s tough to sit here when August is creeping up on us and tell you to stay put but that is exactly what I am going to do. Marcell Ozuna by all accounts should be doing better this year, his xwOBA of .348 is 51 points higher than his current wOBA. His xSLG is of .483 is more in line to his 2016 season than what he is currently producing (.373 SLG). He is actually hitting the ball harder than in 2017, raising his exit velo up .7 MPH. Meanwhile, his K-rate has fallen is below 20% which is always a sexy thing to possess.
The main issue with Ozuna is he is just not punishing fastballs like he is used to. Last season he had an incredible .416 wOBA versus fastballs. He hit .339 versus while slugging .577, and producing 36 extra base hits, 18 of them being home runs. So far in 2018, Ozuna has been bitten by bad luck, his xslash versus the heater is currently .322 xBA/ .560 xSLG/ .396 xwOBA which is much more in line with his 2017 season compared to the actual slash he is producing versus right now(.284 BA/.428 SLG /.330 wOBA)/. You’re frustrated, and I know I am as well. I really think Ozuna is going to turn it around soon and have a hot end to the season. Unfortunately, with each passing day, I get more and more worried for the former Marlin.
Madison Bumgarner – 53.2 IP, 3-3, 3.19 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 46 Ks
Madison, we waited for you. For months we marked the days off the calendar, waiting for your return. It is looking like our dreams of a top-10 starting pitcher is over. Bumgarner has not looked like his vintage self so far in 2017 (really in general since the dirt bike accident). After 4 straight years of sitting in the 24-28% K-rate, Bumgarner has seen his strikeouts drop to a miserable 20.3%, around the likes of Jose Urena and Danny Duffy.
The lack of strikeouts can be traced back to the lack of swinging strikes that the Giants lefty is getting on his fastball. In his top years (2013-2015) Bumgarner’s fastball’s swing-strike rate was hovering around 10%. So far this year, it is hovering around 3%. Yes, you read that right, 3%. Bumgarner is not being helped by the fact that his fastball is down two ticks since the 2015 season. It’s dropped down to 90.9 MPH, and hitters are fairing far better. So far in 2018 hitters have a .290 batting average, in comparison to the .225 mark they had in 2016. Bumgarner may need to dial back his fastball in favor of his cutter which has been much more effective at inducing soft contact (83.5 EV) and missing bats (12.4 SwStk%).
I can’t tell you I’m not worried about the former World Series MVP. Even Nick dropped him down to his SP 28 in his most recent edition of The List. Bumgarner still comes with name recognition so I would be shopping him around and see if anyone wants to pay a handsome fee for his name still. If not it looks like you are going to have to buckle in and enjoy the ride. He is good enough that you can’t outright drop him, especially if he can maintain an ERA in the low 3’s but the strikeouts may not return as you would like, and gone will be the days of our top- 10 SP hope.