Patience or Panic 7/31: Upton, Davies, Holland
With the MLB trade deadline finally here, it is time to also think about the trade deadlines in your fantasy baseball leagues. For the majority of leagues, that deadline is just a couple of weeks away, with some even closer. This means it is your last chance to try and buy low on a struggling player who you think might turn it around just in time for the fantasy playoffs. With many players, that ship has already sailed (thanks for finally showing up, Mr. Goldschmidt), but there are still a few guys whose owners might be ready to give up and take whatever return they can get for their under-performing players. This brings us to another weekly edition of Patience or Panic, where we take a deeper look at a few guys who clearly aren’t performing as they should, trying to determine if they are going to pick up the pace before the season’s end.
Justin Upton (OF, Los Angeles Angels) – .224 AVG, 18 R, 5 HR, 12 RBI, 1 SB
After missing the first two and a half months of the season with a toe injury, Justin Upton came back hot, blasting three homers in his first week. Unfortunately, he has hit just two additional bombs since then, and limping to what would be his worst batting average since his first stint in the majors in 2007. As usual with Upton, strikeouts have been a major problem this season. While never known for being a contact hitter, Upton is striking out a career worst 29.5% of the time. Meanwhile, his 13.7% swinging strike rate is his worst since 2008. In the past, he has overcome this problem with his power, but he hasn’t been able to punish the ball nearly as effectively in 2019. His soft contact rate of 27.4% is the worst mark of his career. Making matters worse, he has an average exit velocity of 87.5 mph, the lowest of his career and more than three mph slower than in 2018. Interestingly, Upton has had an even bigger upper cut on his swing than in years past, so perhaps this is playing a significant factor in his poor results to this point. Not to mention the fact that he is very possibly still trying to find his rhythm since his injury. While Upton has always been one of the streakiest players in baseball, and could get blistering hot at any moment, we are about to enter August, and I’m not sure there’s enough time left to sit around and wait for him to eventually find his groove at the plate. There are plenty of solid options in the outfield this season who can provide much more consistent production down the stretch than Upton, regardless of whether or not he breaks out of this huge slump.
Zach Davies (SP, Milwaukee Brewers) – 8-4, 3.56 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 76 K, 118.2 IP
After allowing two earned runs or fewer in each of his first nine starts of the season, Zach Davies has posted just four quality starts in his last 13 games. It appears that his early season success was due to a great bit of luck, as his peripheral stats show that he has pitched worse than his surface numbers show. For starters, Davies has an xFIP of 5.20 and an SIERA of 5.44. Both of those numbers are actually the worst of his career, and they show that his ERA this season should not be nearly as its current standing. He also has a left-on-base rate of 75.5%, the best of his career, signaling that more base runners should probably be scoring against him compared to how many have actually reached home. Furthermore, while never known to be a strikeout pitcher, Davies has not been able to put batters away this year, posting a career worst 5.76 K/9. In fact, his 15.1% strikeout rate is in the bottom 6% of the league. The 26-year-old has also only recorded one win since June 9th, a result of him lasting six or more innings in just two of his last ten starts. Clearly, Davies will have a great deal of trouble trying to replicate his success from earlier in the year, and without the wins or strikeouts, his mediocre ERA and WHIP are not worth it. Congratulations if you rode him while he was hot, but it is now time to drop him and move on if you haven’t done so already.
Greg Holland (RP, Arizona Diamondbacks) – 1-2, 4.54 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 17 SV, 40 K, 33.2 IP
After winning the Diamondbacks closer battle in spring training, Greg Holland looked terrific early on, allowing just three earned runs through the end of May. However, he has since given up 14 earned runs, as his ERA ballooned from 1.31 to 4.54 in under two months, resulting in him being temporarily removed from the closer role in Arizona. This was in large part due to batters having a 39.8% hard-hit rate against Holland, the worst of his career. They have also produced an 88.9 mph average exit velocity against the veteran, another career worst for the veteran reliever. Holland has had an unusual amount of trouble keeping the ball in the park this year, with a 1.34 HR/9 ratio. Other than his rookie year in 2010, the only other time his HR/9 ratio was any higher than 0.45 was in his one season at Coors playing for the Rockies. In other words, Holland has always done a terrific job of limiting the long ball, but that has not been the case this season, and the results have not been pretty. Therefore, I am of the belief that his temporary demotion might not be so temporary after all. The Diamondbacks have several quality relievers who are capable of performing well in the 9th inning role, so a switch back to Holland is far from a guarantee, even if he does right the ship while working in lower leverage situations. Additionally, with the waiver trade deadline no longer an option, there is no possibility of Arizona displaying Holland in the closer role in an attempt to trade him. Without the saves, Holland doesn’t have much fantasy value, especially with how he’s been pitching of late.
(Photo by Dan Sanger/Icon Sportswire)