Patience or Panic 8/2: Hamilton, Bellinger, McCullers
(Photo by Juan DeLeon/Icon Sportswire)
It’s already August. How, how can it possibly be August? It feels like just yesterday I was struggling to figure out how I wanted to format these weekly posts. I eventually settled in, and now almost 4 months has passed. As always with Patience or Panic, we will try and look deep into the sabermetric force and try our best to determine whether three struggling players will continue to scuffle, or will finally break out of their funks. This week we have three players who all put together nice 2017 seasons. One took home the NL ROY, another broke the Yankees hearts in the playoffs with 24 consecutive curveballs, and the last typically can win steals for you on any given day.
Billy Hamilton – .228 AVG, 3 HRs, 54 Rs, 22 RBIs, 23 Sbs
You drafted Hamilton with the thought “hey if I take him here, then I won’t have to worry about steals in the rest of the year”. We have all been there, while it can work in roto, it never typically works in head-to-head. However, here we are at the start August and Billy Hamilton hasn’t stolen a base since the 10th of July. Without the steals, Hamilton does not have much going for him in the offense department. Since July 10th he has amassed just a total of 6 (!) countings stats. Overall it’s incredibly ugly, with a fantasy slash of .173 AVG/4 Rs/0 HRs/ 2 RBIs/ 0 SB in 56 plate appearances.
If you are trying to find a glimmer of hope when looking into his Statcast data, it isn’t much better. His xBA is still below .200 since July 10th, his exit velocity is the 4th worst at 81.4 MPH. His xwOBA of .216 is the worst among the 194 players who have taken 50 at-bats since early July. All of these things shouldn’t come as a surprise really, Hamilton has never been known for his work with the lumber. His speed is what gives him fantasy relevancy, and 22 steals heading into August is not good enough. It is time for the love for Hamilton to end, and if I see him being drafted as a top-50 batter again next year, then I’m going to have a conniption.
Verdict : Panic
Cody Bellinger – .236 AVG, 17 HRs, 61 Rs, 44 RBIs,6 SBs
After bringing home rookie of the year in the NL in 2017, and being drafted 25th heading into the 2018 season Bellinger got hits with the dreaded sophomore slump. So far this season Bellinger has amassed 436 plate appearances, nearly 100 less than his rookie but his numbers are nowhere near close last year. He has produced 22 fewer home runs, 26 fewer runs, 53 fewer RBIs, and 5 fewer stolen bases. Even with a potential 200 more trips to the plate for the lefty, it would be shocking to sniff his incredible 2017 season.
Bellinger looked like he was finally turning it around in June where he hit 8 dingers and slugged .684. The dog days of July hit the youngster hard and he let down his fantasy owners, finishing the month with one homer and a sub .300 wOBA. Bellinger has actually raised his exit velocity, 1 MPH, but so has the MLB as a whole. His hard-hit % has dropped 7.8 percent and his wOBA had plummeted with it. Bellinger has continued to feast on fastballs in 2018, but as the league has adjusted Bellinger has seen fewer and fewer fastballs. In July he saw 10% more breaking pitches than he had in June and slugged a brutal .269 versus the pitch. The league is adjusting to the lefties long, violent swing but it’s time for Bellinger to re-adjust as well
I still have an embrittled optimistic outlook regarding Bellinger, I’m not sure if it’s because I I had many shares of his remarkable 2017 season or not. I think the player we saw in 2017 is still there, he is hitting the ball hard still and managed to put together a great June. He isn’t going to return the top-30 value you drafted him at, but I think we can see the young Dodger finish the season strong.
Lance McCullers – 122 IP, 10-6, 4.06 ERA, 1.2 WHIP, 133 Ks
The ALCS sensation who dazzled the Yankees with 24 consecutive curveballs has an up and down career so far. He has overcome various injuries, and a lack of control but has finally put together a 2018 season that we, as a fantasy community, we’re hoping for. However his July left many doubters, he posted an ERA of 6.53, allowing 15 earned runs in 20.2 innings. The positive spin to this was McCullers FIP was stuck in the mid-3s, and his K-rate jumped up to 28.7%.
In July McCullers upped his curveball usage to a ridiculous 54%, which is the highest usage in a month so far in his career. It’s really not a secret why the young Astros starter chooses his curve so often. First and foremost, it is nasty. It has a whiff rate of 17.5%, and hitters are slashing .211 AVG/.264 OBP /.362 SLG/.272 wOBA. Secondly, his sinker has simply not been getting the job done. In July, hitters tagged the pitch for an average exit velocity of 93.5, nearly 10 MPH harder than hitters hit his curve. They had a wOBA of .435 versus the sinker, and in general, any wOBA above .400 is deeply concerning.
I would love to see McCullers start throwing his changeup more like he when he upped the usage to 20% in June. His changeup has the highest current pVAL in his repertoire and it is nasty albeit less “famous” than that mesmerizing hook. I believe the July struggles where due to some unluckiness that can happen in 20 innings sample sizes and I’ll be expecting a bounce back in August.