For most fantasy baseball leagues, there are only three and a half weeks left until the playoffs. This means that we can no longer look at a struggling player and hope they start producing at some point down the road. We need them to produce now, as we desperately fight for a bye seed, one of the last few spots in the championship bracket, or even just for playoff positioning. With that in mind, we need to become tougher with our decision-making down this final stretch of the season. If a player hasn’t helped your team through the first four and a half months of the season, then there’s a solid chance he won’t suddenly morph into a key contributor over these next few weeks. It may be time to cut your losses and move on, before it ends up costing you your entire season. In last week’s edition of Patience or Panic, the verdict for all three players was panic, because there simply isn’t a lot of time for these players to turn things around enough to help everyone’s fantasy teams. So let’s get right to it with this week’s edition, keeping in mind that the leash on everyone continues to get shorter as the end of the season inches closer.
Wilson Ramos (C, New York Mets) – .264 AVG, 39 R, 12 HR, 58 RBI, 0 SB
After coming off two of the last three seasons wherein he batted over .300 with 15+ home runs, Wilson Ramos rightfully entered the season as a consensus top five fantasy catcher. Unfortunately, he has left something to be desired given the less than inspiring .264/.335/.402 line. From June 25th through the end of July, things got really bad for Ramos. Not only did he drive in just two runs in a span of a month, from June 25th to July 24th, but he went that entire time without a homer, and even worse, without scoring a run. As someone who doesn’t have Ramos on any of his fantasy teams, I find that stat to be incredibly fascinating, and quite honestly, hilarious. But I’m sure anyone who has him rostered on their team feels the same way. Fortunately, Ramos has gotten off to a great start in the month of August, with eight hits, two bombs, and 12 RBI in five games. This seems much closer to how he should produce the rest of the way, as his 43.4% hard-hit rate and 90.2 mph exit velocity are both right in line with his career norms, when he had better overall seasons than what he has done in 2019 to date. He also is seeing the ball well at the plate this year, producing a 13.3% strikeout rate (the lowest of his career), while drawing a 9.7% walk rate, his best rate since 2012. With the Mets playing better every day, Ramos will hopefully be able to both score and drive runs in with more consistency. Therefore, expect him to be one of the top backstops in baseball down the stretch.
Masahiro Tanaka (SP, New York Yankees) – 7-6, 4.93 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 110 K, 129.2 IP
Despite being elected to the MLB All Star Game at the beginning of July, Masahiro Tanaka is in the middle of the worst season of his major league career, with the majority of his struggles coming in the last month and a half. In his last seven starts, Tanaka has imploded for 36 earned runs, giving him an ERA of 10.23 while giving up nine homers in that span. The main reason for these struggles? His phenomenal splitter suddenly losing its effectiveness. Throughout the year, there has been a lot of talk about the baseballs being altered in a seemingly successful way to increase the number of home runs in the game. Due to this change, the seams on the ball are lower than in years past. This has severely reduced the vertical movement of the pitch that made Tanaka an all-star pitcher. After opponents were only able to bat .191 and .220 against Tanaka’s splitter in each of the past two years, they have hit .292 against the pitch this season. He has also given up more homers this year when throwing his splitter than with any other pitch, while his diminished comfort and control with the pitch has led to a career-worst 2.36 BB/9. With the baseball not changing back to its previous form any time soon, it is up to Tanaka to adapt, and so far he has not been able to do that. Perhaps he will figure things out in the off-season when he has plenty of time to work on the pitch, but with only a few weeks left in the season, it is becoming increasingly unlikely that he rediscovers his dominant splitter in 2019.
Wade Davis (RP, Colorado Rockies) – 1-5, 6.61 ERA, 1.71 WHIP, 15 SV, 34 K, 32.2 IP
After coming off a mediocre 2018 season in which he posted a 4.13 ERA, Wade Davis entered 2019 looking for a major bounce back season. Instead, Davis has been even worse. His five run implosion last week was finally enough for Rockies manager Bud Black to mercifully demote him out of the team’s 9th inning role. While it sounded like the decision is not necessarily permanent, there is very little reason to believe that Davis will start pitching well enough to earn back the closer spot. His 9.37 K/9 is his worst strikeout rate since 2013, while his 5.51 BB/9 and 13.2% walk rate is in the bottom 5% of the league. Batters are making hard contact against him 40.2% of the time, and they have an average exit velocity of 89 mph. So while suddenly returning to his 2014-2017 form seems like a tall enough task as it is, he would likely also need Colorado’s replacement closer, Scott Oberg, to falter, which may be even less likely than Davis turning things around. In contrast to Davis, Oberg has looked terrific all season, posting a 1.53 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP, while holding opponents to a .184 batting average. He has given up as many runs since May 6th as Davis gave up in his melt down versus the Dodgers last Wednesday night alone. Therefore, I fully expect Oberg to maintain a secure grip on the closer role, while Davis’ ERA might just continue to rise.
(Photo by Juan Salas/Icon Sportswire)