In my last edition of this series, we’d just passed the All-Star Break, one of the most trying times for baseball fans longing to see their teams dive back into a pennant race.
As I compose this week’s Patience or Panic, trade deadline shows are wrapping up. For baseball nerds like myself, it’s not unlike the waning moments of Christmas day. Nevertheless, among the frenzy, there’s still baseball being played. And some are not playing it well.
Ordinarily, I conduct my research for these articles by examining the last month’s stats and seeing who’s struggling the most. The metrics vary, but I usually start with wOBA or WAR for offensive players and determine if their struggles have fantasy implications.
Not so for Mr. Castellanos. I was inspired to take a look at him after a few comical swings-and-misses at Mitch Keller sweepers well outside the zone.
Sure enough, July was unkind to the Phillies’ right fielder. Since July 1, he’s managed just a .162 average. In 103 at-bats, he’s hit 4 home runs, not a bad clip. But, aside from those 4 dingers, he’s scored just 1 run.
A big part of Castellanos’s struggles is his approach. He owns a career K/BB ratio of 4.79, a little worse than average. In the last month, that number has leaped to higher than 17. He’s always been a free-swinger, but his chase rate of 43.6% and whiff rate of 23.5% since July 1 are untenably high.
Verdict: Patience. It’s tough to nail down a decision here, but I think you just have to expect patches like this from Castellanos. He swings at a lot of pitches and hits them hard more often than most. There’ll be stretches where that doesn’t ring true.
I employed my usual research methods to land on Arozarena. I was aware he and his Rays had been coming back to earth, but his struggles are worse than I knew.
The electrifying outfielder got off to a start much like his team. Through one month of play, he was batting .327 with 7 home runs and 28 RBI. May and June were less torrid for Arozarena, but he still hit for solid power, with 15 home runs and 57 RBI heading into July.
July, however, was unkind to the 28-year-old.
In 23 games, Arozarena hit just .153 with 2 home runs and 5 RBI. Team context helped a little, allowing him to score 10 runs, but it was a bleak month for Arozarena and fantasy players with him on their roster.
The causes of his struggles are multifaceted. He’s probably been a victim of some bad luck. His miserable .183 BABIP is well below a still unsightly .233 xBABIP. He’s also maintained his ability to hit the ball hard, posting a solid 90.0 MPH average exit velocity in the last month.
The problem lies in the direction of his contact. Since July 1, 45% of his batted balls have had negative exit velocities. In other words, he’s hitting far too many ground balls.
Verdict: Patience. There are signs of concern in the recent peripherals, but Arozarena is a star and my money is on him breaking out of this soon.
Stroman got off to arguably the best start of his career this season, heading into the All-Star Break with a 2.96 ERA despite two bad starts in early July. His 9 wins were a welcome development on a Cubs team expected to be average at best. Fantasy players with shares of Stroman were licking their chops at the potential for the ace to be dealt to a contender.
Well, the trade deadline has come and passed and Stroman remains on the North Side.
The Cubs have put together a nice run of play in recent weeks, wriggling themselves back into playoff contention. Such a development likely played a large part in the Chicago front office’s decision to hang on to Stroman, but one has to wonder if they aren’t worried about his recent performance.
Since July 1, Stroman has posted a 9.11 ERA. His strikeouts have ticked up in that time, around 1 per inning, but so have his walks. Opponents are batting .298 against him and slugging .465. His WHIP has jumped from 1.11 before the break to 1.24 and his ERA has skyrocketed to 3.85.
Some regression was bound to happen. Through June, Stroman had surrendered just a .250 BABIP against despite an average 27.9% hard contact rate. His walk rate was up against his career average but he wasn’t striking more batters out. He was clearly overperforming.
Verdict: Patience and Panic. I don’t know if there’s much to do at this point in the season. The real Stroman is somewhere in between the two extremes we’ve seen this season, and you can’t exactly sell high on him right now. Unless you can get a return commensurate for a good starting pitcher, hang on for dear life.