Is it Time to Dump Chone Figgins?
By R.J. Anderson //
When the Seattle Mariners signed the speedy Chone Figgins to a four-year deal over the off-season, a .193 batting average and eight stolen bases is not what they envisioned. Yet, to date, Figgins has produced just that total and looks hapless at the plate, leading some to wonder whether the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim knew what they were doing when they let Figgins walk.
While the Angels almost certainly held intimate knowledge of Figgins, even the most pessimistic account of his aging patterns would be hard-pressed to forecast his strikeout rate jumping from the teens to more than a quarter of his at-bats. Data provided by FanGraphs has Figgins’ contact rate at a career-low 80.9%, whereas in recent seasons Figgins has made contact at an 86% rate. That is concerning, but the good news is that Figgins is still drawing walks. What about that batting average though?
Figgins’ batting average on balls in play is a measly .250. His career rate is 88 points higher; over the last three seasons, Figgins’ low is .356. Using batted ball data to dissect his game, Figgins is hitting as many grounders as ever, but fewer liners than usual. Behold though, the one real caveat about batted ball data in general: Line drive percentage. Since human scorers tally what is a fly ball and what is a line drive, there are discrepancies year-to-year and park-to-park. A quick glance at previous years shows that the Angels’ scorer might take some liberties in qualifying close fly/liner cases as line drives rather than fly balls.
Figgins’ struggles are exacerbated by circumstance. In April of 2009, Figgins hit .244 with an inflated strikeout rate and wound up fine. In September and October of 2008, Figgins hit .234. In 2007, Figgins hit .250 in April and then .156 in May. He then torched the league for a .461 average in June, .351 in July, and .342 in August. Those months are only cherry-picked in the sense that the following results are known.
The expectations for Figgins’ season outlook have certainly depressed, but at the same time, presuming that Figgins cannot hit for the Mariners when five weeks ago everyone thought he would makes no sense. It’s that fly-by-the-seat style of roster management that leaves notoriously slow starters ripe for the grabbing come this time of the year.
If you own Figgins, hold onto him. If someone in your league dropped him, run to the waiver wire and take advantage of your competition’s short-sightedness.
For more on Chone Figgins and other struggling players, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.