(Video) Ballpark Figures: Man vs. Machine – Middle Infielders

By Bloomberg Sports //

Man vs. Machine: Episode 3 — In a special from Bloomberg Sports’ Ballpark Figures, Mets legend Keith Hernandez sits down with Bloomberg Television’s Michele Steele and Bloomberg Sports Analyst Rob Shaw, to discuss the Fantasy Bulls and Bears for the second half of the season. In the third episode, the focus is on middle infielders.

Today’s Position: Second Base and Shortstop

Bulls

The Machine (Bloomberg Sports) says:

Blue Jays second baseman Aaron Hill is bound to bounce back after a brutal start to the 2010 season. Hill hit just .188/.271/.359 in his first 71 games, marks that are well below both his career averages and 2009 totals. Last season, the best starting second baseman north of the border (well, the only one actually) slugged .498 with a .285 batting average. Most important for fantasy owners were Hill’s 36 homers and 108 RBIs last season, numbers you just don’t normally see from a middle infielder.

So why has Hill struggled so mightily this year? It is due in large part to his BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play), which currently sits at .179, a number which is well below Hill’s career BABIP of .294 and is the lowest of any full-time position player in the majors. Once that number regresses closer to his true level (which is most likely a standard deviation or two plus/minus his career rate), Hill should see a dramatic improvement in his other stats that help fantasy teams win ball games, most notably Batting Average, RBI, and Runs.

2nd base1.JPG

Many of your friends (also known as “competition”) will be reevaluating their teams over the All-Star break and may just give up on Hill. This could be your chance to buy low and stick it to them.

The Man (Keith Hernandez) says:

“I like Freddy Sanchez of the Giants, a former batting champion for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was injured this year and missed a lot of playing time in the first half. He’s healthy now and he’s going to be playing every day, he’s a very good hitter. He’s a lock for the second half.”

Bears

The Machine (Bloomberg Sports) says:

Give Ty Wigginton some credit if he’s on your fantasy team; he certainly has deserved it with solid numbers for a second baseman. You get some credit for picking him for the first half as well. However, now that he’s on the All-Star team, other fantasy owners may be looking at him to provide some pop for their lineups. This is why it’s time to sell high on him.

Wigginton’s numbers aren’t mindboggling, but they certainly buck the trend of his recent history. Despite hitting just 11 homers in 122 games in 2009, he has gone deep 14 times already in just 83 games this year. In the same amount of time Wigginton has also produced four more RBI, despite the large differential in games played. Finally, he has already scored 32 runs this year, 73% of his 2009 total. With the Orioles struggling to score runs on most nights, he may not be rounding third base all that often in the second half.

It may be tough to give up Wigginton after his hot start to 2010. But trust the numbers and try to get the best package you can for him now, before this unlikely All-Star’s numbers begin to decline.

The Man (Keith Hernandez) says:

Kelly Johnson got off to a quick start two months into the season, but he’s tapered off since. Anybody I feel that plays for Bobby Cox and ends up getting traded you have to pay attention to. He has regressed each year. He has not had the career that I expected and I think he played over his head early on. It’s a tough year in Arizona and I see him faltering in the second half of the season.”

Bulls

The Machine (Bloomberg Sports) says:

If you’re scratching your head over one player on your fantasy roster this season, it’s probably Braves shortstop (now Jays shortstop!) Yunel Escobar. Escobar has one of the most talented swings out of all major league shortstops, as the right-handed hitter smacked 14 home runs last year while hitting .299, his highest batting average since his .326 rookie season in 2007. However, this year has been much different for the usually consistent middle infielder. Escobar has yet to hit a home run for the entire season and his .237 batting average is absurdly low, leaving fantasy owners puzzled and upset. However, Escobar’s .269 BABIP may be a culprit, as it is way under his career rate of .316.

shortstop1.JPG

The hits will eventually come for Escobar, and right now your friends would probably beg you to take him off of their hands. Be a good friend and do them a favor by giving Yunel a shot. The change of scenery to Toronto, better second-half health, and some good, new-fashioned regression could work to your advantage.

The Man (Keith Hernandez) says:

“The calf injury hurt Jimmy Rollins twice this season. He should come back healthy for the remainder of the season. He is the catalyst of this team. When he came back the Phillies started to win. I think the second half is going to be all Jimmy Rollins.”

Bears

The Machine (Bloomberg Sports) says:

Last year, Rafael Furcal put together one of his worst seasons in the major leagues, hitting just .269/.335/.375 over 150 games. Despite his usually good speed, he swiped just 12 bases, his lowest ever over a full season in the big leagues. Well, Furcal has come back with a vengeance this year, hitting .333, tops in the National League. However, the biggest surprise may be Furcal’s pop; he’s slugging .514 in 2010, higher than any other full season in his big league career (which stretches back to 2000).

Right now, Furcal is playing like he’s 26 years old all over again. However, we know that he isn’t likely to keep up this pace, and he’s probably going to drop significantly from his current numbers. If you offer him in a deal, your friends may jump at the idea of getting an All-Star who has been playing so magnificently this season. With that said, keep in mind this is a shallow pool for shortstops this season. Even with some regression likely, don’t trade Furcal if you’re not getting a solid haul in return.

The Man (Keith Hernandez) says:

“The veteran Juan Uribe had a terrific RBI start in the first half. He got a lot of playing time because of Freddy Sanchez[‘s injury]. I think the playing time will start to diminish. Since he is an older player I think he will tire and not have the same type of half moving forward.”

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