by Eno Sarris //
If you took a look at Jay Bruce on August 26, you might not have come away very impressed. He had a .265/.333/.430 line that morning, with 13 home runs. Even looking for power alone, you might have been forgiven for moving along to another player on the wire. How could someone with 13 home runs this deep into the season be a power pickup?
What a difference a few days make. Starting August 27, Bruce has gone eight for his last 15 with five home runs. Now his current line (.274/.343/.464), with 18 home runs, looks a lot better. In case you are in one of the 36% of Yahoo fantasy leagues where Bruce is a free agent, it’s worth unpacking his upside a little further.
In the minor leagues, Bruce had a .243 ISO (isolated slugging percentage, or slugging minus batting average); that number would rank in the top 20 if he had put that together in the major leagues this year.
One of the reasons we use ISO instead of straight slugging percentage is shown when you delve into Bruce’s history in the major leagues. His .462 slugging percentage doesn’t look that great given his position – even the average right fielder this year has put together a .448 slugging percentage. But Bruce is a moderate flyball hitter (43.2% this year), and flyballs tend to produce low batting averages on balls in play. Sure enough, Bruce has a mediocre career BABIP (.287), and that’s one of the reasons his batting average is a little low (.253 career). So instead we use ISO, to tease out his power and avoid dealing with all the singles. Bruce has a career .209 ISO in the majors, which would rank him between David Wright and Andre Ethier on the leaderboard right now. That is decidedly above average.
This year, Bruce’s HR/FB percentage is 12.3%, down from 16.8% in 2009. There is little reason for a young, developing player’s HR/FB to go down. Just take a look at Ethier – who has kept his HR/FB around 14 and 15% the last three years after debuting around 9% – for an example of your typical power progression.
Bruce has a .190 ISO so far in 2010, but of course a week ago that was .165. And last year, it was .246. We know from past research that ISO is one of the last statistics to become reliable, and it usually does so around 550 plate appearances. Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Tool projects Bruce for a .212 ISO going forward as the year-to-end projections below show.
There are few men on the waiver wire that can provide pop like Bruce can in the final weeks of the season. If he’s out there in your league, pick up him up right away. If you are thinking of trading for him in a keeper league, do it soon, before he hits another strong week (or another year of development) and his owner decides not to trade him away.
For more on Jay Bruce and other power options on your waiver wire, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.
by Eno Sarris //
There’s a slugger in San Francisco hitting long homers into the bay in San Francisco these days. Aubrey Huff is a lot less surly than the last version, though, and looks to be underrated by the average fantasy manager.
How else would you explain that a player with 12 home runs and a sparkling .307 batting average is about half of Yahoo leagues? There aren’t many 30-home run candidates available on the wire.
Perhaps owners can be forgiven for leaving Huff there – he had an underwhelming .241/.310/.384 line combined for the Tigers and Orioles last year. Moving to a park that suppresses home runs by 18.8% this year, he was an afterthought in drafts going into this season. Then again, Huff is a lefty, and according to Baseball Prospectus’ park factors by handedness, lefties slug .371 on average at AT&T Park, compared to .351 for righties (thanks to Bill Baer of CrashburnAlley.com for the nudge in the right direction). StatCorner.com muddies the water by pointing out that home runs have a mediocre 93 park factor for righties, but an even worse 88 park factor for lefties – meaning whatever extra-base hit lift lefties get comes from the huge gap in right-center, fueling a bump in doubles and triples. Either way, we should not have discounted Huff completely because of his move to his new park.
Amazingly, there was an outside chance we could have seen Huff’s power output coming. Huff has alternated from low-powered to high-powered performances his whole career. Look at the table on the left. It’s no clean-cut, easily explainable issue, but it’s clear that despite a general trend toward more flyballs, Huff has not had the corresponding trend toward a higher isolated slugging mark (slugging percentage minus batting average) that should have come along with that trend. After all, the batting line on the average flyball this year is .222/.217/.568, which produces an average ISO of .246, compared to groundballs’ .018 ISO. Another way of saying this is that Huff’s ISO has oscillated so much that it’s hard to discern a similar positive trend in that statistic.
Though we know that ISO doesn’t stabilize until almost a full season of data, we also know from Huff that his ISO has not stabilized over his whole career. Judging from the Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Tools spider graphs on the right, this looks like one of his more powerful years.
In the years that Huff has had a .200+ ISO, Huff has averaged 27.5 home runs. A shot at that sort of power production this year is worth picking up in a league of any size. That he’s hitting in the middle of the order, and thus gaining plenty of RBI chances, only makes him more valuable. If Huff is available in your league, grab him immediately.
By Eno Sarris
At the start of last season, the Angels had a vacuum at first base after Mark Teixeira chose pinstriped dollars and headed East.
Enter Cuban import Kendry Morales. Morales had totaled 1,130 at-bats at the Double-A level or above, showing the
Angels he was at least ready to provide league-average offense at
first base, with a nice glove. The Angels previously let light-hitting Casey Kotchman man first base – Morales couldn’t be much worse, could he?
Many fantasy players were caught off-guard when Morales zoomed right by
average. Here was a player that once hit five home runs in a full year
(2007 in Triple-A Salt Lake, a park that usually inflates home runs by 10%
or more in a given year). He wasn’t supposed to come up and mash
.306/.355/.569 (AVG/OBP/SLG) in his first full MLB season. That slugging percentage
was even better than the minor league number (.528) he put up in much more favorable hitter’s parks, even better than the best number he put up at any one stop along the way.
This season, the first-base position is deep for fantasy baseball purposes. Managers can afford to wait before grabbing a first baseman, especially if someone like Morales (B-Rank 43) is
slipping below his average draft position (61.3 ADP). Let’s say he won’t drop further than the fifth or sixth round, though. Do you pull the trigger? Will he hit for the same power and batting average this year?
Let’s take the easier question first. Morales hit .306 last year, but sported a .329 batting average on balls in play (BABIP). If that BABIP regresses towards the league-wide average (around .300), he should sport a lower batting average, correct? Not so fast. While BABIP figures across baseball hover close to .300, each player has some control over that number, especially if he possesses unique speed and hitting ability. Consider that Ichiro Suzuki has a lifetime BABIP of .357, for instance. Luckily for us, baseball analysts Peter Bendix and Chris Dutton developed a simple calculator for Expected BABIP (xBABIP); if you plug in Morales’ component statistics, you get .320. So while there might be a little regression in his stats, but it looks like this career .332 hitter in the minors stands a good chance of posting a batting average around .300 next year.
Now the harder question. What will his power output look like? it’s an open question for sure, since Morales had a slugging percentage closer to .400 in his first couple of attempts at the major leagues, then zoomed right by that figure, and .500, last year. Look at his monthly slugging percentage and you’ll see that it took him half of last year to get there. Will he see a summer surge that big again?
One good sign for Morales’ power potential is his minor league Isolated Slugging number (ISO, which is Slugging Percentage minus Batting Average). Even granting the homer-friendly parks he played in, Morales hovers around a .200 throughout his minor league career, a good sign. Major leaguers who posted an ISO around that number last year included Torii Hunter, Curtis Granderson, Matt Holliday and Robinson Cano. These are useful comps: Many of these players might hit 30 home runs, but would you bet your house on it? Bloomberg Sports is bullish on Morales and projects 32 homers. Still, there’s always the potential for regression to the mean after such a huge breakout season.
Morales could be a good acquisition if you can get him late enough in the draft. But considering that his power might skew closer to Robinson Cano than Prince Fielder, an early-round pick might be a bit of a reach.
For more information on Kendry Morales and other draft options, and more, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kit.