More Early Statline To Buy/Sell

Posted: 04/25/2014 by levcohen in Baseball

Buy: Brandon Belt (.299/.337/.563/7 HR)
Let’s do a quick player A vs player B resume. One of them is Brandon Belt last season. The other player’s line comes from 2012.

Player A: 145 games, 587 PA, .286/.359/.490, 10.2 BB%, 22.1 K %, .343 BABIP, 20 HR, 18 SB
Player B: 150 games, 571 PA, .289/.360/.481, 9.1 BB%, 21.9 K%, .351 BABIP, 17 HR, 5 SB

Pretty similar, no? Player B is Brandon Belt of last season. Belt, who is now 26 years old, had been ranked a top-25 prospect heading into 2011. After being drafted out of the University of Texas, he made a meteoric rise rise to AAA. He started 2010 in rookie ball, and ended it in AAA. By the time he was promoted to the MLB in 2011, he was a top prospect and had a 1.053 career OPS. And then he proceeded to hit .225 in 2011 and was just slightly above average in 2012. Still, I think it was always pretty clear that Belt was going to turn into a star. He always had a high walk rate, and after 2011 had a pretty consistent average. Now it’s time to reveal Player A… It’s 2012 Paul Goldshmidt. It’s fair to say that Goldshmidt, who is also 26, got to where Belt is now a bit earlier, but that’s not the point. So how did Goldshmidt do last year after posting those promising numbers in 2012? Well, he won a gold glove (unfairly, probably, because he is rated as a below-average defender by advanced metrics), a silver slugger, made the all-star game, and finished second in the NL MVP voting. His final line was 160 games, 710 PA, .302/.401/.551, 13.9 BB %, 20.4 K%, .343 BABIP, 36 HR, and 15 steals. He led the NL in homers, OPS, and RBI, and is well on his way to repeating those numbers this year. Okay, but that doesn’t mean Belt will repeat it. How’s he doing this year? Well, as you saw at the top, he already has seven homers, is hitting .299, and is slugging .563. Now he’s hitting third in a good Giants lineup after usurping a struggling Pablo Sandoval from that role. Belt is turning into a star right as we speak. I think he’ll end up hitting .293/.366/.510 with 27 homers and eight steals.

Sell: Mark Buehrle (.64 ERA, 28 IP, 9 K, 5 BB)

I probably don’t need to say it, but I will just in case. Mark Buehrle is now 35 years old, and we are in the 15th year of Buehrle, which is incredible. First, I want to state how amazing this guy is. He looks to be on his way to throw 200+ innings for the 14th straight year! That’s right: Buehrle has had at least 30 starts and thrown at least 200 innings in each of his full seasons as a starter. Nowadays, that’s about as rare as it gets. It’s also worth a mention that Buehrle has a perfect game on his resume. With that being said, Buehrle has never had an ERA below 3.12, and that was in 2005. And sure enough, he’s gotten lucky this year. In every season of his career except for one, Buehrle has left between 70 and 76% of the base runners he has allowed on base. This year, just 7.1% of the base runners he has given up have scored. That’s unsustainable. As is the fact that Buehrle, who is normally a pitcher who gives up a bunch of homers, has yet to allow a home run. Some of those fly balls will leave the park, and his ERA will go up. His BABIP is also lower than his average. Buehrle seems likely to settle into an ERA in the 3.50 range, which is good but still three runs worse than it is now. The one thing that is really interesting about Mark Buehrle is that he, a five pitch pitcher just two years ago, has cut (no pun intended) the cutter and the slider from his repertoire. I was surprised to see the cutter go, because it was Buehrle’s best pitch during his prime. But it’s been going downhill, and it was probably a good idea to get rid of it. Instead, he’s using his curveball way more than he ever has, and he’s throwing his fastball more than half the time for just the second year since 2004. Either way, Buehrle is going to regress a lot, and I don’t think it will turn into just another Mark Buehrle season. He will probably end with an ERA around 3.65, 145 strikeouts, 217 innings, and 32 starts.

Sell: Carlos Santana (.137/.308/.219/1 HR)

Carlos Santana has been terrible this year. He’s also been unlucky. Then again, anybody who its .137 is probably getting a little big unlucky. There are two differences: Santana is still walking a lot this year, and he’s a 28 year old who has been a good offensive player for four straight year. I don’t know how often an established 28-year old falls off the map for no apparent reason, but it’s not often. And then there’s the aforementioned bad luck. Santana has a .167 BABIP, seventh worst of qualified hitters, and he’s hit just 5.5% of his fly balls out of the park, down from 13% last year. He’s lost a few homers there. He definitely hasn’t been as good as he was last year (duh) but these numbers are going to go way up. Santana isn’t going to be a bad hitter. Let’s put him at .250/.373/.420 with 19 homers. A lot better than he’s doing right now.

Buy: Adam Dunn (.260/.400/.547/5 HR)

Again, I’ll say that this is all relative. Adam Dunn is a buy, but he won’t keep this up. I just think this much ridiculed hitter is going to have his best season offensively since 2010. He’s obviously going to strike out a lot, but he also walks a lot, and has great power. He’s also just 34 years old, which is hard to believe because he has been an everyday player for 13 years and is closing in on 8000 plate appearances. I don’t know that much has changed since last year, but Dunn is due for some good luck (which he is getting). The biggest change is probably the White Sox’ addition of Jose Abreu. Before this year, Dunn had almost no other help in the lineup, at least when it comes to power. Now, Abreu is hitting right before Dunn in the lineup, and since he gets on base a lot, pitchers have to pitch to Dunn. His strikeout rate is actually down to 30%, still insanely high but lowest since 2010. Dunn is also followed in the lineup by Dayan Viciedo, who has turned into a good hitter and is well over .300. Basically, Dunn has gotten better pitches to hit this year. I think his numbers will drop, but I still think he’ll surprise some people. I see him ending at .230/.355/.490 with 36 homers.

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