Now that we’re closer to the end of the 2014 Major League Baseball Season than the midpoint, I started looking at some players who had large swings in their stats between 2013 & 2014. I’m looking at some players whose stats dropped precipitously in 2014 and wonder if it is just a down year or is it the start of the “slippery slope”? Conversely there are some players whose numbers jumped forward from 2013 and I wonder if it is a career year or the start of something special. I’ll highlight a few of each here though I am sure there are many more with perhaps even greater swings.
These are things I’m going to consider as I prepare to choose keepers and for next season’s drafts.This week I’ll discuss the players with large drop-offs and next week the guys with large upswings. I’m going to purposely ignore the guys whose drop-offs are likely injury related and not necessarily any type of skill erosion such as Joey Votto and Michael Cuddyer who has matched his .331 average from 2013 in between injuries. I’m also not going to discuss players like Carlos Beltran who are also injured as well as sliding passed that age 35 where it could be a combination of age and injury. But I’ll start with the worst of the worst statistical drop-offs, one that likely killed your 2014 chances early.
Chris Davis, Bal 1B/3B – I only have him on one of my teams, a 15 team NFBC Roto Knock-Off League. I’m in 13th place in that league, and I blame Chris Davis for a good part of that. Anyone who drafted him this season in the first round, and didn’t trade him right away, is probably in a similar hole unless their back-up plan was better than mine. Here are his 2013/2014 splits with the 2014 stats projected out to the end of the season at their current pace.
2013: 103 R 43 2b/3b 53 HR 138 RBI 72 bb .286 BA 1.004 OPS
2014: 65 R 18 2b/3b 26 HR 75 RBI 62 bb .189 BA .674 OPS (Projected to end of season)
Three years ago if you got 26 HR and 75 RBI from Chris Davis you might have been thankful. In 2014 if you drafted him in the 1st round or blew $40 or more at auction and got those numbers along with a .189 AVG and .674 OPS you were ready to hunt him down and …….well, you know. So what happened? I was skeptical this season drafting him after last year’s epic production and in that one league my draft spot pointed right at Davis so I grabbed him. He was easy to buy into after his 2012 showing of 33 HR and a respectable .270 BA at the perfect breakout age of 27. But this is a guy who has always been contact challenged, and his K rates have not changed much over the last 4 years.
Did he stop hitting the ball? No. Not really.
So many of Davis’ peripherals are spot on with his breakout 2013. His Line Drive and GB/FB percentages are nearly identical. He actually has the highest walk rate of his career (highest strikeout rate as well but not by much). So what gives? I see two things that point to him hitting the ball but not as well. His IP% (Balls in Play per Plate Appearance is 49% vs 2013’s 50% and his GB/FB percentage is .59 vs .53. So, he is hitting it and hitting it in the air, but his HR/FB (Home Runs/ Fly Ball is down and his percentage of fly balls in the infield are up about the same amount. In plain English he is getting under it and popping it up instead of driving it like he did last season. The most telling number though is that his BaBip (Batting Average on Balls in Play) is a career low .249 after 5 straight seasons of .330 or better.
I see a combination of bad luck mixed with what seems to be a regression like upper-cut. I’m not sure he’ll see too many of my teams next season and I doubt he’ll see his name picked in the first round in any leagues, but this is not the Chris Davis of the future. My bet is he settles in somewhere between his career year of 2013 and the debacle that is 2014. I think his first breakout 2012 is a good bet for Davis going forward. A useful .260 to .270 BA with mid 30’s HR power and 85-90 RBI. Sounds like Adam Dunn.
Sin Soo Choo, Tex OF – Choo had one of his best seasons in 2013 as well, but at the age of 31 where he set career highs with 107 runs, 112 walks and a .423 OBP. it seemed he flourished ahead of Votto, Phillips, Bruce, et al in Cincinnati and Scott Boras parlayed that into a 7 year mega deal with Texas that will take Choo almost to his 40th birthday. Did the drop off in offense in Texas help to depress Choo’s numbers, or was he part of the problem?
2013: 107 R 36 2b/3b 21 HR 54 RBI 112 BB 20 SB 285 BA .885 OPS
2014: 73 R 25 2b/3b 16 HR 50 RBI 72 BB 4 SB .242 BA .714 OPS (Projected to end of season)
First off his BaBip is about 40 points lower than his career mark which may help explain some of the batting average drop. The scary part here though is the huge drop in all numbers related to power.and speed. Power & Speed along with his ability to get on base and score were always the reasons you drafted Choo, He has the highest strikeout percentage since he became a regular as well as one of his worst walk percentages. I don’t think Choo is finished as a fantasy asset, but at age 32 next season I’m not sure we can expect him to go 20/20 (HR & SB) anymore (He’s done it 3 times, nearly a 4th) and the last time he hit .300 was 5 years ago. I would draft him in 2015 expecting 2012 like numbers of 80 R 12 HR 60 RBI 12 SB .275 AVG. That is not bad for a 4th or 5th OF, but I bet you can get the same production from Dexter Fowler or a host of other players far later in the draft.
Jay Bruce, CIN OF – Jay has the opposite problem of Chris Davis above, He is hitting far more ground balls than the last three seasons when he topped 30 HR each year. I was high on him this, his age 27 season but have been sadly disappointed.
2013: 89 R 44 2b/3b 30 HR 109 RBI 63 BB 7 SB .262 BA.807 OPS
2014: 79 R 26 2b/3b 17 HR 69 RBI 53 BB 15 SB .221 BA .677 OPS (Projected to end of season)
Like the others his BaBip is at its lowest point since he became a regular. While many point to BaBip as a reflection of luck, it also goes down when a player makes less quality contact with the ball. Bruce’s GB/FB rate is nearly double where it has been for the last 5 years and his GO/AO (Ground Out/Air Out) rate is over 1.00 for the first time in his career. His Line Drive Rate is also down from last season’s career high 29%. So, unlike Davis, here we have a guy who is pounding the ball into the dirt instead of driving it. Bruce has had his share of minor injuries and some off field personal issues to deal with in 2014 and he is heading right smack into the middle of his power prime. I’m certainly not writing him off after one bad season and I’m going to hope to find him several rounds later next season as a 2014 bargain.
Jean Segura, MIL SS – I’m not 100% sold on Jean Segura yet but his Minor League hitting numbers were impressive. One look at his 67 point BaBip regression screams Sophomore Slump to me here. He managed a good OPS in the minors without taking a lot of walks, and if you look below he still does not take many walks, but his k rates are actually better. His SB are way down but with a OBP 60 points lower it is hard to steal. His defense is helping the Suds lead the NL Central even though he is not the leadoff hitter they envisioned. At least not yet. Jean is another player who battled many off field issues this season that surely sapped some of his focus on baseball.
2013: 74 R 30 2b/3b 12 HR 49 RBI 44 SB 25 BB 84 K .294 BA .752 OPS .326 BaBip
2014: 61 R 22 2b/3b 5 HR 35 RBI 20 SB 24 BB 70 K .233 BA .588 OPS .259 BaBip
Alfonso Soriano, NYY OF – Maybe now I can finally admit that 2013 was the anomaly.
2013: 84 R 34 HR 101 RBI 18 SB .255 BA .791 OPS
I’ll see you next week with some hitters who have had large statistical jumps since 2013. Thanks for reading.