“That’s Amore!” Bogaerts & Britton: At the Helm of the AL East
There’s no questioning the competitiveness of the AL East. It’s the closest division, in terms of standings, with the first and fifth teams separated by seven games. There’s no questioning that each team’s lineup can dominate any game with one swing of the bat. I can go on and on giving praise to individual players on each team, but I want to focus on two players that have had dominant starts to the 2016 season. Xander Bogaerts and Zach Britton are in a league of their own. Bogaerts has finally grabbed the reigns and is the shortstop of the future. After putting up mediocre starting number, Zach Britton has turned into one of the most dominant closers in baseball, and a left-handed closer at that. But what makes their 2016 special? This week, I want to dissect the success Bogaerts and Britton are having for their respective teams (the Boston Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles).
Zach Britton accumulated 46 Major League starts before becoming the Orioles closer. In his first season closing, he amassed 30 saves and ended the season with 37, which saw him ranked eighth in MLB. 2015 was another successful campaign, as the lefty saved 36 games and had a sub-2.00 ERA for the second consecutive season. This season, Britton is on pace to reach the 40+ save plateau and is a perfect 17/17 in save opportunities. The Tampa Rays’ Alex Colome is the only closer with a better ERA (1.08) than Britton’s 1.11. One of the main contributors to Britton’s success has been not allowing runners to reach base. Since 2014, Britton’s average whip has been 0.85. The other staggering number is the fact that opposing hitters have hit just .174 since 2014. While opposing hitters struggle to figure out the lefty, Britton has made great strides in strikeouts. Britton saw an increase from 7.31 K/9 in 2014 to 10.83 K/9 in 2015. This season he’s been in line with 2015 as he’s averaged 10.36 K/9. While increasing his strikeouts, Britton has also managed his walks currently sitting at a staggering 1.85 BB/9. At the age of 28, Britton has established himself as the Orioles’ closer for years to come.
If we look at the chart above, we can see that Britton has had great success since 2014 and sits with great company. Only Francisco Rodriguez, Trevor Rosenthal, and Craig Kimbrel have had more saves. If Britton keeps his current pace, he could surpass the others after this season. The other dominant stats are Britton’s WHIP, Hard Contact Percentage (Hard%), and overall Contact Percentage (Contact%). He allows very few runners to reach base per inning, and he’s given up the least hard contact (Hard%) of any closer. While hitters have struggled to make hard contact off Britton, they’ve also struggled to make overall contact. His 67.3% is arguably one of the best among closers in MLB. He’s arguably been just as hard to make contact off of as Craig Kimbrel. While there’s no questioning Britton’s success as a closer, he’s been vital for fantasy teams alike. An owner will have to reach to acquire him, but his dominant performances make him worth reaching for.
While Britton has solidified Baltimore’s closing role, Xander Bogaerts has had the same effect for the Boston Red Sox. He’s become a solid shortstop and continues to progress at the plate. At 23, Bogaerts has shown the potential to develop into a 15+ HR hitter. 2016 has seen Bogaerts accumulate 227 at-bats from third in the order. While batting third, Bogaerts has hit six home runs while driving in 32 runs, scoring 45 runs, and stealing 7 bases. While Bogaerts may not be your prototypical three-hole hitter, he’s produced greatly for a team that has arguably one of the best offenses in baseball. The Red Sox could place many hitters third in the order, but they continue with the old adage, “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” I’ve owned Bogaerts in many fantasy leagues and he keeps getting better and better. Bogaerts has been able to fill a longtime void left since the last phenomenal Boston shortstop who wore jersey number 5.
There’s no question, the stats do not lie in terms of Bogaerts’ progression at the plate. He’s raised his average 100 points since 2014, and looks primed to finish the 2016 seasons with an average well over .300. Another eye-popping stat is the increase he’s seen with his BABIP. He’s hitting a staggering .400 on balls in play. While he’s been able to cut down on strikeouts, Bogaerts has shown better discipline having the highest walk percentage (7.7%) in his young career, increasing his Hard%, and staying on par with last season’s Contact%. The great progression Bogaerts has shown is the exact reason why he was signed, out of Aruba, as a 16 year-old.
Compared to other MLB stops, Bogaerts is arguably number one in 2016. His .345 average is 10 points higher than Eduardo Nunez’s. He ranks second in at-bats (238), first in hits by 12 (82), first in runs (46), sixth in home runs (6), third in RBI (33), tied for fifth in stolen bases (7), and second in OPS (.896). Eduardo Nunez is the only other American League shortstop who has produced stats similar to Bogaerts’. In all fantasy formats and leagues, Bogaerts is the number-one scoring shortstop. When the July All-Star break arrives, there’s no reason why Bogaerts won’t be starting in San Diego.
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Major League Fantasy Baseball Weekly: Join Corey D Roberts and Kyle Amore live on Thursday June 9th , 2016 from 8-10pm EST for episode #17 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Weekly. This will run every Thursday as a live broadcast that will take live callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. Our Thursday night show will do some weekly recaps, player updates, and preview the coming week end games.
Our guest this week are Phil Weiss and Hernan Batista. Hernan is a frequent guest on our radio shows as well as an owner in our baseball leagues. Phil Weiss’s resume includes working as a CPA with a large public accounting firm as well as private industry (Fortune 500), specializing in international corporate tax planning. Chief Financial Analyst for an Independent RIA.
Media Experience: Frequent guest on CNBC and Bloomberg television. Multiple appearances on Bloomberg radio, local and national radio. Regularly quoted in Wall Street Journal, Reuters, New York Times, AP, thestreet.com, local news, Financial Times.
Phil has also coached baseball, has been playing fantasy baseball for over 25 years, and has been with Major League Fantasy Sports for almost 4 years.
You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic, then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”
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Major League Fantasy Football Weekly: Join Corey D Roberts, Zak Sauer, and Coach Jeff Nelson live Saturday June 11th, 2016 from 1-2:30pm EST for episode #22 of Major League Fantasy Football Weekly. We will run our show on Saturday until August 27th, and then move back to Tuesday nights from 8-10pm EST on September 13th. This is a live broadcast and we do take callers at 323-870-4395. We will discuss the AFC North from a NFL and fantasy football perspective.
You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”