“That’s Amore!” Righting the Ship
Baseball season is extremely long; 162 games is what it takes to complete an entire season. No, you can’t win divisions, awards, etc. at the beginning, but such a long season allows players to rebound after a rough start. Here at Major League Fantasy Sports, we love to go back and forth about certain players and teams. It’s what keeps our organization exciting. We have fandom that spans from the East Coast to West. Of course, the Red Sox and Yankees fans bicker like grumpy, old men, but it gets more exciting when specific players are involved. For instance, and the purpose of this article, I was one of the few who thought Zack Greinke would start with guns blazing and not miss a beat from his past few seasons in Los Angeles. That wasn’t the case, as Greinke had a horrendous start to his Diamondbacks career. Adam Jones is another player that has endured a forgettable start to the 2016 campaign. While his average still isn’t anything to write home about, he’s since rebounded from a disastrous start, especially for fantasy owners, and has been on fire as of late. I can personally speak to the importance of Adam Jones finding his stroke at the plate. I went into one of MLFS’ leagues with Giancarlo Stanton (keeper), Yoenis Cespedes (keeper), and Adam Jones (draft). I felt extremely confident and I expected big numbers out of all three. While Cespedes has produced all season, it’s been the complete opposite for the other two outfielders. Stanton’s struggles continue, but Adam Jones has finally pieced it together.
What if I said a starting pitcher was 0-2 after three starts, with a 6.75 ERA, 15:5 K:BB, and had given up three home runs in 17.1 IP? More than likely you wouldn’t have named Zack Greinke as the pitcher. I, myself, would’ve never saw that coming for a player that finished second for the 2015 NL Cy Young. These numbers are exactly how Greinke started the season. Since those dreadful three starts, Greinke has gone 8-1 with a 3.15 ERA and [58:11] K:B in 69.1 IP. He’s done a complete 180 and has five-straight wins dating back to May 17. These are the numbers that aided Arizona in opening their checkbook.
Greinke is in line with the number of starts he’s made in the three seasons prior to 2016. He’s averaged just under 31 starts per season, and already has 13 in 2016. Durability hasn’t been the issue. I could easily argue that it’s the ballpark he’s playing in. His GB/FB, LD% (Line Drive Percentage), and GB% (Ground Ball Percentage) are on par with those of the past five seasons. However, one glaring increase is his FB% (Fly Ball Percentage). His career average is 35.3%. His FB% hasn’t been over 33% since 2010, his last year with the Royals. However, since 2014 his FB% has increased from 28.5% (2014) to 32.9% (2015). 2016 has seen a FB% of 31.9%. While he showed the ability to lower his FB% since 2010, Greinke saw a steep increase since 2014. I will argue that playing in a hitter’s park like Arizona has definitely had an impact on his overall production. On the season, the righty has given up eight of his nine home runs at home. I rest my case.
The other mindboggling stat is hitters’ averages compared to runners on-base to none on-base. With no runners on, hitters are batting .240 with 6HR, 6 RBI, and .387 SLG. If we compare that to runners on, batters are hitting .290 with 3 HR, 29 RBI, and .467 SLG. Hitters are taking advantage with runners on-base, and while in scoring position they are hitting .273. While solo shots haven’t hurt Greinke, it’s the fact that he’s been hammered with runners on-base. The league average sits roughly at .256 with RISP. If you’re a Greinke owner, rest easy. He’s lowered his hit per game to 5.42 in May and June compared to 7.83 in April alone. He’s turned the corner and should continue to produce as the season progresses.
2016 Stats: 8-3/3.84 ERA/1.17 WHIP/[73:16] K:BB
There have been many frustrating hitters to start 2016, and Adam Jones has been arguably one of the most frustrating. The Baltimore center fielder has averaged 25+ home runs in five straight seasons and has 30+ in two out of the five. He’s been extremely consistent since being traded to the Orioles prior to the start of the 2008 season, but 2016 has been a struggle for fantasy owners alike. The career-.276 hitter is hitting .238 in 227 at-bats. This wasn’t expected, and I expected more when I drafted Jones in the fourth round. I was looking to solidify my outfield that already featured Giancarlo Stanton and Yoenis Cespedes. Stanton has been a complete let down, but I had faith Jones would figure it out. Jones has always produced, which made it easier to be patient with him.
Jones’ 2016 season started with him slashing .224/.297/.328 in April. He hit one home run and managed seven RBI in 67 at-bats. He was striking at a 22.38% clip, and was spending time on my bench as I shuffled to the waiver wire to mitigate the slow start to a fantasy team that I had high hopes for. One of the worst starts to his Big League career, Jones needed to turn it around for an Orioles team that can hit with the best hitting teams in MLB.
If we look at the chart above, Jones is well below is career April averages. He’s hitting 65 points below his career April batting average, and his slugging percentage is 156 points below in slugging percentage. Jones has been making solid contact as his Hard% is 34.4%, which is well above his career average of 31.9% and the highest he’s had since 2012 and 2013. His BABIP has been a concern. His career BABIP is .308. This season, he’s seen a steep decline and has a .247 BABIP. I’d argue that a lot of Jones’ batted balls have gone right to fielders. Again, there’s no concern with his Hard% of 34.4%. He’s hitting the ball with authority, but right at fielders. This would be a concern if he had a high strikeout rate. However, Jones’ K% is 18.1% which is lower than his career rate of 19.1%.
Jones’ progression is easy to see. He’s gotten better as the season progresses, and nearly doubled his stats from April to May. With half of June left, Jones is on a torrid pace and could easily triple his stats from April to June. I commend the owners who either bought low or stayed patient with the Orioles slugger. Jones has turned the page on a forgettable start, and is looking to be back on pace for 20+ HR, 80+ RBI, and .465+ SLG.
2016 Stats: .238/.290/.423/11 HR/35 RBI