Let’s establish up front, I don’t have any Justin Bour shares this year. It wasn’t an intentional fade, nor was it a reluctant miss. There are a lot of corners on the market, and I happened to fall into other ones. Some are working out fine, some aren’t so lovely.
But given how Bour’s tearing up the National League of late, I’m surprised his ownership tag is sitting at 44 percent. He deserves more respect than that.
If you cut up the top hitters over the last month, Bour checks in as the No. 15 bat (.337-16-9-21). He’s been crushing against left-handed pitching, an encouraging sign (albeit we’re talking about a mere 38 plate appearances). He’s also been a lot better at home, which follows the career trend.
I popped the hood and looked for some secondary stuff in Bour’s favor. His walk rate is basically static and he’s actually striking out more than usual (with a notable jump in swinging strikes). He has the lowest contact rate of his career. That said, Bour’s mashing when he makes contact, posting the best hard-hit rate (by far) of his career.
Bour’s success might be in spite of his hacking ways, but it’s also possible the extra aggressiveness is driving his monster month. Not everyone is best served with a patient approach at the plate, and sometimes passivity — especially early in the count — can get you into bad habits and repeated pitcher counts. I’m not pushing all the chips in the middle on this theory, but I think it’s reasonable that Bour’s willingness to attack in his at-bats might be steering his breakout season.
Of course, we’ll concede the other side. This could just be one of those hot months, soon to be followed by a downtown. Ebb and flow, peaks and valleys. But there’s a simple conclusion to Bour’s fantasy scan — he should be owned in a lot more leagues than 44 percent. It’s not that easy to find a thumper at first base.
You want a swap-out list, I can do that. I’d certainly rather have Bour than Eric Hosmer (87 percent); Hosmer’s power isn’t reliable, and the Kansas City lineup is a wasteland. The less KC exposure we have, the better.
Bour versus Todd Frazier (83 percent) would at least be a conversation. Bour versus Maikel Franco (68 percent)? What’s keeping you? And for all the fun when Joey Gallo (63 percent) connects, he’s hitting just .191. There’s no guarantee he’ll have a job all year. Playing for Jeff Banister is no bargain, either.
• We all love a dual-eligible pitcher who gets it going as a starter, so let’s check in with Tampa’s Matt Andriese. He’s quietly been rock-steady, posting a 3.24 ERA and 1.27 WHIP. He’s rattled off four wins in five starts, and his last turn was his best (8 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 5 K). A start against the Angels, good work if you can get it.
The two previous Andriese wins were fortunate, because he went just five innings in each game. We’d like to see more economy, longer appearances. The ERA-estimators aren’t completely on board, either — his FIP, xFIP and SIERA are all over four. That 82.3 percent strand rate isn’t likely to hang around.
Nonetheless, Andriese is striking out better than eight batters per nine innings, his career walk rate is 2.3/9, Tampa is a good place for a pitcher (he’s been lucky to get seven home starts to this point), and the dual-tag is handy in many leagues. He’s also made significant strides with his secondary pitches. Given how many big-name pitchers have been injured or ineffective this year, Andriese looks underowned at 32 percent. (Our buddy Jeff Zimmerman liked Andriese as a possible sleeper back in February.)
Next week’s Andriese start at Texas makes me a little nervous, the hitting environment. I’ll sign off on the White Sox turn in the following week.
• Odubel Herrera and Kyle Schwarber had an interesting Thursday competition going on, in separate games. Anything you can do, I can do worse. Schwarber went 0-for-4, with four strikeouts. Herrera fanned five straight times.
Herrera’s down to .226/.275/.339 on the year. Schwarber’s slashing .181/.299/.356.
I wonder if the Cubs would consider giving Schwarber a brief return to the minors, just to fine tune some things and maybe fix his confidence. The team certainly has plenty of outfielders. Schwarber’s hit rate is notably unlucky at .224, though he’s also carrying a puny line-drive rate (13.5 percent) and a soft-contact rate that’s slightly over league average.
Herrera is getting himself out far too often these days (and yes, he was overly priced in the Shuffle — I’ll concede that). His outside-zone swing rate has jumped to 43 percent, and his swinging strike rate is the tenth-worst in the league. If you’re hacking almost as much as Byron Buxton, something’s gone terribly wrong. Herrera’s walk and strikeout rates are both moving in the wrong direction.
Herrera was too good last year for us to kick him to the curb, but a short-term benching — for the Phillies and for roto owners — makes sense for now.