The All-Star break is a reset where the season slows down and you can take a hard look at your roster. After examining players you should try to trade for, in Part II of our second-half preview, here are players who are crushing it in fantasy but who lack the foundation for that to continue.
For pitchers, I look at dominance as the predictive foundation. We define that this way: percentage of 1-2-3 innings of total innings (league average is 37%), percentage of Ks on four pitches or less (average 14%) and swing-and-miss rate (17% of strikes). The model is simple: if you are below average here (across the board) you should be below average in ERA and WHIP (plus obviously Ks).
For hitters, we’re really looking at one stat: well-hit rate of at-bats (league average .155). If a hitter is seemingly locked in according to his average and slugging, but sporting a low well-hit rate, then sell.
All stats courtesy of our friends at Inside Edge, stat provider for Major League Baseball teams. Note their well-hit data is according to their video scouts and not based on exit velocity data. But for the most part, this is a distinction without a difference.
Players to sell in a trade
Jason Vargas, Royals: He makes zero sense. The dominance profile is strictly “ham & egg” to use a Jersey term for ordinary. Vargas is actually underwater in dominance at 10% Ks in four pitches or less, 35% 1-2-3 innings and 16% swing-and-miss. Ironically, his K% should improve but not enough to make those current averages remotely sustainable.
Gio Gonzalez, Nationals: I hate this because he’s been golden for me in Friends and Family, but the models are in charge here and not me. Gonzalez is an uninspiring 12% Ks in four pitches or less, 35% 1-2-3 innings and 17% swing and miss. But most alarmingly, looking at the full stats, he’s downright awful at first-pitch strikes and throwing one of first two pitches for strikes.
Tommy Pham, Cardinals: His performance in fantasy suggests he should be on the first page of well-hit qualifiers, meaning .200 or better. But he’s .176. This is still good but Pham has been great. His ability to hit the ball hard hasn’t earned great to date. According to Inside Edge, his weakness is inside pitches, so expect the league to zero in on that. Can Pham adjust? He has never adjusted before. And he’s 29.
Corey Dickerson, Rays: This is a much easier sell call than Pham. Dickerson is actually bad at hitting the ball well — .134 (average again is .155). But somehow he’s got a .548 slugging. This makes zero sense. Another Dickerson problem (though the well-hit is more than enough to sell him) is plate discipline. His early chase rate of 36% compares with the average of 25%. And he’s also failing at chasing with two strikes (62% vs. 44% average) and on all “non-competitive” pitches (out of the strike zone) at 36% vs. 22% league-wide. You can pitch to a guy like this without much sweat.