A regular commenter here at Getting Blanked, Mr. Wenn, approached me via Twitter with a question on the weekend. “Someone in my league gave up on Romero and dropped him. Thinking about dropping Drabek and picking him up. Thoughts?”
So I said to myself, “Self, is there a better subject to write about for Getting Blanked than a Jay-centric fantasy topic like this?”
Looking at his baseline stats, Ricky Romero is 2-4 with a 4.04 ERA in seven starts so far this season, and in a small sample size it certainly looks like he’s taken a step back, but for someone to physically give up on him in a fantasy pool is crazy! I would make the argument that Romero has been better so far this year than in either of the last two years.
I know what you’re thinking, but follow me after the jump and all shall be revealed.
Romero appears to have been the victim of bad luck this year. First off, if you look at his peripheral stats, you’ll see that he’s been terrific so far. His strikeout rate is up to over a whiff per inning and his walk rate is lower than each of the past two years. According to FanGraphs pitch effectiveness stats, Romero’s curveball has been particularly awesome this season; as has his fastball and changeup.
The discrepancy lies in the fact that he’s surrendered six homeruns in 42.1 innings so far, but his HR/FB rate is at almost 15%; the league average is around 10% so this should normalize as the sample size gets larger. All of this is reflected in a very good 3.15 xFIP (adjusted for park factors), a mark that puts him firmly in the AL’s top ten.
The problem for Mr. Wenn lies in the dropping of Kyle Drabek. His particular league is not a keeper so it should be easier to let him go, but in a case like this, if you can drop a position player and then try to trade a starting pitcher to even things out again, that might be your best course of action. If you have a position player to drop, that is.
In his case, Mr. Wenn posed another question; who to drop out of Torii Hunter, Mark Reynolds, and Geovany Soto. This question was a little more difficult to answer and required a little bit of research.
Heading into today’s games all three were struggling mightily, but one of the three stands out as having the best value. Soto is hitting just .226/.322/.387 so far, but most of that has to do with a .253 BABIP which should creep up as the season goes on. The important thing for Soto is that even when he slumps, he gets on base with a walk-rate routinely way above league average. His strikeout rate is also down this year which suggests that he’s been very unlucky. Couple all of that with his value as a catcher and clearly he has the most value out of the three.
Reynolds is also a victim of low BABIP and should see a regression toward the mean as the season goes on and he is currently striking out less than he ever has (but still a lot). He traditionally hits nearly double the league average in HR/FB, but is actually below that mark this year, so there is definitely a chance that he turns his current struggles around. The problem with Reynolds is that this is now the second straight season where his average has tanked below .200 which definitely raises concerns. From a fantasy perspective, there are several other third basemen that have much more value so Soto’s value is ultimately much higher.
Torii Hunter currently has the best numbers of the three but has been showing signs of decline so far and as a rightfielder, his value tanks further. Given the choice to drop Soto, Hunter and Reynolds, I might be tempted to let Two-i’s go.
The point is, if someone like Romero gets dropped in your league, using advanced stats to trump the traditional numbers can give you a huge edge, hopefully Mr. Wenn finds the same thing.
Travis Reitsma is the fantasy baseball guru here at Getting Blanked, but he also writes more broadly about baseball over at Baseball Canadiana. You can also follow him on Twitter and ask him fantasy-related questions. Who knows, maybe they’ll be answered here.