I’m a fantasy baseball nut. During the preseason I spend more time studying than someone who is getting ready for the Bar Exam. I eat, sleep, and breathe fantasy baseball, but no matter how much I study I will never be able to hit 100% on my predictions. An educated analysis can only take you so far, and then real life takes over. No one can foresee the unexpected: injuries, trades, weather, off-field issues, stress, etc. There are a lot of great surprises during the season, like Mike Trout and Andrew McCutchen. However, there are a lot of disappointments that leave fantasy owners scrabbling to make adjustments and some that just make you want to rip your hair out. Let’s take a look at the 5 biggest disappointments of both hitters and pitchers this season. Side notes: to be fair, I didn’t include players affected by injuries, and the list is based on preseason and current fantasy rankings.
#5 – Dan Uggla
Last season, Uggla had a lot of issues as he hit below a 0.200 average and only 12 homeruns in the first 3 months of the season. However, he came back nicely and hit 0.290 and 24 homeruns in the 2nd half of the season. This season, Uggla has been just as streaky, but with a lot less power. He’s on pace to finish the season with 0.211 average and 20 homeruns, both career lows. He’s also striking out 28% of the time, another career worst. In fact, the worst average and homerun totals he has ever posted were a 0.233 average last season and 27 homeruns in 2006, his rookie season. Hopefully he will be able to find a sudden power burst as he did in August 2011, where he exploded for 10 homeruns. Fantasy owners will take anything at this point as they are making their runs towards the playoffs.
#4 – Eric Hosmer
Hosmer had a very impressive rookie season as he hit 19 homeruns, scored 66 runs, 78 RBI, stole 11 bases, and hit for a 0.293 batting average. All this without playing in the first month of the season. Fantasy owners couldn’t wait to see how the 22-year old would respond in his 2nd season. Unfortunately, he hasn’t responded too well. He’s on pace to hit just 13 homeruns with a 0.233 batting average. Hosmer is suffering from a very bad BABIP of 0.258. In this situation, it seems he is suffering mostly from bad luck. He may not be able to make a difference the rest of this season for fantasy owners, but could be a nice sleeper for next season. He should bounce back nicely in 2013.
#3 – Michael Young
Young is having his worst season since 2002. He’s a career 0.302 hitter, but is only hitting 0.270 in 2012. His biggest disappointment this year has been the fact that he has only hit 3 homeruns, on pace for 4. Prior to this season, his lowest homerun total was 9 in both 2007 and 2002. This season he has also posted a BABIP under .0308 for the first time since his rookie season in 2001. As he’s turning 36 in October, he may have lost a few steps in his game. We may be seeing the end of Young having any value in fantasy baseball.
#2 – Mike Napoli
In 369 at-bats last season, Napoli blasted 30 homeruns and hit for a 0.320 average. No one thought he would be able to repeat his numbers from last season, but in the Texas ballpark and lineup most fantasy owners believed he would still put up great numbers for a catcher. Instead, Napoli has posted his career worst batting average of 0.223. He’s also on pace for 23 homeruns, which is still below most fantasy predictions. He’s currently on the DL and is expected back on August 28th. The short trip to the DL might be the time he has needed to clear his head, but I wouldn’t count on it at this point.
#1 – Carlos Santana
Last season Santana hit 27 homeruns and had a 0.239 batting average. However, he also posted a 0.263 BABIP, which a lot of fantasy projectors saw this as a sign of better things to come. Unfortunately, his lower BABIP seems to be the real deal. This season he has posted a 0.266 BABIP and in 2010 he posted a 0.277 BABIP. His low BABIP is caused mainly by his 40% fly ball rate. Santana is one of those players that you live or die on his long ball, but this season is on pace for only 17 homeruns. In the first 3 months, he only hit 5 homeruns that left fantasy owners cursing at the computer. He has been hot the last 4 weeks, so hopefully he can keep it up for the fantasy owners that are still in the postseason run.
#5 – Cliff Lee
Lee’s disappointment doesn’t really come from his doing, but mostly his team’s offense. He didn’t receive his first win until July 4th. He has only won 2 games this season with a 2-7 record. In Lee’s defense, Lee has been a workhorse and in 15 of his 21 games he has gone at least 7 innings. In fact, on April 18th, he went 10 innings without giving up an earned run, and still ended up with a no decision. His ERA (3.83) is the highest it’s been since 2007, but you can’t really blame the guy; frustration has to play a major role. The Phillies are not a team that will simply accept failure. You can expect them to make the necessary adjustments in the offseason, which will give Lee a nice bounce back year in 2013.
#4 – Roy Halladay
Halladay’s ERA isn’t terrible, but it’s a huge disappointment for his standards. He has posted a highest ERA (3.80) since 2004. Like Lee, his wins have taken a hit due to run support as well. In the majority of fantasy leagues, Halladay was taken in the first round, however he currently finds himself ranked around #65 in pitchers. Prior to the season starting, I heard a lot about the possibility that Halladay could find himself on the decline, due to his age. I’m not completely against this idea. There’s one thing that really worries me about Halladay this season, and that is his 0.273 BABIP paired with the 3.80 ERA. The 0.273 BABIP is the lowest of his career. I hate to say it, but he may be lucky that he doesn’t have a 4.00+ ERA at this point. Like Lee, the Phillies should make the necessary moves this offseason to give Halladay a decent bounce back year. However, we may never again see the Halladay that we all got used to.
#3 – Jon Lester
With about 4 weeks left in the regular fantasy baseball season, Lester finds himself with his worst loss total of his career. In the four seasons prior, Lester never lost more than 9 games, however he currently finds himself with a 6-10 record. He has a career worst 5.20 ERA and finds himself sporting an elevated BABIP of 0.323. Batters are hitting 0.272 against him, also a career worst. You have to wonder if there is an injury or other problem that is affecting him. He is a completely different pitcher than we’ve seen over the prior 4 seasons. One thing that we need to make a point about, Lester struggled in the final month of last season, posting a 5.40 ERA. Keep a close eye on him for the remainder of the season, and consider what you see before drafting him too high in 2013.
#2 – Dan Haren
Fantasy owners expected a lot of Haren after he posted a 3.17 ERA last season, and the fact the Angels acquired Albert Pujols. Many people predicted the Angels would make it to the World Series. Some fantasy owners were hoping that Haren could post 20 wins this year, but at this point Haren would be lucky to get more than 10 wins this season. He’s posted his worst ERA since his rookie season in 2003, sitting at 4.90. He has been a complete disaster the last 3 months, with ERAs of 7.16, 4.96, and 7.62, respectively. He didn’t make it out of the 3rd inning in his last two starts, which has a lot of people wondering if he’s having more back issues. The Angels are much better than their records show, and should do much better next season. Haren could end up performing a lot better than where he will be drafted next season.
#1 – Tim Lincecum
Lincecum has been a complete disaster. This year he has posted a 5.45 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 0.326 BABIP, 42% ground ball rate, 12% HR/FB rate, 25.7% line drive rate, and a 6-13 record… all career worst’s. He is still striking out hitters at a high rate of 9.43 per 9 innings. MLB’s Official Fantasy Magazine had Lincecum listed as the #6 starting pitcher; he currently finds himself ranked around #105 in starting pitchers this season. Lincecum, like Haren, could find himself outperforming his draft position in 2013. The Freak will write this season off and find himself again as one of the MLB’s elite pitchers next season.
Check out my other writing at JoeBlowBaseball.com, too.
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