Spring Training Hot Takes: 100 Game Samples
With some theories of how the MLB can play a truncated season, Greg Jewett takes a look at players in recent years in samples of 100 games to see who might be potential values in the 2020 season
With news about how the major leagues will move forward with a plan to resume games, it’s becoming more apparent a shortened season could ensue. Trying to discern how salaries will be handled and where games will be played remains fluid. But, hope remains eternal:
Dr. Anthony Fauci says sports can return quickly if:— Daniel Wallach (@WALLACHLEGAL) April 15, 2020
- no fans in stadiums
- players quarantined in big hotels
- weekly testing of players
- keep them well-surveiled
“And just let them play the season out.” https://t.co/u0PfmdQNhb
For those craving live baseball, games be seen on Twitter like this one viewed by over a million including myself on Friday morning:
Once a decision becomes final about where games will be played, whether only in Arizona, in Florida and Arizona or in neutral parks with no fans, projecting player’s values remains difficult. However, using the search engines on Fangraphs, here’s 100-game samples from the last three years with interesting results. First, not every team played at least 100 games, but these timelines did not allow teams to play over 100 with minimal exceptions. By year, here’s the dates used in each sample:
- First 100 games of 2019: March 28th through July 19th
- Last 100 games of 2019: June 7th through September 29th
- First 100 games of 2018: March 29th through July 18th
- Last 100 games of 2018: June 9th through October 1st
- First 100 games of 2017: April 2nd through July 23rd
- Last 100 games of 2017: June 14th through October 1st
Delving into the data, here’s the top five of each hitting category for the first 100 games in the last three years:
Hot starts can fuel a breakout season but smaller samples will provide more variance for 2020. If games get split between Florida and Arizona, fantasy owners likely want hitters in Arizona due to the pre-humidor flight of baseballs. Some names stay the same and some change using the last 100 games for hitters in this same time frame:
In 2019, one player recorded at least 20 home runs and stolen bases in the first 100 contests, Christian Yelich with 35 home runs with 23 steals. Ronald Acuña Jr. came close with 23 home runs and 19 stolen bases in the first 100 games but finished strong with 29 each of his last 100 contests. During 2018, José Ramírez notched 29 home runs with 20 stolen bases the first 100 of 2018 with Betts (23 HR, 18 SB) and Javier Báez (19 HR, 18 SB) near misses. Also, Khris Davis believers take a stand with his home run totals in the charts above while healthy in 2017 and 2018 compared to his cratering of results last year. No one hit more home runs in any 100 game sample than Giancarlo Stanton . Thoughts of a healthy Aaron Judge and Stanton make for intriguing targets as time allows them to rehab.
Switching to pitchers, here’s the first 100 game samples for the first three years using the five fantasy categories as a guide:
When looking to go against the grain in drafts, Rays pitchers Tyler Glasnow (2019) and Blake Snell (2018) could return dividends at present price points. Note the variance in the saves leaders. Investing in them proves to be risky business based on recency bias. Keep this in mind when perusing the last 100 game leaders:
Second half breakout pitchers Yu Darvish and Jack Flaherty make appearances on the charts for the first time. Could 2020 provide a rebound for Aaron Nola ? One advantage for the Nationals staff, getting extra time to rest allows Max Scherzer to get healthy, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin an opportunity to log more innings this year and if they get the advantage of pitching in Florida, their stock could increase.
Without going into too much detail, here’s the top 15 players at each position using SGP (Standings Gains Points) as a way to place value on fantasy statistics. Note a player’s frequency in the charts along with the splits. For instance, L2018 means the last 100 games of 2018 while F2019 indicates the first 100 contests of 2019.
If healthy Salvador Pérez seems primed for a bounceback, especially if he accrues at-bats at first base in a platoon. J.T. Realmuto appears on the chart four times with Gary Sánchez racking up two of the top five splits at the position. Biggest factor for catchers, how many games they can log in the heat of Florida or Arizona and if teams will carry three with expanded rosters to keep them fresh. Stay tuned.
Two of the toughest splits to figure out reside in the top four 100-game splits from last year of Yuli Gurriel and Josh Bell . Plus, Danny Santana recorded the only other 20-plus home run split with at least 10 stolen bases in a 100 game sample the last three years with Paul Goldschmidt .
Can Jose Altuve rekindle his past magic without the benefit of trash can alerts from his team? Will Jonathan Villar carry over his tremendous last 100 game sample from last season to Miami? Speaking of which, do fantasy owners overlook Ozzie Albies last 100 games from 2019 in this year’s drafts? Last, with everyone searching for steals, does Dee Gordon make sense as a late round flier?
Many familiar names above like Nolan Arenado and José Ramírez . Third base allows for some diversity of what type of player to target along with some surprises like D.J. LeMahieu mixed in in the chart. Funny, Anthony Rendon appears with a split from 2018 and 2019 among the best seasons for fantasy.
Along with depth making headlines in 2020 drafts, the top three targets litter the list with Trea Turner , Trevor Story and Francisco Lindor notching the three best seasons in the splits. It may be something if Turner’s power translates this year and he remains aggressive on the bases as the leadoff hitter. Also in the chart, Javier Báez and Manny Machado continue to be undervalued with a chance to provide profit at current price points.
While most debate on who to take first overall, in a potentially shortened season, Christian Yelich owns the two best samples in this SGP chart with his first 100 games from 2019 and his last 100 from 2018. Ronald Acuña Jr. just missed with his last 100 from last season. Those sleeping on a Mookie Betts bounceback get a boost seeing his first 100 games from 2018 residing on this list. There’s no telling what a Mike Trout career year could look like, but his potential time missed for the birth of his first child in August needs to be baked into his projections if he misses time due to quarantine rules if they exist.
Some overlaps appear but these names emerged using the designations on Fangraphs. For argument's sake, seeing how well Jorge Soler hit in the last 100 games from last year in comparison to Nelson Cruz paints a picture. Plus, Yordan Alvarez looks much more similar to Khris Davis with a much better batting average but overall value puts Davis in line for a sneaky 2020 if he rebounds. By the way, mining late round batting average help could make Corey Dickerson a sneaky play this year.
Using a list of all pitchers within the SGP, no reliever cracked the top 15 so they will be in a column all of their own next week. For now, focusing on the pitchers, Chris Sale and Luis Severino made the cut above but will miss this year due to Tommy John surgery. All told, it hurts, but not as much for their teams in a truncated season. Sorting out the potential chaos of pitch limits or innings logged will be a factor for starters in 2020. How to value pitchers may determine many leagues outcomes. Especially if half the league benefits from ballpark advantages based on which state they play in.
Overall Top-25 100 Game Samples
Since the SGP’s use different value systems, making one readable chart to post here cannot happen. Instead, here’s a breakdown by position and the individuals rank by split.
- Christian Yelich First 100 2019 (1st overall)
- Christian Yelich Last 100 2018 (3rd overall)
- Ronald Acuña Jr. Last 100 2019 (4th overall)
- Giancarlo Stanton Last 100 2017 (7th overall)
- Mookie Betts First 100 2018 (9th overall)
- Charlie Blackmon First 100 2017 (10th overall)
- Aaron Judge First 100 2017 (11th overall)
- J.D. Martinez First 100 2018 (16th overall)
- Mike Trout First 100 2019 (17th overall)
- Bryce Harper First 100 2017 (18th overall)
- J.D. Martinez Last 100 2018 (21st overall)
- J.D. Martinez Last 100 2017 (23rd overall)
Third Base (3)
- José Ramírez First 100 2018 (8th overall)
- Anthony Rendon Last 100 2019 (24th overall)
- José Ramírez Last 100 2017 (25th overall)
- Trea Turner Last 100 2019 (14th overall)
- Trevor Story Last 100 2018 (15th overall)
- Francisco Lindor First 100 2018 (22nd overall)
Starting Pitcher (2)
First Base (2)
Second Base (2)
Designated Hitter (1)
- Nelson Cruz Last 100 2019 (20th overall)
All things considered, this proved to be a rewarding effort. Seeing how 100-game samples appeared shed some light on what type of statistics can be accrued but it’s not a perfect exercise. However, information can be gleaned from this and noting players of interest along with trends of their first or last 100 game statistics for the season ahead. Once an actual start date and schedule emerge, more information will follow on Fantasy Alarm. Be sure to be a FAmily member to remain ahead of the competition.
Until then, pay attention to how Taiwan and the KBO (Korea Baseball Organization) move forward:
With practice games just a few days away, #KBO released COVID19 manual version 2.0 today. All players will be checked for high fever 2x a day. All non uniform personnel (incld umps, trainers ect) are required to wear face masks and gloves at stadiums. pic.twitter.com/vCXnc9UFpY— Daniel Kim ??? ? (@DanielKimW) April 17, 2020
Empty stadiums seem a small price to pay for a little normalcy. Hopefully baseball and its player’s union can reach an agreement on how to make a season happen. Tiring on the terms new normal, sports provide solace at a time of need and personally, baseball would be a welcomed distraction. Until then, I will watch my new team, the Monkeys in Taiwan.