We’ve made it to the halfway point of the season! It’s been a whirlwind of highs and lows, the lowest of which is the incredibly sad passing of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs. I’ll touch more on that in this weeks Starting Pitcher Barometer. For now, we have a pair of high and low performances from June to ingest, digest, and expel some projections. Grossed out? You should be! I don’t know why I wrote that! I’m not rewriting it, though! Let’s play with some fire (Eric Sogard?) and hopefully melt some ice (German Marquez)!
Fire – Eric Sogard
It’s hard not to pull for journeyman swiss army knife Eric Sogard. Not only does he wear those stylish frames, but he is also absolutely killing it for your fantasy teams this year. I had a personal vendetta when he was playing so well that he was blocking Cavan Biggio, but now Biggio is up and it’s all water under the proverbial bridge. Sogard has improbably hit a ridiculous .374/.416/.604 in June with five bombs and two steals over 24 games. Where has this version of Sogard come from, and will it continue?
Sogard has always shown strong plate discipline, and this year is no exception. Among hitters with at least 230 plate appearances, Sogard’s 0.72 BB/K ranks 23rd in baseball alongside the likes of Nolan Arenado and Jason Heyward. None of Sogard’s contact metrics have taken a step forward. Instead, what’s interesting is that none of those metrics have taken a step back with his new batted ball profile.
Not since Sogard’s 2013 full-season debut has he managed a fly ball rate north of 40% at any point in a season. Back in 2013, his hard-hit ball rate was a whopping 18%. This season he is slightly above-average at 35.2%, a career-high. Lifting the ball has led to a career-high 11.7% HR/FB rate. Unfortunately, that’s about where the gravy trains’ biscuit wheels fall apart.
Sogard’s 85.3 MPH exit velocity is in the bottom 10% of the league and his 1.6% barrel rate is in the bottom 2%. His .380 wOBA is wet-blanketed like it’s in a hurricane by a .311 xwOBA. That nice 0.69 gap between his wOBA and xwOBA is the fifth highest regression mark in baseball.
It’s been a fun ride if you own Sogard, but now is the time to sell if you can. Despite improvements in his batted ball profile, there is no way he ever sees another month like the June he just posted. He hasn’t increased his pull rate or hard contact enough to continue to hit for power, and he doesn’t steal enough bases to be a difference-maker in that category when the average falls. His plate discipline could continue to make him somewhat useful in very deep points leagues, but that is about it.
Ice – German Marquez
Coming off of a breakout season in which he tossed 196 innings of 3.77 ERA ball with a 10.56 K/9 and 2.62 BB/9, many fantasy baseballers invested in German Marquez as their No. 2 starter. He was one of the most hotly debated starters, however, because of his home environment. When was the last time a Rockies pitcher posted consecutive ace-like seasons? Can Marquez really conquer Coors Field? So far, that answer is no.
Through his first 115.1 innings, Marquez has posted a disappointing 4.29 ERA. To make matters worse, his K/9 has tanked to 8.82, a far cry from the elite 10.56 mark from a year ago. A .308 BABIP is not to blame, considering his BABIP in 2018 was .311. His HR/FB% at 16.7% isn’t much off from his 15.7% 2018 mark. His SIERA has risen from 3.31 to 3.84 though, so what’s going on in Colorado?
Since I mentioned Colorado, it is worth noting his home/road splits. Let’s take a look at his splits from last year to this year.
Rockies pitchers are pretty much the only pitchers I worry about when it comes to home/road splits. Coors is just such an insane place to pitch that you really have to keep a different mindset. Marquez has been bad at home, but he was bad at home last year as well. However, check out his home splits between the first and second half of 2018.
Marquez didn’t start really using that new slider more than 20% of the time until June. That pitch was his key to success. Considering his success at home over the second half, it wasn’t absurd to think he could repeat something close to that second half line. Obviously, that hasn’t been the case so far. Strangely enough, the slider has been a part of the problem this year. Despite increased usage (24.9%), the slugging allowed against the slider has risen from .279 to .409. He’s deploying it similarly to both lefties and righties, but his location leaves a bit to be desired.
Rather than going down-and-in to lefties and down-and-away to righties, he’s leaving a lot of sliders in the heart of the zone to get smashed. He has also lost three inches of vertical drop compared to 2018, making those center-cut sliders eminently more hittable. It’s less of a shock, then, that his hard-hit rate has risen to 43.8% – bottom 9% in the league. Considering we’ve seen him locate more effective sliders as recently as a few hot months ago, this is a problem that is very fixable.
The whiff rate on German Marquez’ four-seam is down over 2%. Aside from that, his whiff rates are similar to his 2018 breakout season. His O-Swing% is even up 1.7% with a 0.8% increase in swinging strike rate. This is all to say that Marquez’ K/9 should see upward movement over the second half. His ERA indicators all say that he should be a 3.56-3.84 ERA pitcher. If the strikeouts do tick up, that’s still the pitcher you invested in. He has some work to do, but Marquez sure looks like a pitcher you can buy low on right now and turn a second-half profit.
Are you onboard with Nathan’s take on Eric Sogard and German Marquez? For more great analysis check out his full archive.
Nathan Dokken is a member of the FSWA and has had his work featured in numerous books and magazines. He has also appeared on many podcasts and radio shows and hosts the Nasty Cast and Fantrax Dynasty Baseball podcasts. His written work can be found exclusively at Fantrax HQ, and his personal thoughts and opinions can be found on Twitter @NathanDokken.
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