Hard to believe we are already into the 14th week of the season. The dog days of summer are upon us, and trade season is in full force. If you’re not checking the standings to see where you need to be heading, you’re slacking and you don’t deserve the eternal glory of a championship. Our very own Doug Anderson recently offered up some pointers himself on the topic. It’s also important to monitor player trends as the season wears on. This week we’ll look at Matt Carpenter and Brian Dozier, a pair of hitters trending in opposite directions. Should we believe the production?
Fire – Matt Carpenter
The year was 2018, the month: April. Toys R’ Us was still in business. My favorite food was burritos. The International House Of Burgers was The International House Of Pancakes. Times were simpler then, back in that simple, idealistic world. However, life is cruel. Cut to late June and Geoffrey the Giraffe is crying. IHOP is gone. My favorite food…is still burritos. I guess not everything is terrible. But back in April, Matt Carpenter posted a mere .579 OPS with just two home runs and an unremarkable 37-percent hard contact rate. Some shallow mixed leaguers left him for dead on the waiver wire.
Since April, things have been much better for the Carp. Since May 16 specifically, Carpenter is slashing .348/.426/.690/1.116 with a 57-percent hard contact rate. That hard%? Number one in MLB over that span. Eerily enough, the second and third hitters on that list are Matt Olson and Matt Chapman. Good time to be a Matt, I guess. Anyway, Carpenter has been spraying line drives all over the field in that span as well, with an impressive 30% line drive rate.
That’ll support a .367 BABIP with the greatest of ease. Not only that, the all-fields approach on balls in the air has allowed him to achieve more success against defensive shifts. Have a look at the insane improvement he’s been able to make in his contact rate.
He bottomed out at under 60 percent! That’s hideous. So what has allowed Matt Carpenter to return to his former glory from the mucky muck? A simple mechanical adjustment. He spent some time analyzing his swing and realized he’d lost his proper plane. Since then, I think you could safely say that all is well. He was moved to the leadoff spot shortly after his bat got hot, and his 1.116 OPS is second in MLB behind only that pesky Mike Trout in that span. He’s blasted seven homers with 16 runs and 13 RBI over the last two weeks alone!
This new (old) Matt Carpenter is here to stay. His adjustments are legit, and his positional flexibility and on-base ability make him an elite option in fantasy leagues the rest of the way.
Would you want to do a free mid season baseball league if we offered them?#fantasybaseball
— Fantrax (@Fantrax) June 28, 2018
Ice – Brian Dozier
It has become somewhat commonplace for Brian Dozier to come out of the gates a bit slow. With a career OPS of .688 in April, drafting The Doz requires a bit of patience. He typically rewards those patient folks with a very good second half, with a career .813 second-half OPS. Who can forget the second half of 2016 when he crushed 28 homers for a .990 OPS? Perhaps some of Dozier’s proponents are recalling that stretch a little too much.
Well, the BullDozier is currently hard at work demolishing the teams of everyone who drafted him. To date, he’s hitting just .221/.300/.396/.696 with 11 home runs and a blasphemously low four stolen bases. This cold snap to start his season has dragged on a little too long. Is it time to really worry about Dozier?
The first sign of life comes from his plate discipline. He’s walking at a nine-percent clip, which is right at his career rate. The strikeouts are even better than normal at 18 percent. His swinging strike rate backs up the improvement, with a 7.9% mark that is his best since 2014. He continues to lay off bad pitches, with a 22.2-percent chase rate that ranks 13th best in baseball. His hard contact is fine too, with a 35% hard contact rate that is the best of his career! So where is the power?
The answer is like your recent Amazon order: it’s on the way. Despite a 50% pull rate and 45% fly balls, Dozier has achieved a below-average 10% HR/FB%. His career rate (and the league average) is around 13%, with neither of his previous two seasons finishing under 16%.
The batting average might be another story. His BABIP lies at an ugly .240 compared to his career .273 mark. While you generally expect a lot of positive regression there, his 16.5% pop-up rate is just about as bad as it’s ever been. That’s an auto-out and a BABIP killer, and he has the 24th highest mark in MLB. Combine that with a pull-heavy fly ball profile, and that’s a recipe for a low BABIP. I prefer pastry recipes myself, but you do you, Dozier.
His lack of southpaw destruction is also disconcerting. Crushing lefties has been his bread and butter throughout his career, with a .872 OPS against lefties and a 32% hard contact rate. This year, those numbers are down to just .640 and 24%. That makes me want to ugly cry. This, more than anything, has me worried about Dozier turning in his typical hot second half. Perhaps at the ripe old age of 31, Baseball Father Time is catching up to him.
Depending on the acquisition cost, I still might throw an offer at the resident Dozier owner in my league. His lack of production against lefties is troubling, but there’s no way he doesn’t improve on what he’s given you so far. Also, the Twins have had a lot of early season postponements, meaning he will play more games than almost anyone else from this point on (health permitting). Finally, throwing all actual analysis out the window and flying with pure conjecture, he just heats up over the second half of the season. If you’re willing to assume a little risk with the potential for great reward, give Dozier a look.