As we reach or pass the midway point of the fantasy baseball season (for most leagues, at least), we’re able to see where our strengths and weaknesses reside. If you’re struggling in a category in a roto league, it’s too late to vault to the top. You can, however, move up a few spots and improve your overall standing without too much trouble. In H2H leagues, your situation in the standings is more fluid. This is due in part to the volatility of the H2H format; your ability to effectively play matchups to your advantage will influence your upward mobility. Grey’s preached the word of SAGNOF since 2007; this week, I thought I’d help with the power categories.
With that, in week 13 I’m calling on the bat of Garrett Jones. Jones sports a 1.4% ownership rate in ESPN leagues, and he’s also widely available in Yahoo leagues, owned by 4% of managers. The Pirates are up for a full week of games on the road: 4 in Philly, and a weekend series of 3 games in St. Louis. Six of the scheduled starting pitchers on the ledger are right-handed, and depending on what the Phillies do with their open spot in the rotation on the 27th, the Pirates may face seven RHP in week 13. Citizens Bank Park is one of the friendlier HR stadiums for left-handed bats in baseball, with Statcorner providing a park factor of 116. For reference, that places it between Chase Field and Miller Park for homer happiness. On the flip side, Busch Stadium plays as a pitcher’s park, with a left-handed HR factor of 89. While that’s generally bad news, this will be slightly mitigated by two variables – the midsummer heat, and the Pirates playing 2 of the 3 weekend games at 1:05 PM local time.
With a .274 AVG, 55 HR, and an .833 OPS in 1166 career AB against right handed pitchers, Jones should be in the starting lineup most of the week, and if the Phillies fill in their empty rotation slot with a righty, he could start all week. Vance Worley (3.52 career xFIP vs L, 3.55 vs R) and Joe Blanton (4.21 vs L and R) both have peripherals out of line with their outcomes, as they possess ERAs a run lower against LHH than against RHH. Robot did take Justin Verlander deep over the weekend, so there’s hope for him against Blanton and Worley. Kyle Kendrick provides a near ideal opportunity for Jones, as Kendrick is the owner of a career 1.41 HR/9 and 0.98 K/BB versus lefties. Like many sinker/slider pitchers, Jake Westbrook has had difficulties getting lefties out, his K/BB coming in at a career 1.25 mark, and his FIP/xFIP at 4.60/4.50. His strong groundball tendencies have kept his HR/9 at a reasonable 0.79, but his HR/FB is high at 12%. Lance Lynn has allowed 6 of his 8 HR in 2012 against lefties, and his peripherals are equally ugly. Rather than the pristine 2.60 xFIP and 6.86 K/BB dominance versus RHH, Lynn owns a pedestrian 1.91 K/BB and 4.14 xFIP versus LHH.
In what seems like a teamwide epidemic for the Pirates in 2012, Jones has been aggressive at the plate, swinging at a career high 52% of pitches crossing the plate. His chase rate, while high at 39%, has come down some in June, and as a result, he’s halved his May K% of 30.8%. His HR/FB of 18.0% is a bit higher than his career 13.6%, but looking at Hit Tracker, he’s only hit 1 homerun this season that would have left fewer than 18 big league parks. Take that one fortunate HR away, and he’d have a very reasonable 16% HR/FB rate. I wouldn’t worry about regression being a major factor this week, and if the matchups play out as they appear, he may even boost his batted ball rates further.
If you’re looking for power out of your 5th OF or Utility slot this week, I’d give Garrett Jones a shot. He’s available most everywhere, and could help you start your ascension up the HR ranks.