Welcome to post-All-Star break, the “dog days” of Summer, and the final stretch of the regular season. If you play in a head-to-head league, you could have anywhere from four to seven matchup periods left before the playoffs. Overall, there are 11 weeks of regular season MLB left.
Let’s preview the second half of the season.
Be Wary of Innings Limits
In today’s day and age, it’s become a somewhat common theme of keeping a closer eye on your young arms’ innings as to not overwork them. This may become a factor especially this year, as we’re coming off a shortened 2020 season where pitchers did not get their usual workload, so someone jumping from, say, 50 innings to 200 innings year-over-year is a big deal. Here are some guys who might have innings concerned for the rest-of-season. These guys could be sell-high candidates in redraft formats, especially in points leagues or in categories leagues where you need wins. In points leagues, volume in innings pitched matters because those directly translate to points. In categories leagues where you need wins or quality starts, you need your pitchers going deep enough into the game to qualify. Playoff odds courtesy of Fangraphs.
Usually in July and August is when the cream rises to the top and on the contrary the bad fall to the floor. Once it becomes clear to these teams they have no playoff hopes, these pitchers could see serious innings limitations and potentially be shut down completely.
Trevor Rogers sticks out as a clear innings concern guy, with his MLB career-high sitting at only 28 innings. He could be the best sell-high of the bunch. With the Acuna injury, the Braves’ chances of making the playoffs dropped dramatically so don’t be surprised to see Anderson get a lighter load down the stretch. The Tigers’ have a brighter future than present, so they could limit their young guys. Brubaker and Flexen I’m not as confident in innings limitations, but it would seem smart for their teams to do so.
These guys are on teams who are going to be making a playoff push, so being shut down completely is probably not in the cards, but limiting innings down the stretch to save some energy for the playoffs could be. Don’t be surprised to see a phantom IL stint for a week off.
It’s crazy Julio Urias is still just 24. The Dodgers are stretching out David Price, but assuming Trevor Bauer is unavailable for most of the remainder of the season they might need Urias to stay put as is. He could get pulled early some starts though. The A’s have the depth to slow Irvin’s innings pace down a bit. The last thing the Brewers need is for Peralta or Burnes to get hurt down the stretch, they’re both currently on pace to crush their career highs. The White Sox could bring Kopech in as a sixth starter or used in long relief to not allow guys like Cease to go too deep. Once Urquidy comes off the IL, the Astros have seven starting pitchers they can cycle through. They might want to move a couple into more permanent bullpen roles prior to the postseason as well, and any of the four listed above could be affected.
Here are three pitchers I think could negatively regress in the second half that you could get a decent haul if you sell-high now.
Lynn is currently averaging over 16 fantasy points per game and is the eighth highest-rated starting pitcher per the ESPN player rater in Roto leagues, which makes sense given his 1.99 ERA thus far this season. His season-long xERA of 3.00 and SIERA of 3.75 are both well above that ERA mark, suggesting some luck thus far. I’m pretty sure no one expected a sub-two ERA from Lynn, but still. If you look over his last 30 days, that SIERA is even higher at 4.08. Lynn’s called strike plus whiff rate (CSW%) has fallen down below 27% which is now a below-average mark, meaning he’s not fooling as many guys or missing bats. His left-on-base rate of 86.2% is very high and well above league average, suggesting some further luck thus far. I don’t think the bottom falls out on Lynn, but if he pitches to a four ERA with around a strikeout per inning rest-of-season, you could for sure sell high on his current season stat line to your less-sharp league-mates.
I mentioned the innings concerns above, which is enough reason to sell in and of itself. The underlying peripherals suggest some negative regression as well. His SIERA and xERA suggest he should be pitching to a mid-fours ERA rather than the mid-threes ERA that he currently has.
Something that sticks out for Sandy is he’s striking out less than eight batters per nine innings and his K-BB% of 14.3% is well below league average. Low strikeouts with walks are not a good fantasy pitcher combination. His 4.24 SIERA over his last 30 days does not forecast well for his current 3.09 ERA.
Conversely, here are some pitchers who could positively regress.
Nola was drafted as probably your SP1 or SP2 before the season, and overall he’s performed more like an SP3. The Nola owner might be getting antsy with his 4.53 ERA. When I look at the profile though, there’s really nothing that concerns me and I’m optimistic that he turns it around to perform like a top-10 SP going forward. His strikeout to walk ratio is really good, with a 24.1% K-BB%. His ERA indicators are much lower than his actual ERA. I think he’s just gotten unlucky with random hard-hit balls clustered together that have caused about five blow-up starts.
I still have Eduardo as a top-50 pitcher rest-of-season. xERA, FIP, and SIERA all suggest serious positive regression on his ERA. He’s not walking batters so control is not the issue. His home run to fly ball rate is above league average and the highest of his career, so it’s possible he has gotten a bit unlucky in giving up the long ball. His CSW% is above average at 28.7%, so it’s not like he’s tossing meatballs down the center of the plate that are getting mashed. I’d look to buy low on E-Rod.
One hitter to negatively regress:
Semien has been a great first-half performer, and if you were proactive and drafted him for second base your roster is probably looking pretty solid as we come out of the All-Star break. I just think he’s overperformed thus far. He’s walking about a league-average amount, but he strikes out at an above-average clip, about 24% of the time. His BABIP of .317 is the highest of his career, and higher than his career average by about 21 points. Semien’s xWOBA is also 36 points lower than his wOBA. If you take his current numbers and project out over 600 plate appearances, he’s on pace for 34 homers which would be a career-high, beating his near-MVP 2019 season by one.
If going forward for the rest of the year his batting average lowers by 21 points and his wOBA regresses to his xwOBA you’re looking at a guy who’s batting .256 with probably around a .790 OPS. He’ll still be a starting fantasy shortstop and second baseman going forward, but I expect he’ll probably be more in the range of top five to seven at 2B and SS rather than top two.
And one hitter to positively regress:
I think Yelich has gone through an extended slump where he hasn’t felt 100%. He’s had some back issues which can definitely affect the swing and has only played 59 of the Brewers’ 92 games this year. If you drafted Yelich you’re definitely not happy, but I think there’s reason to be optimistic.
Shockingly his 2021 BABIP of .342 is 12 points lower than his career average, so I think his batting average should easily rise well above his .241 current mark, especially in the artist formerly known as Miller Park. His walk rate of 19.7% is amazing and well above his career average. His strikeout rate has been high both this year and last, sitting currently at about 28% this year. If he can just get that strikeout rate down to his career average of 21% and feel fully healthy, I think he could be poised for a serious second half.
We saw how he can go off down the stretch with his 2018 MVP season where he hit .367 with a 1.219 OPS and 25 home runs after the All-Star break.
Photo by Dylan Buell