The Numbers Do Lie in Fantasy Baseball: Stop ignoring Josh Naylor!
A simple look at a box score or a study of fantasy categories doesn't always tell the whole story of how a player is performing. Dalton Del Don attempts to identify recent misleading numbers that are worth a closer look.
Yes ... The Numbers Do Lie.
Josh Naylor’s .215 batting average is a lie
Naylor is off to a slow start (65 wRC+) after finally being given a full-time opportunity this season, but his underlying stats suggest he’ll be much better moving forward. Naylor’s lowly .215 batting average comes with a solid 17.3 K% and strong Statcast numbers; his expected batting average (.282) is in the 83rd percentile.
Naylor has been the league’s biggest underperformer when it comes to BA and expected BA, as well as wOBA and xwOBA. He still struggles mightily versus lefties, but this isn’t the typical profile of a hitter who’s available in more than 65% of Yahoo leagues. Naylor is both 1B and OF eligible, and THE BAT X projects a 124 wRC+ rest-of-season.
Domingo Germán’s 4.46 ERA is a lie
Germán had a 5.57 ERA before his last start, and further correction should be expected given his terrific peripherals. His 4.46 ERA is accompanied by a 0.90 WHIP that ranks top-10 among starting pitchers (tied with Gerrit Cole). If you remove his poor start in Cleveland early in the season, Germán sports a 39:5 K:BB ratio over 31 1/3 innings. He’ll always give up homers, but his 20.6 HR/FB% is above his career mark (15.9) and should regress (he owns a 3.63 xFIP). Germán’s spin rate is in the 92nd percentile, and hopefully, he has figured out a way to keep it there.
Maybe wins won’t come in bunches given the Yankees’ surprising offensive struggles (NY is bottom-10 in wRC+ and just lost Aaron Judge to the IL), but Germán’s peripherals are far too impressive for him to still be available in two-thirds of Yahoo leagues. It certainly wouldn’t be the case if his ERA and WHIP were flipped, yet each count equally among the pitching categories.
Germán ranks top-five in CSW this season, sandwiched between scrubs Shane McClanahan and Zac Gallen.
German's fellow Yankee, Clarke Schmidt’s 6.84 ERA is also a lie
But for different reasons.
Schmidt’s CSW isn’t nearly as impressive as Germán’s, but he currently sports a BABIP that’s more than 200 points higher than his teammate’s. Part of Schmidt’s .394 hit rate can be blamed on his allowing really hard-hit baseballs, but that can be noisy; only Nick Lodolo (.450!) has a higher BABIP than Schmidt, and that’s with the Yankees fielding a top-10 defense. Schmidt’s BABIP last season was .273 (his career mark is .325).
Schmidt’s HR/FB% (21.2) also ranks bottom-10 in the league, which is a nasty combination. But that comes with an 11.5 K/9 rate that ranks top-10 among starters, including above-average marks in Stuff+, Location+ and Pitching+.
Schmidt (happens) is available in more than 85% of Yahoo leagues.
All stats from the Giants/Padres series in Mexico City were a lie
A two-game series can affect only so much one month into the season, but it’s worth noting how extremely favorable the hitting conditions were in Mexico City. The second game’s over/under reached an unheard-of 20 runs! Not only were the dimensions a joke (the turf was incredibly fast as well), but also these games were played at the highest altitude (2,000+ feet higher than Coors Field!) in MLB history.
The teams' combined HR/FB% tripled the league average.
Given the ridiculous hitting environment, you should forgive the poor starts from Joe Musgrove (making just his second since returning from the IL) and Sean Manaea (who has shown the biggest increase in fastball velocity compared to 2022 among starters this season — and remains interesting in deeper fantasy leagues). Meanwhile, Manny Machado raised his OPS more than 100 points in one game in Mexico City, and my guy Fernando Tatis Jr. was greatly aided on his second home run (and just his fourth extra-base hit) since he returned this season.