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A Look at American League All-Stars After the Break

By Matthew Kirkeby - 4 years ago in MLB News

Midseason Stats and What to Expect Moving Forward

American League

Getting viewers for the All-Star game has been a longstanding problem for the MLB.  As simply one game in a season long statistical sample size, it’s easy to see how people like me find no value in it.  Further complicating problems with the midsummer classic, is that being an All-Star can be just as much about being lucky as it can about being good.  Therein lies the problem: we are making our assumptions on only a half a season’s worth of data.

Something about the All-Star game that few people think about is that it forces EVERYONE to take 4 days off (more for pitchers) from a game that is otherwise played daily.  So much of this game is repetition. Timing, rhythm, and repeatability are all a huge part of the consistency that each player strives to achieve.  Time off can serve as a reset for many players.  Some lose the rhythm that they had in the first half of the season, others get a chance to get healthy and possibly correct flaws in their swing or pitching delivery that can make them look like new in the second half.  Either way, this is a very good time to slow down and reassess everyone. Lessen your DFS wager sizes and observe before attacking.  Otherwise, your hard-earned bankroll may wind up spiraling down the drain.

Let’s look at a few of the breakouts or lesser known guys on this year’s all-star roster going forward.

American League

Justin Smoak

Smoak was the centerpiece in the blockbuster deal that sent Cliff Lee from the Mariners to the Rangers in 2010.  Despite elite pedigree, Smoak was a bust in Seattle.  He wound up in Toronto in 2015 and served as a part-time hitter, with occasional bursts of power but not a whole lot else.

Among the preseason chatter this year was a couple of comments from Smoak about trying to just relax and have fun this year, and focus on getting the most out of his swing.  With the weight of years of failure finally lifted off the back of a once highly touted prospect, Smoak has finally realized his potential this year, hitting .289 with 23 HRs after failing to hit better than .238 with 20 HR in any previous year.  He also has a career-best strikeout rate and swinging strike rate of 19.4% and 8.5% respectively, both incredible for a hitter with his type of power.

Anyone can slump at any time, but everything about the numbers he is putting up looks real.  I would not hesitate to slide him in against anyone, but it’s worth noting that he has particularly crushed lefties this year (.452 wOBA).

American League

Aaron Judge

The non-believers this year cited his 44.2% Strikeout rate and 18.1% swinging strike rate and rightfully so, as it and a normal BABIP suggested his .179 Batting average over 95 plate appearances had some validity.  Further, men his size (6’7”) struggle at the plate due to massive holes in their swing or difficulty getting to certain pitches.  Nevertheless, Judge has gone from a questionable prospect to odds on MVP in his first full season in the majors.

The power is absolutely real and it appears the Giancarlo Stanton comps are fair.  What is not real is that .313 batting average.  Judge has a 29% K rate, which is bad, but sustainable for someone with his kind of power.  However, there is a good chance that’s his ceiling and his .401 BABIP is going to regress.  It may come with a bit of a slump as the league’s pitchers learn how better to pitch him. But we are talking about a .260 hitter with 50 HR power who walks at an elite rate, so don’t get caught fading him if the price drops.

Jason Vargas

Jason Vargas

He comes into Monday’s start with a silly 2.62 ERA that has people believing he deserves to be on the All-Star team.  Don’t get me wrong, he’s a serviceable major league pitcher, pitching in a pitcher friendly home park with a good defensive team behind him.  There will probably even be a few justifiable spots to play him, mainly at home against teams that struggle against lefties.  Just remember: we are talking about a 34 year old who has never pitched below a 3.78 ERA and is overpriced on Fan Duel at $8,300.

Topping out at 87 mph (well below average even for a lefty), Vargas has enough of a head start to likely finish with an ERA under 4 as his FIP of 3.78 suggests, but he is a fly ball pitcher with a silly low 7.9% HR/FB rate in a year that has seen massive increase in homeruns league-wide, so I’m more likely to believe he pitches to his 4.77 xFIP for the rest of the season.  He is going to have a handful of “get your teeth kicked in” type of outings going forward and has probably pitched his best baseball.  Personally, I’ll be looking elsewhere and save money on dental work.

American League

Avisail Garcia

The White Sox prize for trading away a soon to be out of the league Jake Peavy before it was obvious that he was done, Garcia was considered a 5 tool prospect.  Some thought he could be a 20 HR/20 SB guy, others thought he may fill out his frame and hit 30 bombs perennially.  As it turns out Garcia surprised everyone by developing into a crappy player.

This year looks different on the surface: he’s cut his strikeout rate to 21.9%, he’s hitting .313 with 13 HR and even chipped in 4 SBs.  That said, his .374 BABIP screams regression.  After walking at a league average clip, he’s decided that was too much and cut back to 4.2%.  Even the Homeruns look unreliable as he has a 51% groundball rate, making 20 homeruns seem like a ceiling- very unimpressive for a man of his size (6’4” 240lbs).  If you’ve got nothing better to do with $3,100 on Fan Duel, I guess go for it.  I’d rather go bargain shopping and save myself the disappointment.

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