When should you cut the cord on a disappointing player? It’s a question every fantasy owner grapples with as they watch a player expected to be a cornerstone endure another hitless night or get knocked around. It can be a tremendous relief to shuck the burden of dead weight, but there’s always the chance your fallen star ascends again after you’ve moved on.
Sometimes you’ll be wrong, and that’s okay. Even championship seasons usually carry their share of ill-fated transactions. But getting it right more often than not is the goal, so let’s talk about some struggling players’ rest-of-season outlooks. This week, we’ll talk pitchers.
It’s fair to say nobody expected Price to be carrying an ERA near 7.00 in his first season with the Red Sox. We can see from the usual luck indicators that Price has been fairly snakebitten in the early going. His strand rate is the lowest of any starter in baseball, and his BABIP (batting averages on balls in play) is fourth-highest. Both are light years away from his career norms. His strikeouts are up as well. But there are a few things to be concerned about, the major one being his diminished velocity. He’s allowing significantly harder contact as a result, which calls into question how much the BABIP is poor luck and how much is simply being more hittable. Price is reportedly working on fixing a mechanical issue that may be playing a role. Given his track record and the fact that velocity tends to increase as the weather warms, he seems like a safe bet to bounce back.
Verdict: Wait it out.
Like Price, Gray is an established pitcher allowing his opponents to put up a bunch of crooked numbers on the scoreboard. In fact, Price’s Red Sox just smoked him for seven runs and chased him in the fourth inning Monday night. Here we also see a BABIP well above the player’s career mark, but more worrisome is the increase in walks and home runs allowed. Unlike most aces, Gray has never been a big strikeout pitcher, but he’s getting even fewer swings and misses than usual.
Without the ability to blow hitters away, Gray is much more vulnerable to slumps or runs of rotten luck. And it’s tempting to hand-wave away his struggles as one of those things. His velocity is more or less normal and his release point is consistent, so the easiest answer (injury) seems unlikely. Whatever’s going on, though, it’s taken away his touch and feel with his breaking pitches. Those are his bread and butter, and it’s had an obvious effect on his performance. Perhaps, like Price, he’s suffering from a problem with mechanics. But if so, he hasn’t figured out what it is, and he doesn’t have Price’s track record of successful tinkering with his delivery – or his raw talent.
Verdict: Explore a trade.
Kyle Bishop is a lead MLB columnist at RotoBaller.com. His articles and Fantasy Baseball Rankings are your secret weapon for winning fantasy leagues.