Baseball is above all a game of averages. Players who hit 10 home runs a year rarely have a 30 home run season. The ones that do are rare outliers who prove that no rule is applicable 100% of the time. In fantasy baseball, I’ll take an 80-85% chance that a player will do exactly what he usually does, April hot streaks be damned.
You may see someone like John Buck as an emerging power threat who is going to outdo all expectations this season. I see a guy who has hit 20 home runs once in his 10-year career and has limited upside the rest of the season because he already has nine.
Do guys suddenly break out and have unexpected career seasons? Sure. I would have laughed at you if you had told me Edwin Encarnacion would finish last season with 42 home runs having never hit more than 26 in a season. I would have laughed harder if you told me Roy Halladay, who had an ERA under 2.60 in his previous four seasons, would put up a 4.49. These guys are outliers though and baseball is, above all else, a game of averages.
Let’s take a look at what the law of averages tells us about these hot and cold starts.
Dexter Fowler: Fowler is currently batting .303 with eight home runs, 15 RBI, 21 R, and 4 SB. This puts him on pace for roughly 48 home runs, 90 RBI, 120 R, and 24 SB. His career highs are 13 HR, 53 RBI, and 84 R while he has put up 12 SB per season over his last three years.
Obviously he won’t hit 48 this season but how much can we reasonably expect? Last year Fowler changed his approach at the plate, hitting a lot less doubles (35 in 2011, 18 in 2012) and a lot more homers (5 in 2011, 13 in 2012). He’s also hitting for a much better average (.266 in 2011, .300 in 2012) so we can see that he is coming into his own as a legit offensive threat. Perhaps he can bat .300 again; he did it last season. Perhaps he can even steal 20+ bases again like he did in his first full season in 2009.
How much production can we reasonably expect? Probably no more than a 10 home run uptick from last year (putting him at 23), 15-20 RBI uptick from last year (putting him at 68-73), and 20 run uptick from last year (putting him at around 92).
Gio Gonzalez: While Fowler is crushing it, Gio Gonzalez is having a different kind of experience. His season stats currently stand at 2-2 with a 5.34 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, and 5.1 BB/9. Over his last three seasons, Gonzalez has a 3.08 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, and 3.9 BB/9.
It’s still early in the season. We can review it game-by-game. He had no problem taking on the White Sox, Reds, and Marlins, allowing two total runs over those three starts. He struggled mightily in two starts against the red hot Braves and gave up five to a largely anemic Mets offense.
The biggest difference in Gio’s line this season is his home runs allowed pace which is killing him because of the walks he’s been uncharacteristically allowing. Last season he led the league with a 0.4 HR/9 but has typically had one around 0.8. This season it’s up to 1.1. Three of his four home runs allowed this season came against the Braves, one to Justin Upton and two to Andrelton Simmons. Thankfully he doesn’t have to play a hot Atlanta team every time out, so what can we reasonably expect the rest of the way?
His ERA last season was his lowest yet, perhaps aided by a move to the National League. He’s consistently put up sub-3.25 ERA over the past three seasons and nothing has changed to make you think he won’t do the same this year. His WHIP has always been pretty high until last year so a return to the 1.30 range isn’t out of the question but if he can limit his home runs the baserunners won’t kill that ERA as much.
Fernando Rodney: Last season Rodney, at 35-years-old, put up 48 saves (87 over the previous nine seasons), a 0.60 ERA (4.29 ERA the previous nine seasons), and a 0.78 WHIP (1.46 the previous nine years). This season his line is three saves, 4.32 ERA, and 1.68 WHIP. Boy, seems a lot closer to that career average of his, huh? Last season Fernando Rodney’s season was one of those outliers we were talking about and no one should be surprised that his ERA is back to what it used to be and his WHIP is almost as high as it was in 2011 before his crazy season. When in doubt, trust the average.