MLB Will Store Baseballs in Humidor to Reduce HR Totals
Amid the tragedy of gun violence and political uncertainty across the globe, Spring Training games arrived on Friday. Indeed, life is richer for the return of the sickening thud of a ball meeting Aaron Judge’s bat, the highly-anticipated debut of Angels pitcher/DH Shohei Ohtani and the annual overzealous hype of a top prospect wearing out pitching in either Arizona or Florida.
While I have yet to participate in a live draft, the concern of another era of Home Run Frenzy has led Major League Baseball to store balls in climate controlled rooms beginning this season. That should be a source of second thoughts for Fantasy owners seeking to launch their personal nuclear arms race in the form of drafting/buying sluggers.
Last season saw a record-setting 6,105 homers in MLB, which (of course) led to various accusations of juiced baseballs and other theories that would make for a segment on Alex Jones or Coast to Coast with George Noory (while I loathe the former, years of late night drives from newspapers led to a relationship with the latter’s show that is more than a decade long). While MLB has danced around the subject, the decision to treat baseballs like a fine Cuban cigar could lead to a reduced HR rate this season.
— MLS Fantasy Soccer (@MLSFantasy) February 22, 2018
At a rate of 1.26 home runs hit per game, the 2017 season shattered the previous mark of 1.17 HR/G set in 2000. Last season also marked the third straight campaign of more than 1.00 home runs per game, snapping a stretch that saw less than a homer per contest four times between 2010-2014.
So, how does this impact Fantasy Baseball?
From my vantage point, I’d caution against going all-in on mashers. Giancarlo Stanton, for example, has an average draft position of 9.2 according to Fantasypros.com. Judge, Stanton’s new Yankee Stadium outfield chum, is being picked at an ADP of 15.8, while new Red Sox outfielder J.D. Martinez comes in at 24.8 and Dodgers slugger Cody Bellinger has an ADP at 25.6.
If the HR/G rate tilts more toward the 2015 mark of 1.01, we’re looking at a drop of more than 20 percent. Translation: just over 1,220 baseballs stay in the park. To go further, each team would lose an average of nearly 41 homers, a drastic contrast from a 2017 season that saw 18 teams hit at least 200 homers while four others parked at least 190 over the fence.
I’m not saying to back away from the likes of Stanton, Judge, Martinez, and Bellinger. The legit home run hitters are going to get theirs, climate-controlled baseballs or not. What I am suggesting is that if you’re going into a draft hell bent on locking up your league’s home run category by the end of the session, you will be in for a stark surprise, as players who are projected to belt 25-30 homers fall more into the 18-22 range.
Having learned their mistakes from the home run’s halcyon days of 1994-2009, my biggest concern is not that HR/G dip to 2015 levels. No, I’m wondering if we could be heading to a 1988-like market correction that snuffed the long ball to a HR/G rate of 0.76. The dip in 1988 resulted in the HR/G staying in the 0.70-0.80 range until a rise to 0.89 in 1993.
It’s my hope that we don’t see such a hardened stance against the long ball, yet I’d be open to laying back and adding a Madison Bumgarner, Stephen Strasburg or Carlos Carrasco while others are loading up on sluggers. If you’re sitting at the back end of a 12-team league, I’d suggest grabbing Charles Blackmon with your first pick and following up with a pair of arms as a buffer.
Call me insane (you wouldn’t be the first) but I’d suggest you at least take some precaution. Chicks may love the long ball, but it appears to me MLB is making inroads toward keeping the relationship as just a casual affair.
And Now, a Word From Soccer
North America’s “other” football starts this week as Major League Soccer kicks into regular season mode. Mlssoccer.com, the league’s website, has its Fantasy page set for a 2018 campaign that will also include a variety of new features. It includes player values that will change weekly based on performance along with rolling roster lockouts, which means players lock at the start of a match. The site will also have a more user-friendly custom league format that will allow Fantasy commissioners more freedom to construct a league in their own vision.
I’m smart enough to know when to stay in my lane, so rather than attempting to put my (lack of) Fantasy soccer knowledge on display, I’ll guide you to mlsfantasyboss.com, where the experts there have already put together a wealth of information to help Fantasy owners in either traditional leagues or in DFS. The site also has a list of other links to help make playing an enjoyable experience along with injury news and a link to their podcast.
Happiness is a Fresh New Pen
A six-game win streak recently revived the Penguins, who have a 36-23-4 record. Rookie left wing Zach Ashton-Reese had been a major contributor to the run that ended Saturday, scoring in each of the last five games of his streak while tallying four goals and two assists during the first nine games of his career.
Ashton-Reese has seen his DraftKings salary go from $3,300 when he debuted to $4,100 leading into Saturday night. Averaging 19:40 of production per night, Ashton-Reese should be able to maintain a steady pace between now and the end of the season and could emerge as a potential DFS sleeper once the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin. Those in traditional leagues would be wise to keep Ashton-Reece in mind as a possible bargain when Fantasy drafts commence in September.
While the Coyotes are bound for another lost season, the play of Clayton Keller is giving Phoenix fans — and Fantasy owners — strong reason for hope.
Keller had one of the highest scoring games this season at FanDuel when he tallied 38.60 Fantasy points on February 15. He has slowed down recently, yet Keller remains a solid play at FanDuel, going for $5,700.
Play Ball? Eh…
Lakers guard Lonzo Ball returned on Friday after missing 15 straight games, finishing his night with 27.25 Fantasy points in a win over the Mavericks. Ball ($6,600 at DraftKings) will not play back-to-backs the rest of the way and will likely be limited in minutes. Considering Ball had eclipsed 30 FP in 11 of 12 games before his injury, it’s a bit of a disappointment if he can’t go full tilt the rest of the way. While his game needs a lot of work, the production he had given DFS owners is encouraging for Ball down the road.
Andrew McCutchen-Evan Longoria Photo Credit: AP Photo/Lynne Sladky