Unfrozen Caveman Leftfielder and Other Hitters to Grab for the Summer

Month to month, the MLB season changes more than almost every other sport. Certain players historically excel in some months, while some guys hurt themselves in others. Well, with April out of the way and May half way over, who excels in the summer months? Finding guys who dominate in June, July, and August is incredibly important because fantasy seasons are generally over by the end of August. September still counts, but you can’t make moves at that point in most leagues. So who is truly a boy of summer and should be dealt for in the next two weeks? Here are a few dominant summer hitters, which months they dominate in, and what you should do about it.

Jose Reyes (SS) – New York Mets
Dominates: All Summer
Reyes has struggled mightily this year, to the tune of a .221 average with 8 steals. The steals are what you hoped for but that average, along with no homers and only 10 RBI, are not. I expect his disappointing season to turn around in a big way once school let’s out for a number of reasons. First and foremost, let’s check my favorite metric, BABIP. For his career, Jose has a .308 BABIP, which is a little low for speed guys. This year he’s at .261. That’s going to improve. His monthly splits also show that he has historically been at his best when the sun is out. He’s hit .284 in June, .312 in July, and .305 in August, easily his three best hitting months. Steals have gone up those months too, especially in August. He has 68 steals then in his career, which is by far his highest for any month.

The thyroid kid is 100% worthy of your interest this summer. If the average is going to come up, it’s going to happen soon. Hopefully, some owner is panicking because of Reyes’ awful start and you need a shortstop. Even if you don’t, shortstops are a hot commodity and someone will need one. Target him now if you don’t own him, hold onto him if you do.

Carlos Pena (1B) – Tampa Bay Rays
Dominates: In August
Pena has been a mess this year. He’s below the Mendoza line, hitting .183 and has only hit 5 homers. Don’t fret if you own him, though. You didn’t get him for average anyway, but the home runs will certainly come up. Unfortunately, June is Pena’s weakest home run month historically. He’s only hit 17 homers then for his entire career. Generally though, we should see a rise in the long ball, which should lead to a rise in chicks digging Pena. He’s had his lowest HR/FB ratio since he’s joined the Rays this season by a pretty wide margin, at 13.9%. His career mark is 20.2%. Players not named Andruw Jones generally don’t blow it in contract years. Also, he’s seeing a lot less fastballs and a lot more changeups this year. Carlos will get used to it soon. He’s a big league hitter. I’m sticking to this Backwards K All-Star. Definitely try to get him before August, but as close to it as possible. If you own him, hold tight.

Pena is not this guy

Johnny Damon (OF) – Detroit Tigers
Dominates: In July and August
Unfrozen Caveman Leftfielder (he can’t play center anymore, although he used to be Unfrozen Caveman Centerfielder) has been okay this year, but not great. That should change come our nation’s birthday. Damon has his highest career batting average in July, at a cool .300 and has hit his most homers in a month in August, with 44. For what it’s worth, he has the most steals for a month in August as well. We don’t know where the Tigers will be come the summer and especially August, but they have a solid lineup and should be in the hunt for the AL Central title and thus the playoffs (clearly the wildcard will come out of the AL East) so the pressure will be on Damon to perform. In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t know if his home runs are going to be what was expected this year. He’s hit 10% more ground balls this year than in 2009 and 10.6% less fly balls. The line drive total hasn’t changed since last year though, so he’s hitting the ball well. He’s worth a gamble in the summer, especially if he’s currently unowned. If there’s a chance of seeing Damon’s stats return to those he had in the Bronx, it’ll occur in July and August. Just make sure your league doesn’t count “Throws Cut off By Center Fielder” (or TCoBCF) as a category, because then you’re screwed.

Ryan Howard (1B) – Philadelphia Phillies
Dominates: In July and August (and September!)
This proud owner of a new, giant, and ill-advised contract (come for the fantasy advice, stay for the ripping on Ruben Amaro) absolutely rakes late in the year. For his career, 3 of his 4 highest monthly home run totals are the last three of the baseball regular season, with the highest total coinciding with back to school shopping (he’s got 49 in September). He also hits .297, .286, and .307 in those months, compared to a .279 lifetime average. You drafted him for home runs, and that’s what you’ll get at the end of the year. He’s only got 6 homers so far, but once his numbers trend back toward his career marks those will go up. Howard has only hit about 31% fly balls this year, compared to 40% last year with a HR/FB rate 8% lower than last season. Teams aren’t pitching him any differently this year, so it’s just a matter of time until he starts to jack them at the rate that led the Phightin’ Fils (it makes as much sense to spell “Phils” with an “F” as it does to spell to give him that contract) to ink him up for the foreseeable future. If those metrics aren’t enough, his Isolated Power is as low as it’s ever been, at .182 compared to a .300 career ISO. Hopefully a frustrated Phillies fan or resentful Mets supporter wants to deal him. If so, jump at the chance.

This just shows the important of finding every little advantage in fantasy sports. Players tend to trend certain ways; whether they hit better in day games, in the summer, when they take steroids before games, or at home (which one of these is not like the other?), players’ performances do differ. Pay attention. You’ll be happy that you did.

Most importantly, keep the bat on your shoulders.
-Backwards K

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: