Aaron Gleeman

Baseball Daily Dose

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Buy Low for the Second Half

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Rather than complain about ESPN's annoying coverage of the already boring Home Run Derby or act like tonight's All-Star game is worth previewing, I figured it would be a good time to go over my "buy-low" and "sell-high" picks for the second half. I'll tackle the sell-high guys tomorrow, but today let's focus on the buy-low versions. The idea here is pretty simple: Identify players who a) saw their value drop during a bad first half, and b) figure to turn things around in the second half.

Bronson Arroyo (SP, Reds) – Arroyo began the year with a 2.64 ERA through mid-May, but then had a brutal four-start stretch in which he posted a 13.25 ERA while allowing opponents to bat .398 with a 1.199 OPS. There was some speculation that he was pitching hurt, but he's turned things around with four solid starts in his past five outings. Even if his actual performance doesn't improve a ton, Arroyo's 3-9 record figures to benefit from a little more luck and some run support.

Dave Bush (SP, Brewers) – Thanks to a brutal start to the season that included a 6.13 ERA through his first 10 outings, Bush's overall totals remain mediocre at best. However, his secondary numbers suggest that he's pitched significantly better than his 7-7 record and 4.86 ERA indicate, which is why he's a strong bet for an improved second half. Expect at least a half-dozen wins and an ERA closer to 4.00.

Matt Cain (SP, Giants) – I was never high on Cain for this season, but it's easy to see that his 3-9 record doesn't match his 3.53 ERA. The Giants scored three or fewer runs in 13 of his 17 starts, including being blanked three times. Cain allowed one run in back-to-back starts last month, yet lost both of them, and has a 1-6 record over his past 10 outings despite a 3.84 ERA. San Francisco's offense simply isn't very good, but Cain still figures to see improved run support.

J.D. Drew (OF, Red Sox) – Drew has always been a magnet for criticism and made it easy on everyone who expected him to fail in Boston by going through an extended 16-for-105 (.152) slump following a strong start. He broke out of it in a big way with a two-homer, seven-RBI game on June 8 and has hit .319 with a .955 OPS, 16 RBIs, and 19 runs scored in 26 games since then. Expect a strong second half batting behind David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez.

Andruw Jones (OF, Braves) – At 30 years old it's certainly possible that Jones' days as a star are simply winding down, but basing that opinion solely on his .211 batting average is a mistake. Jones also managed 54 RBIs in the first half, smacked 15 homers despite an usually low homer-to-fly ball ratio, and figures to improve upon his .245 batting average on balls in play. Jones hasn't hit above .280 since 2000, but count on him approaching his usual .260 mark.

Adam LaRoche (1B, Pirates) – LaRoche's first half-year in Pittsburgh was a big disappointment coming off his breakout season in Atlanta, but that's entirely due to a horrendous April. LaRoche went 11-for-83 (.133) with a .520 OPS in the season's first month, but has quietly hit .278 with 10 homers, 40 RBIs, and an .852 OPS in 62 games since the calendar flipped to May. Even better, he went 17-for-40 (.425) with five homers and 11 RBIs in the 10 games leading into the break.

Julio Lugo (SS, Red Sox) – Lugo has been a huge disappointment in Boston because of a .196 batting average, but managed to maintain plenty of fantasy value by swiping 22 first-half bases while being caught just twice. Lugo has MLB's second-worst batting average on balls in play, which is odd for a speedy player and figures to rise significantly in the second half. Assuming manager Terry Francona doesn't bench him completely, Lugo's value almost can't help but rise.

Kevin Millwood (SP, Rangers) – Millwood struggled through hamstring problems for most of the first half and pitched horribly, going 2-6 with a 7.82 ERA through his first 10 starts. He managed to rack up 10 strikeouts in a victory over the Reds on June 17 and has gone 4-1 with a 3.66 ERA in five starts since then. Millwood's age, health, and hitter-friendly home ballpark mean that he likely won't have a great second half, but he should be available for pennies on the dollar.

Corey Patterson (OF, Orioles) – Sam Perlozzo seemed to lose faith in Patterson when he got off to a slow start and frequently benched him towards the end of his time as Orioles manager. His replacement, Dave Trembley, has started Patterson in 15 of his 19 games and Patterson has responded by hitting .322 with six stolen bases and an .813 OPS. Follow Trembley's lead and avoid giving up on Patterson, because a 20-steal second half is possible.

Chris Ray (RP, Orioles) – Ray has blown four of 18 save chances, but his 38-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio and .220 opponent's batting average show that he's not struggling overall. Manager Dave Trembley said last week that he was thinking about taking full-time closing duties away from Ray, but apparently realized that the rest of the Orioles' bullpen is a far bigger mess and decided to leave things alone. It's a smart move, because Ray is due for a strong second half.

Richie Sexson (1B, Mariners) – Sexson carries a measly .205 batting average and .712 into the All-Star break, which matches up almost exactly with the .218 batting average and .706 OPS he had in the first half of last season. Sexson recovered from that with 1.012 second-half OPS, and finished with 34 homers and 107 RBIs. He may not get quite that hot down the stretch this time, but he's quietly posted an .800 OPS with 10 homers and 28 RBIs over the past 40 games.

Vernon Wells (OF, Blue Jays) – A month ago in this space I wrote that Wells' flukishly low homer-to-fly ball ratio suggested that he was going to see a huge increase in power soon. That turned out to be one of my better predictions in a long time, because he homered the next day and has gone deep eight times in the past 21 games after smacking just five long balls in the first 63 games. Despite the power surge, his perceived value remains low and more homers are coming.

Honorable Mentions: Scott Baker (SP, Twins); Josh Barfield (2B, Indians); Jason Bartlett (SS, Twins); Chris Burke (2B, Astros); Jose Contreras (SP, White Sox); Stephen Drew (SS, Diamondbacks); Chris Iannetta (C, Rockies); Kameron Loe (SP, Rangers); Dustin McGowan (SP, Blue Jays); Sergio Mitre (SP, Marlins); Jeff Weaver (SP, Mariners); Chris Young (OF, Diamondbacks)


Aaron Gleeman is Rotoworld's senior baseball editor and contributes to NBCSports.com's Hardball Talk blog. Also find him at AaronGleeman.com and on Twitter.
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