To Buy or Sell: McGehee and Donaldson by Michael Barr July 18, 2014 The not terribly accurate “second half” starts today. If you’re anything like me, the All-Star game doesn’t do a helluva lot to satisfy the need to fill up those multiple box scores and follow the ridiculous number of rosters I have in fantasy baseball. So thank goodness the break is over and we can move on to more important things other than whether a pitcher not-so-gracefully curtseyed to a living legend. Who cares, we have titles to win here. To that end, my beat here is third base and I merely want to provide a couple observations for you as we head into what feels like the final stretch (although that’s still weeks away, but I’m an alarmist). I think with any buy and sell proposition, there is the context which is your individual league settings and your individual standing. So if you’re cooling your heels in first place, you might not need to worry so much about selling high on a guy — you can ride him until he turns into a pumpkin and cut bait at your leisure. You might be more interested in a buy low to prepare for an inevitable injury or to stockpile talent in order to bludgeon your opponent in September. If you’re hanging in there around 4th to 6th and you need to take a risk, that’s where I think both the sell high and buy low becomes optimal. You need to take risks. This will be unpopular with many, but for my money, I’m selling high on Casey McGehee. No doubt McGehee has had a nice little season thus far, even resembling his break-out season with Milwaukee back in 2009. He’s currently hitting .319/.386/.391 — and, needle scratch, it’s that .391 that ought to give you some pause. He’s piled up 53 RBI and is hitting in the general vicinity of Giancarlo Stanton which is a lovely spot to be in. But with just one home run and an ISO hovering around 0.70, you have to wonder if he’s essentially a two category player in standard Rotisserie formats. McGehee does have 21 doubles though, and if you look at his scatter chart, many of his fly balls have been of the warning track variety. There could be an argument in here where you might want to roll the dice on McGehee that some of those fly balls will turn into home runs: Source: FanGraphs Additionally, his career HR/FB rate is 9.7% and he’s sitting at 1% right now. That ain’t gonna last, one would think. But there’s more that concerns me about his data, starting with his batting average on balls in play. After roughly 2500 plate appearances, we should be able to comfortably determine what would be normal for this 31 year old. His career BABIP sits at .298 and that seems just perfectly average to me. This year, it’s at .369. Here’s his career distribution: BABIP 2009 0.330 2010 0.306 2011 0.249 2012 0.248 2014 0.369 Over the last month, his BABIP has been over .400. In looking at his hit trajectory, his expected BABIP sits at, you guessed it, .298 for the past month. He is hitting more line drives this year than in the past, so we might give him a nod towards a higher BABIP, but not .369. Certainly not .400. McGehee is doing a much better job laying off pitches out of the zone, his contact rates are up, his swinging strike rate is down. He may very well have earned his high average and oodles of RBI. But I remain unconvinced that he’s going to start hitting home runs, which still makes him a two category player at best. Josh Donaldson Donaldson has been lost for the last 30 days. He’s hit .198/.248/.317. In fact, he’s been lost since the end of May. His overall stats are down to .238/.317/.449 and this stretch of awfulness might have his owners searching for an out. I’m thinking the time might be ripe for a buy low. Donaldson may never hit .300 again, and to expect that would probably be foolhardy. But Donaldson still owns a .211 ISO this season, with 13 doubles, two triples, and 20 home runs. He also hits in the middle of a very effective A’s lineup that has produced 61 runs for Donaldson to go along with his 65 RBI. Even if Donaldson hits .240 for the rest of the season, he’s likely to be a three category player for you, and one of the best at his position no less. And the likelihood that he hits this poorly for the rest of the season seems remote to me. In his last 110 plate appearances, Donaldson is walking at about a 6% clip and striking out less than 15% of the time. He’s hitting just 7% line drives and almost 54% ground balls and his BABIP is .205. That’s putrid. His career LD/GB/FB rate is 18.5%/44%/38%. So I guess you have to ask yourself whether you think Josh Donaldson is just completely, utterly broken or if there’s something just a little amiss in that leg-kick-timing mechanism he employs. If I’m in need of home runs and RBI, sitting in the middle of the pack, I’d be floating offers for Donaldson before he goes off for a week and makes everyone forget this ugly stretch.