Welcome Back Kole Calhoun

Rougned Odor hasn’t been the only veteran hitter who has turned around his season in a hurry recently. After getting off to an absolutely, incomprehensibly brutal start, Kole Calhoun has been on fire over the last month. Conveniently, Calhoun missed about two and a half weeks in early June due to an oblique strain, so let’s split his season into his pre- and post-injury periods.

Pre-Injury (185 PA) 5.9% 23.2% 0.145 0.195 0.179 0.035 0.172
Post-Injury (162 PA) 10.5% 22.8% 0.289 0.358 0.641 0.352 0.411
Pre-Injury (185 PA) 0.185 16.8% 55.7% 27.5% 2.8% 2.8%
Post-Injury (162 PA) 0.295 22.2% 32.4% 45.4% 4.1% 26.5%

There are no words strong enough to describe Calhoun’s futility over the first two months of the season. Obviously, this was the lowest 50-game rolling wOBA he has ever posted and he had never been below even .250. Interestingly, he wasn’t striking out that much more frequently than before. Yes, his rate was up a bit, but not nearly what you might assume given his sudden inability to produce at the plate. His walk rate was at a career low, however, which might be explained by pitchers having no incentive to throw him anything but strikes since he was performing so poorly.

Perhaps most shocking was Calhoun’s sudden penchant for ground balls, especially given how consistent his ground ball rate has been over the years. Not only that, but the fly balls he did hit rarely flew over the fence. A 2.8% HR/FB rate, seriously?!?!

Oddly, even though he was hitting lots of grounders, which result in a hit much more frequently than fly balls and avoiding pop-ups, his BABIP was a weak .185. A sub-.200 BABIP plus literally no power combined to ensure he did absolutely nothing offensively.

But then he got hurt, missed a couple of weeks, and returned in the middle of June. And boy did he return with a bang. Though he didn’t catch fire immediately, he has done everything possible to get his season line back to where he was projected for before the season began.

From walking at a career low clip to returning to a double digit walk rate, Calhoun’s plate patience is back. He’s still striking out just as often, but it’s far less concerning now. He’s hitting line drives again, back into the low 20% range that he has been at during every season of his career. And now he’s become an extreme fly ball hitter, perhaps deciding to join the fly ball revolution. Was his first two months the kick in the butt he needed to join?

His HR/FB rate skyrocketed and this is just the second time he has posted a HR/FB rate over 25% during any 40 game period. All of a sudden, Calhoun’s season HR/FB rate sits at a career best. Who wudda thunk that would ever occur after that 2.8% mark he posted through the end of May?!

Unlike Odor discussed yesterday who was a strong option at his position, Calhoun was closer to replacement level in shallow mixed leagues. That means that he was likely dropped in nearly every league during his insane cold spell. He probably didn’t get picked back up again until he was a week or two into his hot streak, but owners still had a chance to reap the benefit of a couple of additional weeks of studliness.

He’s still just 30, so there’s a non-zero chance that he has established a new baseline. Maybe he now really is a fly ball hitter with 20% HR/FB rate potential. But it’s doubtful. There’s a better chance that Odor has taken a legitimate step forward during his hot streak than Calhoun. That said, at least AL-Only league owners could rest easy and no longer need to seek out a replacement.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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Do you buy into what Bauers has done during his short time in the majors? The power has jumped dramatically and according to statcast it all seems real. Considering possibly dropping Haniger for Bauers in a shallow OBP league.