On May 26th, Carlos Delgado went 0-for-3 with a sac fly, dropping his line to .215/.294/.387 for the season. The people who were not calling for his outright release were counting down the days until the end of the season when the Mets could refuse his option and look to fill first base from free agency.
Delgado got a day off on the 27th and from that following day until the end of the year, his batting line was .295/.378/.576 over 482 plate appearances. Many people want to point his resurgence to when the club fired Willie Randolph, but Delgado’s hot streak started nearly three weeks before Randolph got the ax.
Regardless, many fantasy players still view Delgado as a question mark. They are leery of him maintaining the production that he showed over two-thirds of the season in 2008 for a full year in 2009 when he will be 37-years old. But there are several reasons for optimism surrounding Delgado.
One might assume that his BABIP was unsustainable during his hot streak. But in the second half of the season it sat at .295 and for the year it was .284 or 25 points below his career average. Furthermore, neither his BB% (10.7) nor K% (20.7) were out of line with what he’s done the past few years.
The main reason Delgado’s 2008 stats seem mind boggling is that he had such a poor year in 2007. That season, he was recovering from right wrist surgery performed following the 2006 season and was also adjusting to being a first-time father. When his numbers suffered, it was easy to point out his age and say that he was just winding down as a player, a point seemingly bolstered by his start to the 2008 season.
But let’s remove his 2007 line and compare the fantasy stats Delgado posted in 2006 and 2008 and see how they compare to one another.
Those lines seem perfectly compatible and while Delgado’s 2006 season represented a decline from the previous year, he also suffered a 62-point drop in BABIP that season.
The big difference between 2006 and 2008 for Delgado was his batted ball profile. While his HR/FB rate was nearly identical – 22.9 percent in ’06 compared to 23.3 percent last year – Delgado traded fly balls for line drives. Last year he had a 24.5 percent LD% while posting a 33.9 percent FB%. In 2006, those numbers were 17.9 percent and 43.4 percent, respectively.
One might expect that last year’s big season for line drives would have resulted in a big bump in BABIP but as noted earlier it was just .284 as compared to .276 in 2006. Perhaps a reason for this lower-than-expected BABIP is the exaggerated shift that teams deploy against Delgado, as they move their shortstop to the right side of second base when he comes to the plate.
That makes the big question whether Delgado can maintain his HR output while hitting so few fly balls. His FB% put him between Johnny Damon and Brandon Phillips on the leaderboard, not the first two players who jump to mind when one thinks of power hitters. Of course, Delgado’s HR/FB rate ranked fourth in MLB.
But the fact that the 6.2 percent drop in fly balls from 2006 to 2008 was more than made up for by the 6.6 percent increase in line drives is a good sign. Delgado still has the bat speed to make solid contact. It would be much more worrisome if the line drive percentage dropped and the fly balls increased.
Furthermore, a 24.5 percent line drive rate is not unheard of for Delgado. He posted a 27 percent rate in 2003, the second year which we have the data. In those seven years, Delgado has a LD% over 20 percent four times.
One thing fantasy players should keep in mind about Delgado is his new home ballpark. There have been wild speculations about it being either a “launching pad” or a “Grand Canyon”. One thing we do know is that Delgado never hit for a high average in Shea.
Here are his splits in his three years with the Mets:
H: .237 (190-801) with 48 HR (21 in 2008)
R: .282 (242-859) with 52 HR
Even if the new park favors pitchers, it would be hard for it to depress Delgado’s numbers farther, as most players perform better in their home parks. And the chance exists that it will actually help instead of cutting 45 points off his batting average.
So, fantasy players should feel confident about taking Delgado’s 2008 numbers at face value. He was not particularly lucky, his numbers stack up well with his previous output, especially once you remove his dreadful 2007 numbers and the move to the new park should not be a concern as he never hit particularly well at Shea, anyway.
Of course, first base is stacked in fantasy so it is not wise to make Delgado one of the top players picked at the position. But last year he ranked ninth among first basemen with a $22.22 dollar value and he should approach those numbers again in 2009.