- James Quintong, Fantasy
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So we're now at the point where just about every team has played half a season. That makes projecting season-long stats pretty easy: Just take those counting stats and double them. Obviously, it's rare to see anyone match their stats exactly from one half to another (especially in the case of players who missed significant time to injury), but we do get a pretty good baseline to forecast performances from here to the end of the season.
So let's compare and contrast players with striking numbers, both positive and negative, in some key counting stats (homers, RBIs, steals, wins and saves), and see what to expect from them going forward. For the most part, I'm using players who have played most of the season and have not spent time on the DL, which would skew their first-half numbers. All stats are through Sunday's games, the official end of the first half of the fantasy season: 13 weeks down, 13 weeks to go.
Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays (On pace for 30 home runs): Lots of choices for surprising home-run hitters, but let's look at Longoria, who wasn't even on Tampa Bay's Opening Day roster but already is on pace for at least 30 homers. Thanks to eight long balls in June, he's up to 15 for the season. Because he got off to a late start to the season, he could surpass 30 homers and actually live up to the high expectations many fantasy owners placed on him this spring. The future is bright for Longoria, and my colleague Jason Grey has more on his emergence this season in the Monday edition of Grey's Clipboard.
Carlos Quentin, OF, White Sox (On pace for 38 home runs): With 19 homers in the White Sox's first 81 games, Quentin is on pace for 38 homers this season. I wouldn't be surprised if he did keep up the pace the rest of the way. Injuries slowed him down in Arizona, and now that he has a regular spot in the White Sox lineup, he has run with it. Quentin is in a favorable hitters' ballpark (11 homers at U.S. Cellular versus eight on the road), and while he slowed down a little in June, he's still got a bunch more homers in that bat the rest of the way.
Delmon Young, OF, Twins (On pace for four home runs): Congratulations to Dmitri's little brother on hitting his second homer of the season on Sunday, pulling him to within one of big brother's total. It's been a very disappointing season for Young, who has further proven he's not going to flash a lot of power at this point in his career. Last year, he hit just four homers after the All-Star break (he had a modest nine before the break). However, despite the power outage to start the season, he still could flirt with double digits. His saving grace right now is his nine steals, which is just one off from last year's total. He'll keep on running, and you can only hope for a 10/20 season. He's owned in 60.6 percent of ESPN leagues, but I wouldn't be in any hurry to get him if you've got decent options.
Ryan Ludwick, OF, Cardinals (On pace for 112 RBIs): I'm not sure which season-long projection is more mind-boggling with Ludwick: the 32 homers or the 112 RBIs. Either way, it's really asking a lot of this journeyman outfielder to keep up the pace all season long. He should get to 20 homers pretty easily, but getting to 30 might be asking a bit much. The same goes for the triple-digit RBI production. I'm wondering how much longer he can keep this up, especially since he's slowed down considerably (especially in the average department) in June with Albert Pujols out of the lineup. Will pitchers really change their approach now that they've figured out how to get him out?
Jeff Francoeur, OF, Braves (On pace for 82 RBIs): He was a 100-RBIs guy the past two seasons and will need to run at a 120-RBIs pace just to match that this season. Add to that his eight homers, not to mention a .239 average, and you've got a major first-half disappointment on your hands. Francoeur has become a little more selective at the plate, but he's still striking out a bunch, and now he can't make much contact. Thus, even with guys like Chipper Jones and Brian McCann finding themselves on base often, Francoeur can't take great advantage of it. He's too good to be this mediocre, but on the other hand, his past career splits say that his stats don't change a whole lot before and after the All-Star break. Meanwhile, other relatively low-RBIs guys like Jason Bay and Prince Fielder seem to be showing signs that they could get to the 95-to-100 RBIs mark for the season.
Ian Kinsler, 2B, Rangers (On pace for 40 steals): There's still time to get your votes in for Kinsler, who's had a whopper of a first half, as the starting second baseman for the AL. While the power numbers (13 home runs, 25 doubles) are very solid, he slowed down a bit in the second half last year, so I'd be slightly bearish on his surpassing the 25-home run mark this season, which would set a career high (20 in 2006). However, his 20 steals are already close to his career high, and he's been caught only once. There's no reason he can't get to 35 swipes this season.
Jose Reyes, SS, Mets (On pace for 56 steals): Only two players stole more than 60 bases last season. This year, there are five on pace to break 60, and surprisingly, Reyes isn't one of them, as he's at only 28 after stealing 78 last year. Reyes is getting on base at a similar rate to past years, and his power is up a bit compared to last year. A horrible April has dragged down his overall season numbers, but he should be back on track toward 60-plus steals. So while the 78 steals may be a tad out of reach, Reyes could be close to matching his 19-homer, 64-steal campaign in 2006. (He's at nine homers now.)
Grady Sizemore, OF, Indians (On pace for 38 homers and 38 steals): Racking up 19 homers and 19 steals through his team's first 82 games is very impressive. And so while 30/30 seems very possible, Sizemore even has an outside shot of joining the 40/40 club. However, in the past couple of seasons, he has slowed down slightly after the All-Star break. I'd still bank on him to getting to the 30/30 mark, as he should have no trouble hitting at least 11 homers and stealing 11 bases in the second half, but expecting another 19/19 in that stretch of time could be asking a lot. Split the difference and be happy with 15 more of each.
Mike Mussina, Yankees (On pace for 20 wins): Surprisingly, he's never won 20 games in a season, although he's gotten to 19 a couple of times. Right now, he's at 10 wins and has an outside shot of finally reaching that 20-win plateau (although our current projected stats have him at 19). While Mussina has been a pleasant surprise this season, I'm not sold he can pile up a bunch more wins in the second half. His strikeouts-per-nine rate keeps on declining, and while he's not walking anyone, he's still giving up a bunch of base hits. An interesting thing about Mussina is that he's gone eight innings in two of his past three starts, but they were both Yankees losses. Otherwise, he's gone more than six innings just twice before that. It's hard to have to rely on the bullpen that much in order pile up wins, especially with the team's best middle reliever now in the rotation. Moose should still match the 15 wins he earned in 2006, but anything beyond that will be a bonus.
Felix Hernandez, Mariners (On pace for 12 wins): He's far too good a pitcher this year to finish with a 12-10 record, which is his current pace. He did lose out on a potential seventh win last week when he got injured against the Mets after hitting a grand slam, and that ankle injury may limit him a bit in the second half, especially with the Mariners already out of the race. With that said, if Hernandez doesn't miss a lot of time, he could still pick up another 9 or 10 wins, even for a bad Seattle team. Remember, Aaron Cook has 10 wins already for a bad Rockies team. Hernandez had a bad stretch of starts in late April to early May, but since May 31, he's allowed just one earned run.
Francisco Rodriguez, Angels (On pace for 64 saves): Through 82 games, he has 32 saves, and thus is on pace to shatter Bobby Thigpen's single-season record of 57 saves. Surprisingly, though, K-Rod's K/9 and K/BB rates are by far the lowest of his career. But when it comes to closers, all you really need to care about is the saves, and Rodriguez has saved 32 of the Angels' 49 wins. That's a 65.3 percent rate, well ahead of Thigpen's 60.6 percent rate when he set the record. The Angels do have the ingredients, though, to give K-Rod plenty more save chances: Solid starting pitching but an iffy offense means a lot of games decided by three or fewer runs. But still, it's hard to fathom anyone keeping up that pace in the second half. Saves can be a streaky thing (heck, Thigpen's having the record seems like a fluke in itself), so don't think that breaking the record is a given, although 50 saves for the season wouldn't be outrageous. It would be the 11th 50-save season in history, and surprisingly, all 11 of those seasons have come since 1990.
Takashi Saito, Dodgers (On pace for 24 saves): Rodriguez's Orange County counterpart is actually pitching as well as or even a little better than K-Rod, but he's only on pace for barely one-third the number of saves. Twenty-four saves wouldn't be bad, but three closers have already reached that total at the half. Saito has a solid 47-to-11 K/BB ratio, for instance. And yet, he's got just 12 saves and only 15 chances overall. He's trailing guys like Brian Fuentes and Salomon Torres, both of whom assumed closer's jobs well after Opening Day. The Dodgers have been a slight disappointment, but still, saving only 12 of 38 wins is rather low, a 31.5 percent rate that is not even half of Rodriguez's pace. And yes, that does mean K-Rod has one more save than the Dodgers have wins, a comparison that really puts the two L.A. teams in perspective. Saito is in no danger of losing his job, and he's due to have one of those runs in which he could double his save total in a month. He'd be a great "buy low" target if his owner is frustrated by the lack of saves, since all the other stats are there.
James Quintong is an editor for ESPN Fantasy.
James Quintong looks at some sustainable and unsustainable midpoint numbers for some of fantasy's most surprising or disappointing performers.