FACTS/ FLUKES: Cole, J. Jones, J. McCann, A. Gordon, B. Anderson

Cole better than ever?... Gerrit Cole (RHP, HOU) whiffed 276 batters in his first season as an Astro, on the way to a Top 5 Cy Young finish in the AL. While he's still piling up Ks again (and leading the majors), Cole's ERA is up almost a run a game. Is he the same elite pitcher from a year ago?

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl   Dom  Cmd  FpK  SwK    G/L/F   H%  S% hr/f  BPV
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ====  ===  ===  ===  ========  == === ====  ===
2016  116  3.88  4.17  2.8   7.6  2.7  60%   9%  46/25/29  35  73   7%  102
2017  203  4.26  3.91  2.4   8.7  3.6  63%  10%  46/21/34  31  71  16%  115
2018  200  2.88  3.13  2.9  12.4  4.3  63%  15%  36/21/43  30  76  10%  160
2019   97  3.54  2.73  2.3  13.8  5.9  63%  17%  40/22/37  32  73  20%  203

Yes, and more:

  • Even after a huge Dom jump a year ago, Cole is fanning even more batters and allowing fewer walks in the process.
  • Cole's SwK% continues a three-year trend higher, further justifying the bump in Dom.
  • His Achilles heel has been HRs and an unlucky hr/f that's out of line with the level displayed in recent years.

Cole stumbled through a couple of poor outings and allowed two homers in four of his starts. Otherwise he's generally been dominant, including eight games with double-digit Ks. Cole's underlying skills—Dom, Cmd and BPV—are nothing short of elite, and even though he's allowed 15 HRs (just 4 fewer than all of last year), he should be expected to deliver ace-quality numbers as his HR rate normalizes.

 

Nowhere but down for surging Jones... Things got off to a rocky start for JaCoby Jones (OF, DET), who spent 10 days on the AL in early April and ended the month batting .137. But things have gotten better, and he has been a stable offensive performer the past two months. What can we expect from him the rest of the way?

Year  AB   HR    BA   xBA  HctX  ct% bb%  H%   PX  xPX  hr/f   G/L/F    SB  SBO 
====  ===  ==  ====  ====  ====  === ===  ==  ===  ===  ====  ========  ==  ===
2017* 492  11  .206  .211    78   63   7  29   85   90   13%  51/19/31  17  22%
2018  429  11  .207  .230    89   67   5  28  108   88   12%  43/24/33  13  24%
2019  194   8  .242  .238   103   66   7  32  122  100   17%  39/24/37   6  15%
*includes MLEs

Jones's recent production likely represents the upper bounds of his offensive potential:

  • Jones's plate approach is little changed. He's drawing a few more walks, but also striking out more frequently.
  • HctX rate is up, but it's barely above league average.
  • Jones is already approaching a career high in HRs thanks to a higher FB% and hr/f.

Jones up-and-down start to the season is largely a product of swings in monthly H% (19%, 37%, 37%). Overall, his average xBA is closely tracking xBA. Nothing in his skills profile suggests Jones can keep up a .270 average and hit a HR every 18-20 AB as he's done the past month. While he'll continue to chip in an occasional HR and SB, Jones will struggle to maintain replacement-level production.

 

Correction coming for McCann... A career .249 hitter, James McCann (C, CHW) is having a career year so far, batting .330 with 7 HR and a .910 OPS. Never having come close to this level of offensive production, how long can he keep it up?

Year   AB  HR  BA   xBA  bb%  ct%   Eye   HctX  h%   G/L/F     PX  xPX  hr/f
====  ===  ==  ===  ===  ===  ===   ====  ====  ==  ========  ===  ===  ====
2016  344  12  221  207   6    68   0.21    94  29  41/18/41   88  112   13%
2017  352  13  253  260   7    75   0.29   116  30  38/28/34   93  101   14%
2018  427   8  220  211   6    73   0.22    98  28  38/22/39   63   90    7%
2019  182   7  324  269   8    74   0.34    92  41  44/24/33  117   92   16%

Judging by his underlying skills, not much longer:

  • McCann's bb% and ct% are little changed from what he's done in previous seasons.
  • His HctX remains below league average and his BA is a product of H%.
  • McCann is on pace to meet or exceed his career high in HRs thanks to a rebound in hr/f.

McCann has outperformed most other AL catchers so far this season and looks to seize an even greater share of the playing time in Chicago with teammate Wellington Castillo (C, CHW) out with an oblique strain. While xBA tells us McCann is performing at a higher level than last year, there's no chance he maintains a 42% hit rate, and it's dubious whether he can keep up the current hr/f pace. McCann's season has been a nice surprise for owners staring at an incredibly thin AL catching pool, but don't expect it to continue.

 

Gordon turning back the clock... Alex Gordon (OF, KC) saved his career last season with a rebound in average to go along with double-digit steals and homers. At age 35, he's not only repeating last year's success, he's turning back the clock to the prime years of his career. Is the revival for real? 

Year   AB   BA    xBA  HR  bb%  ct%  HctX  GB/LD/FB   PX  xPX  hr/f  SBO  SB
====  ===  ====  ====  ==  ===  ===  ====  ========  ===  ===  ====  ===  ==
2016  445  .220  .226  17   10   67   100  38/24/38  107  147   15%   8%   8
2017  476  .208  .236   9    8   74    87  43/24/33   68   82    8%  10%   7
2018  506  .245  .251  13    9   75   105  44/26/30   80  112   11%  10%  12
2019  265  .260  .272  10    8   80   104  46/20/34  102  100   14%   6%   4

Signs point to Gordon keeping up his current pace:

  • Gordon is making better contact than ever before in his 12-year career.
  • While HctX and xPX are just league-average, those numbers are an improvement from his miserable 2017.
  • Gordon is on pace to challenge his 20 HR season in 2013 thanks to a few more fly balls and higher hr/f.

There's nothing fluky about Gordon's production so far. Though he's not going to match his career 2011 offensive numbers, a .260-20-10 season is well within reason, putting his value back to where it was during the 2012-2014 period, during which he was twice an All-Star. Gordon's bat has gone silent so far in June (.194 with 1 HR), and he missed a game earlier in the month with a bad back, so it's worth monitoring his health to make sure he's not still nursing an injury.

 

Anderson living on borrowed time... With a 3.68 ERA over 15 starts, Brett Anderson (LHP, OAK) will be called on to help stabilize an A's rotation that just loss its ace to a PED suspension. Historically, Anderson has been anything but stable, with 311 IL days over the past three years. If he can stay healthy, what can we expect?

Year  IP   ERA  xERA   H%  S%  GB/LD/FB  Ctl  Dom  Cmd  FpK  HR9  hr/f  Dom/Dis
====  ==  ====  ====   ==  ==  ========  ===  ===  ===  ===  ===  ====  =======
2016  11 11.91  6.27   44  56  50/29/21  3.2  4.0  1.3   67  3.2   36%  0%/100%
2017  55  6.34  4.87   37  62  49/29/22  3.4  6.2  1.8   57  0.8   12%   0%/46%  
2018  80  4.48  3.99   31  68  56/19/25  1.7  4.8  2.8   58  1.0   14%  12%/47% 
2019  86  3.68  4.90   28  74  53/20/27  3.0  4.7  1.6   59  0.8   11%   0%/27% 

Anderson's base skills don't paint a pretty picture:

  • His Dom rate is abysmal. Anderson is averaging just 3 Ks per start and has 45 Ks for the season. Meanwhile, he's walking almost twice as many batters as he did a year ago.
  • Anderson is outpitching his xERA by more than a full run thanks to a lucky S% and H%.
  • Anderson has just 2 PQS-Dom starts over the past four years, with many PQS Disasters.

Forget his awful health history and the fact he's logged more than 100 IP just once in the past decade, Anderson's success so far this season has been driven by luck. He has no value as a strikeout contributor and his ERA is going nowhere but up. One way or another, a ticking bomb for fantasy owners.


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.