Fantasy Baseball: 3 Things We Learned in Week 22

Baseball fans love their stats. We devour them, dissect them, and build our fantasy rosters around them. Each week of the 2021 baseball season, we will be gifted with another statistical sample size of pitches, plate appearances, and playing time. Knowing it often takes hundreds or even thousands of pitches or batted-ball events for trends to normalize, how should fantasy managers adjust to the ebbs and flows of weekly player performance?

Each week during this season, this piece will look at trends that have emerged over the past week and determine if it is signal or noise moving forward. What is prescriptive in helping build winning fantasy teams and what can be ignored as small sample size noise? Hopefully, we can make sense of what has just happened to help us make smarter roster and free agent budget decisions.

Let's take a look at some of the data from the 22nd scoring period of the fantasy baseball season.

The Jose Ramirez We Know and Love

Jose Ramirez has been a fantasy stud for multiple years at this point, so it's no surprise to see him have tremendous success the last two weeks. In each of the past two seasons, Ramirez has been a top-10 hitter in standard rotisserie leagues, so it came as a bit of a shock to wake up on August 13 and see Ramirez batting .249 with "just" a .336 on-base percentage, 26 home runs, and 13 steals. All of these numbers are relatively low for him considering he hit .270 with 39 homers and 34 steals in 2018 and hit .255 with 23 homers and 24 steals in 2019 despite missing 35 games.

But in the past 14 days, Ramirez has been on an absolute tear, batting .333, with 5 home runs, 12 RBI, and 5 steals. At 31 home runs and 19 steals as of August 30th, his numbers are now starting to resemble the Ramirez we know and love. He is the top-ranked hitter in Yahoo rotisserie formats over the last two weeks, besting event Salvador Perez's recent home run barrage.

You can see in this rolling weighted on-base average (wOBA) chart from Fangraphs that Ramirez had some severe highs and lows in the first half of the season. What is the cause for the turnaround over the second half of this month? Sometimes, even for major leaguers, it's as simple as "See the ball, hit the ball."

The first chart shows us how precipitously Ramirez has dropped his swinging strike rate over the second half of the season. So this means he is either drawing more walks, striking out more, or making more contact. The answer is the latter. After bottoming out in June, Ramirez's contact of pitches in the zone has been on an almost constant incline. He has always had an elite eye, and he has certainly rediscovered it over the last month or so.

There is nothing actionable here since Ramirez is 99% rostered in Yahoo leagues, but if you were able to remain patient or acquire him on the cheap, you are reaping the rewards at the perfect time of year.

Is Antonio Senzatela Safe?

Antonio Senzatela being safe, of course, is part of a greater existential question. Is any Colorado Rockies pitcher, ever really "safe?" This season, the highest-ranked Rockies pitcher in Yahoo rotisserie formats is German Marquez at 158th overall. Last year, it was Senzatela at 235th, and in 2019 it was Marquez again at 180th overall. What do we make then, of Senzatala's sizzling run over the last two weeks? Fact or fluke?

Over his last three starts, Senzatela has pitched to the tune of 20 innings, one win, 13 strikeouts, a 1.35 ERA, and a 0.85 WHIP. That's good enough to rank 16th among all starters in that span and is even more impressive when you consider it has come against the Dodgers, Padres, and Cubs. Typically when we see Rockies' pitchers have success, it's because they have had a string of starts on the road and haven't had to navigate Coors Field for a while. Curiously, that hasn't been the case with Senzatela this year.


Apart from strikeouts -- which is not why you have Senzatela anyway -- he has been appreciably better at home this season, especially with the ratios. A 3.89 ERA and 1.23 WHIP will help in any format, especially with a minuscule walk rate and home run rate.

What is encouraging, however, is in his past three starts, two of them came on the road. In back-to-back road starts, he gave up just one run to the Dodgers and Cubs and actually earned one win. That's something that has been elusive for him playing on a team with an anemic offense. But if you are desperate for ERA and WHIP help down the stretch, Senzatela is only 9% rostered in Yahoo leagues.

Add Brandon Marsh

Brandon Marsh (12% rostered in Yahoo Leagues) - The Jayson Werth/Caveman lookalike that is Brandon Marsh came up to the big leagues just a few weeks ago with a decent amount of hype. Perhaps not as much as teammate Jo Adell, but Marsh ranked as the 43rd best prospect in baseball by and was the second-highest in the Los Angeles Angels farm system.

He got off to a rather slow start, especially with no home runs after more than 130 plate appearances, but he has burst onto the scene -- and on the fantasy radar -- over the last week. He is the 16th-ranked hitter in that time frame, batting .579, with four runs, one home run, and seven RBI. He absolutely destroyed the Padres and Orioles, collecting 10 hits against them in his last five games.

According to Baseball Savant, Marsh has raised his expected slugging percentage from .310 to over .410 just in his last 50 plate appearances. Similarly, his expected batting average has increased from .217 to .260 in that span. This is a prospect who continues to have a walk rate around 10% or higher in the majors (it was closer to 13% in the minors), so with his combination of eye plus power, this is a player to jump on before the hype train gets moving too fast.

Currently, he is just 12% rostered in Yahoo leagues.