Rebound Candidates For The Second Half

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Ok, we are at the All-Star break so the free time requires writers to compose articles where we make declarations that are actually educated guesses that we just word in such a way as to make them sound like we are certain.

I am going to divide my rebound candidates into two categories. The first is the Cubs and the other will come from the other 29 teams. This may sound familiar as it was also the two categories of teams according to some experts as the 2016 regular season wound down.

The Cubs threesome will sound obvious but I have heard too much doubt so I will address them.

 

Rebound Candidates for The Second Half

The Cubs

Kyle Schwarber: Writer law requires me to fill space reciting the horrible 2017 numbers to set the tone. .178 Batting Average, 29 runs batted in, only 17 singles in 236 at-bats. Many owners have either dropped him or curse his name regularly when they log into their team. Two things give hope and lead to a belief that he will bat better than .178 in the second half. The first is that his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is .200 which is significantly below league average which leaves plenty of room for improvement. The other is the eye test as during the four games after his return before the break, he was showing signs of an improved approach. One of the signs was that he was hitting the ball to the opposite field, which is a positive sign to show he is staying on the ball during its path to the plate rather than pulling off. He is unlikely to hit .300 in the second half but if he can simply hit a respectable .250-.265, his power and place in the Cubs offense (as a group, their lineup likely belong in the rebound category) should lead to numbers that will fit nicely into the catcher spot in many fantasy leagues.

Jon Lester: Lester has a 5-6 record with a 4.25 ERA. That is more losses than he had in the 2016 regular season. Now, it would be easy to pin it on the loss of his personal catcher David Ross but Lester is a veteran and Willson Contreras has shown his worth in the first half, especially in using his arm to combat the running game that can dog Lester. A closer look at the underlying numbers shows that multiple factors have worked against him. Home runs have hurt him as both his HR/9 and HR/FB % are noticeably higher than his career rates. He also needs to work on reducing the walks as his BB/9 is higher than it has been during his previous three strong seasons. The chances for improved run support also exists if you believe that the Cubs offense should rebound in the second half. Some of his wounds have been self-inflicted but it is reasonable to consider that an All-Star can get back to the form he has shown in his dominating starts both in the past and at times during the 2017 season.

Jake Arrieta: Arrieta is 8-7 with a 4.35 ERA. Teams that he has handled easily in the previous three seasons have touched him up during a rocky first half. Primarily his struggles trace back to issues with locating his specialty pitch which is a hybrid between a slider and a cutter. When the pitch is right, it causes batters fits and makes his fastball and curveball harder to sit on. He is throwing the pitch half as often as he was in 2014-15. The opponent's BABIP is also significantly higher than the three previous seasons. If that slider/cutter snaps back into its old form, there is plenty of reason to hope for a half of baseball similar to the second half of 2015 or the first half of 2016.

Not The Cubs

Carlos Gonzalez: CarGo is batting .221 with six home runs and 22 runs batted in. I almost skipped him as too obvious until I ran across an article advocating the Rockies calling up a minor leaguer to take his place. In 2015, he hit 40 HRs with 97 RBIs. In 2016, he hit .298 with 100 RBIs. His BABIP is 82 points lower this season compared to 2016. Oh, and one last point that might interest you, he still plays his home games at Coors Field.

Johnny CuetoJohnny Cueto is 6-7 with an ERA of 4.51 this season. The Giants have been really bad this season so this is not so much about expecting a great winning streak in the second half. However, his ERA is significantly higher than the standards he had set in his great 2014 and 2016 seasons. Even if 2015 is used instead, his ERA is still more than a full run higher in 2017. His main problem is that he is allowing a higher percentage of fly balls with those fly balls going for HRs at a much higher rate than in those past three seasons. He also is walking batters at a higher rate. This is the shakiest of the five predictions but he was a combined 38-14 with ERAs in the 2's in those 2014 and 2016 seasons so he has the talent to turn it around.