Fantasy Baseball: 3 Things We Learned in Week 19

Welcome back to the 3 Things We Learned Series for the 2022 MLB season! This weekly piece will look at the trends, patterns, and interesting statistical touchpoints of the MLB season in order to help you make actionable fantasy decisions.

Baseball fans love their stats. We devour them, dissect them, and build our fantasy rosters around them. Each week of the 2022 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 18th scoring period of the 2022 fantasy baseball season.

Max Muncy Is Finally Hitting Again

Much-maligned Max Muncy raised eyebrows over the weekend when he broke out with a four-hit, one homer, four-RBI game against the Kansas City Royals on Friday. That was Muncy's first game with at least three hits since late June and his first game with at least four hits since July 17th of 2021.

But anyone who had been paying attention lately may not be surprised by the breakout because the hits have been coming more steadily, and Muncy finally looks ready to bust his season-long slump. In his last nine games, Muncy has hit safely in seven of them, including four games with at least two hits. In fact, the 13 hits Munch collected in his last nine games are equal to the total number of hits he had in all of June this season.

When this season began, there were rumors that Muncy's injured left elbow was not fully healed and it would affect his approach and his performance at the plate. Munch insisted everything was fine, but it wasn't until recently that things started to turn around. And while we may never know the true extent of how the elbow felt, the real culprit in this months-long slump was really just batting average on balls in play (BABIP).

On the season, Muncy's BABIP is a lowly .217 despite a career .257 number. The league average BABIP for batters this year is around .290. As you can see from Muncy's rolling average BABIP, it's only been in the last few games where he has been able to consistently stay above that number.

The question everyone will ask is "why?" Was it just bad luck? Injury? Not enough Spring Training to get into an offensive groove? External factors? We may never know, but what we do know is that Muncy is finally looking like his old self again and should be a key piece for any team contending for their fantasy playoffs.

Blake Snell Has Turned Around His Season

In one of my fantasy leagues, I made a trade for Blake Snell a couple of weeks ago. It was an easy call. The offer came to me where I would receive Snell for DJ LeMahieu, and it stood out as one of those classic trade offers where the manager had reached the end of their rope with a player who had been maddening all season. But under the hood, the signs were there that a turnaround was possible for Snell, and the last five starts for him have been simply masterful.

Before the All-Star break hit, it was a completely different story for the San Diego Padres' pitcher. His first-half line featured an ugly 5.22 ERA led mostly by 5.58 walks per nine innings. The strikeouts were still there (11.88 K/9), but he wasn't getting deep enough into games to amass lots of them. But his Fielding Independent Pitching in the first half stated his ERA should be around 3.70, and his 64.7% left-on-base percentage was the eighth-worst for any pitcher with at least 50 innings pitched before the All-Star Game.

Predictably, those numbers started to turn around, and Snell stopped walking everyone who came up to the plate. His latest start on Sunday was a gem, throwing six innings with three hits allowed, no walks, and 10 strikeouts. Now five starts into his second half, Snell leads all qualified pitchers in WAR in that time and has the lowest ERA of anyone in that group.

As the trade deadline approaches in many fantasy leagues in the coming days, the asking price for Snell has clearly gone up. But how much? He looks like he could be a league-winner down the stretch and somehow he is still available in 13% of Yahoo leagues as of Monday morning.

Ryan McMahon Is Filling the Kris Bryant Hole

Anyone who sunk any kind of fantasy draft capital on Kris Bryant in his first year in Colorado is angry. The Colorado Rockies' new $182-million man has suffered through back problems, foot problems, and slumps, and it wouldn't surprise anyone if his season came to end with the Rockies shutting him down. As the Rockies looks to other players to fill the offensive gaps, no one is stepping up bigger this month than third baseman Ryan McMahon

In the last two weeks, McMahon is the fourth-best hitter in rotisserie formats. He is batting .364 with nine runs, four homers, 11 RBI, and two steals in that span. His production has been so good, in fact, that he has played in nine of the Rockies' last 10 games and has even moved up to second and fourth in the batting order in a few of them. In those two weeks, he ranks sixth in hitter WAR -- slightly behind players like Aaron Judge and Nolan Arenado.

McMahon's primary adjustment that has led to this success is his ability to lay off pitches outside of the zone. From the beginning of the season until June 22, McMahon's O-Swing% was around 32% for the year. On almost one-third of pitches outside the zone, he was swinging away. Combine that with a 60% contact rate on those pitches, and you end up with a lot of strikeouts. Since June 22, his O-Swing rate is down to just 24%, the 18th-best clip in the game. To give some context, McMahon's O-Swing rate in that time is identical to likely National League MVP Paul Goldschmidt's.

McMahon is rostered in only 69% of Yahoo leagues and is eligible at both second base and third base. This is a situation where you could possibly find a five-category contributor for your fantasy squads for free on the waiver wire.