If someone were to ask you which MLB player rocked the fantasy world in May, Joe Mauer (C, MIN) (.414 AVG, 11 HR, 32 RBI) would probably roll across the tongue. If you're a Yankees fan, the once-despised Mark Teixeira (1B, NYY) (.330 AVG, 13 HR, 34 RBI) is the first name likely to come to mind. Heck, even Deconstructed veteran Juan Pierre (OF, LAD) would be a popular choice. Adam Kennedy (2B, OAK), though, isn't a name that fantasy players connote with the phrase "rocking the fantasy world." Yet that's what happened in May.
You heard of April showers bringing May flowers, right? Well, consider Mark Ellis' (2B, OAK) strained left calf the rain and Adam Kennedy the tulip. Yes, that's probably the only time you'll read a baseball player compared to a flower.
The analogy works, because Kennedy signed with the A's on May 8 to fill in at second base after Ellis went down. From there, he took off despite playing 10 of his first 21 games at Oakland's pitcher-friendly McAfee Coliseum. A .390 batting average with a 1.084 OPS and 15 RBIs sent a jolt to any fantasy squad searching for a productive second baseman.
The million dollar question is, can the utility player keep it up? If he can't, which is the more likely scenario, how far will he fall? Will it be to a still-ownable level, or will he fall off the map faster than a certain Papi in Boston? Let's find out.
All statistics through June 1.
2008 stats: 365 plate appearances, 339 at-bats, .280 AVG, .692 OPS, 42 runs, 2 home runs, 36 RBIs, 7 steals2009 stats : 97 plate appearances, 86 at-bats, .372 AVG, 1.036 OPS, 9 runs, 4 home runs, 15 RBIs, 5 steals
Line it, fly it, but for God sakes, don't ground it
What first jumps out in his collection of stats are the number of extra-base hits. Never confused for a power hitter, Kennedy's homer total after less than a month is already as high as it's been since 2004, when he jacked 10 long balls. Since then, these are Kennedy's homer totals with the corresponding number of at-bats:
Whoa, that's a power surge even David Ortiz (1B, BOS) would hope for. (Papi's struggles deserve at least two jokes.) Funny enough, he's putting the ball in the air at a career-low clip. A 29.2 fly ball percentage -- his previous low was 31.9 -- has been sufficient enough for four homers, a 19 percent HR/FB rate that is patently unsustainable for a notoriously light-hitting middle infielder who plays in one of baseball's best pitchers' parks.
If Kennedy has any hope of reaching 10 home runs, he'll have to push his fly ball percentage at least into the mid-30s, possibly the late 30s. Otherwise, it'll be very difficult for him to garner the sort of luck he's already experienced with so many homers in so few attempts, relatively speaking.
On the other hand, a lower fly ball percentage does lead to the realization that either his line drive or ground ball percentage is higher. Fortunately for Kennedy's sake, it's the former rather than the latter.
A 30.6 liner percentage means the career .278 hitter is certainly putting better wood on the ball. It also explains the seven doubles he's cranked, just 10 fewer than he hit in 253 more at-bats last year. If he can hold his liner percentage around the 30 percent mark -- even down into the mid-20s -- than he could approach the 32 double-baggers he swatted for the Angels in 2002.
Walk, don't whiff
Ever feel a rage of aggressiveness result in an overwhelming sense of patience? It'd be like riding someone's back car bumper until you realize jumping on him isn't going to make the 10 cars in front of him drive any faster.
Well, in some odd way, Kennedy has experienced that same revelation this year. Despite striking out in 16.3 percent of his at-bats -- his highest mark since he whiffed through 19.7 percent of his 2004 at-bats -- the middle infielder has drawn a walk in 10.4 percent of his at-bats. Never has he taken a double-digit percentage of walks in one year.
So far, patience is winning out over aggressiveness as his .443 on-base percentage is nearly 100 points higher than his previous career high . The fact he's reaching first base so often has also enabled him to run more -- even for a team which doesn't give the green light to just anybody. (As pointed out by a work colleague, the Oakland A's are not an anti-stolen base franchise. They just dislike inefficient base stealers.)
In any case, take the higher walk percentage more seriously than the strikeout figure. He's whiffing one percent more often than he has for his career vs. a walk percentage four percent higher than the career norm. Perhaps sitting out the season's first month -- unemployed -- drove him to the realization that at 33 years old, he doesn't have many more opportunities in the majors.
Bad economy aside, a lack of interest from ballclubs is likely to stoke the fire of any 30-plus-year-old. Relinquished opportunities in the past have possibly motivated Kennedy to show a keener eye at the plate. Or maybe Kennedy just realized which franchise he's playing for. As someone who's read Moneyball twice, I can attest to Billy Beane and his mentor -- Sandy Alderson -- infusing the value of plate patience and on-base percentage throughout the A's organization.
As a man with a career .315 Batting Average On Balls In Play, it's quite apparent that our guy has had a streak of luck -- not just on home runs. Kennedy has a shiny .412 BABIP, a figure that would look oh so good if it weren't terribly difficult to maintain.
Don't assume that if his BABIP falls 100 points to his career norm, that his batting average will do the same. It doesn't necessarily work like that. There's no reason he can't go an entire season with luck on his side. Take a glimpse at his 2005 campaign in which he used a .351 BABIP to post a .300 average.
Still, it's not likely Adam Kennedy is going to provide a huge uptick in his stats vs. what he's done for his career. His lifetime best numbers are a .312 batting average, 13 homers, 55 RBIs and 22 steals. If he remains in the A's starting lineup once Mark Ellis returns -- a big "if" considering Oakland's devotion to Ellis in the past -- he may approach his career highs. He's very unlikely to exceed those numbers, considering the luck he's experienced in his hitting stats, coupled with the hard luck his home ballpark provides to hitters.
That isn't to say he won't be valuable, but it's not "starter in standard league" valuable. Think of him as a solid middle infield option in deeper mixed formats, since his his torrid pace of May will likely lead to a slump in June. At that point, he could be the answer to a different question -- which player dropped off the fantasy map in June?
Kyle has little patience for a few things in life, like cell phones that don't work...and cell phones that don't work. Kyle likes to show his aggressiveness by throwing non-working phones at the wall. There's the difference between impatience and aggressiveness. If you have any questions, comments or suggestion for future players to Deconstruct, send him an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow RotoExperts on Twitter and partake in the RotoExperts.com's live MLB chats every Sunday at 9 p.m. EST. Just go to www.rotoexperts.com and look for the CoverItLive blog.