Casey McGehee and Rumors of Demise

In response to my fan mail as a preschooler, I once had Tom Paciorek of the Seattle Mariners write to me on a 4 inch by 6 inch piece of cheap Mariner notepad and tell me, “Kid, in baseball, you’re either the hero or the goat”. It took my folks a good number of days to explain why being a goat was a bad thing to a 5 year old, but to this day I often marvel at the wisdom of that singular line.

As I look at performances this season, I imagine Casey McGehee has a sense for this in 2011 where he’s mostly been of the two-horned variety.

McGehee was so bad in June that his triple-slash line was .177/.214/.208 for a whopping .422 OPS. His wOBA was .192. That’s just horrific. In all of June and July, he had 36 hits in 171 at bats, six going for doubles, one triple, one home run. He was as bad as any regular in all of baseball.

And then August happened.

While August perhaps didn’t make him feel like a hero, it certainly had to make things a little less stressful at the McGehee household, and possibly reminded McGehee that yes, indeed, he still can hit a baseball. How different was August? He posted a .260/.324/.480 line with six home runs and 20 RBI, racking up a .337 wOBA. In one month, he more than doubled his home run total for the season and accounted for one-third of total RBI. That looks an awful lot like the hitter Brewers fans got used to seeing last year when he put up a .346 wOBA over the course of the entire season.

One thing that changed in August was his batted ball hit trajectory:

2010 and 2011 are an awful lot alike, but having absolutely none of the success he had in 2010, it was as if McGehee started swinging for the fences a little, or perhaps at least making a conscious effort to lift the ball as his ground ball rate tumbled and his flyball rate shot up. He wasn’t having anything in the way of tremendous luck in August as his BABIP was merely .263 whereas his career average is .298 and even his August expected BABIP was .310, so with any degree of fortune (or fairness?), his August could have been much better.

In looking at his ISO and wOBA by month from 2010 to 2011, it’s kind of interesting that his trends are pretty similar, just overall weaker in 2011.

So to a certain degree, we’ve seen this act before with McGehee, it’s just that he was performing so nicely in 2010 that June was a bit of a blip on the radar where as it just took him until about mid July in 2011 to start resembling the hitter that many fantasy owners hoped he would be.

The question for said owners, of course, is will the real Casey McGehee stand up? What can we reasonably expect from McGehee in 2012, and depending on your format and depth, should you keep him, dump him, or target him in your drafts as a decent buy-low kind of guy? That’s an 8-ball question that I can’t answer, but certainly these last several weeks are going to be important to both McGehee and the Brewers as they start making assessments about a future without Prince Fielder and where Mat Gamel and Taylor Green fit in.

How McGehee finishes in September is going to not only impact his future with his real-life team, but how fantasy managers view his prospects for 2012 (his HR on Friday night can’t hurt). ZiPS projected his 2011 at .272/.322/.430 with 17 HR’s and 86 RBI, and whether or not he reaches that this season (he won’t in several categories), I think it’s a pretty safe barometer going into next season.

In fantasy baseball speak, ignoring defense and wins above replacement, McGehee is probably a tick above league average at a fairly weak position. If he can somehow turn his late season prowess into a full season of production, he’ll be something completely different. But until then, he’s rather enigmatic and it’s hard to endorse him for a regular slot on your squad, and yet given his terrific 2010 campaign, the potential for cheap production persists.

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Michael was born in Massachusetts and grew up in the Seattle area but had nothing to do with the Heathcliff Slocumb trade although Boston fans are welcome to thank him. You can find him on twitter at @michaelcbarr.

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