Remember back to June 1st 2011 when Matt Joyce was hitting .370 with nine homers, 30 RBI and 34 runs scored through 51 games? Come on, you remember. You sent me notes about him, called me on my SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio show, and basically all said he was going to be the breakout star of the 2011 season. You remember what I said all along? Come on, you do. I said that what Joyce was doing was unsustainable, I said it and wrote it over an over again. I don’t think many listened, but you should have. Joyce hit one homer in June and batted .179 over the months of June and July. In the end, Joyce had a nice season hitting .277 with 19 homers and 75 RBI, but I bet you that every single Joyce owner last year was frustrated to all hell with him, an I also bet that many of those of you who owned Joyce would say he was a disappointment because he started out so darn hot last year. To that last group, those of you who were upset with his performance, why didn’t you listen to me? I don’t randomly spout off when I talk about players, I nearly always have valid reasons for the positions I hold. I’m not always right, I’ll freely admit that, but more often than not I end up being right because I let the numbers, and my baseball knowledge, inform my positions. What am I talking about? Joyce is a perfect example of what I mean.
Over the first 490 at-bats of Joyce’s career he hit 25 homers, knocked in 80 runs and batted .243 with a .344 OBP. How did he end up in 2011? He hit 19 homers, drove in 75 runs, batted .277 and had a .347 OBP in 462 at-bats. Those two set of numbers are pretty much in alignment with each other, right? So how could you be disappointed by what Joyce did in 2011? Perception is the answer.
Every year someone breaks out and is killing it, hitting like .350 deep into May or June, and nearly every time that happens a regression takes place with that player over the remainder of the season. That’s what happened with Joyce. If you owned him in the first half he was all-world. If you owned him in the second half he sucked ass. In the end, his numbers were pretty darn solid, he just didn’t get there in an even, linear manner. Again though, the perception is that he stunk, even though his yearly totals should have been what you expected all along.
What should you expect from Joyce in 2011? I’m gonna predict more of the same from last year, and that’s not a bad thing at all (especially since Joyce’s value might be lower than it should be on draft day because of the sour taste his second half fade left in many owner’s mouths). Joyce owns a passable 0.53 BB/K mark for his career, and the same can be said about his 19.3 percent line drive rate and his .295 career BABIP mark. Toss in his 13.3 HR/F rate, and you have the type of profile that could put up .275-25 seasons for a decade. Toss in some steals, Joyce surprised last season with 13 thefts, and you have an ideal option for a 5th outfielder in mixed leagues.
The bottom line is this. Don’t fall into the trap of expectations with any player. Be honest about what you see, what the numbers say, and what scouts tell you. Also, be patient when a player starts slowly, and don’t be afraid to move a player who is clearly performing over his head early in the year. As Joyce showed with his hot/cold streaks last year, in the end the production was about where you should have expected it to be in March, it was just a gut wrenching ride to get there.
By Ray Flowers