One Sixth Notes
May 4, 2011
Happy Star Wars Day to all... May the 4th be with you.
Anyhow... I scribbled down a few notes, figured I'd share them.
We're one sixth of the way through the 2011 season (hence the title)
and this is what I have so far.
Alex Rios has been abysmal through almost the entire month of April,
which is disconcerting since he has a history of fast starts.
However, it's not really his fault he's struggling. Through
yesterday his batting average on balls in play (BABIP from here on out)
was .178, down from his career rate about 120 points higher.
Despite his apparently low production he's posting the highest walk
rate, lowest strikeout
rate, lowest home run/flyball ratio since he's been in the
majors. All things point to a bounce-back over the next 5 months
and perhaps a career best year.
Ryan Roberts has been a very popular pick-up after his surprising
April. He's always had talent and skill and the D-backs are
finding a way to get him playing time, and given the competition at
third and second base, it would not be surprising to see him register
500 plus at bats this season. However, his power display is way
off his charts,
more than double his career homer/flyball rate. He's a fine
hitter; just don't expect the home runs to continue.
Derrek Lee's slow start is a little disconcerting. He should be
fully recovered from his thumb injury last year, and the fact that his
walk and strikeout rates are near his career norms suggest that he's
still seeing the ball as well as ever. And he's making contact
and the same kind of contact as well, as his BABIP and GB rates
suggest. However, his home run to flyball ratio is almost a third
of what it has been for his career so he might still be feeling some
residual weakness in his hand. Whatever the reason, he's just not
hitting the ball as far as he used to.
Andy Laroche was a pet project of mine because his minor league numbers
were so good yet he has failed to translate that performance to the
major league level. I thought ith the struggles of Kevin
Kouzmanoff and LaRoche's fast start that we might finally be seeing the
real LaRoche emerge. But in fact, this might be the real LaRoche
and not in a good way. The only thing that has changed form his
last four years is his BABIP which currently sits at .412. I wish
there was better news on this front.
Likewise, Matt Joyce's exceptional April might be a mirage as
well. His walk rate so far is actually a career worst while his
BABIP is .433.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Gordon Beckham's BABIP is hovering
in the low .100s but his flyball rate is the highest it's been his
whole career. If he can start getting those balls out of the
infield, he could be onto something good. His biggest problem has
been fastballs which leads me to believe he's simply thinking too much
at the plate. He was in a similar funk last season and came out
of it with a vengeance in the second half. Hopefully he won't
wait as long to grip and rip this year.
Jay Bruce's flyball rate has gone up from last year but the home runs,
or at least the rate the ball goes out per flyball, has not. In
fact, it has gone down. It'll come, but the high batting average
showed in the second half might not. He's been a little unlucky
on balls in play but finishing with an average over .300 as his second
half led many to believe is probably wishful thinking.
Rick Ankiel has the best walk rate and by far the lowest strikeout rate
his career. In addition, he's had bad luck on balls in play and
his home run to flyball rate is one fifth his career rate. If
you're looking for a big breakout candidate, Ankiel might be the one to
Mike Stanton's walk rate has already improved from last year as has his
strikeout rate. That was his MO in the minors as well: 2-3 months
of struggles followed by huge improvements to his command of the
strikezone. He is another hitter to buy low on. Expect a
increase in his production as the year progresses.
Ian Desmond's bat is pretty much what was expected but the steals have
a bit of a surprise. But consider he stole 27 bags in 2007 and 22
across three levels in 2009.
He's always had this kind of speed... well, not 60 stolen bases kind of
speed, but 30 is definitely not outside his consistent range.
I still like Edwin Jackson this year. I wrote in 2003 about the
emergence of Johan Santana and in 2007 about Ubaldo Jimenez.
Jackson is my guy this time. If you look at his minor league
record you'll find an incredible year as a 19-year old in AA, followed
by the Dodgers rushing him to become the ace of their staff in LA...
followed by years of jerking him back and forth through three levels
followed by a few years of wandering the wilderness in the majors as
everyone's pet project. I think he's finally found a home in
Chicago under Don Cooper and I'll point to his second half in 2010 as
evidence. He's had just one dominating start this year (but it
was a doozy) surrounded by some mediocre to awful starts. And
maybe that's just who he is. But I believe there's a true ace
inside Edwin Jackson and my guess is that Cooper and he unlock it
this season is done. Currently, his numbers indicate he's been a
tad unlucky - his BABIP is 50 points
higher than his career average - but his strikeout rate is closer to
what it was
in the second half last year than his career rate. I don't have
faith that Minnesota, Cleveland or Kansas City have very good offenses,
certainly not the latter two as good as they've shown, so I expect
Jackson will get some help building his confidence as the season
Finally, I think the light has turned on for Brandon Belt. I had
a few concerns coming out of spring training whether or not he could
stick in the majors and I think the Giants made the right call sending
him down when Cody Ross was eligible to come off the DL. Since
he's already served some major league time I don't think there's
advantage to leaving him down in Triple A much longer (at least in
terms of his arbitration clock) so I expect he'll be called back as
soon as GM Brian Sabean figures out how to fit him in. Once he's
back, he'll hit. As of last night he was hitting .500 - that's
average not his on base or slugging - and his OPS was 1.484.
Sure, Fresno is a good place to hit but it's not pre-humidor Colorado.
Belt has figured it out and with Huff , Burrell and Ross struggling,
get his promotion soon.