Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday FAQ NL Style - What the Heck is Wrong With...

This time of year finds us locked in the same conversations. This guy is done. This guy is breaking through. This guy looks old. Every year, we engage in this conversation forgetting that we are looking at small sample sizes in the coldest and wettest month of the year across the majority of the country (except, of course, Seattle, where it never stops raining and the sun only shines in Starbucks).

There does come a time, however, where the following question is valid: What is wrong with “X”? So, today, we will take a look at a couple of players and discuss the good, the bad and the “what is wrong.”

Yovani GallardoThe good: BB/9 down to 3.22/9; GB% up to 47.1%; LD% down to 21.5%; O-Swing% up to 28.1%. The bad: K/9 down to 5.70/9; the swinging strike percentage is dropping; the home run rate is normalizing back to 2009 levels; the change-up is ineffective.
What is Wrong With Yovani Gallardo?  Frankly speaking, Gallardo is not walking as many hitters. Note his first pitch strike rate of 51.2%, down 10% from last year. Because he is falling behind in the count, he is throwing more strikes and hitters are punishing those strikes. This is not unexpected to me: Gallardo’s LD% and BABIP were high last year, and that line drive rate suggested that it was not just luck. Ultimately, Gallardo’s ERA, FIP and xFIP have been relatively consistent, and hitters continue to chase balls outside the strikezone.  Unless he is injured, I suspect he will return to form.

James Loney. The good: LD% is still 23%...yep, that is it. The bad: pick something. I will focus on selectivity. BB/9 down precipitously; O-Swing up significantly; O-Zone contact rate up significantly. As a result, the ground ball rate is way up, the HR/FB is way down, and the ISO is way down. And Loney is suddenly trying to save his job.

What is Wrong With James Loney?  Loney is being very aggressive both in and out of the zone. Whether that is part of a larger strategy to hit more home runs, I do not know. The problem with this approach is that Loney is hitting pitcher’s pitches, or at least that is how it appears to me; that would support the very low BABIP, the very low ISO, and the very high ground ball rate. Given that Loney is still hitting line drives at a pretty good clip, I suspect that he will begin to move back toward his career norms – if the Dodgers let him.

Other news and notes:
Joe Blanton/Vance Worley: Blanton is now on the D.L. with an elbow injury. Worley is being called up to take his spot in the rotation, but I anticipate it will be for one start only. The reports do not indicate how long Blanton will be out, but you might want to look for a free agent to replace Blanton for the short term.

Ian Stewart: Stewart is absolutely raking in AAA. Six games: .429 average, 2HR, 12RBI, 1.460 OPS.  He will be back sooner than later, so keep him on your radar screen.

Emmanuel Burriss: Burris has been called up to replace Mark DeRosa in the lineup.  Burris brings speed to the table, and should see something resembling regular appearances in games, whether as a pinch-hitter, pinch-runner or starter. This is a nice source of cheap steals in the short term.

Carlos Ruiz/Brian Schneider: Ruiz may hit the disabled list this weekend with back issues.  Schneider still has some pop in his bat and is okay in limited at-bats. The injury to Ruiz does not sound terribly serious, but this is a situation worth monitoring.

Greg Dobbs: With Logan Morrison out for an extended period of time (at least another couple of weeks), Dobbs is going to get more and more playing time. Since he is hitting right now, he is worth a look in your deep NL leagues.

Free Agent/Waiver Claims:
Emmanuel Burriss: See above.

Paul Maholm. Maholm continues to grace our free agent list. His K/BB is up to 2.20. We will see how he looks after Saturday’s start against the Rockies (he has horrible career numbers against the Rox), but he does get Houston in Pittsburgh next week.

Zach Braddock/Kameron Loe. The Brewers are blessed with a bullpen that is performing well right now. Both of these pitchers have strikeout rates high enough to make them worth a look if you need a short term replacement.  Neither Braddock nor Loe should get many save opportunities with John Axford pitching well.

Marco Estrada. Speaking of Brewers pitchers, Estrada pitched well this week, and now has a K/BB of 3.00.  He will get another start in Atlanta on May 2, and then will head to the bullpen.

Ryan Vogelsong. Vogelsong put up a nice start, but we only need to take a look at the Pirates over the past week to explain that result.  If you want to take a flier on a starter, he gets the Mets and the Rockies, so be careful.

Other relievers: Brandon Kintzler (13.00 K/BB), Guillermo Mota (9.00 K/BB), Fernando Salas (7.00 K/BB), Esmerling Vasquez (6.00 K/BB).

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