Archive for April, 2009

Minor Impacts: April 30

Every Thursday throughout the regular season, we’re going to take a look at the some of the players in the minor leagues who are on the cusp of helping out Major League Baseball teams (and by association – Fantasy Baseball managers) in 2009. This week it is the all-hitter edition.

Matt LaPorta: We wrote about LaPorta last week, but the big man keeps knockin’ on the door to the big leagues. He’s at .368/.436/.706 in 68 at-bats for Triple-A and has hit .405 in his last 10 games. In a positive sign for a slugger, LaPorta’s strikeout rate is on the decline for the third straight season, despite facing better competition. Both Ryan Garko and Travis Hafner have been hitting well, which has helped keep LaPorta in the minors, but the latter player just hit the disabled list. Keep your eyes on the transaction wire.

Matt Wieters: The top hitting prospect in the minors missed a handful of Triple-A games after suffering a minor injury on April 17. He’s back now, but he’s hitting just .238 (5-for-21) since his return. On the season, the catcher has a triple-slash line of .267/.382/.378 in 45 at-bats. With Baltimore’s No. 1 catcher, veteran Gregg Zaun, hitting .111/.238/.185 in 54 at-bats, there isn’t much between Wieters and the beginning of his MLB career.

Adrian Cardenas: Oakland needs some serious offensive help, or the club is going to fade off into the AL West sunset. The team is last in the American League in batting average (.233), runs scored (75), doubles (24) and home runs (with a paltry eight, or one less than MLB leader Adrian Gonzalez of the Padres). Offensively, Cardenas would be a step up at second base, third base, or shortstop, where the trio of Mark Ellis, Eric Chavez and Orlando Cabrera have combined for a .201 average and zero homers. Cardenas, 21, is currently hitting .355/.410/.579 with 14 extra base hits, as well as a healthy dose of walks.

Wilkin Ramirez: Ramirez, 23, could offer Detroit an offensive boost, but where should the club play him? The outfield is full right now – although everyone but Josh Anderson is scuffling. Carlos Guillen is clogging up the designated hitter’s spot, but he too is struggling. As a result, Ramirez will have to bide his time in Triple-A and wait for an injury. The converted third baseman is currently hitting .313/.371/.438 with just one homer and six stolen bases. He missed the 20-20 club by one home runs in Double-A last season, and also hit more than .300.

Sleeper Alert

Bryan Petersen: If the Florida Marlins organization decides center-fielder Cameron Maybin needs a little more seasoning in the minors (.190 avg, 38.1 K%), it might look like the club would have to rely on the likes of Brett Carroll, Jai Miller, or Alejandro De Aza. But take a look down into Double-A where a young prospect by the name of Bryan Petersen is currently playing. He’s more of a corner outfielder, but he has the speed to play center – at least in the short term. Things really started to click for Petersen, 23, in the second half of last season and that success has carried over into the 2009 season. The left-handed hitter is currently batting .288/.355/.424 with five stolen bases in 66 at-bats. The biggest negatives in his game right now are the strikeouts (22.7 K%) and the average against southpaws (.188). Petersen, though, has 20-20 potential.

He Deserves a Break

Josh Whitesell: Poor Mr. Whitesell. He just cannot catch a break. The left-handed first baseman just turned 27 and he has a total of seven big league at-bats. Whitesell hit .328/.425/.568 in Triple-A last year and is tearing the cover off the ball again at the same level in ’09 with a line of .364/.475/.545 in 66 at-bats. He hits for average, power, drives in runs and walks more than his fair share. What does a guy have to do to get a break? Ah, but the D-backs have 36-year-old Tony Clark filling the pinch hitter/back-up first baseman role. After hitting .206/.338/.333 for Arizona last year, Clark is now following up that very successful campaign with a line of .160/.250/.400 and 13 strikeouts in 25 at-bats.

Projecting Kevin Youkilis’ Average

In 2008, Kevin Youkilis had a season completely out of line with what he did previously. Everyone focused on the home run power, as his 29 homers matched his combined total from 2007 and 2008. But Youkilis also enjoyed a career-best average last season, as he posted a .312 mark. His previous high was the .288 he posted in 2007.

Because of his big 2008, Youkilis was one of the more difficult players to project. The Bill James forecast was the most optimistic, and it had him with a .289 average and 23 home runs. The CHONE system had him with a .286 average and 18 home runs.

Of course, Youkilis is off to a great start here in 2009. One of the biggest grey areas in fantasy is determining when we can project that it is more than a hot start and more likely to be something to last the whole season.

I think we may have reached that point with Youkilis and his average.

I took all of the players in 2008 who qualified for the batting title and who batted plus or minus five points from the .286 average that CHONE predicted. I came up with a group of 26 players. Then I took all of the players from this group and counted how many hits they had through 75 at-bats last season.

Our 26 players ranged from 16 to 27 hits in their first 75 at-bats last season. It is not a perfect bell curve but the right side of it does display a standard downward-sloping tail as you can see by the crude chart below:

	x				x						
	x				x		x				
	x	x	x	x	x	x	x	x			
x	x	x	x	x	x	x	x	x	x	x	x
16	17	18	19	20	21	22	23	24	25	26	27

I came up with an average of 20.7 hits and a standard deviation of 3.1 for this group. So, two standard deviations gives us a high and low of 15 and 27 hits. So, for this definition of a .286 hitter, 95 percent of the time he should have between 15 and 27 hits in 75 ABs.

Youkilis ended play last night with 74 at-bats and 30 hits, meaning he falls outside of our 95 percent range. Our most likely conclusion is that he is a better hitter than the CHONE projection prior to the start of the season.

This is just a first step and I have no projection on what Youkilis will end up hitting in 2009. ZiPS projected Youkilis to bat .288 this season. Dan Szymborski just came out with an update to ZiPS based on 2009 stats. He now projects Youkilis to bat .298 for the rest of the season and finish with a .313 average.

The A.L. Closer Report: 4/29

For the purposes of the “Closer Report” (which will be a weekly feature), we’ll place the relief aces in one of three categories: Death Grip (these guys have no chance of relinquishing the closer’s role; think Mo Rivera), In Control (a good chance of continuing to rack up the saves) and Watch Your Back (the set-up man is planning a coup d’etat as we speak).

Death Grip

Mariano Rivera, Yankees

Mo coughed up his first runs and blown save on the 24th against the Red Sox, the last time he pitched. His FIP is 2.11 for the year, however, and he has yet to give up a walk in 8.1 innings. Nothing to worry about here; it’s a testament to Rivera’s greatness that we’re legitimately surprised any time someone scores on him.

Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox

Papelbon hasn’t quite been himself this April, with five free passes and a 4.79 FIP thus far (he walked 8 batters all of last year, in 69.1 IP). Cause for concern? Probably not: there aren’t any appreciable differences in his Pitch F/X data.

Kerry Wood, Indians

The Red Sox got good wood off Kerry on the 27th, touching him up for three runs. Cleveland’s new stopper has had little problem missing bats (14 K’s in 8 IP), but he’s given up 6 runs and a pair of homers on the year.

Joakim Soria, Royals

Joakim has been sidelined with shoulder stiffness, driving Royals fans to drink at the prospect of Kyle Farnsworth in the late innings. Need a “Mexicutioner” fix while awaiting Soria’s return? Check out Harry Pavlidis’ interesting twopart series on the positives and negatives of making KC’s closer a member of the starting rotation.

Bobby Jenks, White Sox

Jenks is four out of four in save ops, with 3 runs allowed in seven frames. Opposing batters are zealously attacking Jenks’ offerings over the plate, swinging at 84.1% of his pitches thrown within the strike zone (65.4% MLB average).

Joe Nathan, Twins

Nathan blew his first save of the season last night against the Rays, allowing a tater to Ben Zobrist. Overall, though, it’s been more of the same for the Twins stopper. He’s gotten ahead of hitters (67.9 first-pitch strike%) and has whiffed 7 batters in 7 innings.

In Control

Brad Ziegler, Athletics

Ziegler’s wacky low-80’s, submarining heater has flummoxed hitters so far (2 runs in 10.1 frames, with a 74.2 GB%). Perhaps trying to stay ahead of the curve, Ziegler has incorporated a low-70’s changeup into his repertoire more often (thrown 15.9% of the time in ’09, compared to 6.3% last year). Considering that Ziegler often loses the zone versus lefties (career .378 OBP), it can’t hurt.

Brandon Morrow, Mariners

Morrow has dealt with a stiff shoulder recently, and last appeared in a ballgame back on the 23rd against the Rays. David Aardsma has so far walked the tight rope well (2 runs in 8.2 IP, despite 6 walks), but Morrow has little to worry about if he’s physically sound.

Brian Fuentes, Angels

Fuentes is 4-for-5 in save chances, but he’s been roughed up for 5 runs in seven frames, with his fastball down about two ticks from 2008.

Frank Francisco, Rangers

Francisco has owned hitters this April. A perfect 6-for-6 in save chances, Francisco has yet to surrender a run with his low-90’s gas, curve and splitter. He leads all relievers with a 1.53 WPA. While control has been an issue in the past, Francisco has given up just 1 walk in 10.2 IP while posting a first-pitch strike% of 64.1%.

Scott Downs, Blue Jays

We profiled B.J. Ryan’s replacement last week, and Downs has kept the ball rolling. With 14 K’s, zero walks and a 69.6 GB% in 10.2 frames, the southpaw has a sparkling 0.84 FIP.

Watch Your Back

George Sherrill, Orioles

Sherrill blew a save against the Rangers on the 24th (2 R and two walks allowed), and he’s given up 5 runs in 8.2 IP so far.

Troy Percival, Rays

Percy has pitched just 5.1 frames on the year, with three K’s and walks apiece. His fastball velocity has dipped into the high-80’s (89.8 MPH), compared to last year’s mark of 91.4 MPH. Quite the change for a closer most remember for his radar-gun breaking cheese as a member of the Angels.

Fernando Rodney, Tigers

Rodney has been beaten for five runs in 8 innings. He hasn’t blown a save yet and has actually thrown strikes for a change (1 walk), but his job security remains between slim and none.

The N.L. Closer Report: 4/29

For the purposes of the “Closer Report” (which will be a weekly feature), we’ll place the relief aces in one of three categories: Death Grip (these guys have no chance of relinquishing the closer’s role; think Mo Rivera), In Control (a good chance of continuing to rack up the saves) and Watch Your Back (the set-up man is planning a coup d’etat as we speak).

Death Grip

Brad Lidge, Phillies

Last year’s Win Probability Added leader has gotten his 2009 campaign off to an inauspicious start, with a -0.40 WPA in 8.2 innings to date. Dealing with pain in his right knee (surgically repaired prior to that stellar ’08 season), Lidge could he headed to the DL. He has often gotten behind in the count, tossing a first-pitch strike just 46.5% of the time (57.6% MLB average). He hasn’t appeared in a game since April 25th.

Francisco Rodriguez, Mets

Rodriguez surrendered his first two runs of the year against the Nationals on April 24th, but still picked up a save (he’s four-for-four on the year). Fun Pitch F/X-related tidbit: you could conduct a road sobriety test on the path that K-Rod’s fastball takes. The four-seamer breaks just two inches in on the hands of right-handed batters, compared to the average of 6 inches for righty pitchers.

Jonathan Broxton, Dodgers

Broxton blew his first save of the year last night, walking Travis Ishikawa to load the bases and then issuing another free pass to Rich Aurilia to force in a run. Big John ended up getting the W after Bob Howry gave up a pair of runs. Broxton’s control hiccup is of little concern: he has a 5.33 K/BB ratio on the year, and he ranks 5th among relievers in WPA.

Matt Capps, Pirates

Capps hasn’t seen game action since the 24th, when he took the loss against the Padres after uncharacteristically issuing two walks. Not that it’s a huge concern, but Capps has three walks on the year. To put that into context, he gave up just five in 53.2 frames in 2008.

Heath Bell, Padres

We fretted a little bit during the winter about Bell’s strenuous workload over the 2007-2008 seasons, but Heath has been none the worse for wear in 2009. A perfect 8-for-8 in save ops, Bell has yet to give up a run. Opposing batters are swinging at many of Bell’s offerings thrown out of the strike zone (31.5 Outside Swing%) and are making contact with those pitches off the plate (73.9 Outside-Contact%; the MLB average is 62.2%), a recipe for success.

Chad Qualls, Diamondbacks

Qualls has been his typically outstanding self, punching out 12 batters in 8 innings while giving up just one walk. Batters normally beat Qualls’ sinker/slider combo into the ground, but his rate of worm-killers thus far (72.2 GB%) is well above his already-lofty 58.5% career average. His sinker (thrown with 3 inches of vertical movement in 2008) has been even more of a bowling ball in 2009, with just 1.7 inches of vertical movement.

In Control

Francisco Cordero, Reds

Cordero blew his first save on the 27th versus the Astros, walking two and giving up three runs. Cincy’s closer has simply been trying to blow hitters away with his 95 MPH heater, throwing the pitch 73.7% of the time (52% in 2008). As usual, Cordero looks untouchable some outings, while nearly causing Dusty Baker to swallow his tooth pick on the nights where his control disappears.

Jose Valverde, Astros

Valverde suffered a setback, pulling his calf again while attempting to field a ground ball hit back to him (this after an Orlando Hudson come-backer earlier in the week). The Astros placed Valverde on the DL. LaTroy Hawkins will likely get the save opportunities until Jose returns.

Brian Wilson, Giants

The mohawked moundsman had a rough outing on the 26th versus the limping D-Backs (3 runs and a blown save), but on the whole, he’s been productive on the season (2.98 FIP). For whatever reason, opponents just plain are not swinging at whatever pitches that Wilson throws out of the strike zone: his Outside-Swing% against is just 10.6% in 2009, compared to the 24.3% MLB average. Hitters swung at Wilson’s outside offerings at a league average rate in 2007, but did so just 17.1% of the time in 2008 before chopping down that figure in ’09.

Trevor Hoffman, Brewers

Hoffman turned in a scoreless inning on the 27th, then converted his first save opportunity as a Brewer the following night. “Hell’s Bells” will be challenged by the less hospitable environs of Miller Park.

Watch Your Back

Matt Lindstrom, Marlins

On April 24th, Lindstrom endured a drubbing that his ERA won’t soon forget: he surrendered a whopping 7 earned runs in 0.2 IP. Just take a look at the Win Probability graph for the game- there’s a Wile E. Coyote-style cliff dive in the late innings:


Nationals’ Closer Consortium

Joel Hanrahan’s total lack of strike-zone control (5 walks and a Boeing-level 7.39 FIP) finally cost him the ninth-inning gig, as the Nats will now go with the dreaded “Closer by Committee.” Kip Wells (no, really) and Julian Tavarez are candidates, as are pretty much any other members of the ‘pen. Joe Beimel could be the guy once he returns from the DL, though you’ll want to consider that Beimel’s shiny 2.02 ERA last season came with the benefit of an insane 0.0 HR/FB%. Beimel hasn’t surrendered a big fly since 2007 (and he gave up only 1 that year). Can he possibly keep this up?

Mike Gonzalez, Braves

Gonzo has rebounded since a rocky beginning to the season, with four scoreless appearances in a row, 8 K’s and 1 walk. The lefty has whiffed 16 batters in 8.1 frames, and his 66% contact rate ranks highly among relievers. Now if only he could catch the plate with a little more regularity..

Kevin Gregg, Cubs

Gregg has located just 43.8% of his pitches within the strike zone (49.1% MLB average), which helps explain the five free passes issued in 8 innings. His FIP for the year is 6.06.

Ryan Franklin, Cardinals

Toting a goatee that would make ZZ Top proud, Franklin has converted all 6 save chances, while striking out 9 batters in 9 innings and surrendering nary a run. We remain skeptical, but Franklin has done his job so far.

Manny Corpas, Rockies

Corpas has been scored on in 3 of his past 4 appearances, suffering 2 losses along the way. The near .400 BABIP won’t continue, but Corpas isn’t fooling much of anyone, with a contact rate in the mid-80’s.

Week Four Trade Possibilities

Hopefully sometime last week you were able to pull off a Jarrod Washburn for Justin Verlander trade. But even if you stood pat there are still plenty of trade targets and trade bait guys out there for you. So, here are five guys to pick up and five guys to move.


Justin Upton – A terrible start to the season, where he opened 0-15, has kept Upton’s overall numbers low. But last week he had five hits, including two home runs. Upton likely won’t contribute much in SB but otherwise he should be a four-category star. Last year he was sidetracked by numerous injuries but when healthy in September he had a .919 OPS in 85 PA, having just turned 21 the previous month.

Francisco Liriano – The electric pitcher from 2006 may never come back. However, Liriano has pitched much better than his 7.06 ERA indicates. He has a 4.96 FIP and a lot of the discrepancy can be explained by his dismal 50.4 percent strand rate. His peripherals are slightly worse than both last year and the pre-season projections. You should not trade for him thinking he is a No. 1-type SP. But if his current owner is disgusted with his early-season poundings, he could be a nice No. 2/3-type SP the rest of the season.

A.J. Burnett – The second time through the order against the Red Sox this past Saturday, Burnett got lit up. But the highly-publicized meltdown is obscuring his three other outings this year, in which he had a 3.20 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 20.2 IP. Burnett gave up eight ER twice last year and his main value is not ERA anyway. He is a wins and strikeouts guy and should provide plenty of both for the remainder of the season.

Howie Kendrick – Okay, he is not going to walk and he is not going to appear on the HR leaderboards. But let’s focus on what he can do. Kendrick’s main asset is an AB-heavy high average. His overall AVG sits at just .258 but, much like Upton, he started off the year in a funk, going 10-51. In 1,011 career at-bats, Kendrick has a .303 average in the majors. His ISO sits at .167 which would be a career best. As always with Kendrick it comes down to health. But I like the breakout potential if he can somehow manage 150 games played.

Jon Lester – The 4.88 ERA is not pretty but the FIP is almost exactly what it was a year ago for Lester at 3.66 so far. He is striking out more batters and walking fewer but his HR rate has nearly doubled. Last year’s HR/9 of 0.60 was unsustainable so we should assume that this year’s 1.13 mark is here to stay. But the .384 BABIP should come down significantly, which should help his other numbers.


Aramis Ramirez – The five projection systems all agreed on Aramis Ramirez, seeing him before the season basically as a .287 hitter with 28 HR. Right now Ramirez has a robust .358 AVG thanks to a .372 BABIP. All of the projection systems showed Ramirez with a BABIP between .289 and .299 for the year. He is not off to a great HR start. Ramirez could still easily meet his HR projection, but it would be nice for his chances to once again top 30 HR if his hot start included more than three homers.

Kosuke Fukudome – Congratulations if you had Fukudome in your lineup so far! Now do yourself a favor and sell. He simply is not going to have a .273 ISO or a .348 AVG or 15+ RBI months going forward. Last April he had a .327/.436/.480 line in April and those numbers declined each month.

Chris Volstad – In the last three seasons, the highest K/9 in Volstad’s career was the 6.64 he posted in 126 innings in the Hi-A Florida State League. He currently has an 8.49 K/9 without a significant increase in velocity or the addition of a new pitch. Additionally his ERA is a nifty 2.70 but his FIP stands at 4.66 so far. If the strikeouts disappear at the same time the hits start falling in, this could get ugly quick.

Brandon Phillips – Many touted Phillips as a top-3 second baseman heading into the season. So you would think a .172 average at the end of April would qualify him for the “Acquire” part of this list. But Phillips was overrated coming into the year based on his 2007 season. Plus this is getting into Robinson Cano territory from last year where the first month was so bad that the rest of the season could not compensate. Obviously, the .189 BABIP and the .078 ISO will go up significantly in the weeks and months ahead. But now is the time to cut your losses if anyone offers good talent in return.

Matt Cain – The past two seasons have been pretty similar for Cain. In 2007 he had a 3.65 ERA and a 3.78 FIP and last year he had a 3.76 ERA and a 3.91 FIP. This year his FIP checks in at 3.97 yet his ERA stands at 2.08. He is succeeding thanks to an 89.7 percent strand rate, which is likely to come down quite a bit. Also, his velocity is down nearly a full point, from 92.4 to 91.5 and his K/9 has dropped from 7.69 to 6.23.

Melancon Versus Bowden, Round 1

Compared to the rest of the three-game series, the match-up on Sunday between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees was fairly unassuming. There were not 27 runs scored collectively and the game did not end in walk-off fashion in extra innings. However, two key players for both organizations’ futures squared off against one another.

Mark Melancon was called into the game for the Yankees in the seventh inning of the game, which was eventually won 4-1 by Boston. The right-handed reliever, making his MLB debut, worked two scoreless innings and allowed just one hit and one walk. He also struck out one batter and hit outfielder Jason Bay with a pitch. Melancon, 24, was originally drafted out of the University of Arizona in the ninth round of the 2006 draft, although he could have been a first-round pick if not for an elbow strain that later required Tommy John surgery. Melancon struggled a bit with his control in his debut (12 of 22 pitches were strikes) but he showed excellent velocity and life on his fastball.

From the other dugout, minor league starter Michael Bowden emerged and also pitched the seventh and eighth innings. He had been recalled from Triple-A before the game to give the relievers some much-needed relief. The right-hander did not allow a run, a walk or a hit over two innings. He stuck out two. Only 22, Bowden was able to mix his plus curveball and fastball very effectively to dominate some very good hitters. In most organizations, he would already be in the starting rotation. In Boston, though, the pitching depth affords him the luxury of polishing his repertoire and approach at the Triple-A level, while also providing valuable insurance for situations like that which occurred on Sunday. Bowden was a supplemental first round selection out of an Illinois high school during the 2005 draft.

Bowden was sent back down to Triple-A after the game on Sunday, making room for veteran shortstop Julio Lugo, who came off the disabled list. Melancon will remain with the Yankees for now, with veteran reliever Brian Bruney on the disabled list. Neither player will likely have a huge impact on their respective clubs in 2009, but both are good bets moving forward for 2010 and beyond: Bowden with the ceiling of a No. 2 or 3 starter and Melancon with closer potential.

Stock Watch: Stock Down, April 27th

Stock Down

Brandon Webb, Diamondbacks

What was initially called a minor shoulder ailment has morphed into something more nefarious, as Webb will miss a minimum of six more weeks. Owners who invested in the terrifically durable D-Backs co-ace (Webb easily surpassed the 200 IP mark every year since 2004, and tossed 229 or more frames from 2005-2008) have to be sorely disappointed. With Arizona collectively hitting about as well as colony of Neifi Perez clones (the club’s wOBA is a sickly .299, 28th in the bigs), the Diamondbacks desperately need a healthy and productive Webb to avoid being left in the dust by the Dodgers.

Edinson Volquez, Reds

The light has yet to go on fully for Edinson. He was very productive in 2008 (posting a 3.60 FIP in 196 innings), but his typically turbulent control has been downright awful so far: 20 free passes in 20.1 frames. Just 39.5% of his pitches have crossed the plate, which is the lowest rate among all starters and is nearly 10 percent below the major league average.

Howie Kendrick, Angels

Kendrick is known to swing at anything within the general vicinity of California, and his level of hackery has few peers: only the walk-less Yuniesky Betancourt and Bengie Molina can lay claim to fewer free passes than Kendrick’s one. There’s nothing especially earth-shattering about Kendrick’s lack of restraint, but the hits haven’t been falling in the early going: the 25 year-old has a .258 average, the product of a .300 BABIP and a slightly elevated K rate (21.2%). The result is a nasty .290 OBP and a mediocre .314 wOBA. This is what happens when a batting average-dependent player has one less hit fall in per week; it happens.

Ivan Rodriguez, Astros

Pudge has been pummeled at the plate thus far, with a macabre .267 wOBA that might have some Astros fans bemoaning the departure of Brad Ausmus (no, not really). Opposing pitchers have thrown Rodriguez slider after slider in 2009: after getting a slide piece 18.4% of the time in 2008, I-Rod has seen that rate increase to an eye-popping 39.9% (the highest rate in the majors by a wide margin: Cody Ross is second at 30.7%). As an impatient backstop pounding the ball into the ground (2.08 groundball-to-flyball ratio), Rodriguez’s distinguished career has reached its nadir in Houston. Recently recalled J.R. Towles could begin to eat away at Pudge’s playing time.

Milton Bradley, Cubs

In a shocking development, Bradley has been frequently injured. The switch-hitting force has taken just 31 foul plate appearances for the Cubs (.252 wOBA), continuing a career-long pattern of mashing followed by M*A*S*Hing in the trainer’s room. Bradley and Rich Harden must be, like, best friends.

Rookie Watcher

Games: Sunday, April 26, 2009
Following the race to the American League and
National League Rookie of the Year awards.

National League:

Cameron Maybin | CF | Florida Marlins
Opponent: LHP Jamie Moyer (Philadelphia
Result: 0-for-5, 3 Ks
Trending: Maybin is three for his last 21 with 8 Ks.
Notes: Maybin started the year off with a little gusto, but the strikeouts are piling up as the average drops. His 2009 season so far is looking a lot like his debut appearance in 2007 with Detroit when he hit .143/.208/.265 in 49 at-bats.

Travis Ishikawa | 1B | San Francisco
Opponent: RHP Jon Garland (Arizona)
Result: 0-for-5, 2 K
Trending: He has one walk in 47 at-bats.
Notes: Ishikawa is being platooned and has just five at-bats against left-handers. It’s not helping him much,though, as he’s batting just .214 against right-handers.

Chris Dickerson | OF | Cincinnati
Opponent: RHP Kenshin Kawakami (Atlanta)
Result: 0-for-1 pinch hitting
Trending: He’s averaging almost one K per game.
Notes: Dickerson walked five times in his first five games and went 3-for-10. He then went seven games without a walk and went 1-for-18.

Dexter Fowler | OF | Colorado
Opponent: LHP Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles NL)
Result: 3-for-4, 2B, run, RBI, CS
Trending: He hasn’t struck out in eight games. He’s hitting .400 at home, .207 on the road.
Notes: Still not officially playing everyday, Fowler is doing a little bit of everything (Defense, Average, Power, and Speed) and already has four multi-hit games.

Jordan Schafer | CF | Atlanta
Opponent: RHP Micah Owings (Cincinnati)
Result: 0-for-3, three strikeouts
Trending: He’s striking out a lot (37.3 K%) but he’s also walking more than the average rookie (16.9 BB%).
Notes: Schafer caught a lot of people’s attention by hitting two homers in his first 10 at-bats, but he hasn’t gone yard in the last 15 games. He has actually had just three extra base hits during that time. Schafer also has yet to steal a base after regularly nabbing double digits in steals each year in the minors.

Colby Rasmus | CF | St. Louis
Opponent: RHP Rich Harden (Chicago NL)
Result: 1-for-5, three K
Trending: Rasmus is seven for his last 17.
Notes: The left-handed hitter is just 2-for-13 against southpaws, but he’s struck out just three times and has four walks. He’s batting .342 against right-handed pitchers.

American League:

Chris Getz | 2B | Chicago
Opponent: RHP Roy Halladay (Toronto)
Result: Did Not Play (Injury)
Trending: A LH hitter, he’s 2-for-5 against southpaws
Notes: Getz has a broken bone on the tip of his finger but there is no word on how much time he might miss. He was seven for his last 13 before the injury and has been hitting at the top of the White Sox’ order.

Elvis Andrus | SS | Texas
Opponent: RHP Brad Bergesen (Orioles)
Result: 1-for-3
Trending: Andrus is two for his last 17 with no walks and just one K.
Notes: Andrus remains valuable, even with a hollow .275 average, because of his defense. It might be nice if he tried to run a bit, though.

Travis Snider | LF | Toronto
Opponent: RHP Jose Contreras (White Sox)
Result: 1-for-4, K
Trending: Snider is 2-for-10 against LHPs with four Ks.
Notes: Snider was eaten up by Contreras’ splitter, but learned from his mistakes as the game progressed. He’s been swinging at a lot of first pitches recently and needs to get into better hitter’s counts.

Brett Gardner | CF | New York
Opponent: RHP Justin Masterson (Boston)
Result: 0-for-3, K, RBI
Trending: Gardner is five for six in stolen base attempts.
Notes: He has no extra base hits in 10 games and he’s walked only twice during that time. Unfortunately, Gardner isn’t hitting for average either.

Stock Watch: Stock Up, April 27th

Stock Up

Josh Johnson, Marlins

Clearly mended from Tommy John surgery, Johnson has come out breathing fire and making professional hitters look like confused little leaguers. The 6-7 righty has a 29/5 K/BB ratio in 28.2 innings, good for a 2.24 FIP that ranks 7th in the big leagues. What’s more frightening: the spike in velocity (Johnson is throwing his heater harder than ever, at 94.7 MPH), the improved control (55.9% of his pitches have been in the strike zone, well above the 49% MLB average) or the newfound groundball tendencies (60 GB%, compared to a 47.2% career average)?

Chad Billingsley, Dodgers

Billinglsey has always eviscerated right-handed hitters (career .633 OPS against), but southpaws have typically been his bugaboo (.764 OPS against). In ’09, however, the Dodgers ace has held lefties to a .615 OPS thus far. Over time, Billingsley has decreased his fastball usage (down from the mid-60% range in 2006-2007 to 53.6% in 2009). In its place, he’s become more reliant upon a hard upper-80’s cutter. The cutter usage has increased each year of his career (from 6.8% in ’06 all the way up to 20.8% in ’09), and his Outside Swing% has gone north as well: from 21.9% during that rookie season to 32% this year.

Kosuke Fukudome, Cubs

This is the sort of player the Cubs thought they had acquired. Fukudome (32 yesterday) has been an on-base fiend this season, with a 17.3 BB% and power to boot (.290 ISO). He won’t keep on hitting like a Barry Bonds clone, but the combo of outstanding plate discipline (his outside swing% is just 11.9%, compared to the 24.3% MLB average) and doubles is worth a roster spot in most leagues.

Nick Markakis, Orioles

Markakis’ name might not be mentioned in the discussion of the top players in the game, but he should be. The 25 year-old’s wOBA has increased every year of his big league career: .346 in 2006, .366 in 2007 and .389 in 2008. In 2009, he holds a gaudy .460 mark in 87 PA.

Javier Vazquez, Braves

Vazquez has taken the NL by storm, posting a sparkling 1.77 FIP in 24 IP. He has punched out a ridiculous 34 batters, while issuing 7 walks. In the early going, Javier has decreased the deployment of his low-80’s slider (from 22.8% in 2008 to 14.5% in ’09) in favor of more low-70’s curves and low-80’s changeups. Also of note: his groundball percentage is 47.4% this season, compared to a 39.2% career average. Keeping the ball on the ground more often would be a welcome development for a very good pitcher with an unfortunate proclivity for handing out souvenirs (career 1.18 HR/9).

Rookie Roll Call: Porcello and Perry

Now that we have several appearances worth of information to examine, this seems like a good time to take a brief look at some of the high-profile rookie pitchers in the majors this spring. How are Anderson, Porcello, Cahill et. al faring so far? Let’s start finding out, beginning with Rick Porcello and Ryan Perry of the Tigers.

Rick Porcello

Porcello, a 2007 bonus baby we chronicled earlier this spring, jumped straight from the High-A Florida State League to the majors. Thus far, the 20 year-old has shown flashes of the worm-burning, efficient style that earns him some optimistic Roy Halladay comparisons. In 18 innings, Porcello has struck out 11 batters while issuing 3 walks, posting a 52.5 GB%.

His Pitch F/X data backs up the scouting reports perfectly: Porcello throws a heavy, sinking heater with an abundance of tailing action in on righties (his “fastball” has 9.6 inches of tail with just 5.3 inches of vertical movement, and his “two seamer” bores in on the hands with 11.2 inches of inward break and just 3.9 inches of vertical movement). His curveball has shown a little more depth than most (6.3 inches of dropping action, compared to the 5.5 major league average), and the changeup mirrors the fastball in terms of horizontal movement (10.7 inches of tail) while actually coming in higher than either the regular fastball or two-seamer (6.7 inches of vertical movement).

Unfortunately, Porcello has struggled with the long ball, surrendering 5 taters already (2.5 HR/9). Given the groundball tendencies and the wacky HR/FB rate (27.8%), that figure will trend down significantly in the coming months.

Ryan Perry

Perry, a 2008 first-rounder out of Arizona, is basically Porcello’s polar opposite on the mound. While Porcello relies on sink and movement on his cheese, Perry rears back and fires mid-90’s gas that’s straight as an arrow. Perry’s hopping four-seam fastball (thrown in excess of 80% of his total pitches) has just 4.2 inches of tail, while averaging 95.7 MPH. Supplementing his cheddar with a mid-80’s slider, the 22 year-old essentially dares opposing batters to display quick enough reflexes to make solid contact.

Perry has surrendered one run in 5.1 frames, whiffing five while issuing four free passes. Not that you can put a whole lot of stock in seven early-season appearances, but the former Wildcat has experienced his share of difficulty in keeping the ball over the plate. His 31.8 first-pitch strike percentage is last among relievers, and just 44.9% of his pitches have been in the strike zone (49% average). Consequently, hitters are content to keep the bat on the shoulder against the wild rookie, taking a cut at just 38.2% of Perry’s offerings (44.5% average).