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.
A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.