Saturday, April 12, 2008

Struggling Hitters & Pitchers, Should You Be Worried? - 4/11/08

We are entering the third week of the fantasy baseball season and there are some big names really struggling. In this piece, we examine 6 hitters and 4 pitchers who are currently struggling and determine if fantasy owners should be worried about their production going forward.

David Ortiz- He isn't walking, he isn't hitting for power, he isn't hitting for average and the constant updates by the media and the pressure he puts on himself to perform doesn't make it any easier for him to get out of it.

I would post Ortiz's numbers, but Ortiz owners are angry enough about them already. I wouldn't worry too much about Ortiz, I think his surgically repaired right knee is fine and that all the early season travel has gotten to him. Ortiz doesn't deal too well with fatigue and it can effect him on the field.

Remember a few seasons ago when the Sox and Yanks were playing a key series in August that included 4 games in 5 days and Pappi wound up in the hospital with an irregular heartbeat? I am sure his big body had an extremely difficult time adjusting to the time zone changes that opening day in Japan and then the road series Boston played once they returned to the states. If you go back a few years ago to when the Yankees and D-Rays opened the season in Japan, there were players on both teams who struggled mightily for most of April and didn't right themselves until May. Hell, Jason Giambi was infected with a parasite and it almost ruined his career. So I guess worst case scenario, Papi has a parasite and his season is ruined.

What Ortiz needs most is a day or two off, where he can rest and not have to worry about baseball. The problem is that he is such an important part of that Red Sox offense that they need him in there, so he will have to figure it out on the fly. I saw him on Saturday playing against the Yankees and he looked lost at the plate. He was indecisive with his swings, confused about what the pitcher might be throwing and just not making good contact. In the end, I do expect Ortiz to have about 30-35HR with 100RBI and a .280AVG. He will eventually hit again and will have a lot of hitting to do so he can put up numbers that are on par with what he normally does.

Verdict: Don't Worry (Barring Parasite Infestation)

Shane Victorino- What do you call a stolen base threat who isn't stealing bases? Useless
Victorino is entering his 2nd full season and is really struggling early on having stolen only one base so far with a batting average in the low end of .200. It looks like Victorino has corrected whatever was wrong with him, and since April 10, has gone on a mini hitting streak. He was just beginning to find his way out his early season funk when he went down with an injury Saturday night. A strained left calf muscle was the diagnosis and this is something that could prove to be problematic. Any sort of leg injury to a player who relies on speed can be a fantasy disaster. Add to that that he was just getting it going and sending his season in a positive direction when this happened. This will probably mean a DL stint for Victorino followed by the usual week or so time to re acclimate himself to major league pitching.

Verdict: Worry

Ryan Zimmerman- He started off really well hitting the game winning homerun in the inauguratory game in the Nats' new ballpark. He then had a 4 game stretch when he went 0-4 in every single game totaling an 0-16 that plummeted his AVG to .191. Zimmerman is a fine young 3B and his 2-3 on Saturday is a sign that he might be hitting his way out of his struggles. Don't worry about Zimm, he'll be fine.

Verdict: Don't Worry

Jim Thome- Thome had a hot start to the season, but has been struggling since then that culminated in his ejection in Friday night's game against Detroit for arguing balls and strikes. His batting average is down to .179 and he hasn't gone yard in more than a week. Thome knows how to draw a walk, and can still hit the long ball, but other than that his skills are greatly diminished. If I was a Thome owner I would be extremely careful in trusting him to do much to help my team this season. While Thome has put up solid numbers over his last two seasons, he will be 38 in August and has a history of back problems, factors that don't generally help someone at the tale end of their career. I would be looking to trade Thome and find a bat off the FA wire to help replace him. This early in the season you can risk trading Thome's potential because there is always a handful of hitters who break out or get hot at times and are worth a playing spot in the line up.

Verdict: Worry

Troy Tulowitzki- Tulowitzki has struggled this season and in turn, so have the Rockies. Tulo has 0HR on the season and even surprisingly 0RBI. Tulo will begin to hit again, but do not expect numbers like he had last season for a couple of reasons. One being his obvious early season struggles. The other is that I think he played a bit over his head last season and while he will be a very good player for a long time, don't expect numbers like that every year.

I think we can expect Tulo to start to break out of this soon. The Rockies' hitting coach, Alen Cockrell, was looking at tape from 2007 at Tulo and noticed that the timing of his foot placement in his swing was a bit slow, and they just need to get that back to where it was last season.

Verdict: Don't Worry

Robinson Cano- Cano is a perennial breakout candidate going into near every fantasy season now. He is also rapidly becoming a perennial notoriously slow starter. The struggles might last the rest of April but we expect Cano to turn it around and get it going soon. He is a safe bet to hit 25HR with a .300AVG, if you can get some sucker to push the panic button early in your league go out and get him. When he is hot and swinging right, there aren't many batters in all of baseball you would rather have than him.

Verdict: Don't Worry

Pitchers

Roy Oswalt

Let's take a quick look at Oswalt's numbers thus far:

Innings Pitched - 16
Wins - 0
Losses - 3
Walks - 2
Strikeouts - 12
ERA - 9.00
WHIP - 2.00

The numbers early on aren't pretty for Oswalt and many are worried that Oswalt's small stature and big arm have finally caught up to him and he is due to go bust. Some point to his dwindling win total, descending K totals and rising ERA as prognostications that he is losing it. Lets for a second take a look at those "rising" ERAs.

2005- 2.95
2006- 2.98
2007- 3.18

If an ERA of 3.18 is losing it, than 90% of major league pitchers never had it. I wouldn't worry too much about Oswalt. He isn't what he was in 2004-2005, but he is still a great guy to have out there. He will probably have to be more careful with his pitches as he probably has lost some miles on the heater and the old breaking ball isn't a sharp. As he gets more work in he will be better than what he has shown thus far. With the offense that Houston currently boasts, a 14 or 15 win season isn't totally out of the question.

Verdict: Don't Worry

C.C. Sabathia

I thought Oswalts numbers were bad and then I looked at C.C.'s...

Innings Pitched - 14
Wins - 0
Losses - 2
Walks - 9
Strikeouts - 13
ERA - 11.57
WHIP - 2.36

The big lefty has had some big troubles early this season and has been downright bad. The strikeout numbers are good, so the stuff is there, so owners can feel confident that this probably isn't an injury. I would think it is a combination of a few factors. The first being that Sabathia is in a contract year and wants to pitch well so he can look for a big contract after this season. We saw it last season with Carlos Zambrano, the more perfect a pitcher tries to be the more mistakes they waind up making. Another problem might be that Sabathia threw 240innings last season, going over 200IP for the first time since 2002. He also set a career high in Ks, meaning that he threw a ton of pitches last season. While he won't say anything we can figure that his arm is probably a little tired early on and probably needs some more time to get ready to go.

If it makes you feel comfortable, I would suggest sitting C.C. for a start, or two. He will get his problems figured out and pitch better, but until then why not keep him on the bench until he shows he's ound his stuff again. I would suggest sitting him and not Oswalt, because while Oswalt has been bad, Sabathia's last start was so awful it was almost scary. Benching him means you run the risk of him coming back and throwing a gem his next game. Of course you could also benefit by diverting a potential disastrous game by one of your starters.

Verdict: Don't Worry

Rich Hill- Really hasn't been all that terrible, but when you get Lou Piniella mad at you there will be consequences. He apparently angered the manager and pitching coach by not being aggressive enough with his pitch selection in his last start and for that, they have banished him to the bullpen until he can show them something. Hill is a young lefty with a great curve and a whole heap of talent. The 27 year old finished with 183Ks last season and a WHIP of 1.19, numbers that are too good to leave in the bullpen for that long. He will be skipped in his next start, but he should make his start after that. Expect a relief appearance or two before then so he can prove to his manager and pitching coach that he is ready to compete.

Verdict: Don't Worry

Trevor Hoffman

His stuff has been on the decline for seasons now, but you wouldn't be able to tell by looking at his numbers. His fastball now tops out at what his change up used to, but it still works and he can still get outs. I would monitor how Hoffman is doing during the season, while it would be difficult to imagine the Padres replacing someone who can been such an icon in San Diego for so long, at one point reality sets in. San Diego plays in a very tough division and if Hoffman can't get the job done at the end of the game, they will have to find someone who does.

At age 40 Hoffman is no spring chicken, and the old fastball might finally be slow enough that it too closely mirrors the change in way of velocity, not arm speed. For you Hoffman owners, have a web browser up with Heath Bell's name on the add list for your fantasy team. You don't want to hear Hoffman will lose the closers job or start sharing duties and be stuck emptied handed without a closer.

Verdict: Get Unsettled

1 comment:

Lester's Legends said...

These are the guys you should try to acquire in your fantasy leagues. For those who own them, it's too early to trade 'em.