Monday, April 21, 2008

Struggling Hitters & Pitchers, Should You Be Worried? - 4/22/08

We had a great comment from someone who read the last article.

"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."

Thats the idea here folks - identify the guys who are struggling now but will likely pick it up in the not so distant future and separate them from the guys who may not turn it around.

Hitters

Adam Dunn- Dunn is off to a very slow start hitting only 2HR to go along with 8R and 7RBI, his batting average which has never been his strength as a fantasy player anyway, is under the Mendoza Line at .188. Some might be saying that it is just taking a some time for the big man to find his swing, but his past numbers show that April is traditionally Dunn's strongest month and he normally has his swing down by now.

There are a few things that are working against Dunn in this case. He is in a contract year and could be putting some extra pressure on himself to perform at a higher level. He also had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee late last season to clean out some debris that had accumulated there. Finally Adam also has spent time over the last few seasons and in spring training tinkering with his swing in an attempt to cut down on his strikeout rate, which annually is up there among the league leaders.

All that being said, I still like Adam to get his groove back and put up typical Dunn numbers. I know I have used this stat before many times, but I'll go ahead and show it again now. Over the last 3 seasons only 4 players have averaged 40HR, 100RBI and 100R; Albert Pujols, David Ortiz, Alex Rodriguez, and Adam Dunn. He is still only 28, so it's not like he is aging and lost it, Dunn will find his swing and start mashing again soon, over his last 7 days Dunn has his OPS over 1.000 and for the season he leads all of baseball in walks. So, part of the issue could also be that he is just not getting many good pitches to hit and when he is, he can't capitalize. Dusty Baker is moving the line up around a bit to try and get Dunn some protection and more at bats.

Verdict: Don't Worry

Carlos Delgado- Going into spring training this season, Delgado said he had found a timing issue with his 2007 swing and was looking forward to correcting it, and rebounding to have a big 2008. Three weeks into the 2008 season it looks like the only timing issue Delgado has with his swing it that he turns 36 this season and his body is starting to show it. His batting average and power have been declining for the last two seasons and it looks like sub-par has become the norm for the once elite slugger.

The Mets big ballpark will do nothing to help Delgado and neither will the fact that the Mets play in the NL sans the DH spot, that has done so much to revive so many fledgling veterans. The line up around Delgado is as well not as strong as it once was because Delgado is no longer as strong as he once was. Delgado hit 38HR in 2006 and 24HR in 2007, figure for this season he finishes with around 20-25 or so and hits in the .240AVG range. Don't be surprised if the Mets try to find a replacement for him at some point during the season. The Mets are going to have to try and win this season, and won't be able to afford having the aging bat there.

Verdict- Worry

Gary Sheffield- Another aging slugger who hasn't so much lost it, as injuries have began to rip him apart and cost him serious time. On the season Sheffield is hitting .192 with 2RBI, and 6R. The aging slugger, Sheffield is 39 this season, and while he has forever been known for his legendary bat speed, the injuries in recent years are beginning to quickly pile up and we would not be surprised if those injuries have cost him some of that speed.

Sheffield can probably still hit with the best of them, however it would be difficult to prove because it is rare now that Sheff is in the line up for an extended period of time. If you own Sheffield you are more or less stuck with him because you won't be able to get equal value for him because of all the injuries. Between shoulder, hand, finger and a variety of other ailments that could be plaguing Sheffield it seems less and likely he'll be a viable fantasy force any more.

Verdict: Worry

Paul Konerko- 3HR, 10R, 13RBI doesn't look terrible this early, but add to that that Konerko is 4 for his last 32 and is hitting .172AVG there might be a bit of cause for concern. Another negative to this is that he hasn't been walking a whole lot either recently either. I think Konerko will be fine, and you should expect another season of 30HR, with 100RBI. He is 32 and that puts him a few years away from being worried about age effecting his play on the field. This looks like nothing but a cold streak and Konerko should be fine.

Verdict: Don't Worry

Adam LaRoche- I won't go crazy here with an explanation, I'll just post his career numbers pre and post All Star break and add the tidbit that LaRoche's career BA in April is .173.

Pre All Star Break (310 Games) .247, 41 HR, 163 RBI, .755 OPS

Post All Star Break (257 Games) .296, 46 HR, 141 RBI, .893 OPS

You can do one of two things here. 1) Weather the storm and keep sending LaRoche out there or 2) Stash LaRoche on your bench if you can and use a stop gap guy like Jorge Cantu, Mike Jacobs, Jose Vidro or Matt Stairs. Basically ride the hot hand at 1B until LaRoche gets it going like he has throughout his career. This is a great buy low candidate.

Verdict: Don't Worry

Pitchers Eric Gange- Milwaukee's $10 million dollar investment has gone bust so far this year, and leads all of the major leagues with 3 blown saves. Gange has really struggled so far this year with an ERA is over 8 and his WHIP is 1.57. There have been questions all season and many are wondering if it is just a matter of time before the job is handed to David Riske.

There are of course, a few positives. Gange does have 6 saves which ties him for second in the major leagues, and he is averaging better than a K an inning. Another positive is that his last blown save came on his 4th consecutive day of work. Given Gange's injury history, it is surprising he Brewers would push him so hard this early in the season. Another positive is that Gange doesn't really have any value to Milwaukee as a set up man. Gange already failed miserably in the set up role last, so Milwaukee won't move him there unless they feel it is absolutely necessary.

Verdict: Don't Worry

Pitchers

Justin Verlander- Thus far Verlander has really struggled this season with his control and hasn't looked like the young ace that had been in seasons past. The numbers right now, 0-3, 7.03ERA, 1.40WHIP, not pretty. Verlander is only 25, but I wonder if the Tigers pushed him too hard too soon and did some damage to his arm. It could just be that he is struggling to find his release point and command, but I see signs that it could be something more.

In 2006 he threw 186 innings and followed it up in 2007 withe 201. 2, and both totals might be a bit high for such a young pitcher. Add to that, that he throws near 100 consistently, you can see how the wear and tear to his arm could be catching up a bit sooner than previously expected. His strikeout average is also down a bit early on in this season, while 14 in 24IP isn't terrible for most guys, it isn't exactly the norm for Verlander.

He has won 35 games over the last two seasons, so its tough to think he won't be able to find a way a to right the ship and get whatever is wrong with him figured out. That being said, I would be a bit cautious here given his recent work horse numbers at such a young age for a pitcher.

Verdict: Worry

Ted Lilly- Shoulder whoas for the lefty have caused him to really struggle early on in the '08 season. He has a mysterious ailment that has cost him to lose some MPH on his velocity and the neither the Cubs or Lilly can figure out what is wrong. An MRI showed no damage to the shoulder area, so this is perhaps something that Lilly will just have to work through and figure out on his own.

It is always worrisome when a pitcher loses velocity and no one can seem to figure out what is wrong. Lilly's ERA is currently some where over the area of 9.00 and while you expect it to go down I don't know how much you can expect to get from him this season if he can't get the velocity back. Perhaps he can become a Jamie Moyer type slow pitching with guile and moxie, but I doubt it.

Try to deal off Lilly and get what you can for him, or stash him on your bench if you can sacrafise the roster spot. I would absolutely NOT put Lilly out there until he can get his velocity back and figure out what is wrong with him.

Verdict: Worry

Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy- Both were supposed to pick up where they left off last season as rapidly developing, young pitchers who were going to anchor the Yankee rotation for years to come. Hughes with his low 90's fastball, knee locking curve and Roger Clemens pedigree was deemed the ace of the future. While Ian Kennedy was more of a guy who relied on control and spotting his pitches and many figured the youngster to fit in well as a future 3-4 starter who would be able to learn a lot from Mike Mussina.

Three weeks into the season Hughes sits at 0-3 and has gotten progressively worse as the season has worn on. Following his 2IP, 6R performance against Boston Hughes sat down and looked at tape and diagnosed his main issue was that he was rushing his motion. This sounded good, until Hughes went out in his next outing and through up a 5.1IP, 5R stinker against the lowly Baltimore Orioles. Coming into the season Hughes had an excellent spring training, so it is surprising to see him struggling this much early on.

Kennedy currently boasts an ERA above 9.50 with a staggering WHIP of 2.25. On a positive note he does have 13K in 14IP. On a negative note he does have 13BB in 14IP. Earlier I said how Kennedy was a control pitcher and clearly the 13BB in 14IP are greatly contributing to his struggles and perhaps he is just very over matched right now. Kennedy's next start comes against Paul Byrd and the Cleveland Indians, so it won't exactly be an easy going of it for him in the future.

The Yankee bullpen has been overworked so far this season, and as it has happened in seasons past they pay for it later in the season in September and October. I think the Yankees give each guy another shot or two to show the team something, or the Yanks might need to send them to AAA to sort things out. Kei Igawa and Darrell Rasner both have major league experience, to varying degrees of success, and one or both of them could be called up to replace Hughes and Kennedy if they are sent to AAA to sort out what is ailing them. Any demotion for Hughes would be a short term one as the Yankees have him penciled into be the future ace. Kennedy's demotion could last longer if Igawa or Rasner can show something and pitch well for the big club.

The Yankees haven't mentioned anything about either pitcher being sent down to regain their form from 2007, but it would make sense if it did happen. The Yankees simply cannot afford to keep sending both of the young, struggling pitchers out there without bearing the consequences of it later in the season.

Verdict: Worry

No comments: