Rollins had his best day of the year on Thursday with a 4-6 effort with 2 Runs and a SB. Unfortunately even in Rollins best day we saw some of the reasons for pessimism. Rollins 4 hits were all 1B’s, which goes towards correcting his low .195 BHIP%, but continues his rapid decline in his power rates. Rollins power peaked in his 2007 MVP season with a 12.3% extra base hit rate but has steadily declined since then (10.4% in ’08 and now 6.6% here in 2009). At just 30 it would seem unusual for Rollins to be in such a steep decline, but his drop in power has come alongside a rise in his FB Rate and a drop in his LD Rate. In addition, Rollins usually an adept base-stealer (career 82% efficiency, is just 5-9 to start the season). As Schuyler mentioned previously, some of this is bad luck and some is just a slow start, but there are underlying characteristics that suggest when Rollins rebounds it won’t be anywhere close to his ’07 or even his ’06, but more like his ’05, and perhaps with less speed. This would make Rollins closer to a Rafael Furcal projection than the 1st rd projection his owners likely paid. When Rollins gets going again, if you can sell him on that 1st rd status and plug in one of the other emerging SS’s this season, it would be wise.
Whenever fantasy analysts talk about Nick Johnson it’s pretty much the same mantra, he’s talented and will hit when healthy, but he’s injury prone and his game (high BB Rates, good gap power) doesn’t translate as well to fantasy as it does to real life. So now that we’ve got that out of the way let’s take a look at what’s going on with Johnson while healthy this season. Johnson’s .333/.434/.465 line isn’t that out of the ordinary for Nick, but some of the ways he’s gotten there are. Johnson’s BB Rate has dropped as has his extra base hit rate (10.6% career vs. 6.9% 2009 rate), and really all of his production is coming from an extraordinarily high BHIP% .352. Once this reverts, Johnson’s average will drop as will his Runs scored opportunities. Ride the wave for now, but moving Johnson for a guy like Adam LaRoche who is a more legitimate power threat and typically healthier option would make some sense. Johnson doesn’t have the name value to REALLY sell high, but now would be a nice time to capitalize on his value.
Heading into the week, Qualls was an excellent buy-low candidate as a reliever with great skills that just wasn’t getting opportunities in ARZ. But after appearing in 3 of the 4 games against the Marlins, striking out 5 and picking up 2 Saves and a Win, I think he’s probably back in the good graces of his fantasy owners and going to be difficult to pry away. For the season Qualls now has a 22:4 K:BB Ratio in 18 innings along with an absurd 72% GB Rate. We’ve spent a lot of time covering Scott Downs in the AL, but Qualls is the NL’s version of Downs. The most dominant reliever with the least hype behind him. From a skills perspective he’s as good as anyone out there at the closer position and should be treated like an elite closer when entering trade negotiations.
Wildly improving BB Rate and an improving Contact Rate have been at the core of Hunter Pence’s great start to the season. Pence looked lost much of last season as opposing pitchers attacked Pence out of the zone, but this season Pence has tightened up his strike zone and the results have been immediate. All his other power peripherals are in line, but Pence is getting on base far more often which has slightly increased his Runs Scored Rate and his BA has gone up significantly with the improved approach. Some of this is luck driven as Pence’s .327 BHIP% is about 40 points higher than his 3 year average, but even a 30 pt drop in BA leaves Pence with a 40 point improvement over last season.
Thursday nights was one of those nights where you just hope the light went on for a young pitcher. In what figured to be a battle of two beleaguered pens, it turned out to be two pitching prospects dueling it out in arguably the most impressive performances of their young career. Miller struck out 9 DBacks in 7 innings, only allowed 6 base-runners, and 2 ER’s and was in line for the win before the DBacks rallied late. Miller was extended throwing 112 pitches in the 7 innings, but showed good command throwing 62% of his pitches for strikes. Miller’s always had great stuff and great GB Rates, but his poor command has always limited his results. The optimist in me wants to hop aboard and hope this was a significant outing, but the realist in me suggests he was taking advantage of a free swinging opponent that has been inept offensively. For now the outing is a good sign but I’ll need to see a lot more consistency from Miller from start-to-start before I believe.