I was asked via twitter, by SmartMoneyKL, to touch on Ben Zobrist which isn’t surprising given Zobrist is in the midst of a horrid 18-111 stretch that has dropped his batting average from .296 to .256. A look at Zobrist’s peripherals during the prolonged slump shows it doesn’t appear to be an issue of plate discipline as he’s actually posted a tremendous 1.33 EYE during the slump. It’s also not really a problem of contact as Zobrist has struckout in just 15% of his PA’s, compared to nearly 20% for the year. It all seemingly stems from a power outage. Zobrist’s ISO over the last 3 months has been a paltry .068/.091/.030. The lack of power stems from an elevated GB Rate 54%/48%/46% over the last 3 months and ties into some of the injury concerns Zobrist has dealt with. He’s been having back problems which not only would hinder power, but also hinder the swing path and being able to generate loft on the ball. At age 29 it would seem unlikely that Zobrist’s power has vanished and much more likely that this injury he’s been dealing with has nullified much of his power output. Since the injury cost Zobrist time in early August, he hasn’t attempted a SB and has been limited mainly to playing 1B in Carlos Pena’s absence. With the Rays being cautious with injuries and looking to get guys rest to be fresh for the playoffs I wouldn’t be surprised to see Zobrist get some more time off upon Carlos Pena’s return. While I wouldn’t drop Zobrist, I would be mindful of the performance of late and look for short-term fill-ins until we see some signs of life with the bat. Extra base hits, a willingness to steal bases, even a return to 2B would be some signs that Zobrist may be feeling better and could translate into the production we expected.
Hopefully fantasy owners took my advice last week in this space adding Hellickson as he compiled a 2-0 record while allowing just 1 ER and 7 base-runners in 13 innings, striking out 12. The Rays keep suggesting the plan for Hellickson is to use him as a temporary stop-gap to buy Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann some time to rest their shoulders and slow down their innings total. While this seems plausible and the way they’ve used Hellickson so far, you have to wonder with how well Hellickson is pitching if they intend to use him in the post-season. Hellickson is now at 137 IP on the season and his career high is 152 IP at the minor league level. If the Rays conservatively wanted to limit Hellickson to 175 innings this year, they may only use 20-25 more in the regular season, hoping to leave room for starts in the playoffs. It’s all speculation at this point and the Rays would have to be creative to keep Hellickson fine-tuned while limiting his innings, but I’m a bit nervous how many starts Hellickson will be allowed beyond this next week’s matchup with Oakland. Hellickson’s a must-start whenever on the mound, but owners should be prepared for some quirky rotation shifting by the Rays over the final 7 weeks as they try to shuffle limiting a number of young starters innings.
Well that will erase any concerns over elbow problems! Slowey no-hit the A’s for 7 innings before being removed from the game having thrown 106 pitches. Slowey’s high FB Rate can lead to some outings with low hit totals and can also lead to some disastrous outings with lots of HR’s. The jekyl-hyde characteristics have been at play for Slowey all season as he’s allowed 5 or more or 1 or less runs in 13 of his 25 outings. The command was a bit un-Slowey like but that can be chalked up to not having thrown in 10 days. Going forward I’d expect more of the same from Slowey as he’ll struggle in outings against power-heavy lineups or in small ballparks, but in big ballparks or against weak offenses he’s a nice spot-start play. It should be noted that Slowey has a nice home/road split this season posting a 3.39 ERA at home compared to a 5.34 ERA on the road. Given that the new Target Field has played extremely difficult for HR’s (worst in the league) it makes sense to use Slowey as a spot-starter when at home. He’ll get the Angels at home next week in what should be an ideal matchup before pitching in Texas the following week for a matchup that owners will want to avoid.
We’ve spent a whole lot of time this season outlining the reasons for Adam Lind’s struggles and his uphill battle to get back to anything resembling his breakout 2009 campaign. While Lind’s season totals have been really ugly, he’s looked a lot more like his 2009 self since the beginning of the 2nd half. Lind’s big problems in the first half were a rising K Rate and an increased chase %. Since the beginning of the 2nd half though he’s struck out in just 19% of his PA’s (down from 25%), which is actually in line with his 2009 performance – 18.7%. His BB totals have remained the same but along with the increased contact rates, we’ve seen big jumps in his power (7.1% XBH Rate to 11.9%). I was very pessimistic on Lind’s chances for recovery this season, but it appears the all star break provided the opportunity for Lind to get his head right. After posting 4 straight weeks of performance in line with last year’s breakout I’m ready to suggest Lind looks back. He should be scooped in all leagues.
The story of the day on Sunday had to be Bryan Bullington’s 8 shutout innings against the vaunted New York Yankees to pick up his first major league win. Bullington was the former first overall pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates back in the 2002 draft. He’s toiled around in the minor leagues for most of the time since that drafting having accrued just 52 big league innings across 4 organizations in the last 8 seasons. He flashed some potential late last season in AAA and the Royals organization decided to take a chance. This season at AAA he had posted a solid 2.82 ERA and 1.18 WHIP, showing good but not great peripherals: 6.4 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 49% GB Rate. If he can maintain those peripherals at the big league level there is some hope he can become a mid-rotation starter, but maintaining the production from AAA to the majors is a big challenge. On Sunday he took advantage of an anxious Yankees lineup needing just 96 pitches to get throught 8 innings. He allowed just 2 hits and 1 BB, while striking out 5. Former #1 pick and 8 shutout innings against the Yankees might get people’s attention, but Bullington’s a pitcher similar in the mold of Brian Bannister. He’ll need a lot of good fortune to have success at the big league level.
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