Clay Buchholz – Red Sox - Let’s start here. I like Clay Buchholz. I think he has #1 potential and he is capable of being a very special pitcher. That having been said I feel compelled to point out all the reasons why he will not have as good a season in 2011 that he had in 2010.
I can make this simple. Clay benefitted from very favorable rates in his LOB% (79.0%), HR/FB (5.6%), and BHIP% (.261). All of those rates are better than Clay’s norms in his pro career, although he’s had some history of controlling his HR rates.
Even if he pitches as well as he did last year, reversion of those rates means a reversion in his overall numbers. The question is … how much? It’s been a slow turning for Clay who finally found his MLB feet last year. I’d like to see his 6.2/9 K rate grow a little and there’s potential that it might, especially if the Red Sox can convince him to build on his frame. The same goes with his BB rate (3.5/9). Clay jumped his chase rate nearly 7% last year which played a big role. Buchholz will have a pretty good season, just not as good as last year. We are projecting 14 wins, 3.38/1.25.
One thing I wanted to point out however, as a way to show you how important it is to know your starting pitchers and their splits … Clay posted a 1.97 ERA last year over 20 night starts. His ERA was 3.51 during the day. Opponents his just .214 off him under the lights. His ERA was 3.60 in ’09 under the lights but that was far better than his 5.67 day ERA. Over the last three years, Clay’s ERA is 1.03 lower at night (3.55) than during the day (4.58) … Just sayin’
Daisuke Matsuzaka – Red Sox – It’s long past time to let go of the notion that Matsuzaka is anything more than a (very) slightly better than average pitcher. His 2008 (18-3/2.90/1.32) was an illusion and you get a gold star if you’ve already figured out why. It’s in that last slashline … well much of it anyway … His 1.32 WHIP should have resulted in an ERA almost a run higher than the one he posted and would have if not for his 80.6% LOB%. He also benefitted from a .258 BHIP% which contributed to his WHIP being even that low. But that’s history, one which Matsuzaka hasn’t been able to repeat since.
Last year with a 67.2% LOB% and .284 BHIP% and a favorable 6.5% HR/FB% he still posted 4.69/1.37 … That looks representative to me. He’ll have a good lineup in front of him and a good bullpen behind him which may gain him a win or two, and save him a hand full of ERs over the course of the year. We are projecting 12 wins, and 4.57/1.33 … a.k.a, slightly better than average.
Tom Gorzelanny – Nationals – Tom is close to nailing down the 5th slot in the Nats’ rotation, mostly by attrition, but still … So what can we expect from the 28-year-old 6’2” left-hander? Tom pitched well in 23 starts last year posting a 4.09 ERA, but his WHIP was a bit suspect at 1.50.
Control has been the issue for Tom. Last year he walked 4.5/9. He upped his K rate to 7.7 over 136 IP which helped mitigate his walks. He also lowered his HR/9 to 0.73 from 1.15 in ‘09 and 1.71 in ’08, but that was due to a lucky 6.8% HR/FB%.
If his new K rate holds that’ll help, but frankly I’d rather see his BB rate drop. He is not a great GB producer so his HR rates are key. His BHIP% was a bit lucky last year at .255, and he also got a favorable edge from a 71.4% LOB%. Assuming all of those favorable indicators normalize this year, his WHIP and his ERA go up as well. We are projecting a 4.46 ERA and 1.53 WHIP, but just 5 wins, although if he nails down the 5th starter slot that number will go up a bit
It’s all about where Tom slots on your roster and how much you pay for him. Land him cheap as a #6 in your mixed league and you are in line for a little dividend. If he’s your #4 starter, you have issues.
Tom is scheduled to make his spring debut on Thursday. He’s been battling the flu this spring but managed 6 outs in an intersquad game on Friday.
Domonic Brown – Phillies – Very bad news out of Phillies camp this weekend as Domonic Brown was shelved for the first 4-8 weeks of the season after fracturing the hook on his hamate bone. He’ll have surgery to repair the fracture today. As much as I was looking forward to watching Brown arrive, this isn’t a disaster. In fact it may actually help in the long run. Brown was struggling in camp and probably battling all of our expectations. This injury will allow him to return to the minors, regroup in AAA, and enter the majors this summer a bit more under the radar. Obviously this represents a significant cut in Brown’s 2011 value (which are already reflected in our Draft Day software projections which are updated daily), but in long-term keeper leagues he remains an elite power/speed prospect.
Derek Lowe – Braves – Some will see 2010 as a bit of a bounce-back season for Derek Lowe and perhaps even back that opinion with some deserved praise for one of the best pitching instructional organizations in baseball. And I am sure the Braves are maximizing Lowe as they do almost any pitcher they touch. But the truth of Derek’s 2010 lies more in his indicators.
Lowe’s 74.2% LOB% whittled his ERA down to an even 4.00 while his zone control remained fairly similar to his 2009, 15/4.67/1.52 season. In ’09 however, Derek suffered from an unfavorable .327 BHIP% and 68.7% LOB%. I am thinking that as a result, his 2011 will fall somewhere in between. Lowe had a neutral .307 BHIP% last year, and a decent 13.1% HR/FB. He didn’t throw GBs at the rate his did in his salad days in LA (58.8% last year, as opposed to a high of 67% in LA in 2006) but he still keeps the ball on the ground. His FB velocity is fairly steady meaning his sinking action is probably intact.
We are projecting 13 wins, 4.21/1.40. That sounds fair. Derek will make a nice anchor for the bottom of your rotations if you don’t pay too much or slot him too high, especially in mixed leagues, and he shouldn’t do much damage to the numbers that your top starters post. In addition Derek a pretty steady performer so you pretty much know what you are going to get from start to start, an often underestimated quality in a #4 or #5 starter.
Tommy Hanson – Braves – Reconciling Tommy Hanson’s 2009 (11 wins/2.89/1.18) with his 2010 (10/3.33/1.17) is fairly easy. In 2009 his LOB% was a very favorable 80.3%. In 2010 his LOB% was a slightly favorable/neutral 71.4% …
Tommy’s control rates, HR rates, and BHIP% were very comparable between the two seasons. But he pitched 75 more innings in 2010 which added enough data sample for that LOB% to head back towards league average, and the nearly half a run jump in his ERA was the result.
So we could say that 2010 was more representative of his capabilities and not be wrong. But I look at two years of favorable HR/FB% for a neutral pitcher in terms of GB/FB (6.9% in ’09 and 5.8% last year) and two years of favorable BHIP% (.275 in ’09 and .286 in ’10) and I think more reversion is possible.
We are projecting 15 wins 3.08/1.12, and that’s certainly possible as Hanson still has room to develop his game, but I think his ERA and WHIP could easily go the other way as well. I’m not saying he’s going to be a dog however. He’s a very good starter and he’s already a borderline #1. I just think a 3.40/1.20 season is just as likely.
Joe Blanton – Phillies – In Hall Pass we find out how a girl surrounding herself with less attractive friends makes her look better. If we apply the inverse of that principle to baseball then Joe Blanton is going to have a dateless summer. Lost at the end of a prodigious Phillies Rotation, Joe isn’t going to get a lot of attention, but at some point we have to figure out what he is.
Last year Joe suffered a bit from an unfavorable .321 BHIP%, which pumped his OBA to .287 (as opposed to .257 and .269 the previous two seasons) and his WHIP to 1.42. That led to a 4.82 ERA with his neutral 69.1% LOB%. In 2009 his 4.05 ERA was fueled by a very favorable 78.9% LOB%.
That’s all pretty evident, but here’s why I see his 2009 as even more of an aberration. Joe switched from the A’s to the Phillies in 2008 and gained a bit of course from switching the NL. But he lost badly in the trade of ballparks. His HR/9 in Oakland for his last 2+ seasons (including part of 2008) were 0.8, 0.6, and 0.8. In his 2+ seasons with the Phillies his HR/9 has been 1.3, 1.4, and 1.4). His HR/FB% in those splits were 6.8%, 6.5% and 8.0% as opposed to 11.8%, 13.0%, and 12.2% with the Phillies … BUT! … Last year his HR/FB% at home was 10.7% and it was 13.8% on the road…. Go figure, but in his last full season in Oakland (’07) his home HR/FB% was 5.5%, so his his HR/FB% is still almost twice as bad.
The bottom line is that other than some bad luck in BHIP%, Joe’s 2010 is pretty representative. We are projecting 4.72/1.38, That’s pretty much right n the money I think.
Drew Storen – Nationals – Drew Storen enters the 2011 season as the Nationals closer, with a pretty significant level of security as well. But is that appointment merit based or does he have the job by default?
Drew’s 55 IP in the majors last year 93.58/1.27) makes a pretty good case for merit. Drew held opponents to a .232 OBA with a neutral .296 BHIP%. He fanned 8.5/9 and allowed 0.5 HR/9 (thanks to a 5.0% HR/FB%). Drew walks more batters than you’d like (3.6/9 last year) and throws less GBs than you’d like (39.6% last year) but in terms of a power closer he wasn’t awful in either regard. He got hitters to chase at 34.0% and threw 57.3% first pitch strikes. Overall for his first 55 MLB IP, that wasn’t bad at all. I don’t see any red flags and his ERA and WHIP should both see a little improvement this year.
Mark Teahen – White Sox – Mark Teahen is not going down without a fight in his battle for third base in Chicago. He was 2- for -3 on Monday and is off to a pretty good start. The fact that Morel has options probably works against him, especially if Teahen continues to hit this spring, not that Morel has been overmatched so far (.273). Teahen is approaching each at bat like his job is on the line, because it is. Mostly everyone else in camp in the second week of March is simply working on stuff, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens when the rest of spring training gets more serious. We’ll keep you updated.
Mark Trumbo – Angels - Mark Trumbo ripped 4 hits on Monday, including his third HR of the year. With Kendry Morales on the mend there’s a possibility of some loose ABs at first base to start the Angels season and the Angels’ reigning Minor League Player of the Year is making a bid. Mark has power to spare and he was developing a clue at the plate. But his K rate slipped to 23.7% at AAA last year after an encouraging 18.8% in 2009. He clearly has some work to do in the minors yet. One job he has is to develop the ability to play some outfield. Morales is a road block at Trumbow’s natural position but he could find some opportunity at a corner outfield. Given his age (25),I don’t think Mark projects as a #4 or a #3, but he has the ceiling of a #5 if he can reign in his K’s at all. If not he could still hit 20 HRs if he can earn enough ABs at the MLB level.
Bengie Molina – FA - A couple of sources on Monday said that the Padres talked to Bengie Molina’s people, only to be told that the 36-year-old catcher is retired. Not so according to Molina. He has hinted that he wants a guaranteed salary and presumably a better playing situation than he’s looking at in San Diego.
Aaron Cook – Rockies – Aaron Cook threw on the side on Monday from a distance of about 90 feet. Cook has already been delayed by a sore shoulder this spring, and he’s falling dangerously behind schedule. This bears watching at this point because there’s the potential this could affect the start of his season.
Alexi Ramirez – White Sox – Two homers for Alexi Ramirez on Monday, his first of the spring. If Alexi was still flying under anyone’s radar last year, he’s not any more. If however you are looking for the 21 HRs he hit in 2008, I think he’s going to fall just a little short. His HR total has been closely tied to his HR/FB%, generally a luck stat. He hit 21 HRs in 2008 with a favorable 13.8% HR/FB%. In 2009 he hit 15 HRs with an unfavorable 8.2% HR/FB% and last year he hit 18 HRs with a fairly neutral 10.8% HR/FB%. Alexi’s other indicators are relatively steady. It would be great to see him walk a bit more but he is what he is at this point. He had a very strong second half (12/41/.300) and our projections (21/77/.278) build off of that but I think he’ll need some luck to get that high in the HRs. Otherwise we are looking at high-teens in HRs and mid-teens in SBs which is pretty productive at his position.
Brandon Webb - Rangers – The news on Brandon Webb’s return is all good. He’s felt great so far in camp and reports indicate that the ball is leaving his hand well. He’s already thrown four fairly formal sessions off the bullpen mound this spring, tossing over 60 pitches in one outing. The Rangers now say Webb will face live hitters tomorrow. Webb has had a light touch on the throttle of his rehab and that has paid off up to this point. His panel is green but no one is talking about any kind of timetable yet.
Andrew Bailey – A’s – Andrew Bailey (elbow surgery) does have a timetable however. He’s schedule for his first spring training action on Thursday. Bailey has been facing live hitters for a few days. He has maintained, almost from the start of camp that he would be ready for opening day. So far he’s on track.
Cameron Maybin – Padres – Cameron Maybin was back in the Padres lineup on Monday, five days after suffering a concussion last Wednesday. I have the same decision to make on Maybin this year that had to make on Chris Young last year … Do I hold on for one more year, waiting for the bloom of a seemingly talented player? I made the wrong decision on Chris (in my defense you should be aware that the decision didn’t happen in a vacuum, there were other roster/resource factors involved). So I am not really interested in living with a similar result this summer.
It all comes down to contact rate with Maybin. In 291 MLB ABs last year he fanned 31.6% of the time, only slightly worse than his career MLB K rate of 31.4% over 548 ABs. Horrid. He has a .246 career BA with a favorable .334 BHIP%. He hits the ball on the ground more often than not and he only posted a 14.2% LD% last year. Easy decision, right?
Not so fast.
Maybin is not yet 25 (April 4th), he has less than 548 MLB ABs, with no more than 291 coming in any one season, and he’s demonstrated some improvement in his contact rate in the minors. Maybin has been brought along quickly and he’s spent the last three years playing for three different organizations, at five different levels. I think some stability and a chance to get settled might help Maybin find his feet. He’ll get that chance in San Diego.
I am less optimistic about his power potential. His groundball rate is too high, but it reflects the way he hits. Turning him into a lift hitter will require a significant reformatting of his swing, and the move to San Diego won’t help.
I think it’s time to lower our sites with Maybin. Twenty SBs is still a very reasonable expectation if he makes enough contact to earn 500 ABs (a questionable assumption) , and I’ll be interested to see where his game is at his 1,000th MLB AB, but I have to see some changes before I begin to believe he’s capable of 20 HRs. We are projecting just a little over 400 ABs, a .257 BA, 10 HRs and 14 SBs.