Andrew McCutchen (CF-PIT)- McCutchen went 1-for-2 with a home run and two walks in the Pirates win over the Nationals. The home run was his first of the season to go along with his five stolen bases and .302/.370/.470 slash line. McCutchen's power numbers have taken a hit this season because of his propensity to hit ground balls. He came into Tuesday's game with a 50.6 percent ground ball rate, which is a career high and a significant jump from his 38.4 percent rate in 2011. Additionally, the decline in his plate discipline has been somewhat troubling. With a career walk rate of 11.4 percent, McCutchen now has an 8.3 percent walk rate (career low) and a 30.3 percent chase rate (career high). I expect McCutchen's approach to ease up a bit now that he has a home run out of the way, but it is hard to see him getting to 20 home runs with a 30 percent fly ball rate.
Ryan Dempster (SP-CHC)- Dempster did not earn a decision on Tuesday against the Braves even though he allowed just one run over seven innings. Dempster stuck out seven allowing six hits and a walk. His remains winless in five starts, and he actually saw his ERA increase to 1.02 for the season. As expected when a pitcher has a 1.02 ERA, Dempster has benefited from a nice strand rate (83 percent) and low BABIP (.218). However, he has improved his strikeout rate to 9.17 K/9 even though his average velocity has dropped to 89 mph (down from 90.3 mph in 2011). His swinging strike rate of 11.8 percent is an improvement because of the strength of his slider and splitter. A declining ground ball rate is troublesome (36.8 percent is a career low), but Dempster should be strong strikeout contributor for any owner in standard leagues. He should finish the season with a 3.75-3.90 ERA.
Brett Myers (RP-HOU)- Myers earned his eighth save of the season by pitching a scoreless inning against the Marlins on Tuesday night. He allowed just one hit without a walk or a strikeout, and lowered his ERA to 0.93 in 9.2 innings pitched for the season. Myers has shown improved velocity with his return to the bullpen (92 mph average fastball), and has mixed in his three off-speed pitches more frequently in 2012. His swinging strike rate is at a career high 9.8 percent, and I would expect his strikeout rate to increase over time. Not much can be inferred with this small of a sample size, but opposing hitters have not made solid contact in his limited work (13.2 percent line drive rate). Myers will continue to be a decent source for saves if he stays with the club past the all-star break, and produce an ERA in the low 3's for owners in 2012.
Carlos Beltran (RF-STL)- Beltran went 2-for-4 with two strikeouts, two home runs and six RBI in the Cardinals 6-1 victory over the Diamondbacks on Tuesday night. The home runs improved his total to ten home runs, and his slash line jumped to .288/.398/.587. This performance is reminiscent of Lance Berkman's resurrection with the Cardinals last season, and Beltran looks like the player he was six years ago with the Mets. His power numbers and his stolen base numbers (five in 28 games compared to four last season) have improved greatly, and this could be the result of Beltran fully recovering from the micro-fracture surgery he had a few years ago. While Beltran is unlucky to keep a 25 percent HR/FB ratio afloat, his 42.5 percent fly ball rate is his highest since 2007. If he continues to stay healthy, he should be able to reach 30 home runs if he continues to hit fly balls at a rate similar to the one he has now.
Ryan Vogelsong (SP-SF)- Vogelsong earned his first win of the season on Tuesday night against the Dodgers. He allowed one run on eight hits and three walks while striking out a batter in 7.1 innings of work. His record improved to 1-2, and he saw his ERA decrease to 2.94. While he has gotten of to a strong start once again in 33.2 innings pitched, there is even more evidence that owners should be expecting some regression later this season. His walk rate of 3.74 BB/9 indicates that opposing hitters are picking up the ball better this season, and he has thrown fewer pitches out of the strike zone this season (37.2 percent). His average fastball velocity has dropped from 91.4 to 89 mph, and his swinging strike rate has dropped below six percent. Expect his strikeout rate to drop, and I believe he will not be able to finish the season with an ERA below 4.00.
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