Cliff Lee- SEA- Caution- Including the postseason last year, Lee threw a total of 4111 pitches. That is 750 more pitches than in any other season. He hit the 110+ pitch barrier 20 times. His previous high in that category was 7. Yesterday, in his second start back from an oblique strain, Lee threw 113 pitches. 25 of those pitches came in the 8th inning, when Lee struggled and was arguably fatigued. This is not good management of pitchers. Admittedly, in 2009 Lee only followed up a high-pitch count game with a non-quality start 4 times, but the effects of such usage can come later. Lee is at high risk this year and yesterday’s start didn’t help.
Pat Burrell- TB- Cold- Burrell’s problems that have resulted in a .229 average this season seem to be simple. He is missing the ball. With 23 Ks in 70 ABs, there is not much leeway for balls to fall for hits. He is not having particularly bad luck, with a .304 BABIP and balls he does hit he is getting into the air, as evidenced by a 52.1% FB%. There just aren’t enough of them and they don’t go far enough (8.0% HR/FB). Burrell is 33 years old and his indicators are making him look like an old 33.
Howie Kendrick- LAA- Cold- Kendrick has gone back to his hacking ways, not drawing a walk since 4/20. Since that time he has gone 10-for-48 and has just one extra base hit, a double. Kendrick’s batting average has dropped to .276. I think that he was done a disservice by being told that he didn’t have to worry about drawing walks, that his swing was so sweet he would end up as a batting champion just be going up there and smacking the ball. On the plus side, he has only struck out 5 times in this stretch, so at least he is making contact. Still, he would be a better hitter if he learned to draw walks. Whether that can happen at this stage remains to be seen.
Travis Hafner- CLE- Hot- Hafner has gone 3-for-6 with a homer in his last two games and his .213 batting average is being affected mightily by a .233 BABIP. However, until he is more consistent with his power (his last homer was on April 20th) and he improves on his strike zone command (his .53 Batting EYE is far below the .90 level he had in his best years) Hafner isn’t really a player you want to watch, especially with his limited roster flexibility.
Fu-Te Ni- DET- Idea- Ni wasn’t quite a LOOGY last year after coming over from Taiwan, where he led their league in strikeouts in 2008. However, he did face more lefties (72) than righties (49) and had far greater success against them (.112 OBA vs. .289). This season Ni has seen more righthanded hitters (34) than lefthanded (24) and has tamed both (.210 OBA vs. LH and .168 vs. RH). Overall, Ni has a 11.68 K/9 but some control problems with a 7.30 BB/9. His 1.46 ERA is somewhat misleading since only half of his 4 runs allowed have been earned. If he can get more control and lower the walk numbers, his strikeout ability could earn him a more prominent role on Tigers pitching staff. There is sleeper potential here and you may be joining with a chorus of knights who say, “Ni” when asked who to add to your roster later this season.