Jose Valverde (RP-DET)- The Tigers announced on Tuesday that the organization has agreed to a major league deal with Valverde, and it is expected that he will take over the closer's role once again Detroit. After having a fortunate season in 2011 in which he saved 49 out of 49 games despite declining peripherals, Valverde finally regressed in 2012. He pitched to a 3.78 ERA and saw his strikeout rate drop to a career worst 6.26 K/9. His drop in his strikeout rate was not an anomaly. Valverde posted a career worst 7.1 percent swinging strike rate, and percentage jumped to 84 percent. Velocity was not the issue considering he still averaged 93.4 mph with his fastball. Obviously Valverde is worth a pickup considering he will the save opportunities from this point forward. However, I project him to pitch to an ERA around 3.80-3.95 along with a 7.5 K/9. Owners should grab him only if he or she is in desperate need of saves.
Will Middlebrooks (3B-BOS)- Middlebrooks went hitless in three plate appearances that included two strikeouts in the loss to the A's on Tuesday. Despite hitting five home runs in his 79 plate appearances, Middlebrooks has struggled to do much else at the plate hitting just .173/.203/.400 with a .258 wOBA. Part of the problem has stemmed from his unlucky .178 BABIP, even though his 16 percent line drive rate indicates he has not been hitting the ball hard consistently. Middebrooks main problem has been with his dreadful approach at the plate. His plate discipline looks worse as his chase rate has increased from last season to 33 percent and walk rate has dropped to 3.8 percent. Additionally, his swinging strike rate has jumped from 10.5 to 13.9 percent. This has increased his strikeout rate to a horrendous 32.9 percent. The power numbers will be there for owners, but I believe Middebrooks will struggle to get back to . .250/.293/.475 line this year.
Brett Lawrie (3B-TOR)- Lawrie has struggled since being activated from the disabled list last week, and last night was no exception. The third baseman went hitless in four plate appearances with two strikeouts to his slash line drop to .138/.161/.172 for the season. He has yet to steal a base or a hit a home run in those eight games (31 plate appearances). While Lawrie has never displayed the most patient approach at the plate during his career (6.2 percent walk rate last season), I noticed the other day he was swinging at a ton of pitches out of the strike zone. In fact, Lawrie has seen his chase rate in these eight games skyrocket to 40.2 percent. This has lead him to swing at some terrible pitches, and as a result his contact rate on pitches out of the zone has dropped from 70.5 to 45.5 percent. His overall swinging strike rate jumped from 7.7 to 18.2 percent. Now all of this is based on small sample size, but it is clear Lawrie needs to change his approach now.
David Price (SP-TB)- Price delivered one of his better performances of the year on Tuesday night against the Yankees, but he was charged with his second loss of the season. He allowed three runs on eight hits, while striking out five and without a walk. Price lowered his ERA to 5.52 for the year, but his xFIP indicates there will be a lot better starts ahead. Like a lot of other elite starters this month, Price is dealing with some velocity problems. He came into today averaging 93.7 mph with his fastball, which is a significant drop from his average in 2012 (95.5 mph). This has come hand in hand with a problem limiting home runs this season. Eventually his 16.7 percent HR/FB ratio should regress toward his career rate of 9.5 percent. In addition, owners should expect his BABIP of .344 to also decrease more towards his career rate of .278.
Alexi Ogando (SP-TEX)- Ogando did not earn a decision on Tuesday after allowing four runs (two earned) on six hits (one home run) and three walks in seven innings of work against the Angels. He struck out five, and his ERA currently sits at 3.12 for the season. It has been a full season since Ogando start consistently, but he looks as if he has made some adjustments in order to have a more sustainable run in 2013. Ogando's average fastball velocity as a starter is down from 95.1 to 93 mph, but he has compensated by throwing more sliders (40.3 percent) along with more change-ups (11 percent). His swinging strike rate has increased from 8.9 to 9.6 percent as a starter, and more importantly the new approach has improved his ground ball rate. Ogando has a 38.7 percent ground ball rate for his career, but he has managed to post a 50 percent rate this season. It is too early to tell if this is a product of small sample sizes, but if he is able to sustain this ground ball rate, I would be much more optimistic about his long term future as a starter than I was in 2011.
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