MLB Notes

After an 0-for-5 game Wednesday, Hanley Ramirez’s average is down to .197 on the year, and he’s yet to homer and has been caught stealing as often as he’s been successful (three). As someone who was drafted as a top-three pick in almost every fantasy league, I’d be stating the obvious calling him a buy-low candidate, but it’s worth looking at why he’s gotten off to such a terrible start to the season. Ramirez’s current walk rate (13.4%) is a career-best and his K rate (16.9%) is the second lowest of his career. However, when he’s making contact, that’s when things have gone south. His 13.6 LD% is easily the worst of his career, and disturbingly, his groundball rate continues to climb, a trend dating back to last year. After posting a 1.56 GB/FB ratio in 2010, which was his highest ever by far, Ramirez has hit 2.19 grounders to every fly ball this season. That rate improved greatly after the All-Star break last season, and there’s little reason not to believe it won’t get better over the rest of 2011 as well, but it’s an interesting career trend nevertheless. Ramirez’s .254 BABIP is sure to rise, but don’t just point to bad luck when it comes to his highly disappointing start.

Monkey rodeo? Monkey rodeo.

Pretty cool story about a girl who faked being pregnant for 6.5 months for a school project as a senior in high school.

Adrian Gonzalez swears his early lack of power is a mechanical issue and has nothing to do with his surgically repaired shoulder, but at what point do we start worrying? Those types of injuries sometimes can take a full year to recover from. He should compile nice counting stats regardless hitting in the middle of Boston’s lineup and in Fenway, but there’s a good chance Gonzalez’s HR output falls well short of expectations during his first year away from Petco Park. Holder of a career 16.8 FB/HR% during his career, Gonzalez has seen just 4.0% of his fly balls go over the fence so far in 2011.

Funny, I actually went fishing for the first time in years this past weekend. Apparently I was in the wrong lake, as this seems more my style (I’m lazy).

Fascinating idea about someone who was a complete novice at golf testing the Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hours theory to see if he can become a professional.

Kyle Lohse has now tossed 20.1 straight scoreless innings and has a 1.64 ERA and a ridiculous 0.73 WHIP over five starts this season. His K rate (5.6) isn’t anything special, but his control has been (1.2 BB/9). Lohse has been in the league for more than 10 years now, and he owns a career 4.73 ERA and 1.42 WHIP, so there’s even more reason than normal to call this start a fluke. And even if you want to credit pitching coach Dave Duncan for the transformation, this is his fourth year in St. Louis, so that has its flaws as well. That said, I’m something of a believer. Before the year, I drafted Lohse in the reserve round of NL LABR (a 13-team NL-only format that is as deep as it gets. The reserve rounds consist mostly of fourth outfielders if you’re lucky and middle relievers) and also in WCOF. I say this not to brag, believe me I got plenty wrong during draft season and have no problem admitting as much, but I bring it up only to mention why I was buying Lohse in March, which is because I read a couple of articles with both Duncan and him talking about how he was pitching hurt the last couple of years, and he’s never felt better, something that will allow him to throw a sinking fastball that simply wasn’t in his arsenal last season (this might explain the fact that his average fastball velocity is actually a career-low so far. That or he’s going to start getting hit hard soon). While there are a lot of “best shape of my life” stories every spring training, not all should be ignored (I’d argue this even if Lohse turns into a bum from here on out. Have you seen Pablo Sandoval this year? He lost the equivalent of a 10-year old child over winter). Lohse has admittedly had an easy schedule early on, but Duncan has turned worse pitchers useful, and he keeps the ball on the ground. Also, I find it humorous when someone brings up things like BABIP and strand rate regarding pitchers like Lohse and Jered Weaver who have ERAs south of 1.75. It’s literally impossible (well maybe not literally, I guess you could post a K/9 of like 20.0 or something) to record an ERA that low without a lot of “luck” coming into play. It’s wasted breath.

Fast food lasagna – if nothing else it looks healthy.

I’ve had some messy roommates before, but this takes the cake.

It appears owners of Drew Stubbs are going to be very happy this year. He strikes out too often to hit better than .260-.270, and as a leadoff hitter in the National League, his RBI upside is limited, but he should approach 100 runs scored even with a modest OBP while hitting atop a potent Cincinnati lineup. He’s also on pace to finish with 33 homers and 52 steals. Stubbs has always had good speed, and he’s become a much better base stealer with age, but his power development is the big surprise. He hit just 28 homers over 1,588 at-bats throughout the minors, and while he’s unlikely to keep up his HR pace in 2011, it’s looking more and more like last year’s 22 long balls weren’t a fluke. After averaging one homer every 56.7 ABs in the minors, he’s hit one home run every 22.5 ABs in the majors. Stubbs plays in a favorable home park for hitters and is just now entering his prime at age 26. Few others can match his power/speed combo.

Pretty crazy explosion at a strip mall.

Terrific explanation about the recent poker debacle. Again, how is that illegal with so many poker rooms accessible in any city?

I feel like captain obvious calling Jeff Francoeur someone to sell-high, but it seems like there have been quite a few glowing reports about his improvement so far. Also, Scott Pianowski, whom I respect as much as anyone in the industry, recently offered Brett Gardner straight up for him in the Yahoo Friends & Family league (regardless of my opinion of that specific deal, I think Scott is onto something being willing to “sell-low”). So let’s take a look at Frenchy, who is currently batting .330 and knocked out his fifth homer of the young season Wednesday. He’s even added three steals and has already racked up 19 RBI over 24 games. Maybe it’s anecdotal, but Francoeur has seemingly always been a streaky hitter, so it’s important not to let when that hot streak occurs cloud our judgment, and in this case, it happening over the first month of the season makes it easier to do so. Last year he ended April with an .886 OPS only to finish the season with an OPS of .683. Of course, that really doesn’t mean much, and at age 27, it’s possible his skills have improved. It’s just the numbers don’t show that. He entered Wednesday with a .262/.313/.361 line against right-handers, and while he’s always hit southpaws fairly well, counting on his 1.483 OPS to continue against them this year is probably unrealistic. He’s also hitting more groundballs than ever (1.50 GB/FB), and most telling, his plate discipline, which has always been Francoeur’s biggest issue, has actually taken a step back. While he’s swinging at fewer pitches overall, his swing percentage at pitches in the strike zone is a career-low 63.3%, while his swing percentage at pitches outside the strike zone (38.0%) is actually higher than his career average. Let him turn back into a pumpkin on someone else’s team.

This garage
is pretty legit.

Interesting debate (albeit one with a fairly obvious answer) about whether a death row inmate should be able to donate his organs.

Horseplay gone wrong
, which is an understatement.

Placido Polanco is currently leading major league baseball with a .389 batting average, thanks in no small part to a ridiculous 5:10 K:BB ratio over 95 at-bats. He doesn’t offer much power or speed (although he is 22-for-25 in SB attempts since 2008, so it wouldn’t shock if he reached double digits), limiting his fantasy potential, but few hitters can help you in batting average like Polanco. And while hitting in front of Chase Utley would be more favorable, his spot in the Phillies’ lineup remains advantageous. In fact, despite having only two homers this season, he’s still on pace to finish with 108 runs and 108 RBI. Polanco remains a pretty big injury risk, considering his lingering elbow problem and age, but he’s also eligible at second base in Yahoo formats and could go down as one of the bigger fantasy steals of the year since he likely came at quite a discount. 

Of course he’s a Raiders fan (I kid, but this did happen dangerously close to where I live).

An in depth look and worthwhile read about “selling junk online.”

Is 3D nothing but a total scam?

I have no idea what to make of Sam Fuld, but in my experience, guys like him without a track record are typically looked at with extreme skepticism by those who don’t own him, so I wouldn’t even bother trying to trade him. It’s easy to say he won’t sustain his early pace, but the question is how much will he regress. There have certainly been bigger long shots to come out of nowhere and be a big help to fantasy teams over the course of an entire season. It’s odd to see Fuld already have 10 steals after never eclipsing 23 stolen bases over six seasons in the minors, but that’s a category dealing mainly with effort and decision-making, so it’s not necessarily “luck.” Fuld never hit more than six homers in a season in the minors, and especially while playing in Tropicana Field, his HR upside is low. Still, he’s clearly established himself as a part of the team’s plans, and this is someone who walked more times (302) than he struck out (254) throughout the minors, so he can retain plenty of value batting leadoff in Tampa Bay even when the inevitable regression occurs.

Absolutely loved this true story penned by the writer of “A History of Violence.” I don’t want to give anything away, but I found it because of this recent news regarding the “issue.”

This article is long. Really long. But it’s more than worth it. Funnily, I found out it just won the Pulitzer Prize last week right after I read it. Above any of my other links, I recommend this one the most.

Matt Garza has had, without question, one of the strangest starts to a year you’ll ever see. His 12.03 K/9 ratio leads major league baseball by a wide margin, and his walk rate (2.64 BB/9) and groundball ratio (50.6 GB%) are both strong as well. He’s also been extremely fortunate that zero of his fly balls have gone for homers. Yet his ERA is a pedestrian 4.11 (and it could be much worse thanks to already giving up four unearned runs) and his WHIP is an atrocious 1.47. This is thanks to a .414 BABIP and 60.0 LOB%. Garza’s xFIP is currently an MLB-best 1.94. Last year’s leader in that category was Roy Halladay at 2.80. Garza’s hit rate will obviously come crashing down (his marks over the past three years were .270, .273 and .272, which is well below league average), but it’s also worth noting the Cubs’ current -9.0 UZR ranks fifth worst in baseball, so that area might be a problem throughout 2011. Also, playing in Wrigley, that HR/FB rate correction might come in a drastic way. Still, Garza, who is using his slider, curveball and changeup at much greater frequencies while dramatically cutting back on his fastball usage, has clearly demonstrated the ability to dominate NL hitters. I wouldn’t rule out him leading the National League in strikeouts this season.

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