Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals
Pujols is just doing his thing. He is hot right now, but the funny thing is that this is just normal Pujols. His team is in first place and he is certainly the catalyst. He has only swung and missed 11 times this year out of 75 ABs already. When you can do that, you rarely strikeout. In fact, Pujols only strikes out in 9% of his at bats. Here are some stunning stats for The Machine: He swings at only 20% of pitches that are out of the zone and 71% when it is a strike. When Albert does swing at a bad pitch, he makes contact 87% of the time! That number is up 12% from 2008. When he swings at strikes, he hits it 93% of the time.
Pujols is doing well…
… because he isn’t missing. If he swings, he will put it in play. That aspect of his game is considerably better than years past (just when we thought he couldn’t improve).
Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
I drafted Braun with my first round pick. It was the fourth pick and considered a reach by some. So far, it looks like I am a genius. One of the reasons I took him was because the real genius, Bill James, predicted a 41 HR season from Braun. Ryan is certainly not disappointing James so far. Braun’s OBP is up 145 points from last year, and brought his OPS up 120 pts. He has a .382 BABIP so far. For those of you unfamiliar with that stat, he has a .382 average when he puts the ball in play. I looked through all these players stats and looked which ones were considerably different from past seasons and the one Braun has that caught my eye was his line-drive percentage. A typical All Star player hits a line-drive 17% of the time. Ryan Braun hits a liner 25% of the time so far.
Braun is doing well…
… because he is making consistent solid contact. Even his outs are hit solid. He is locked in right now.
Zach Greinke, Kansas City Royals
In a previous FS post, I said that Greinke had superstar-type potential and my statement is looking prophetic right about now. KC has gotten off to a pretty good start, and Greinke is the one behind it all. His K/9 ratio is up three from last year, he is only averaging one walk per game, and has allowed no home runs so far. He is hitting his spot and doing whatever he wants. Want proof? 48% of his batters have grounded out.
Greinke is doing well…
… because he is locating his pitches. Zach is simply putting it where he wants and, like I’ve always said, a great pitcher beats a great hitter.
Danny Haren, Arizona Diamondbacks
I cringe every time I talk about Haren. If you are not aware, my St. Louis Cardinals traded him a while back when he was a young prospect. The year after, he exploded in his breakout season. A sensitive subject for me to say the least just because how great Haren is. When on, there are only a small handful of pitchers you can even compare to him. He made an interesting decision in the offseason by choosing to use his curve ball again. He dropped it for a couple seasons before using it again this year. 2006 was the last time he used it – his second best win total year. The unfortunate thing about him doing great is the fact that the D’Backs can’t get him a win. He is pounding the mitt, but his team refuses to score for him.
Haren is doing well…
… because he avoiding solid contact. The number of line-drives hits he has had against him is down 5%.
Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies
In Colorado, how can a player struggle? Seriously! They are like 12 miles above sea level. It is like playing baseball on the moon. All you have to do is make contact and the ball soars. Tulo was spectacular last season and everything pointed toward the start of an offensive explosion from the young shortstop. I said all he has to do is hit the ball. Well, he is having a hard time doing that. In 2008 he struck out 15% of his Abs. This season, he strikes out 30% of the time. He strikes out more than he hits safely. Kinda sad.
Tulowitzki is struggling…
… because he won’t take the bat off his shoulders. I mentioned the clip he is striking out at… but the scare thing is that he isn’t even swinging. In 2008, he swung at 45% of the pitches he saw. This season, that number is down 10%.
Geovany Soto, Chicago Cubs
Wasn’t this dude the Rookie of the Year? Well he hasn’t exactly lived up to the hype. But who are we kidding? That is the definition of a Flubbie, I mean Cubbie. I guess Soto is just going to suck now instead of sucking in only September and October. When he puts the ball in play, he has a .150 average. In his ’08 campaign that number was hovering around .340. Come on, Soto! Yadier Moline is batting over .300, by the way lol. What is even sadder is that he only has 5 line drives so far.
Soto is struggling…
… because he can’t get the ball out of the infield. Surely those coaches in Chicago can fix a simple groundball problem, right? Here is a staggering number for you… Over half of Soto’s at bats have resulted in a groundball out. Woah.
Francisco Liriano, Minnesota Twins
After Liriano’s unreal second half last season, he came into this season as a legitiment Cy Young candidate. But right now it looks like last year’s first half that got him sent down to AAA ball. His breakout season was in 2006 and it’s obvious he is not doing the same things as his 12-3, 2.16 ERA season. In ’06 he pitched 43% fastballs, 38% sliders, and 19% changeup. So far this year he has pitched 61% fastball, 27% slider, and 11% changeup. So basically he is an entirely different pitcher. The numbers do not lie. Out of all the batters that have got a hit off of him, 22% of them hit a liner into the outfield.
Liriano is struggling…
… because he is relying too much on his fastball, he is not using his best pitch – the slider – like he should be, and is simply making bad decisions. The pitching coach has to be aware of these numbers. I don’t understand why he hasn’t said lay off the fastball and throw that slider.
CC Sabathia, New York Yankees
Heading into draft time, I kept saying Lincecum over Sabathia and everybody thought I was an idiot. Well, not so much. While Lincecum is destroying everything in his path, Sabathia is having a hard time doing anything. He may have sat down all the batters he faced last season, but he is only averaging 3 Ks per outing so far. With that you look at how many guys he has walked, but it is no alarming stat there. This leads me to believe he is just throwing hit-able pitches. He has a similar problem to Liriano. Like I said with Liriano, he was relying way to much on his heater. While he isn’t throwing as many as FL is, Sabathia is still throwing 8% more than last year. I don’t know if you have played baseball yourself, but fastball is generally the easiest to hit. Let’s think this one through… It is the only pitch that is straight. It doesn’t matter how fast it is, it doesn’t move.
Sabathia is struggling…
… because he has been watching Francisco Liriano pitch. Liriano doesn’t lay off that fastball, and neither does Mr. Sabathia. CC needs to chill out, look at what worked last year, and try that. Something is out of whack, and he needs to figure that out before he is killed by Yankee fans.
If you are, unfortunately, an owner of CC, Liriano, Tulo, or Soto, don’t freak out and trade trade trade. Sit them for a week or two and see what happens. A lot of fantasy owners see a big-name player having a hard time and trade them, or even drop them. A month later, they are on this list under WHO’S HOT. Some of the biggest mistakes I have made as a fantasy owner are with this. Trust me; you will kick yourself all the way up to September.