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Slumpbot .200: Carlos Lee struggling to rope usual big numbers

Big League Stew

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Using the best technology available today, SlumpBot .200 identifies a few players who are currently having trouble and then offers solutions for recovery.

Carlos Lee(notes), Houston Astros

Data: 6-for-52, .115 AVG, .267 OPS, 0 HR, 0 RBI

Malfunction: U-G-L-Y, Carlos Lee's got no alibi. With Lance Berkman(notes) missing the first two weeks of the season, the Astros' cleanup hitter has gone hitless in eight of the team's first 13 games with five singles, one double, one walk, and 11 strikeouts in 53 plate appearances. The 4-9 Astros have frequently looked hapless this year — they started 0-8 — and Lee's ineptitude has been a chief reason.

Diagnosis: Perhaps the answer is just that Lee has been pressing and feeling the pressure of carrying the Astros' offense. Berkman's first game of the season was last night and Lee promptly hit his first extra-base hit of the yea and the Astros won 7-5 for their first home win of the year.

Still, Lee's strikeouts are worrisome. For a power hitter, Lee is less whiff-prone than most. He's never struck out 100 times in a season, and he struck out just 51 times in 160 games in 2009. (He doesn't walk a lot, either with just 41 walks last year.) This year, Lee is already one-fifth of the way to his total 2009 strikeout total. He's swinging at more pitches outside the strike zone than usual, and has been making much less contact as a result. Is he pressing, is it mechanical, or is he getting older?

It's not time to panic by any means, but his 34th birthday is in two months, and bat speed is one of the first things Father Time takes away, so this situation bears monitoring.

Reboot Directions: Lee needs to work on regaining his vaunted plate discipline and control of the strike zone. With Berkman's return, he's no longer the center of the Astros' offense; at the very least, that should allow him more time for games like this, in which he goes 1-for-4 and the Astros win anyway. El Caballo has been one of the most consistent power hitters in baseball for the past decade and he should receive every opportunity to rediscover his stroke.

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Who else could use Slumpbot's help?

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Jon Lester(notes), Boston Red Sox: He's not quite Jason Marquis(notes), but Jon Lester has been one of the most ineffective pitchers in baseball in this young season, allowing 15 earned runs in 16 innings. So what's wrong? His velocity has been normal, and so have his strikeouts. But his walk rate has nearly doubled. For now, chalk it up to April command issues. The Sox training staff will want to monitor his velocity closely, though.

Mark Teixeira(notes), New York Yankees: He usually starts slow — he's batting .239 in April for his career — but many Yankee fans must be thinking that $20 million ought to pay for a hitter who doesn't start the year 6-for-47. It's hardly unprecedented, though. He started out 8-for-48 in 2008, which became his contract year. He'll be fine. He always hits as the calendar turns.

Melky Cabrera(notes), Atlanta Braves: As much as Yankee fans have bellyached over Javier Vazquez's(notes) 8.27 ERA in three starts, his trade partner has, if anything, been even worse, as Melky Cabrera has done his best Carlos Lee impression. For now, he's the Braves' semiregular left fielder and occasional center fielder, batting .119 on the season. The Mendoza Line never looked so good.

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