You can find more from Michael Salfino at Comcast SportsNet
We're early in the 2009 season, but it gets late quickly. The challenge is finding early-season trends in the data that assist you in making appropriate roster decisions. For hitters, the main thing I look for the first few weeks is walk-to-strikeout ratio.
I am not a sabermetric slave when it comes to worshipping at the idol of walks. Hitters should work counts to their advantage to get fat pitches to mash. But if you're laying off those out-of-the-zone offerings, it necessarily follows that you will walk more and strikeout less. And since we can't possibly see all the at bats of all the players, these ratios provide a most useful early season barometer.
So let's see who jumps out at us early on the plus and minus ends of the selectivity spectrum. I caution that data at this stage should be viewed more as a head or tail wind and should not be the basis for roster decisions – no single data point ever should be.
More detailed recommendations follow.
Hitters showing early excellence in BB:K ratio (through Monday) are: Manny Ramirez (11 walks, 3 Ks); Adam Dunn (11, 6); Chone Figgins (9, 4); Edwin Encarnacion (8, 4); Brandon Inge (7, 3); Marco Scutaro (7, 4); Carlos Guillen (7, 4); Denard Span (7, 3); Jason Bay (7, 3); Brandon Phillips (6, 2); Kosuke Fukudome (6, 4); Troy Tulowitzki (6, 4); Ryan Garko (6, 2); Chris Dickerson (5, 2); Ryan Theriot (5,1).
Note the great Albert Pujols is easily winning the battle of homers versus strikeouts with four bombs against one K (six walks). NL-Only leaguers should note Padres shortstop Luis Rodriguez (8, 1) did hit .287 last year and those ratios augur a repeat.
Players of more significance battling the head winds when it comes to selectivity are: Freddy Sanchez (0, 7); Evan Longoria (1, 5; I hate saying anything bad about him, too, but follow the data we must); Jorge Posada (1, 7); Elvis Andrus (0, 5; warning lights are flashing); Cameron Maybin (0, 9; ditto); Dioner Navarro (0, 7); Ryan Zimmerman (1, 8); Adam LaRoche (1, 7); Aaron Rowand (1, 6); Carl Crawford (1, 6); Rickie Weeks (1, 7); Justin Morneau (1, 6); J.J. Hardy (1, 6); Chris Young (1, 6); Ryan Spilborghs (1, 6); Carlos Gomez (1, 9); Justin Upton (1, 6 in just 13 PAs); Aaron Hill (1, 8); Lastings Milledge (1, 10); Delmon Young (0, 7); Jay Bruce (1, 7); Jarrod Saltalamacchia (0, 7); Cristian Guzman (0, 6); Cody Ross (0, 5); Clint Barmes (0, 4); Pablo Sandoval (1, 6); Mike Aviles (1, 6); Adam Jones (2, 8).
This does not mean that I hate the latter group and love the former. But consider the paces these guys are on as much as you would other counting stats at this early juncture and you are on your way to maximizing the miniscule amount of data currently in the books.
Brandon Inge, C, Tigers: He hits better when he's not catching (who wouldn't) and changed his stance to generate more power. He also appears to be seeing the ball better (43 BB, 94 Ks in 407 plate appearances last year).
Marco Scutaro, SS, Blue Jays: He's a subtle asset in deeper mixed leagues, given that he's a good defensive player batting leadoff with some moderate pop and speed and likely to hit .280 even looking at last year's ratios (57 walks, 65 Ks in 592 PAs).
Kosuke Fukudome, OF, Cubs: Yes, he hit well early last year – at least through Opening Day. But Fukudome was a premium player in Japan and maybe it's only fair to throw that first transitional year into the stat trash.
Chris Dickerson, OF, Reds: Wish I had seen this before I dumped him Sunday night in Tout Wars. Speed plus good defense and even double-digit power with regular at bats, alas always an issue with Dusty Baker.
Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins: His selectivity is proven (76 BB, 85 Ks last year).
Jorge Posada, C, Yankees: Ditto Posada (98 BBs, 136 Ks in '07 and '08). The K rate is nudging up, though.
Carl Crawford, OF, Rays: At least the pitches per plate appearance are up (a solid 4.1), but I seriously doubt he'll ever be selective enough to be great.
Emilio Bonafacio, 3B, Marlins: I've never felt more strongly about cashing in the chips on early-season stats. He's a utility middle infielder playing corner, enough said.
Ryan Spilborghs, OF, Rockies: It's not just the ratios here, but the crowded Rockies outfield plus Spilborghs lack of prospect pedigree.
Michael Salfino's work has appeared in USA Today's Sports Weekly, RotoWire, dozens of newspapers nationwide and most recently throughout Comcast SportsNet, including SNY.tv, for which he also analyzes the Mets and Yankees. He's been writing "Baseball by the Numbers" weekly since 2005.