Mostly MLB Notes: Talking slumping sluggers and a look around the league

As someone who recommended taking starting pitching early this year, Clayton Kershaw getting hurt and Stephen Strasburg currently sporting a 5.33 ERA sure hasn’t helped my case. But after those two, most have been as advertised (give or take). I’m in no way claiming victory with this strategy (and admittedly, I was high on Danny Salazar, Homer Bailey and Zack Wheeler. Chris Sale and Alex Cobb are also currently on the DL), but the biggest disappointments so far have been hitters for the most part. Before I go any further, I want to be clear I expect almost all of these hitters will be fine moving forward. We are still dealing with small samples. But there are some serious star hitters off to pretty horrendous starts.

This discussion must begin with Miguel Cabrera, who hit just his second homer of the year Tuesday and is currently batting .235/.297/.412. Cabrera won his second straight MVP last season while hitting .348 with 44 homers. But while dealing with an injury, he managed just one home run after August 26 (not to mention a .262/.311/.405 line over 42 ABs in the playoffs). But he’s Miguel Cabrera and seemingly healthy now. It would be insulting your intelligence if I told you to try to buy him low…I actually predicted Prince Fielder would lead the league in homers this year, brushing off last year’s down numbers to off field problems, and it sure didn’t hurt he was moving from a neutral park when it comes to home runs for left-handed batters to one that has increased them by 22 percent over the past three years. But he’s batting .200 with a .671 OPS right now after posting a .561 OPS and somehow recording zero RBI over 40 postseason at bats last year. In fact, despite hitting predominantly cleanup behind baseball’s best hitter last year and in one of baseball’s best hitter’s parks this season, Fielder has recorded just 11 RBI over his past 48 games. Despite this slump, he has nearly twice as many intentional walks (nine) as any other hitter this season (Giancarlo Stanton is second with five). Fielder is still just 29 years old, so it’s probably not worth panicking, but he’s hitting far more groundballs this season than ever before, for what it’s worth.

Here’s Billy Hamilton going from first to third on a groundout to the pitcher. He scored during the next at bat on a groundball to third base with the infield in.

Here’s Yasiel Puig doing Yasiel Puig things (both plays happened in the same inning).

Here’s Martin Maldonado hitting the cover off a baseball.

After averaging a HR per 13.7 ABs over the past two seasons, Edwin Encarnacion’s long ball Tuesday was his first of the year and came during his 77th at bat. He had 20 more walks than strikeouts last year, which is remarkable for a slugger, but his K% is way up this year (it’s 23.9 compared to 10.0 last season). It’s usually best to ignore 20-game samples assuming the player is healthy, but strikeout rates typically stabilize around 60 plate appearances. EE is up to 93 PAs in 2014. Moreover, his SwStr% (9.3) and GB% (37.9) are both his highest marks since 2007...Jedd Gyorko was just given a contract extension that guaranteed him $35 million, but more importantly, I spent $17 on him in NL LABR. He currently sports a .141/.225/.225 line…Carlos Santana has more walks than strikeouts and has been freed from playing catcher, yet he’s batting .136/.313/.212. This is someone who posted an 84-27-79 line as a 25-year-old (he entered that season with just 150 career ABs playing a catcher position that’s the toughest for prospects to develop quickly). Santana’s .170 BABIP will improve (especially since he has a 53.2 GB%, even if he’s slow), but pointing out an outlier like that with any of these players so far off their mean seems superfluous.

Here’s a ghost car.

Here’s someone trying to take a selfie but getting kicked in the head instead.

“Safety as you know is paramount.”

It doesn’t take a genius to call Billy Butler a buy low candidate, because the DH’s value can’t get much lower. Having said that, it’s not like his slow start has been a product of poor luck. Butler has been decidedly bad at baseball. He has a 3.27 GB/FB ratio to go along with an 18.2 IFFB% and a career worst 17.7 K%. In other words, when he’s actually put the ball in play, chances are it hasn’t left the infield. I thought Butler was a great bounce back candidate after slugging just 15 homers last year (he hit 29 the season before), but it’s been an ugly start…Pedro Alvarez is walking more than ever, already has a career high two stolen bases and is on pace to hit 44 homers. But he’s currently sporting a .173 batting average…Speaking of paces, after hitting 53 home runs last season, Chris Davis has two so far in 2014. He has a career-high BB% (15.9) and LD% (25.0) to go along with a HR/FB% (5.6) that is much lower than his career norm (21.9). Davis is unlikely to come close to last year’s HR total, but it’s safe to say he’s going to perform a whole lot better moving forward…Robinson Cano was the No. 9 most valuable fantasy player last year. So far this season, he’s ranked No. 288, behind the likes of Joe Smith. Again, most of these hitters off to sluggish starts will rebound from here on out, so stay patient. But it also wasn’t exactly crazy to use an early pick on starting pitchers either.

Here are highlights of the 10-best dunks of the 2013/14 NBA season.

He’s no “Special Head,” but this guy’s illusions are pretty legit.

"Orphan Black" is a very good television show you all should be watching. The star of said show is amazing.

Quick Hits: Brett Lawrie is on pace to finish the year batting .165 with 139 RBI…Albert Pujols was hitting .200/.226/.333 just two weeks ago but has since gone on a tear, knocking eight homers with 19 RBI over the past 14 games, including career home run No. 500 on Tuesday. Pujols may never be the hitter he once was, but it’s clear he’s capable of bouncing back in a nice way now that he’s healthy…Devin Mesoraco started the year hurt but has been on fire ever since returning. He’s hit safely in all 11 games he’s played this year, producing a .541/.571/.946 line with three homers and 12 RBI over 37 at bats. The former top-15 pick looks poised to finally live up to being one of the game’s best catching prospects…Over his last 11.2 innings, Ernesto Frieri has surrendered a whopping eight homers. He’s also recorded a 17:3 K:BB ratio over that span, but his current 29.7 K% seems way high since it comes with a 6.7 SwStr% that is by far a career low. Manager Mike Scioscia claims the team will stick with Frieri as closer, but he can’t afford any more bad outings (the Angels have produced just four save opportunities over 21 games despite scoring the third most runs in baseball).

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Quick Hits Part Deux: The Braves and Marlins combined for a 28:0 K:BB ratio during Tuesday’s game (and also combined for another 28 punch outs during Wednesday’s game). Jose Fernandez has a 24:0 K:BB ratio over his last two starts. He’s already accumulated more WAR than the rest of the first 2.5 rounds (113 picks) of the 2011 draft combined…Maybe there’s no causation, but it’s curious Chris Sale went on the disabled list a few days after he was allowed to throw 127 pitches over seven innings during his last start. This was during an outing in April by someone who’s always had mechanics scouts have worried about...Ike Davis may still sit some against lefties, but with the trade to the Pirates, he’ll start most games against right-handers, so his value gets a boost purely on increased playing time. PNC Park has suppressed home runs by 22 percent over the past three seasons, but Davis could eventually find himself batting cleanup in Pittsburgh…Sticking with the Bucs, Jason Grilli has already blown more saves this season (three) than he did all of last year (two) and is tied for the league “lead” in the category. Grilli’s role as Pittsburgh’s closer remains intact for now, but any more missteps and that might change quickly. Mark Melancon, whose 1.44 ERA since the beginning of last year is the second lowest in all of baseball (minimum 80.0 innings) would be a more than viable alternative and should be owned in fantasy leagues…During the three games in which Ryan Braun has went deep, he’s batted .533 with six homers and 11 RBI. During his other 16 games, he’s hit .226 with five RBI. Of course this means nothing, and homering off a bad pitcher counts the same as a good one in fantasy leagues, but I still have no idea what to make of his thumb injury when trying to value Braun over the rest of 2014. One area of his game in clear decline is on the base paths, as after going 77-for-93 on SB attempts from 2010-2012, he’s just 6-for-13 since.

Police Blotter: In Chicago, Prostitutes Are More Likely To have Sex With A Police Officer Than To Get Arrested By One...Couple Steals A Car So They Can Make Court Date In Timely Fashion...Drug Suspect’s Last Name – Cocaine – Surprises Judge...Baby Raises Alarm After Thief Changes Channel...Tennessee Cop Fired After Shooting, Pepper Spraying Squirrel...Gangbanger Dead After Being Shot Trying To Attack Witness In Courtroom...Oscar Pistorius Took Acting Lessons To Ready For Teary Performance At Trial...Man Upset Over 22-Cent Pepsi Tax Pulls Submachine Gun...Man Spotted Having Sex With BART Seat Convicted For Lewdness...Man With ‘Murder’ Tattooed On Neck Wants To Hide Ink Before Murder Trial...Woman Went On Crack Binge, Gave Birth In Motel Bathtub And Cut The Umbilical Cord With Her Teeth...Florida Woman Calls 911 On The Sun.

Quick Hits Part Tres: It was insane manager Mike Redmond called for a sacrifice bunt with runners on first and second and no outs in a tie game in the ninth with Giancarlo Stanton up next (actively trying to take the bat out of his team’s best hitter’s hands), but the Marlins caught a huge break thanks to the ridiculous new transfer rule. Stanton then proceeded to do this (again, he wouldn’t have even been able to swing the bat had his manager’s plan been successful). Stanton’s average home run has traveled an MLB-high 439.0 feet so far this season, and he’s on pace to finish with 199 RBI…Most assumed Curtis Granderson’s power numbers would suffer leaving Yankee Stadium, but his production has been even uglier than expected, as he’s hitting a hideous .125 with 25 strikeouts over 72 at bats. PECOTA projects him to bat .229 over the rest of the season, so Granderson owners are looking at a serious BA drain to go along with someone who no longer runs like he used to. Although to be fair, his two steals so far are actually impressive considering his .238 OBP….Jed Lowrie got a hard time (and by hard time I mean thrown at multiple times) for bunting when the A’s led 7-0. It was in the first inning. During this same game, George Springer was credited with a stolen base down eight runs. One night before this, Brandon Belt “stealing” second base in a two-run game in the ninth inning with one out was termed “fielder’s indifference,” as if taking away the double play and a force out had less value than Springer taking a base in an eight run game! I’m not sure what’s crazier, baseball’s unwritten rules or it’s written ones (holds and wins are even worse than this silly SB scenario).

Song of the Week: Jack White – “Lazaretto”

Longread of the Week: Sins Of The Preacher.

Bonus Longread of the Week: The Whistleblower’s Last Stand.

Quick Hits Part Four: Cliff Lee’s last 10 starts have produced a 92:3 K:BB ratio, which isn’t bad…At least Ricky Nolasco used to have good peripherals to go along with his poor ERA (not that it mattered much in fantasy leagues, unless yours used xFIP), but he has a 12:7 K:BB ratio over 23.2 innings this season. Meanwhile, Phil Hughes, another xFIP darling, only this one whom I bought into as an extreme fly ball pitcher switching from Yankee Stadium (which increased HR for LHB by an MLB-high 33 percent over the past three years) to Target Field (which decreased HR for LHB by 25 percent over the past three years) has a strong 20:6 K:BB ratio over 21.0 innings yet an ugly 6.43 ERA and 1.67 WHIP. All three of his home runs allowed have come during his two road starts, but he’s given up eight earned runs over 10.0 innings during his two home starts, so it might be time to stop making excuses (actually, smarter fantasy owners than me came to this conclusion earlier). It’s fitting Nolasco and Hughes are now on the same team. It’s pretty crazy the Twins have scored the fourth-most runs in baseball, while the Red Sox rank 21, the Cardinals 23 and the Tigers 26…The A’s became the last team this season to lose back-to-back games when they fell to the Rangers on Tuesday…Mark Buehrle is 35 years old, pitches in a park that has boosted homers for RHB by 21 percent over the past three years (the second most in the AL) and has averaged 82.8 mph with his fastball, yet his 0.64 ERA leads the American League. But that looks downright predictable compared to the National League’s ERA leader, who’s Aaron Harang at 0.85 (his WHIP is actually higher at 0.88). He’s also 35 years old featuring a fastball that averages less than 90.0 mph (and entered Wednesday’s start with a 4.21 BB/9 rate). Francisco Rodriguez leads MLB with nine saves. Middle reliever Jean Machi is tied for the lead in wins in MLB with four, having tossed a total of nine innings this season (the aforementioned Harang has fewer wins while allowing a total of three runs over 31.2 innings). It’s almost as if baseball is unpredictable…Here’s Elvis Andrus becoming an early candidate for worst swing of the year.

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