Eno Sarris

Baseball Daily Dose

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Exit Velocity

Monday, April 11, 2011


Ted Williams represents the peak. Hit .316 with 29 home runs in 390 plate appearances at 42 years old - your 29th home run coming in your final at-bat - and you can walk away from the game with your head held high. His name is invoked whenever we see a player hanging on a little too obviously, a little too desperately, with too much of his talent slipping away with each at-bat. We thought we'd seen some bad endings to some strong careers along the years.

And now there is Manny Ramirez.

Now he's got a stranglehold on the other end of the spectrum. Threatened with a 100-game suspension for another failed drug test, he dropped his bat and went home by announcing his retirement. One of the greatest hitters ever, leaving when presented with evidence of wrongdoing. If only that would work in other professions, right?

In this profession, it'd be hard to reach such depths. Even the worst writer, hanging on far too long, will still find a place to display his craft. There are no suspensions for our performance-enhancing drugs (caffeine, mostly).

Which brings me to me doing my profession better. Every time I make a decision to discuss a player in these daily notes, I make a decision about how many people would be interested in hearing more about the player. That mostly has to do with how deep their leagues are, or if the tidbit is about performance or injury.

So how deep are your leagues? Tell me how deep you want the player notes to go, what sort of focus should they have, and which aspects of the Dose and the dot-dots you would keep and which you'd change. Then I can be better at my profession and not get booed off, stage right. Thanks!

* Across baseball, velocities peak in late July and early August, so perhaps it's not surprising that some pitchers are a little behind the game right now. It doesn't always mean something when a pitcher is showing reduced fastball gas. Phil Hughes is the obvious candidate, and he'll need some zip to return before he's a solid buy-low. Scott Baker, who struggled again Sunday, owns velo that is down a tad, but once it (and his control) returns, he'll be fine as a fringe starter in most leagues. In Florida, Anibal Sanchez has a fastball that's lost a mile per hour - and can't afford to. He's sort of a borderline case, with his stuff, so if you get a good offer, it might be a good idea to let him go. Chris Young never had good velocity, and now is sitting 84 with his "fast"ball, but his other stuff has been working and he's a great spot-start at home against weaker offenses, as his one-run, seven-inning, five-strikeout effort against Washington Sunday showed. Wade Davis has lost about two miles per hour, and his strikeout rate has also taken a dive. He's still got upside but it's hard to own him in a mixed league.

Some pitchers are showing good velocity with mediocre results. Erik Bedard has his velocity back and struck out six Indians Sunday, but after they scored six in four innings, he's also struggling to get it right. Since he's healthy, he's still an interesting waiver pickup in medium-depth leagues. Yovani Gallardo, a great buy low because his swing strike percentages are usually squarely above average, struggled Sunday. Go get him even though he's struck out only eight in his first twenty innings because his velocity and all three pitches are still there. Colby Lewis hasn't shown his old gas, and after giving up four runs in six innings against Baltimore Saturday, it's fair to worry about him. Chris Capuano showed his best fastball speed since 2004 while striking out eight Nationals in six innings Saturday. Too bad he gave up two home runs. Javier Vazquez is showing better radar-gun numbers than last year, but not as good as he did two years ago. He might be on a quick decline at 34 - striking out four Astros in six innings is not a grand argument against. Bud Norris had both velocity (93+ MPH) and strikeouts (six) in six innings against the Marlins, but gave up a home run again. The strikeouts alone make him interesting still.

Some pitchers are just no good, velocity or no. Rick Porcello is down about a mile-per-hour, but he also just isn't good right now, with six strikeouts against four walks in ten innings after giving up five runs for the second straight start Sunday. Joe Saunders walked five and gave up four earned in three innings against the Reds and is not rosterable in fantasy leagues right now. Josh Tomlin held the Mariners to three runs, but that's not really a resume-builder these days, and he's a fringe AL-only starter at best. Wade LeBlanc's velocity is up a couple ticks, but it seems he's lost the fifth-starter role in San Diego to Dustin Moseley for the time being. Let's hope for Cory Luebke eventually.

* Struggling rookies are the hardest players to keep on your roster. Brandon Belt went hitless on Sunday and is now batting .161, but he's walked four times against six strikeouts and doesn't look overmatched at the plate. He has leash still. Freddie Freeman did hit a single Sunday, but is hitting .188 on the year - then again, the Braves don't have many other options. Matt Joyce is not the same echelon as a prospect, but he has real power and now has a chance to regular playing time - he had two hits Sunday. Zach Britton is not struggling right now (7 2/3 shutout innings against the Rangers Saturday), but groundball specialists can live and die with their defense and their luck on batted balls - both of which could turn south at any moment. Look at Brandon Beachy, who followed an excellent first start with four runs and two strikeouts in six innings against the Phillies on Saturday. Hold on to high-upside guys like this on your bench as long as you can, though, because the return on investment in a player without much of a track record can be sky high.

* Closer situations seem to be more volatile in the early going. White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen ended some closer speculation that Matt Thornton created by pitching poorly on Friday and Saturday. Kind of. He said that he has Jesse Crain, Chris Sale, Sergio Santos and Matt Thornton there at the end of games, but that Thornton would have pitched Sunday if he hadn't pitched so much Friday and Saturday. Don't drop Thornton yet, but if you have space for Sale, he might be a good idea. In Los Angeles or Anaheim, Fernando Rodney got his second save Sunday and pitched well in the series. Hopefully for the team, the move to Jordan Walden was not temporary, since Rodney is the inferior pitcher.

National League Quick Hits: Stephen Drew (abdominal strain) had his first game since returning to action full force with four hits in four at-bats Sunday, and batting in cleanup might suit him (we might not have yet seen his best year, too) … Hanley Ramirez (leg) missed the weekend but wants to return Tuesday … Mike Stanton (hamstring) returned … Tony La Russa gave his closer the dreaded vote of confidence after Ryan Franklin blew his third save in four chances Saturday night … Jaime Garcia better be owned in all leagues after once again striking out nine (this time in a one-run, six-inning affair against the Giants) … You have another week Cameron Maybin didn't start, but he did hit a home run and a triple off the bench and is looking good in a new uniform … His oblique feels better, so Corey Hart scheduled batting practice for Tuesday … Laynce Nix hit a three-run homer to put the Sunday tilt with the Mets out of reach, but he was only in because Ryan Zimmerman aggravated his abdominal injury from spring training; the team doesn't think he'll be out too long … James McDonald hasn't shown the strikeouts he used to have (three in six-plus Sunday innings), which is a problem because he doesn't have great control … Kevin Slowey (shoulder) hit the disabled list despite a clean MRI … Jason Bay (intercostal strain) was scheduled for batting practice Sunday … Carlos Beltran hit two home runs Saturday and is relevant in deeper leagues … Cole Hamels returned to grace by shutting out the Braves in seven innings with eight strikeouts … Matt Holliday (appendectomy) came back on Sunday ... Derek Lowe almost matched him (two runs in seven), but with his reduced strikeout rate, he's a better spot-starter than every-starter … Jason Bartlett was held from Sunday's game with a stiff back but should be back soon … Andres Torres (Achilles) is in a walking boot, but the Giants still think it's mild … Todd Helton (back) can't stay in the lineup and is only really a one-category guy these days anyway … Jonathan Lucroy (pinkie) could be back Tuesday … Aaron Harang held the Dodgers down and is ahead of the game - he should be owned in most leagues even if he's not used for every start.

American League Quick Hits: Adam Dunn (appendectomy) took some swings and thinks he'll be ready Monday, but the team gets final say - guess those things don't keep you out as long any more … Manager Terry Francona put Mike Cameron in the lineup over Jacoby Ellsbury on Sunday, but it was merely a matchup thing … Alex Rodriguez missed the game with the flu, but it's hard to count on replacement Eric Chavez to do much … Josh Beckett had a great Sunday night, striking out ten Yankees against one walk in eight shut-out innings; he should be universally owned by now … Hey those of you in one-start eligibility leagues - Michael Cuddyer started at second base on Sunday … Russ Martin hit two home runs Saturday and shouldn't be on any waiver wires any more … Andrew Bailey (forearm) might throw off a mound Saturday … Jered Weaver struck out 15 Blue Jays on Sunday; it's looking like the strikeout rate jump he showed last year might be legit … On the other side of the Angels' staff, Scott Kazmir (back) hit the DL so he can have some time to go figure it out … Yunel Escobar (concussion) returned to action … Juan Rivera went hitless Sunday, and with Edwin Encarnacion butchering third, his playing time is under duress … Grady Sizemore (microfracture) played nine innings Saturday and will try two consecutive games early this week … Brandon McCarthy had a nice start Sunday against the Twins and could have solidified his grip on that fifth starter role in Oakland … Speedy Rajai Davis left Sunday's game because he was bothered by the same ankle that gave him trouble earlier this season (uh-oh) … Travis Hafner had a home run and three hits over the weekend … Derek Holland struck out six in six scoreless innings Sunday and is a high upside pickup in most leagues … J.J. Hardy (oblique) might be out six weeks, but the team will know more Monday … Wilson Betemit went four-for-four Sunday and is stealing playing time versus right-handers from the struggling Mike AvilesErick Aybar hit the DL with his strained oblique - he'll probably be back April 19th … Ryan Raburn hit a home run Saturday (off of Joakim Soria) but is sitting against most right-handers right now … Doug Fister once again lost and once again struck out virtually no-one, but like all Mariners starters, he's at least spot-start-worthy … The Yankees signed Carlos Silva to a minor league deal.


Eno Sarris is an editor and writer at FanGraphs.com. You can find his work gathered in one place at and enosarris.com. Follow his misadventures in writing on Twitter as well.
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