Tuesday, May 21, 2013

3 Bats & 3 Arms

Matt Kemp's power outage is very real. His batted ball distance on homers and fly balls this year averages 269.79 feet, last year he lead the league with a 313 foot average distance. MLB average is 275-280 feet. The offseason shoulder surgery is the obvious culprit. 

The Dodgers likely wouldn't risk long term injury by having him play every day if he wasn't feeling 100%, so that's the good news. Power is usually the last thing to come back in the recovery process. I think the Dodgers will likely administer a cortisone shot in the near future. It's what turned Ryan Zimmerman’s season around last year while he was nursing a bum shoulder, and Kemp received one in September last year and cranked out 6 HR that month. I’m not a doctor, but experts in the field have suggested the same thing.

That won’t be the cure to all of his problems though. It won’t improve his hand-eye coordination. K% is up, BB% is down, but Kemp has likely been pressing at the plate due to high expectations of him. Hopefully the HR he hit last night was the confidence booster he needed.

I’m bullish on the AVG and HR to improve, but I just can’t project them to come back at the high levels fantasy owners got in ’11 and ’12. Still too much uncertainty with how Kemp and the Dodgers are managing the shoulder. Think .280, 17 HR the rest of the way as a modest projection.

Manny Machado has been great, but just how great? Assuming he plays in all 162 games (a tall order), he's on pace for 18 HR/14 SB. Good, but not the type of numbers that usually wind up inside the top 30 on the Y! player rater. It's the AVG and RBI/R that give him a lot of value. Machado doesn't exactly have great plate discipline, not working the count and putting balls in play that he shouldn't be chasing. A high BABIP is fueling his average. Remember he never hit for a great AVG in the minors, he's more of a .270-.275 hitter. A lower AVG also means lower counting stats. With a high probability of regression and potential fatigue, he’s likely to hit a speed bump this year.

Gerardo Parra has been a nice surprise, but he's only on pace for a 14/14 season while playing over his head. Let's not act like he's a world beater. Adam Eaton is due back soon which will cut into his playing time as well. He's a good bet to fall off the fantasy map in most formats.

Normally I wouldn't say to trade for a pitcher with an ERA over 5 that’s on the disabled list, but David Price is the exception to that rule. Still has a K/9 above 8, sub 2.5 BB/9, and nothing alarming in his batted ball data.

He has lost some juice on the fastball, but since he’s actually gained some zip on his curve and changeup, I’m optimistic the flames will come back. Playing in the AL East is always a tall task, but his matchups have been even tougher than usual. Only 1 offense he’s faced has been in the bottom half of league scoring, and that’s the Blue Jays who are #16 out of 30. Soon enough he will wind up with a soft schedule to pad his stats.

Marco Estrada has a K/9 above 8, BB/9 under 3, inducing more grounders/fewer liners/less fly balls, yet his HR/9 is up. SwStr% is up slightly, and his contact rate is down. Velocity is down a bit and he’s not working inside the strike zone as much, but his pitches are still doing what they’re supposed to do. Late movement on the fastball, off-speed pitches are still breaking hard, etc. He's not going to cost you an arm and a leg, so why not take a flier on him and buy low?

Hisashi Iwakuma has been a big surprise and a great story, but everything I see screams that a decline is certain. 180 degree in his batted ball data, more fly balls/less grounders, and his HR/9 is somehow down. The batted ball distance is down 1.3 feet, virtually identical. Velocity is down on all of his pitches. His pitch selection remains close to the same as last year. Batters are swinging at the same rate as last year and making the same amount of contact inside the zone. How he’s been able to miss more bats is puzzling.

The biggest improvement is his control, big slash in BB/9. He’s throwing more first pitch strikes and constantly working inside the strike zone. Considering he was known for his control in Japan, it makes sense that this would return after a year of experience in America.

I also worry about his endurance. During his time in Japan he wasn't able to eat up innings, dealing with a shoulder injury that would bark up from time to time. He’s on pace to throw for a career high 230 innings, but he only logged 119 in 2011 and 125 last season. He could slow down or have that injury bark up again.
None of this is meant to bash Iwakuma, but to highlight the unsustainable numbers he’s put up. He’s the #9 SP in the Y! player rater. If you can convince someone he’s an ace, sell him high.

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