FACTS/FLUKES: Fielder, I. Suzuki, Vargas, Scott, Blackley

Despite drop in power, Fielder still produces…Baseball royalty arrived in Detroit this past offseason when Prince Fielder (1B, DET) signed with the Tigers. With a starting gig in the All Star game, Fielder is clearly popular with the fans; he’s certainly added a solid bat to the Tigers’ lineup.

Year  AB    BA    xBA  bb%  ct%   G/L/F    HR  PX   hr/f
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ========  ==  ===  ====  
2008  588  .276  .239   13   77  41/19/40  34  146   19% 
2009  591  .299  .292   16   77  41/16/43  46  191   24%  
2010  578  .261  .226   16   76  42/18/40  32  138   18%  
2011  569  .299  .282   16   81  43/20/37  38  176   20%
2012  321  .299  .305   11   86  43/24/33  15  120   16%

Fielder’s numbers have suffered a bit compared to years past:

  • He’s lost some plate patience; while he’s still walking more frequently than league average, he’s far from the standard he set over the past three years.
  • At the same time, he’s making contact at a much higher rate than ever. The result is a BA hovering around .300.
  • Fielder’s power pace has also slowed. This isn’t too surprising, since Comerica suppresses LH HR by 11%; his previous home, Miller Park, enhanced LH HR by +16%. But in addition to hr/f and PX being down, he’s also hitting fewer fly balls.

Even with the new plate approach, Fielder remains a strong middle-of-the-order presence on a contending team.  But while he’s likely to maintain the .300 average, his new home ballpark makes it unlikely that he’ll challenge his HR totals from years past.   

 

Age catching up to Suzuki…Having surpassed 2500 career hits, Ichiro Suzuki (OF, SEA) has his sights set on 3000. But the 38-year old Suzuki hasn’t been able to produce like in his salad days.

Year   AB   BA    xBA   OBA  bb%  ct%  h%   G/L/F    PX  Spd  SBO  SB
====  ===  ====  ====  ====  ===  ===  ==  ========  ==  ===  ===  ==
2008  686  .310  .284  .358    7   91  34  57/20/23  43  174  20%  43
2009  639  .352  .284  .383    5   89  38  56/18/26  66  157  17%  26
2010  680  .315  .269  .357    6   87  35  57/17/25  55  136  23%  42
2011  677  .272  .281  .311    5   90  30  60/19/21  40  124  24%  40
2012  356  .261  .284  .291    4   90  28  47/25/28  53  118  16%  12

It’s not hard to see why he’s struggling:

  • Suzuki’s h% is down for the second straight year. While not far from league average, it’s well below his usual pace—from 2008-2010, he averaged 36%.
  • He’s also walking less than in the past. Combine that with the BA struggles, and his OBA is below .300 for the first time in his career. Before 2011, he never hit below .300 or had an OBA below .347.
  • Spd and SBO are also down; it’s not looking like he’ll match the 40+ SBs he posted the past two years.

Even with these struggles, xBA shows that there’s some BA upside here. But simply put, Suzuki is showing his age. While his BA will likely rise in the second half, the high stolen base totals are a thing of the past.  

 

Vargas making small gains…Last week’s complete game win over the A’s allowed Jason Vargas (LHP, SEA) to bump his record to 8-7. With the Mariners wallowing in the AL West cellar, it’s easy to overlook Vargas, but he’s doing a few things to contribute to your fanalytic squad.

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  vsLH  H%  S%  Ctl  Dom  Cmd   G/L/F    hr/9  hr/f  BPV
====  ===  ====  ====  ====  ==  ==  ===  ===  ===  ========  ====  ====  ===
2009* 143  4.40  4.51  .290  30  71  2.5  5.8  2.3  37/21/42   1.2   13%   47
2010  193  3.78  4.84  .200  28  71  2.5  5.4  2.1  36/17/47   0.8    6%   43
2011  201  4.25  4.37  .278  30  70  2.6  5.9  2.2  36/20/44   1.0    8%   48
2012  126  4.07  4.05  .288  25  72  2.3  6.1  2.7  39/20/41   1.6   15%   66
*- inc MLEs

Vargas hasn’t been dominant, but he’s shown a bit of growth this year:

  • He doesn’t strike out a ton of hitters; rather, he relies on good Ctl. His Cmd has inched up, approaching 3.0.
  • While he still gives up a decent number of fly balls, he’s doing better than the past couple of years. He’s been unlucky with hr/f; his ERA should improve as that normalizes.
  • He hurled PQS-DOM performances in his past three games. On the year, Vargas has a PQS DOM/DIS split of 53/16, consistent with the 50/22 he posted in 2011.
  • Vargas could help his cause by doing better against lefties.

Don’t expect major improvements in the second half; H% indicates there may be some ERA downside in his future. But if you’re looking for a pitcher for the back end of your rotation, Vargas does enough to warrant a spot on your team.

 

Injuries, low h% plaguing Scott…Having returned from the DL with a bad back at the end of June, Luke Scott (DH, TAM) set about trying to end a long hitless streak. He got to 0-for-41 before popping a home run last Friday. Between the injury and streak, it’s been a rough first half for Scott.

Year   AB    BA   xBA  bb%  ct%  h%   G/L/F    HR   PX  hr/f
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ==  ========  ==  ===  ====
2008  475  .257  .269   10   79  28  39/17/44  23  136   14%
2009  449  .258  .265   11   77  28  40/17/43  25  141   17%
2010  447  .284  .295   12   78  31  40/19/41  27  165   19%
2011  209  .220  .246   10   74  25  43/16/41   9  126   14%
2012  215  .205  .257    5   76  22  43/16/41  11  132   16%

Scott’s performance has lagged for several reasons:

  • He’s abandoned his usual plate patience, with far fewer walks than normal.
  • Low h% is also depressing Scott’s BA. xBA shows that his performance isn’t far off from recent years.
  • His power profile is consistent with 2011, when he also struggled with injuries. Even if fully healthy, though, leaving Camden Yards (+22% LH HR) for Tropicana Field (neutral) limits his power upside.

At this point in his career, Scott is a one-dimensional player – decent power with a below-average BA. Since he’s been plagued with injuries the past couple of years, Scott remains a roster risk.

 

First impression: Travis Blackley (LHP, OAK)

CALLED UP: May 2
CURRENT ROLE: Starting Pitcher
POTENTIAL FUTURE ROLE: mid-rotation starter
MINOR LEAGUE STATS: 2012 Fresno (AAA) - 3 gs, 3-0 0.39 ERA, 23.1 IP, 6.3 Cmd, 1.2 Ctl, 7.3 Dom, .163 oppBA

Year/level    IP   ERA  xERA   G/L/F    Ctl  Dom  Cmd  hr/9
==========   ===  ====  ====  ========  ===  ===  ===  ====
2009 AAA     111  4.85                  3.1  8.2  2.7   0.9
2010 AAA      53  4.61                  5.8  7.7  1.3   0.7
2012 majors   56  3.20  3.87  46/19/35  1.8  5.4  3.1   0.2

Blackley’s performance has been a pleasant surprise for the A’s:

  • He doesn’t strike out many batters, but thrives by avoiding free passes. This is a new trait; he didn’t show this Ctl in the minors in 2009/10.
  • He’s been lucky with hr/f; as that normalizes, his ERA will likely rise.
  • In his seven starts, he has four PQS-Dom performances (including a win @ TEX) and two consecutive PQS-Dis outings (vs TEX and @ARI).

Blackley wasn’t exactly on anyone’s radar last spring—he didn’t pitch at all last year, and hasn’t been in the majors since 2007. As Oakland’s injured starters return in the second half, his playing time may be impacted. But as long as he continues to be stingy with the walks, he remains an acceptable choice for deep-league rotations.

 


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.