FACTS/FLUKES: Gardner, Beltre, Blanton, Murphy, Noesi

Can Gardner pick up where he left off? ... The 2012 season was a wash Brett Gardner (OF, NYY), who dealt with multiple setbacks from a sore right elbow before finally succumbing to surgery in July. The silver lining? His most valuable asset—his legs—remain in perfect working condition. So what can we expect from a healthy Gardner in 2013?

Year  AB    BA    xBA   OBP  h%  bb%  ct%  Eye    G/L/F    PX   Spd  SBO  SB  BPV
====  ===  ====  ====  ====  ==  ===  ===  ====  ========  ==   ===  ===  ==  ===      
2009  248  .270  .256  .345  31    9   84  0.65  49/18/33  59   172  40%  26   58
2010  477  .277  .257  .383  34   14   79  0.78  53/19/28  72   151  31%  39   52
2011  510  .259  .260  .345  30   11   82  0.65  52/19/28  72   161  39%  42   57
2012   31  .323  .266  .417  42   14   77  0.71  38/38/25  60   93   31%   2   14

All signs point to a consolidation campaign:

  • While we can probably write off last season's robust average to sample size, it's clear he'll need to maintain a h% in the mid-30s to secure a respectable BA.
  • His contact rate is borderline acceptable for a speedster, but the addition of a potent batting eye ensures he'll get on base enough to utilize his elite wheels.
  • Few players are given the green light on the bathpaths more than Gardner, which means you can all but pencil in another 40-steal season. 

A healthy Gardner returns to an aging but still effective NYY offense that ranked 2nd in runs scored in 2012. And with Ichiro Suzuki batting leadoff, Gardner could find himself in scoring position more often than not if he can get on base. Use 2011 as a baseline and bid accordingly.  

 

Searching for chinks in Beltre's armor ... Adrian Beltre (3B, TEX) performed like an elite 3B once again in 2012, amassing his highest HR total (36) since 2004 and recording an 80+ BPV for the third time in three years. He's certainly benefited from the hitter-friendly confines of Rangers Park, but given his climbing age (34) and injury history, it's reasonable to investigate for any signs of decline. 

Year   AB   BA    xBA  vLHP   bb%  ct%  Eye  h%   G/L/F     PX  HR  hr/f  BPV
====  ===  ====  ====  ====  ===  ===  ====  ==  ========  ===  ==  ====  === 
2010  589  .321  .312  .328   6   86   0.49  34  40/19/40  148  28  13%    95        
2011  487  .296  .315  .315   5   89   0.47  28  38/18/44  156  32  16%   107
2012  604  .321  .299  .269   6   86   0.44  33  39/21/40  136  36  17%    84

While there's not much to pick at, a few minor warts do stand out:

  • HIt rate cooperated similar to 2010 levels, and a small dip in PX resulted in Beltre out-performing his BA by more than 20 points. 
  • Lefties figured him out (at least during 1H, when he batted .259). 
  • While we wouldn't count on a drastic correction in hr/f given the Arlington effect, but a return closer to 2010—right around his career baseline—means another season of 30+ HRs is no sure bet. 

Again, we're nitpicking here. As long as he avoids the DL, there's not enough skills erosion to suggest he won't enjoy another highly productive season. However, if hr/f regresses as predicted and his slip vL is for real, another year of .300 BA + 30 HRs may be wishful thinking. 

 

Will Blanton's stats catch up to his skills? ... The enigma that is Joe Blanton (RHP, LAA) has frustrated owners in recent years, as he's posted stellar BPIs with not much to show for his efforts. Pitching for his third squad in since 2011, it appears MLB teams are growing tired of playing the waiting game as well.

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  H%  S%  Ctl  Dom  Cmd   G/L/F    hr/f  hr/9  BPV
====  ===  ====  ====  ==  ==  ===  ===  ===  ========  ====  ====  ===
2009  195  4.05  4.06  30  74  2.7  7.5  2.8  41/20/39   13%   1.4   81
2010  176  4.82  4.08  33  70  2.2  6.9  3.1  42/19/39   12%   1.4   84       
2011  41   5.01  3.36  37  68  2.0  7.6  3.9  55/17/28   14%   1.1  117
2012  191  4.71  3.61  32  67  1.6  7.8  4.9  45/23/32   15%   1.4  121

Really, all he needs is a shift of luck to reach his potential:

  • He's outperformed his ERA for three years now, a reflection on how H% and S% have buried to him over that period of time.
  • Encouraging trends across the board in Ctl, Dom, Cmd don't leave much room for improvement—these are ace-level BPIs.
  • Chronic gopheritis has played a significant role in his inability to realize his xERA, and looks to have been exacerbated by his move to Citizens Bank Park.    

Owners fed up with Blanton's ineffectiveness may want to reconsider passing him up on draft day. While the move back to the AL might seem like a potential deterrent, Angels Stadium actually suppresses LHB HR by 22% and RHB HR by 19%. Also, pitching for a loaded LAA lineup could help pad his win total. He remains a risky investment because of his shaky past, but if there was ever a time to take a leap of faith on him, it's now. 

 

Murphy looks to shed "platoon" tag ... Josh Hamilton's (OF, LAA) departure has opened the door for David Murphy (OF, TEX)—one of fantasy's most reliable (if underwhelming) streaming options—to finally get a crack at 500 ABs. Maintaining his surprising success vs. left-handers in 2012 (.347 BA) will be paramount in whether or not he's able to take advantage of the increased PT. 

Year   AB    BA   xBA    vL  h%   bb%  ct%  Eye    G/L/F   PX   Spd  HR  SB  BPV
====  ===  ====  ====  ====  ==  ===  ===  ====  ========  ===  ===  ==  ==  ===      
2009  432  .269  .255  .235  32   10   75  0.46  38/19/43  120   98  17   9   43
2010  419  .291  .277  .272  33   10   83  0.63  44/19/36  106   99  12  14   68
2011  404  .275  .264  .215  30    8   85  0.54  55/17/29   78  113  11  11   45
2012  457  .304  .279  .347  34   11   84  0.73  43/21/35  110  102  15  10   72

There are multiple reasons for optimism here:

  • Murphy's plate skills have spiked, creating an acceptable BA floor. 
  • 2011's high GB rate now looks like an anomaly, and he added a nice LD uptick to boot. 
  • Repeating that lofty BA vL looks like a dubious task given that it was aided by a 44% h%, but it's not as if he's been a complete disaster against them in the past (see: 2010), so a complete regression back to mediocrity would be surprising.

Because of his platoon history Murphy has experienced less wear and tear than most 31-year-olds, offering some upside even at this stage of his career. Extrapolate 2011 over another 100+ ABs, and he becomes even more underrated. Just brace yourself for some BA regression. 

 

Is it time to write off Noesi? ... Once upon a time, Hector Noesi (RHP, SEA) garnered some sleeper hype after flashing promising BPIs in a nearly 60-inning trial as a reliever/spot starter with NYY. Only he fell flat as a starter after being traded to SEA, ultimately landing in the minors by early July. What went wrong?

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  H%  S%  Ctl  Dom  Cmd   G/L/F    hr/f  hr/9  BPV
====  ===  ====  ====  ==  ==  ===  ===  ===  ========  ====  ====  ===
2010+  117 4.28  4.34  33  69  1.8  6.4  3.6  -------    --   0.8    87       
2011*  81  4.50  5.05  35  72  3.6  6.6  1.8  41/26/34   10%  0.7    53
2012   107 5.82  4.97  27  62  3.3  5.7  1.7  37/18/45   14%  1.8    29
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
12-AAA 64  5.80  --    37  65  3.0  6.6  2.2  --------   --   0.9    50

+AA/AAA
*Includes MLEs  

Noesi's demotion looks warranted:

  • 2010's plate command has completely vanished, and it didn't return during his stint in the minors, either. 
  • Serving up long balls is a tall order at Safeco Field, but he did so in 13 of his 18 starts by flip-flopping GBs for FBs. 
  • Fastball velocity dipped a tick (from 93 to 92 mph), and was perhaps partially responsible for the drop in Dom. 

If there's anything to take away from Noesi's disastrous 2012, it's that upon his return in September he pitched 8.2 innings in relief and allowed just 1 ER—something to consider given his 7.2 Dom and 4.14 xERA from his MLB time in 2011. With higher-ceiling youngsters like Danny Hultzen (LHP, SEA) and Taijuan Walker (RHP, SEA) in the running for rotation spots, Noesi may find himself back in a relief role—a place he probably shouldn't have left in the first place. 


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