FACTS/FLUKES: Mauer, Guthrie, Kipnis, Janssen, Sierra

Return to form is well played, Mauer … When Joe Mauer (C, MIN) signed his mega-contract in the spring of 2010, it looked like he’d be a mainstay behind the plate for years to come. But knee issues sidelined him for two months of 2011, giving Twins’ fans a scary look at life without him. While the Twins aren’t doing much winning this year, Mauer looks like he’s healthy.

Year  AB    BA    xBA  vsLH  bb%  ct%  h%   G/L/F     PX  HR  hr/f  Spd
====  ===  ====  ====  ====  ===  ===  ==  ========  ===  ==  ====  ===  
2008  536  .328  .298  .361   14   91  35  49/23/28   74   9    6%   93
2009  523  .365  .322  .345   13   88  38  48/23/30  120  28   20%   79
2010  510  .327  .310  .272   11   90  35  47/24/29   97   9    7%   84
2011  296  .287  .275  .234   10   87  32  55/23/22   57   3    5%   86
2012  418  .321  .291  .305   14   85  36  55/25/20   79   8   11%   78

Things have returned to normal for Mauer:

  • xBA shows that he’s regained the solid skills he had before 2011. Mauer hit .312 in the second half of 2011, so the recovery actually started after he returned from the DL.
  • Mauer did poorly against LHP last year; he’s back in form this year.
  • The power surge of 2009 is a distant memory; it’s not likely to come back. Mauer hits a lot of balls on the ground, and a middling PX and hr/f limit his HR output.
  • Mauer is striking out a bit more than usual this year, but ct% remains above league average.

While still dealing with the nicks and dings typical for catchers, Mauer seems to be healthy and playing at his usual levels. It helps that he’s getting more games at 1B and DH to rest his knees. Going forward, expect the same from Mauer—a great BA with nothing more than the occasional HR.

 

Guthrie thrives in KC … One can only imagine how this conversation could have gone with Jeremy Guthrie (RHP, KC) last offseason: “The good news is that you’re leaving the launching pad of Camden Yards and going to the NL. The bad news is that you’ll be playing in Coors Field.” Guthrie struggled in his time in Colorado, but he’s now back in the AL.

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  H%  S%  Ctl  Dom  Cmd   G/L/F    hr/9  hr/f     
====  ===  ====  ====  ==  ==  ===  ===  ===  ========  ====  ====  
2008  191  3.63  4.40  27  75  2.7  5.7  2.1  44/18/38   1.1   10%  
2009  200  5.04  5.15  29  69  2.7  5.0  1.8  35/19/47   1.6   11%
2010  209  3.83  4.53  26  71  2.1  5.1  2.4  42/14/43   1.1    9%
2011  208  4.33  4.33  29  71  2.9  5.6  2.0  40/21/39   1.1   10%
2012  130  5.41  4.64  31  68  2.7  5.3  1.9  40/24/36   1.7   15%  

Guthrie’s steady (if unremarkable) skill set plays better in KC:

  • He’s never been much of a strikeout guy; the only time his Dom has been above 6.0 was in 2007, his first full season in the majors. Since he doesn’t give up many free passes, his Cmd has hovered around 2.0.
  • Going from COL (+29% LH HR) to KC (-36% LH HR) is definitely a step in the right direction; Guthrie’s hr/f can use a breather.
  • The lack of Dominance is also seen in this year’s 29/24 PQS DOM/DIS. Not surprisingly, much of that was due to pitching in Coors Field; he did better when he was with BAL (56/13, 38/13 in 2010/11). It’s not too surprising that his last four starts with KC have been PQS-DOM.

Guthrie is never going to blow batters away, but the move to Kansas City is clearly going to boost his value. If you’re looking for some starting pitching down the stretch, don’t hesitate to grab him.

 

Kipnis maintains plate skills despite 2H swoon … Forget Cabrera and Trout—at the start of the season, Jason Kipnis (2B, CLE) looked like an MVP candidate. But Kipnis has cooled considerably in the second half. 

Year    AB    BA   xBA  bb%  ct%   h%   G/L/F     PX  HR  hr/f  Spd  SB  SBO
====   ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ===  ========  ===  ==  ====  ===  ==  ===
2010+  315  .270  .259    7   78   33            104   7        115   5   8%  
2011*  479  .247  .262    9   76   30  45/21/34  120  15   21%  109  14  13%
2012   438  .256  .260   10   82   29  46/22/31   76  12   11%  102  23  22%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
12 1H  305  .275  .262    8   82   30  44/23/33   82  11   13%  122  19  22%
12 2H  133  .211  .243   14   81   25  52/20/28   57   1    3%   76   4  20%
+- AA MLEs
*- inc MLE

Despite his recent struggles, Kipnis is showing decent skills:

  • Even with the second half dropoff, Kipnis maintains a solid plate approach. He’s taking a good number of walks and isn’t striking out too frequently.
  • Low h% has contributed to the drop in BA, but xBA shows there’s been a drop in skills.
  • The steep drop in power is a concern; Kipnis is hitting a lot more balls on the ground. Monday's homer was his first since mid-June.
  • His Spd has also dropped; while he still runs, lower OBA in the second half has decreased his stolen base opportunities.

Kipnis is 25 and in his first full major league season, so it’s not surprising to see such streakiness. With a decent plate approach and a .300 BA in the minors, Kipnis should eventually see his BA go up. Just expect some ups and downs over the rest of the season.

 

Janssen seizes the opportunity … With a history of solid skills, it’s not surprising that the Blue Jays signed Casey Janssen (RHP, TOR) to a two-year contract (plus a team option) this past off-season. While not signed to finish games, Janssen has thrived in the closer’s role since Sergio Santos (RHP, TOR) went down with an injury.

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  H%  S%  Ctl  Dom  Cmd   G/L/F    hr/9  hr/f  BPV     
====   ==  ====  ====  ==  ==  ===  ===  ===  ========  ====  ====  ===
2009*  62  5.36  5.38  36  67  3.0  5.7  1.9  50/24/26   0.7   13%   44     
2010   69  3.67  3.69  34  77  2.8  8.3  3.0  47/22/31   1.0   12%   99     
2011   56  2.26  3.04  30  80  2.3  8.6  3.8  47/21/31   0.3    4%  118     
2012   48  2.27  2.72  23  79  1.3  9.1  6.9  45/22/34   0.9   13%  150
*Includes MLEs

It’s not surprising to see why Janssen has converted 16 of his 18 save opportunities:

  • His Ctl has improved in each of the past three years. Walks have been practically non-existent this year; he’s only issued seven free passes. Combine that with a high Dom, and his Cmd has gone through the roof.
  • Janssen does a good job of keeping the ball on the ground. Even though hr/f is high, he’s not given up a high number of HRs.
  • Janssen has been fortunate with a low H% and high S%, but xERA shows that even as that corrects, he will maintain a solid skill set.

With Santos out for the year, Janssen remains secure in the closer’s role. If he maintains this pace, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him hold the job at the start of next year, even if Santos returns fully healthy.

 

First impressions: Moises Sierra (OF, TOR)

CALLED UP: August 1
CURRENT ROLE: Starting OF
POTENTIAL FUTURE ROLE: Reserve OF

Year/level    AB   BA    OPS  bb%  ct%  PX  HR  SX  SB
==========   ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ==  ==  ==  ==
2011 MLE     495  .248  .682    6   79  84  15  98  13
2012 minors  377  .289  .832    9   77      17       7
2012 majors   44  .318  .825    4   80  92   2  78   1

Sierra’s hot start is masking some concerns:

  • He’s not being very patient; Sierra has taken only two walks in the majors. Below-average ct% in the minors means he’s not likely to maintain his current BA.
  • His BA is being further propped up by a 36% h%; despite the lofty BA, he’s got a .264 xBA.
  • His speed is below average. With a 57/20/23 G/L/F, most of those ground balls are turning into outs. He also gets caught stealing frequently; six times out of 13 attempts at AAA this year, 14 times in 30 attempts at AA in 2011.
  • The 23 year-old Sierra seems to have found his power stroke the past couple of years. He didn’t have a history of HRs until last year’s power “surge,” which continued at AAA this year.

Sierra got his chance when Travis Snider (OF, PIT) and Eric Thames (OF, SEA) were traded. While he may attain league-average power, a history of poor bb% and ct% mean he’s unlikely to hit for average. Sierra looks like he has the ceiling of a fourth outfielder, at best.


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