A Smorgasbord Monday
News, notes, and stats from around the major leagues while doing my best to avoid the buzzing sound of the vuvuzelas at the World Cup games over the weekend.
Matt Kemp has been two different players this season. He was one of the most productive hitters during the first three weeks and closer to replacement level the past seven weeks. What happened? Well, the inflection point was none other than critical comments general manager Ned Colletti made about Kemp on a Los Angeles morning radio show on Tuesday, April 27.
Let's take a look at Kemp's stats BC (before Colletti) and AC (after Colletti):
AVG OBP SLG OPS
BC .316 .379 .645 1.024
AC .243 .304 .395 .700
Coincidence? Small sample sizes? Hurt feelings? Or a combination? You pick your poison.
While Kemp didn't deserve the Gold Glove he "won" last year, the center fielder wasn't nearly as bad as he has been this campaign. According to Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), Kemp ranks last among all CF with -15.7, which works out to -42.3 per 150 games (or about four losses more than an average fielder at that position). His baserunning has also been dismal with 9 SB, 9 CS, 2 PO (pick-offs), and 3 other outs on the bases.
Kemp will almost assuredly be moved to a corner outfield position after Manny Ramirez exits Los Angeles, but it is also possible that he could be traded during the offseason.
Speaking of Colletti, his decision to trade Carlos Santana for Casey Blake prior to the deadline two years ago may have helped the Dodgers win division titles in 2008 and 2009 but is likely to look short sighted now that the switch-hitting catcher has made his MLB debut with the Cleveland Indians. The rookie went 3-for-11 with a double, a home run, and two walks and no strikeouts in his first series over the weekend (including 1-for-2 with a BB vs. Stephen Strasburg on Sunday). He hit .316/.447/.597 with 13 HR and 45 BB/39 SO at Columbus in the International League (AAA) this season. His position, power, and advanced approach at the plate make him one of the most valuable properties in the game today.
For his part, the 36-year-old Blake is hitting .258/.333/.442 while making $6 million (compared to the pro rated minimum that Santana will earn this year and not much more than the $500,000 he will be paid over each of the next three seasons — unless, of course, he agrees to a longer-term deal that buys out a year to two of free agency at a discounted price).
Troy Glaus has hit .336/.416/.605 with 11 HR since May 1. He is leading the National League with 49 RBI while batting fourth or fifth on a team that is second in the league in runs scored. Only Ryan Howard has had more runners on base than Glaus this year. He ranks 18th in the NL in Others Batted in Percentage (OBI%) among players with 200 or more plate appearances. All 13 of his home runs have occurred in games that the Braves have won. He has yet to go deep in any of the 27 games that the team has lost when he has played.
The most remarkable stat of all might be that the injury-plagued Glaus leads the league in games played with 64. With each passing day, he looks more and more like one of the best free-agent signings last offseason. He inked a contract for $1.75 million with bonuses that equal an additional $2.25 million for a maximum payout of $4M. Although Glaus ranks as the worst-fielding first baseman in the majors according to UZR, he has been worth over $5 million thus far using Fangraphs' Wins Above Replacement (WAR) converted to a dollar scale based on what a player would make in free agency.
Although Luke Gregerson was sacked with the loss yesterday, the San Diego Padres righthander has been one of the most effective relief pitchers this season. To wit, while producing a 1.57 ERA and 0.47 WHIP over 34.1 IP, Gregerson has struck out 41 of 120 (34.2%) batters faced while walking only two (1.7%). He has not issued a free pass since his third appearance of the season on April 14, a span of more than 100 batters.
Gregerson, who combines a 91-mph fastball with one of the best sliders in baseball (an MLB-best 10.4 runs above average among RP), may be the best-kept secret in the game and one of the main reasons why the Padres sit atop the NL West with a 37-26 record.
On the subject of relatively unknown setup pitchers, raise your hand if you have heard of Francisco Rodriguez. No, not that one. This one. Yes, the Angels have produced another relief pitcher named Francisco Rodriguez. The current version has been lights out in his first seven games covering 8.1 innings. The 27-year old from Mexicali, Mexico has struck out 11 batters without allowing a walk or a run and only three hits.
While Rodriguez's major league stats are in stark contrast to his minor league results (5.03 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, 6.1 K/9, and 4.4 BB/9 in 499 IP), he has pitched much better since being converted to a full-time reliever in 2008. Nonetheless, his performance in the majors has defied all reasonable expectations. Small sample size for sure but take a look at his stuff for yourself if and when you get the chance. He throws a heavy 94-95 mph fastball, an 89-mph cutter, and an occasional curveball that has generated a lot of swinging strikes (18.9%) and 11 groundballs out of the 15 batted balls in play.