SlumpBusters, Vol. 1
Another day, another new article. This is the premiere of my new article “SlumpBusters,” where each Thursday I will profile 3 players who are good bets to rebound from their struggles, and 1 player who isn’t.
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Josh Johnson – Marlins – SP
Stats as of 5/2: 0 W, 25 K, 5.34 ERA, 1.74 WHIP
The worry for owners of Josh Johnson has always been injury. Most probably never considered that the problem with him for the first month of 2012 would be performance-related, not medical. But if one looks deeper than his superficial numbers, one will find a pitcher whose skills are no different than what they’ve been in the past. Johnson’s strikeout-to-walk rate is pretty much identical to his career rate, but what’s even more impressive is the fact that he has not given up a single home run so far this season. Keeping the ball in the park is something that he’s been excellent at throughout his career, and it’s reassuring to see that hasn’t changed. The fact is, Johnson has just been extremely unlucky so far this season, with a laughable .436 BABIP and a FIP of 2.14 which would rate as 5th best in the majors, behind just Steven Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Johan Santana, and Jake Peavy. Not bad company at all. He’s still an ace.
Albert Pujols – Angels – 1B
Stats as of 5/2: .208 Avg, 0 HR, 9 Runs, 5 RBI, 0 SB
Do I really have to say it? This is Prince Albert, people. The Machine. He’ll be just fine. We were panicking last April too, and how did that turn out? He’s a historically slow starter, in fact. Never THIS slow, but it’s his first year in a new league, against a whole slate of new pitchers. An adjustment period was always a possibility. But even if you don’t buy that, he’s not even truly struggling at the plate. He’s hitting line drives all over the field, on pace for a career high in doubles. Some of those doubles will undoubtedly turn into home runs. Even more reassuring, 23.3% of the balls he’s hit this year have been line drives, which would be a career high. It’s a huge fluke that he has the lowest BABIP of his career, as line drives are normally THREE TIMES more likely to turn into hits that any other type of batted ball. It’s a statistical anomaly that will be corrected. It won’t be too long before this month is forgotten.
Adam Wainwright – Cardinals – SP
Stats as of 5/2: 1 W, 27 K, 6.75 ERA, 1.31 WHIP
Yes, his ERA is horrible. But have you seen his home run-to-fly ball ratio? 33.3%. Yes, One third of the balls hit in the air against him so far have gone for home runs. That’s pretty much impossible. His highest in any other season was 8.5% and for most pitchers, the rate normalizes in the 8-10% range. Everything else about Wainwright actually points to him being fully recovered from his Tommy John surgery. His K/9 and BB/9 rates are both the best of his career, and the velocity on his fastball is completely back. If the normal amount of those flyballs had fallen short of the wall, we’d be seeing vintage Adam Wainwright numbers. Expect that going forward.
SLUMP NOT BUSTED:
Heath Bell – Marlins – RP
Stats as of 5/2: 3 SV, 5 K, 11.74 ERA, 2.74 WHIP with 3 blown saves
Take a pitcher out of Petco Park who relies entirely on a high fastball. Add to that the fact that the average velocity of those fastballs has dropped for the second season in a row. What do you get? A man who’s going to lose his job very, very soon. No one outside of the Marlins organization thought that the 3-year, $27 million deal that Bell signed this past offseason was a good idea. This is why. His contract might afford him a little bit more leash than the average closer. But contract or no contract, a couple more disastrous outings, which I fully expect to happen, and Miami will be going to Steve Cishek in the 9th. Or calling Seattle about Brandon League.
Tomorrow’s must-watch game: TOR @ LAA, 10:05 ET. Albert Pujols continues his quest for his first home run against Brandon Morrow, who was surrendered 7 of them already this season.