Key Stats: Nelson Cruz has been ranked in the top 90 for three straight years at Yahoo, but has not gotten higher than 73rd on the player rater. His power is up there with the best sluggers in the game as we saw last October when he belted 8 home runs in only 62 post-season at-bats. This year he will likely raise his average as his BABIP last season was just .288. Bill James projects that he will have a .312 BABIP this season.
Skeptics Say: Cruz has missed an average of 42 games per season the last three years. He’s been placed on the DL six times and the injuries are always related to the same problems – his hamstring and quadriceps muscles. This is a clear case of a player that won’t bounce back 100% from an injury that has haunted him in the past. Understand that drafting Cruz means you will want to watch out for other injury risks out of fear for clogging up the DL spots (if your league uses a max number of DL spots). Also, keep an eye on Cruz as a base stealer. Last year he only attempted 14 steals which was 7 less than the year before. This could be a case where the Rangers are telling him not to run or he doesn’t feel healthy enough to run. no comments
Key Stats: After a disappointing fantasy season in 2010, Dan Haren bounced back last year. In 2010, Haren had 13 quality starts that resulted in either no decisions or losses. Last year he was still somewhat unlucky as he had 10 quality starts without getting a win out of the deal, but that’s pretty much the difference between a 12-win season in 2010 and a 16-win season in 2011. He also continued to enjoy the benefits of pitching in pitcher-friendly Angel Stadium where he was great for the 94 innings he had there in 2010. His 1.02 WHIP showed that he is still at the top of his game.
Skeptics Say: Haren got worse in the second half again last season. The difference between his pre and post all-star ERA in his career is 0.86 and the difference in his WHIP is 0.19. In five out of the last six years his ERA has been more than a run worse in the second half. Haren is clearly a player worth trading sometime in late June or early July if there’s an owner that doesn’t believe in or care about this detail. I am a Haren owner and a believer that this is not coincidence.no comments
Key Stats: Dan Uggla saved his season from July 5th through August 15th last year with a 33-game hitting streak. Without that hot stretch Uggla would have finished last year with a .194 batting average. As it were his average was still weighted heavily to the times that he wasn’t on a 33-game hitting streak last year as he hit just .236 for the season. Streaks are a part of baseball though, so looking at his final line last year we saw once again what makes Dan Uggla a top tier second baseman year in and year out. For the sixth straight season he finished with 27 or more home runs, more than 80 runs, and more than 80 RBI.
Skeptics Say: The 36 home runs was a career high, but the batting average and the doubles were both career lows. Uggla almost doubled the amount of pop-ups he had a season ago and also had a career worst line drive rate. Meanwhile his home run to fly ball rate was a career worst. In other words, simply chalking up Uggla’s subpar season (according to his own standards) as poor luck would be completely incorrect. Even after his hot streak, his September numbers were slightly down in the average category from where he has always been. His problems might be deeper than just adjusting to the Braves and Atlanta. no comments
Key Stats: Upon seeing where other sites are ranking Michael Pineda after the way he started in his rookie season, I am very surprised that he’s not being ranked higher. Pineda came out of the gates flying last year as a top 50 player in both April and May – only four other starting pitchers accomplished that. He was deservedly (unlike 50% of the players) selected to the all-star game as a result of his first half. And yes, Pineda did limp to the finish, but his batting average against was still just .236 to go along with a respectable 1.22 WHIP after the all-star game. He is going to be 23 this year –he should improve on everything in year two.
Skeptics Say: As a Pineda owner I painfully had to absorb one blow after another to my rotisserie ERA in an AL-Only league. After he gave up about 1 home run every 7 innings in that second half it was pretty clear that either the league had caught up to him or he was exhausted. If it was the former it’s now Pineda’s turn to play catch up.
There’s also the obvious move from Seattle to New York. In addition to playing in a bigger market where expectations for him are to be the guy that puts the Yankees to the next level, he has to adjust to the dimensions of right field in Yankee Stadium. According to Park Factors, Yankee Stadium was the 6th best park for runs and Safeco Field was 26th last year. no comments
Key Stats: Matt Cain threw less fastballs than he’s ever thrown last season. He threw fastballs 8.5% less fastballs than he had in 2010. The result was a career high number of groundballs and a career low number of fly balls against him. In the end his strikeout and walk rates didn’t change too significantly, but his ERA was as low as it has ever been.
Skeptics Say: The pitch that Cain turned to most frequently in lieu of the fastball was his slider. The last time Cain threw the slider for such a high percentage of his overall pitches was in 2007. He followed that season up with the worst WHIP of his career (1.36). Although the number of sliders wasn’t alarmingly high, it was more than the norm and the stress it puts on a pitchers arm is difficult to measure over the long term. For as great as he’s been at making 30-plus starts every season, it’s always something worth watching. no comments