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May 20, 2011
Buy, Buy, Buy!
Anyone can tell you to buy low on the struggling Carl Crawford right now. Rather than point out the obvious buy-low candidates, here are three pitchers and three hitters that I am on board with for the rest of the season.
Matt Garza, Chicago Cubs (RHP)
Oops. He has just two wins, but his ERA is at 3.72 and he has turned around that flyball rate in a big way: his G/L/F splits right now are 48/23/28, and he has given up just one home run in 55 2/3 innings pitched. In addition to the new groundball approach, his strikeout rate has taken a large jump from 6.6 to 11.0 already, and with only a slight uptick in his walk rate. His WHIP is 1.37 thanks to a career-high BABIP of .362 that is being fueled by that 23 percent line drive rate (19 percent career). That will normalize, though, and once that and his 62 percent strand rate improve, you are going to want Garza. Talk up his two wins and his 1.37 WHIP, and see if you cannot sucker one of your league mates into giving up what should be a very good pitcher moving forward.
Travis Wood, Cincinnati Reds (LHP)
Overall, his 7.7 strikeout rate, 2.7 walk rate, and 0.9 home rate are all goo d to solid rates in those areas, making Wood another case of good skills being hidden by some early season implosions. I would not hesitate to trade a guy like Charlie Morton to acquire Wood in an NL-Only league, as I see those pitchers heading in opposite direction for the remainder of the season. Home runs may be a problem since he is a flyball pitcher in a cozy park, but Morton’s low K/9 is going to be tough for 5x5 leagues to carry throughout the season and run support in Pittsburgh is tough to rely upon.
John Axford, Milwaukee Brewers (RHP)
Axford had that giant meltdown to start April and another one to start off this month, but has given up a total of four runs in his other 17 outings. His 4.42 ERA looks a lot worse than his 2.26 FIP, and, if I have him, I am keeping him or trying to acquire him from a frustrated owner focused on the bad WHIP and ERA.
Juan Pierre, Chicago White Sox (OF)
Last season, Pierre had a 2.6 groundball to flyball ratio, as he hit 59 percent of his balls into the ground. This season, that ratio is at 1.9, as his flyball rate has risen to 29 percent—that is inexcusable for a guy that needs a strong gust of wind to hit one out of the park. Pierre needs to get back to scorching infields up with hard grounders and bunts, and stop hitting flyballs. As he does that, he will be back on base more often and running once again under Guillen’s aggressive style.
Pierre is a big risk in leagues right now, as he is not doing much of anything in any offensive category, but that should also have his value rather suppressed.
Kelly Johnson, Arizona Diamondbacks (2B)
Last season, he had a 12 percent walk rate and a 25 percent strikeout rate, but those have fallen to seven and 33 percent respectively this season. Additionally, his line drive rate has lived in the 19-26 percent range throughout his career, but currently sits at 14 percent. I am going to bank on a return of his hitting and his power somewhat coming back to form—look for Johnson to go double/double with home runs and steals the rest of the way in 2011.
Nick Swisher, New York Yankees (OF)
The running joke in the Yankees fan base is announcers being overly critical of the Yankees “relying too much on the homerun,” but Swisher certainly has not been a part of that conversation. He has a career home run to fly ball ratio of 15 percent, but is currently at just five percent this season. This all while he walks even more than he did last year and maintains his historical contact rates.
Swisher has not admitted to any type of injury, so this is another example of an old-fashioned slump. Swisher will break out of it, and has the cozy park to help him to that end. He is not going to hit .280 again, as that was an outlier based on BABIP issues, but he could hit .260 and hit 17-20 home runs the rest of the way.