The issues plaguing the Cub third baseman indicate this is no ordinary slump.
What is up with Aramis Ramirez? The Cub third baseman missed half of 2009 with calf and shoulder injuries, but still put together a solid .317/.389/.516 slash line with 15 HR and 65 RBI. Healthy entering this year and among the top fantasy choices at third, Ramirez opened 2010 with a pair of hits - including a home run - against the Braves. One month into the season, that remains his only multi-hit game of the year. By his second game, Ramirez was kicking off a stretch where he would go hitless in 23 plate appearances.
As we enter May, he’s still trying to find his footing.
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The Yankees' second sacker seems to keep coming and going from great to less so, but is he finally about to settle in as an offensive star?
This is not the first time there has been a Robinson Cano Player Profile at Baseball Prospectus. Given the team we are talking about, consider this the Empire Strikes Back edition of Player Profile; we'll continue the story started a few years back, and take a look at Cano during his peak when the tale was at its most interesting point. I won't be discussing the time he had to cut open his Tauntaun on the ice planet Hoth in order to warm up his bat, though, because some things are better left to the imagination.
Javier Vazquez has driven lesser men to madness, but staring too long need not blind us to his virtues.
Remember the movie Weird Science, where Anthony Michael Hall and a friend engineered the perfect woman with the help of an outdated computer? Imagine for a moment if that movie were to be remade, and the two main characters were general managers of baseball teams, seeking the ideal pitcher rather than the dream girl. This pitcher would have to possess some incredible characteristics, like being consistently capable of logging a high number of quality innings each and every year. He would exhibit solid control and command, fanning lots of batters while walking very few. He wouldn't get hit around much either, as the combination of velocity and movement on his pitches would elude the opposition, leading to quality WHIP rates. Above all, he would have supreme confidence in his repertoire and an ability to throw a variety of pitches in any given count. Place this pitcher in the major leagues, and he would appear in numerous All-Star games, place perennially on Cy Young Award ballots, and find himself on the fast track to Cooperstown.
Diagnosing how a phenomenon gets hot, goes bad, and comes back might involve changing things up.
Three years ago, Joel Zumaya took the AL by storm, flashing an overpowering fastball on his way to a full season of stellar relief. Since 2006, though, he's fallen on hard times. Now that the big righty has recently reclaimed his role in Detroit's bullpen, let's take a look at his prospects for future success by using all of the tools at our disposal.
Zumaya broke camp as a member of the Tigers' bullpen in 2006, after fellow rookie Justin Verlander had claimed a rotation spot in spring training. Except for a single appearance in relief as a 17-year-old in the GCL, Zumaya had worked exclusively as a starter in the minors, but his migration to the pen didn't come as a complete surprise. Although Baseball America ranked him among Detroit's top four prospects in each year from 2004-2006, talent evaluators frequently cited his intensity, max-effort delivery, inconsistent mechanics, limited repertoire (before 2005), and three DL stints (for back and shoulder spasms) as factors arguing for a shift to short relief work.
Dissecting a day at the office for the Mets' Johan Santana.
Due to local blackout rules and the lack of a land-line phone capable of proving that my Penn State University residence was not in Philadelphia, I relied on MLB Gameday instead of MLB TV for a good chunk of the 2007 season. The application had been around for a while, but I soon noticed strange terminology and new data accompanying each pitch. Why are there two velocity readings? What does 13" of pFX mean? And what the heck is BRK? A little research soon made sense of the information, and within a few months I became hooked on the data set known as Pitch-f/x. Fast-forward two years, and Pitch-f/x continues to evolve, revolutionizing baseball research in the process. Unfortunately, with updates to system configurations and the amount of information offered, too many readers and baseball fans experience confused reactions similar to mine when they first encounter the data. In an attempt to quash this issue, it seemed prudent to explain some of the more commonly used numbers, discussing what they mean as well as how they should be used. Instead of merely defining terms, the system will be explored in action, with periodic discussions of its inner workings, much as Dan Fox did back in May 2007.
How do starters who throw particularly high pitch-count initial innings perform subsequently?
Delivering to the dish with a 2-2 count, Wandy Rodriguez hit the outside corner with a 91 mph fastball with which Edgar Renteria could do nothing but whiff. This heater happened to be the 55th pitch that Rodriguez threw in the inning on August 1, 2007. While the pitch brought the inning to a close, it simultaneously placed Rodriguez atop a list of the pitchers who had thrown the most pitches in a single inning. Compiled by Retrosheet's David Smith and posted on the Inside the Book blog, the list is composed of the pitchers with the most pitches thrown in an inning from 2004-2007.
I decided to examine the Pitch F/X for Wandy's game. Analyzing the velocity and movement of Rodriguez's fastball, I was surprised to find that his fastball sustained its velocity and "bite" as he went deeper into the inning. However, during the rest of the game things changed a bit. In the second inning, his velocity lost three miles per hour, but his movement increased. It has been theorized before that some pitchers may throw with more movement when they tire due to a dropping of their arm angle; perhaps this happened here, as Wandy lost velocity but threw with more movement.
The shape of the blistering-hot performance of the Dodgers shortstop.
Past experience can generate expectations. Certainly, when they signed Rafael Furcal to a three-year, $39 million deal following the 2005 season, the Dodgers believed that the former Braves leadoff batter would provide a significant spark to their offense. He did not disappoint in 2006, finishing 14th in NL MVP voting. Last year, however, a nagging ankle injury suffered in spring training kept him out of action for the first couple of weeks as well as the final weeks of the season; it also hindered his production level during the 138 games in which he played. A player whose modus operandi involves speed playing with an ankle injury is not a good combination.
Similarly, when Joe Torre signed on to manage the team this offseason, he was fresh off of managing a shortstop that happened to be the longtime face of the most prominent franchise in sports. He may have known his new shortstop could produce at an all-star level even, after that rough 2007. Suffice it to say he could not possibly have had any idea Furcal would be this productive.
A new season brings a new batch of PITCHf/x data from which to learn.
"With me, being a hard thrower ... no matter what, they're defending that heater, man. So the more confidence I have to throw that [changeup] in any count, I'm going to throw it. I'm just going to. I don't care anymore. It's going to help me and I realize that." --A.J. Burnett on his pitch selection. PITCHf/x has confidence in his fastball as well.