The Dord of Darien

Musings from the Mayor of the Internet

Answering the X-Factor!

Jeff Passan’s column today is a pretty decent August intro formatted as a goofy ABC thing. Which is fine; journalists always need gimmicks, and this isn’t a bad one as these things go. But his Entry for X is X-Factor, and, while I expected that would mean this fucking guy, it was actually a list of fifteen questions; one for each contending team. Humorously, only one team from the AL West is listed, which I think might change their status from "contending" to "winned," but there you are.

Because I’m the muthafuckin’ font of all knowledge and don’t you forget it, I’ve decided to answer his hypotheticals. No, don’t thank me, it’s all part of the job.

New York Yankees: Alex Rodriguez – Is the power still there?

Man goes 35 plate appearances without a home run and everybody decides he’s washed up. Meanwhile, that other asshole I thought this whole article was going to be about hit eight home runs in the whole entire 2005 season, and got fifteen goddamn MVP votes for his efforts. And then hit two in the 2006 and made the All-Star Team. Two! For fuck’s sake.

What were we talking about? Oh, right: A-Roid. Yes, the power’s still there, Martha. Man’s hit 16 home runs this year, which is off his career average by a bit, but he’s 34 and in decline. He’s still showing a .208 ISO, which ain’t too bad, though it’s down a bit too. He’s definitely having an off year. But a .208 ISO does not indicate that the power is all gone — that’s good for 42nd in MLB (of 167 qualified players), exactly tied with (get this) Evan Longoria, and just a hair behind Dusty McHustle and Vlad Guerrero, neither of whom is theoretically used-up and power-less. So, really, it’s 35 PA. These things happen.

Incidentally, if you want to think about something that really has been missing from A-Rod’s game this year, try the discipline. He’s walked only 42 times in 428 PA, which is only 9.8% — his BB% last year was 15%. His SecA is down to .320 (from a career average of .421) largely because of this.

Tampa Bay Rays: Jeremy Hellickson – Can the rookie, who makes a spot start Monday, make the Rays’ pitching even more dangerous?

He’s been awesome in AAA, though whether he should be starting or helping to fill in the bullpen now that Grant Strikethree has gotten himself DLed due to wrasslin’ with a coach (true story) is a bit of an open question from here on. Not sure that the thick of a pennant race is the exact right time to bring up untried AAA dudes and send them out there for six-seven innings.

Boston Red Sox: John Lackey – Why has he given up so many hits this season?

Because he’s not very good. Didn’t I tell you that last season? I was right.

Okay, I’m sorry. I know that’s not an answer. I just enjoy being the only person who seemed to realise that Lackey wasn’t very good and that the Red Sox were flushing huge amounts of money right down his fat mouth with that contract. I’ll answer the question seriously.

The serious answer is… he hasn’t given up that many runs this season. It only seems like it because he was supposed to be a monster. But his H/9 is only .8 higher than his career average, which means that he’s giving up one more hit every other start than he does normally. That ain’t a big spike. His BABIP is .315, which is a bit elevated (though not by much — he’s a career .307 pitcher), and his LD% is up (21% against 19%), so hitters are probably being a little bit lucky against him.

But, seriously, the problem is that Lackey just isn’t that good. His OPS-against is .773, which is downright awful (Major League average is .754, for pete’s sake). Hitters are getting on base against him — which, given his career-high 3.3 BB/9 and career-low 5.4 K/9, isn’t too hard to do — and they’re hitting the ball hard (.424 SLGA).

In a nutshell: Lackey has always been pretty average, hasn’t been treated well by the move from Angel Stadium to Fenway, walks too many dudes, and doesn’t strike anybody out. That’s why he’s bad.

Chicago White Sox: Bobby Jenks – How much longer is he closer?

Who knows with the crazy insane maniac they let run that team? I’ll tell you this, though: he should be replaced by J.J. Putz retroactive to, like, May. Perhaps if the Hose had a decent fucking manager that would have happened.

Minnesota Twins: Joe Mauer – Can his torrid July carry over?

Depends on what you mean. If you mean "will he be exactly that good for the rest of the season," then no. Mauer was way over his head in July — he is not a .344 / .392 / .570 player, contrary to what his gaudy 2009 numbers may suggest. But he’ll do a lot better than his rotten June. Expect his power to tail off a bit, though he should continue to get on base all the damn time.

Detroit Tigers: Max Scherzer – Are his last six weeks (51 2/3 innings, 52 strikeouts, 1.92 ERA) a mirage or a true blossoming?

I’ll assume you’re exempting his last start, when he got lit crazy up by the Red Sox? Even though it’s amazing that the Red Sox only scored one run off of him with the nine hits and a walk he gave them, that’s still a beating. Anyhow, it doesn’t really matter, because the real answer is "mirage." Scherzer’s BABIP has been thirty points lower than his career average over the last four weeks (six weeks would take me a custom filter to solve, so I just looked up four. Deal with it). He’s been getting a run of good luck and that’s about all.

Texas Rangers: Rich Harden – How long can he stay healthy?

Oh, is he healthy? I didn’t even realise. Let’s just say the pool will be in ten-minute increments.

Atlanta Braves: Jason Heyward – Will he recapture his early-season magic?

That depends largely on sportswriters, since most of Heyward’s early-season magic was hype anyhow. I mean, don’t get me wrong, now, he’s a good player, and I’m sure he’ll win the NL ROY in a walk (even though Tyler Colvin’s been better imvo), but his July splits of .356 / .457 / .458 are actually a bit better than I’m comfortable assuming that Heyward will shake out to be. Specifically, he ain’t hitting .356 for long, and that crazy OBP will come down along with it.

Though, come to think of it, why are you complaining about the recent performance of a dude whose July OBP was .457? That’s an amazing rate to get on base at.

Philadelphia Phillies: Jimmy Rollins – Where did the MVP go?

To somebody who didn’t even come close to deserving it is where. You know me — I’m hard on Jimmy Rollins. It’s not that I don’t like the dude — lord knows he was hilarious in that Dick’s commercial — it’s just that sportswriters like him way too much. He was pretty good in 2007 (though Matt Holliday was way better), but it was an anomaly. Did you know that Rollins is actually better this year than he was last year? He’s been worth 1 WAR to the Phillies this year, and he was only worth 0.9 last year. Consider that he’s had 184 PA this year against 725 last year, and that should tell you a few things. Namely, that anybody with a .296 OBP is complete ass no matter how much he hustles, and that he didn’t deserve that Gold Glove either.

St. Louis Cardinals: Ryan Franklin – Can he avoid a September (and October) like last season’s?

Uh. Ryan Franklin’s BABIP in September and October of last year was fucking .536. The damn league OPSed 1.007 against him. That’s insane. Yes, he will avoid that, unless the reason for it is that Tony the Red instructs all the Cardinals fielders to take naps when Franklin’s on the mound. I mean, a .536 BABIP? If I’ve ever seen a non-repeatable phenomenon, that’s it.

Cincinnati Reds: Aroldis Chapman – Will the Reds call on his 102-mph fastball for a bullpen reinforcement?

Not until he gets his walk rate under control, I’ll wager. He’s currently walking 5.2/9 in AAA, and that’s completely unacceptable. Also maybe the Reds upper management is keeping him in AAA until Dusty’s contract runs out, for which I cannot blame them.

San Diego Padres: Ryan Ludwick – Does he provide enough offense alongside Gonzalez?

Ludwick’s a career 117 OPS+ guy who’s been having a pretty good season. That maybe isn’t all you could ever hope for from a corner outfielder, but it ain’t bad. And it’s an improvement over the 104 OPS+ of Will Venable, which is what the Dads have been running out there all season long, and that got them into first place just fine. So: yes.

San Francisco Giants: Tim Lincecum – What happened to his fastball velocity?

It went with the money the Red Sox gave John Lackey: right down the terlet. Only Lincecum’s four-seamer is down; the rest of his pitches are actually faster than they used to be, which says (to my mind) that there’s a flaw somewhere in his mechanics, and not just that his arm is falling off from being wagged around like a big weird scarecrow. More alarming to me (though, apparently, not to anybody else) is that his four-seamer has lost almost all of its horizontal movement.

Did you know that Timmy’s actually throwing his two-seamer harder than his four-seamer right now? That’s weird.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Matt Kemp – Is it Rihanna’s fault?

I apparently don’t pay enough attention to… something. I have no idea who or what Rihanna is. That said, no, it isn’t — unless Rihanna is what caused Kemp to perform way better last year than he had in the past. Most likely it’s just that last year was a fluke, and this year is more like his true level of ability. Since it’s almost identical to his 2008, that seems kind of convincing to me.

Colorado Rockies: Troy Tulowitzki – His bat can’t possibly be enough, can it?

I sure hope it is, since it’s all they’ll let him use.

I’m assuming you didn’t mean "enough to carry the Rockies," because holy shit, man. Tulo ain’t even the best hitter on the team. His OPS+ is 122, which trails Seth Smith (123), Miguel Olivio (126), and Carlos Gonzalez (129). This would have been a better place for your "is the power still there" question, because: holy shit, Todd Helton, get it together already. Helton’s ISO is all the way down to .065 from a career average of .232. It’s almost worth saying "screw the defense" and just playing Giambalino out there.

August 2nd, 2010 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

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