Speed Plot – May 14th, 2006

Daily Best

Jeff Francoeur – If a walk-off grand slam doesn’t get you top honors, what does? It wasn’t an “ultimate grand slam“, but I doubt any Braves fans are complaining. After hitting just .210 in April, he’s managed to raise his batting average to .250 by hitting a much better .310 this month. Back on May 9th he completed the daunting task of drawing his first walk of the season. Last year it took him 129 plate appearances to draw a walk and this year it took him 135 appearances.

Jon Lieber – Holding the National League’s top offense (the Reds) hitless through 7 innings was quite impressive and lowered his ERA to 5.50 on the season. A batting average on balls in play (BABIP) over .350 and a left-on-base percentage (LOB%) of 55.9% will tend to balloon your ERA. This start was more along the lines of what Lieber is capable of.

Daily Worst

Johnny Peralta – Going 0 for 4 and grounding into a double play with runners on first and second in a close game is the perfect way to make the worst list. He’s been dissapointing so far this year despite having a decent BABIP and a higher line-drive percentage. He’s been making slight corrections to his swing which will hopefully snap his slump. Don’t be surprised if the hits start falling soon.

Danys Baez – It takes some real skill to accumulate a -95 WPA over just one game. That makes him responsible for almost two losses! Baez’s has really cut down on his walks this year, but 5 blown saves are the only thing people will see. Hang in there until Eric Gagne returns.

The 5 Players I Feel Like Writing About

Jason Schmidt – He’s now thrown back-to-back complete games, something he hasn’t done since 2003. The strikeouts aren’t coming as frequently as they once were, but I’ll take a pitcher that can strike out 13 batters in 18 innings while issuing no walks, anyday. Keep a close eye on his walks; they will be key for him this season.

Todd Jones – Since coming back in late April, he’s converted 9 out of 10 save chances. He’s keeping his walks just as low as they were last season, but his strikeouts per 9 innings (K/9) have nearly been cut in half from 7.6 to 4.4. That’s way below the acceptable level for closers and even Bob Wickman strikes batters out more often! As long as he’s converting saves he’ll hang onto the role, but I really feel Fernando Rodney is the better option.

Placido Polanco – While we’re on the topic of Tigers, Polanco has abandoned his patience and has starting to chase pitches out of the strike zone over 30% of the time. Last year he chased pitches just 16% of the time. The 14% increase has resulted in him drawing just one walk all season. Furthermore, his batting average and BABIP have returned back to his career norms. A repeat of last season’s .331 average is probably wishful thinking.

Carlos Lee – Could this guy please get a little more attention? He’s now batting just over .300 with 15 home runs; second only to Albert Pujols‘ 19. The secret to his success has been a bit more patience at the plate. He’s chasing bad pitches about 5% less and it’s resulted in a 5% decrease in his strikeout rate. It’s easier to make contact when you swing at hittable pitches.

Roy Halladay – Jason Schmidt was not the only pitcher to throw back-to-back complete games this week. Halladay limited the Angels and Devil Rays to just 1 run each while striking out 9 and walking 2. I think Halladay’s great, but if he just becomes complacent with his ground ball inducing powers and stops striking batters out, he’s in danger of turning into Tim Hudson.

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David Appelman is the creator of FanGraphs.

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