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Utley, Matusz, Jenks, Howell, and Bailey: DL Returnees Early Results

Chase Utley – Utley was one of my buy low picks for the season, but then he injured his right knee. He returned from the DL on May 23 and has an 37 PA so far (small sample size issues with all this data).

As a whole, he looks to be under performing since his return. He is currently supporting a slash of 0.194/0.324/0.323. The low batting average is being fueled by a 0.179 BABIP, instead of an increased strike out percentage (his K% is at 6.5%, a career low). Using the simple rule of adding 0.120 to your line drive percentage in decimal format (0.138), he should have a BABIP near 0.258. Over Utley’s career his LD% has been near 21%, so he is not hitting as many LD so far this season.

Besides a drop in LD%, his GB% is also so down which means his FB% is up to the tune of 13 percentage points. With the increase in fly balls, he is not yet seeing an increase in home runs. His career HR per FB is 13.5%, while this season it is at 6.5%. I went and looked at his home run and fly ball distances over the past 3+ years and here are the results with a LOESS averaging curve added.

His average distance hit this season is not far off his average, but most of the hits are going about the same distance, ~300 ft, which will not be enough distance for a home run unless the fly ball is hit to the shortest of RF porches. I would like to see some of the fly balls start to break the 350 ft distance.

I was worried a little about how his knee would effect his speed. Of the 12 times he has gotten on base, he has stolen 2 bases. For now he looks to have the confidence and ability to keep stealing.

Chase has not been himself since he has returned from the DL. Right now I don’t find it alarming that his LD% is low (and its effect on BABIP or AVG). Instead I am worried that he has yet to uncork a long fly ball. I see no reason to sit or drop him, but I would continue to monitor him as the season goes on.

Fastball Speeds

Unlike hitters which need a bit of data to draw any conclusions, pitchers can usually give us one piece of information after just one appearance, fastball speed. Here are some pitchers that recently returned from the DL and their fastball speeds

Brian Matusz – His drop in speed, 3 MPH, is worrisome. If I owned him, I would monitor next start closely to see where it stands.
2009 – 91.5 MPH
2010 – 89.9 MPH
2011 – 86.8 MPH

Andrew Bailey – A 1 MPH drop. Not a huge worry
2009 – 94.1 MPH
2010 – 94.3 MPH
2011 – 93.2 MPH

Bobby Jenks – Also down a bit. The drop is speed is not nearly as worrisome as his almost 1 BB per inning he has given up so far since coming back.
2009 – 94.8MPH
2010 – 95.0 MPH
2011 – 93.5 MPH

J.P. Howell – Fairly consistent with his previous numbers
2008 – 86.4 MPH
2009 – 85.6 MPH
2010 – DNP
2011 – 86.1 MPH