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Sunday, June 21, 2009
Endy Chavez' season will come to an abrupt end after tearing his ACL in a collision with Yuniesky Betancourt on a pop fly. Chavez had been splitting time with Wladimir Balentien, who is disappointing for the second straight year in the majors, batting just .223 with one home run and only one stolen base thus far.
At 24 years old, Balentien needs to prove himself worthy of a starting gig in the majors in this audition, which probably will be his last if he does not perform. He has yet to follow up his impressive 2007 stint Triple-A in which he batted .291 with 24 home runs and 15 steals.
Waiting in the wings is the raw, yet talented outfield prospect Michael Saunders who is two years younger than Balentien and has shown maturity in Triple-A in 2008, cutting down his strikeout rate from last year's 32 percent to 19 percent this year. Saunders has also played well, batting .296 with 8 home runs, however the Mariners have expressed their wariness of rushing Saunders and so he likely won't make an appearance in the majors until August-September.
For those in AL-only leagues and deep mixed leagues (16+ teams) Balentien is certainly worth a look because of the increase in playing time he will see.
Posted by Paul Singman at 12:16am
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Indians closer Kerry Wood blew his second consecutive save last night, raising his ERA to 5.47 in the process. Wood may get a mulligan for the past two blown saves seeing as how they came at Wrigley Field against the Cubs, the team he spent the first ten years of his career with. Still, before heading into the series Wood's ERA was already at 4.63, and he is now 8 for 12 in save opportunities for the season.
My feeling is Wood will still get the call in the ninth as long as he does not blow another save in his next few chances, although I am skeptical of his ability. His biggest problem this year is his unacceptable 5.2 BB/9 rate, which interestingly is not the result of his throwing the ball outside the zone more often. Looking at the FanGraphs Plate Discipline data, we see he has thrown the ball in the strike zone at about the same percentage as 2008. What has changed is that batters are swinging at pitches outside the zone at a much lower rate (31 percent in 2008, 18 percent in 2009) leading me to believe he is not fooling batters with his stuff as much.
I am not sure why that would be because he is actually striking out batters at an incredible 10 batters per nine innings rate, but for whatever reason he is not getting hitters to chase his out-of-zone offerings.
The Indians bullpen does not present itself with any obvious alternatives—the names are Matt Herges, Luis Vizciano, Tony Sipp and Rafael Betancourt, who should be coming off the DL in a little over a week. Herges is having a good season (2.66 ERA) and has closing experience as the Giants closer back in 2004. Betancourt was also having a solid season before getting hurt, and is trusted by manger Eric Wedge (1.40 gm/LI).
Some consider current minor league Tony Sipp to be a dark-horse candidate but I would find it shocking to see him fill the closer's role if vacated because of the loogy-nature of his stats. Righties are hitting over .300 against him in the minors this year.
So Herges and Betancourt are the players I would turn to if Wood's struggles continue.
Posted by Paul Singman at 11:01pm
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