Monday, June 05, 2006

CATCHERS REVEW




PRODUCTION - THE CATCHERS
Contributed By: Ray Flowers

FANTASYBASEBALL.COM


Each week, for the next eight weeks on Wednesday, I will survey 6 players from each position whose performance is worthy of discussion. I will survey two players at the position who have failed to meet expectations, two who have greatly exceeded the numbers that were anticipated for them and then two players that are worthy of special attention the rest of the season. Some of the names on the list might be the reason that you are in 8th place in your league, while others whom you chose in the 22nd round of your draft might be the reason you currently sit in first place.


UNDER PERFORMING

Jason Kendall (.265-0-12-12-2 in 136 AB)
Pace: .265-0-45-45-8
OK, so Kendall isn’t the hitter he once was (career .301), but who would of thought he wouldn’t hit a HR for 14 seasons (well it isn’t really that bad, but he hasn’t hit one for the A’s in 737 ABs). So let’s see. Kendall no longer appears capable of even putting up 5 HR and he apparently can’t hit for average any longer either (.270 average for the A’s in those 737 ABs). Even worse is the fact that he is on pace for only 45 runs scored when he has average 80 the past three years. In addition, Kendall has never scored fewer than 59 runs in any of the 8 seasons in his career when he has amassed at least 450 ABs, so he has a ways to go to meet even the meager expectations most of his owners had for him this year. One note of possible encouragement: Kendall is a better second half hitter in his career with a .306 average (vs. 297 in the first half) and .800 OPS (.775) after the all-star game.

Jason Varitek (.239-5-24-22-1 in 142 AB)
Pace: .239-18-89-81-4
This one is more about perception than anything else. Sure Varitek is a career .271 hitter, so that average must, and should, improve as the season progresses (he has hit at least .266 in each of the last 5 seasons). While most C tend to wear down as the season moves along, Varitek’s second half “fade” is really pretty minor (in his career he has hit .275 with a .816 OPS in the first half, with second half numbers of .264/.785). While his average is lagging, the 89 RBIs and he 81 Runs he is on pace to produce this year would both be career-highs. So don’t make the mistake of thinking he is really having a poor season except in the batting average category where he is, cause he is actually doing pretty darn well otherwise.


OVER PERFORMING

Mike Redmond (.417-0-8-4 in 48 AB)
Pace: .417-0-77-38
In April Redmond hit .375 and then he has upped that mark to a ridiculous .458 in May. Further proof of his amazing start can be seen in his home/road splits: .417 average with a .942 OPS at home in 24 ABs, .417 with a .962 OPS on the road in 24 ABs. Need some more numbers? How about a .500 average vs. lefties (22 ABs) and a .346 mark vs. righties (26 ABs). How about a .429 average indoors and a .400 average outside. Now before you totally dismiss his start, you should realize that Redmond is a career .291 hitter, so he should continue to have some value even when his unbelievably hot start ceases.

Josh Bard (.361-5-14-11-0 in 61 AB)
Pace: .361-27-76-60
After an average start this year which included a .278 average with zero RBIs in 18 April ABs, Bard has blown up in May (.395-5-14-9). Obviously he is the number two option in San Diego behind Mike Piazza, but Piazza has been struggling a bit overall (.256-7-18-12), though he too has really hit well in May (.317-4-12 in 62 ABs). Bard’s playing time will be erratic and no matter how well he hits he doesn’t figure to supplant Piazza behind the dish this year. Entering 2006 Bard was a career .238 hitter with 13 HR an 61 RBIs in 485 career ABs so he should continue to be a solid hitter and worthy of a secondary catcher’s role on most rosters even if he continues to serve as Piazza’s backup.


TWO TO WATCH

Greg Zahn (.333-5-16-9-0 in 78 AB)
Pace: .333-28-91-51
I for one, was fairly certain that Zahn would not be able to duplicate his 2005 numbers (.251-11-61-61). First off, the Jays acquired Bengie Molina so there was every reason to think Zaun wouldn’t see much time wearing the tools of ignorance (Molina is hitting .285-4-14-13 in 130 ABs this year). Second, Zaun entered the year as a 35-year-old C, and that is not a good age to be when you pull on the shin guards. Third, Zahn’s 2005 season was a career year in his 12th season, not exactly something that gave me the warm and fuzzies. Flash forward to May 30th, and Zaun is exceeding the pace he established last year. Now I will make this statement: if Zaun reaches his projected totals this year, I will physically eat a baseball, that’s how certain I am that his current production is a total fluke. However, it doesn’t negate what he has done, and there is still a chance that he could match last years power numbers while improving his batting average. On the downside, June has been the worst month of his career as a hitter with a .216 average in 477 ABs, so there is a good chance his slide toward mediocrity is about ready to begin.

Jason LaRue (.197-3-9-7-0 in 71 AB)
Pace: .197-18-54-42
LaRue started the season on the DL after having minor knee surgery, and Javier Valentin, last years hitting hero in Cincinnati, was thrust into the lineup with generally poor results (.230-1-6-11 in 74 ABs). Basically, to this point of the season, neither C has distinguished himself on the offensive side of the game. However, LaRue is still on pace to have his fifth straight season of at least 12 HR and 50 RBIs, numbers that don’t sound too special until you realize that only three major league catchers have reached those numbers in each of the last 4 seasons; Ivan Rodriguez, Jorge Posada and Jason LaRue. In his career, LaRue has better numbers in the second half in AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS, and while his average isn’t great, he is a career .242 hitter overall so he surely has room to improve there as well.

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