Player Focus 6.1.08

I spent the past two evening researching for an article I’ll post on Monday which is why I didn’t have any updates for Friday or Saturday. All of the data needed has been collected so I’ll finish writing the piece of post late tonight so it’s available on Monday morning. For now, some player looks:

Chipper Jones Rebounds from 0-fer with 2 hits
There has never been a question of Chipper Jones’ talent. And until 2004, he was on track to be a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer, but then the injury bit him, and bit hard. From 1995 to 2003, Jones played less than 153 games just once and it was 140 of Atlanta’s 144 games during the strike shortened 1995. Since then he hasn’t played 137 in any season. The first year that he lost to injuries was also his worst ever despite 30 home runs and 96 RBIs as he hit just .248. The .847 OPS he had that season just goes to show how amazing of a player Jones is even in a down season.

Last year saw Jones net 500 at-bats for the first time since 2003 and he responded with a brilliant season that included 29 home runs and a .337 batting average. He has carried over that excellence in the early part of 2008, hitting over .400 at the June 1st post. With a 2-for-3 (and 3 walks) effort on Saturday, Jones rebounded from an 0-for-5 to ensure he would enter June above the famed .400 mark. Ted Williams’ .406 from 1941 stands as the last time the feat was accomplished and I’m not going out on a limb when I say that it will still be the last time when the 2009 season opens up.
Chipper Jones\' Quest for .400
I’m comfortable trotting out the same reasons against a .400 season that we see anytime anyone is flirting with the mark into late May/early June. The primary of those being that the media pressure as the calendar flipped to September would be too much for ANY man to handle. In this day and age of over-analysis for even the most minor of stories, can you imagine the amount of coverage that would be given to a feat that hasn’t been accomplished in 67 years?! If you thought ESPN was obnoxious now…

It bears mentioning again that hitting a baseball is so difficult that the elite are permitted to fail 7-of-10 times to achieve their status. Despite how hard it is to accumulate hits, we’re now asking for more than one in most games because a simple 1-for-4 or even 1-for-3 effort will lower his batting average! Consider that Williams “only” hit .406 in 456 at-bats and he’s widely regarded as the best hitter the game has seen. Jones’ feat would probably require at least 50 more at-bats and even if he approached the 450 at-bat mark with a .406 average, that’s a pretty small margin of error for that homestretch. Finally, Jones has a great batting eye, but it’s not good enough to propel a run at .400. He has a 14% walk percentage for his career which shouldn’t be scoffed at, it’s tremendous. The 15% rate through May 31st is a big reason why he has been on base at a nearly 50% clip so far this season. Again, it falls short when you start talking about a .400 season… by a lot! Williams posted a remarkable 24% walk percentage during his magical run at .400 and a 21% rate for his illustrious career. Sorry Braves fan, it just isn’t happening.

Ricky Nolasco on Fire of Late
In 2006, the Florida Marlins had to have been impressed by their 23-year old rookie who had put together a solid 11-11 season with a 4.82 ERA in 140 innings. There was plenty of room for improvement, no doubt, but it was definitely a nice foundation to build upon. An elbow injury limited him to 21.3 innings in 2007 making this year his second season for all intents and purposes. He came out of the bullpen for his first two appearances and tossed 5.7 scoreless innings. He joined the rotation on April 11th and promptly allowed five earned runs in five innings, but managed a win nonetheless. His second start was even worse with six earned runs in 4.7 innings and eventually the loss. In the eight starts since then, he has allowed more than three runs just once lowering his ERA nearly two runs in the span from 6.46 to 4.48.

His peripherals over the past three starts are in line with his 2006 totals. In the end, Nolasco likely isn’t a pitcher that should be relied upon to do much more than what he did in 2006. He could shave up to half a run off of the ERA and settle in around 4.30, but that likely stands as the upside at this point. I would tread VERY cautiously in standard mixed league formats (i.e. 10-12 teams), while those over 12 teams with reserve rosters might want to consider stashing him. I doubt he’s available in NL-Only leagues, but he should obviously be picked up if he is on the wire during your transaction period.

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