Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Some players might be struggling early this season, but surface numbers don't always tell the whole story.
What I've done is toed the Mendoza Line and sifted through the six ERAs to find the silver linings.
It's not all doom and gloom, unless you're a Pedro Alvarez owner.
- White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko is batting .259 this year, but he has a line-drive rate of 31.4 percent. The veteran recorded an out on eight of his 16 line drives this season (one was a sac fly, which doesn't count as an at-bat, so he is 8-for-15 on line drives). He's 0-for-10 on grounders, and has put up a 12 percent HR/FB with a 49 percent flyball rate with zero infield flies. His career HR/FB is 16.7 percent, and his line drive rate suggests that he is getting good wood on the ball, so he likely has just been slightly missing the sweet spot on his flyballs so far.
- Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche has struggled in April and May throughout his career, save 2012, and his batted ball ratios show that his line-drive rate has consistently been lower in those months. However, he has hit line drives on 31.3 percent of his batted balls so far, but has lined out on five of his 10 line drives. LaRoche had a line-drive rate above 30 percent last April as well and hit .329 in that month, but he's hitting just .191 through 14 games. I don't expect LaRoche to struggle through May like he usually does with that type of batted-ball profile.
- Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday is batting .246 in 57 at-bats. His batted ball ratios match up with his career numbers, but his groundballs are simply finding leather more frequently than usual. He is 3-for-23 (.130) on groundballs this season, but the outfielder is actually a .299 career hitter on groundballs, and he hit .339 on grounders last year. Holliday is seeing the ball very well, as he has walked 10 times with just nine strikeouts.
- Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong came out of nowhere in 2011 after not pitching in the big leagues since 2006, so anytime he struggles, it's easy to just assume the ride is over. His 5.89 ERA this season likely has many owners jumping ship. However, Vogelsong has a similar K/9, BB/9, HR/FB and GB/FB to last year, but he has been abysmal with men on base. He has stranded just 57.9 percent of runners so far, but he has been extremely effective out of the stretch the last two years. He posted an 80.4 percent strand rate in 2011 and a 76 percent strand rate in 2012. Trust that consistency.
- Twins starter Vance Worley allowed 154 hits in 133 innings with the Phillies last year due to a .340 BABIP, but we can't call that bad luck since batters ripped line drives on 24.2 percent of his batted balls. Worley's ERA is 7.11 and he has given up 30 hits in 19 innings this year, but his .403 BABIP is to blame. And this time, he doesn't deserve it. Worley has a 20.8 percent line drive rate and has induced 50 percent groundballs, but batters are hitting .314 on grounders. He also has had awful luck on flyballs. Opponents are 7-for-23 on flies, but just one left the park and none were doubles or triples. That means most of those flyball hits were blooped in front of the outfield.
- Dodgers starter Josh Beckett owns an 0-3 record and a 4.68 ERA through four starts, but there's reason to believe he'll turn it around. Beckett already has allowed six homers in 31 flyballs, a HR/FB rate of 19.4 percent. Beckett's career HR/FB is 10.9 percent, and he hasn't posted one lower than 11 percent in four of the past six years. Beckett's 17.5 percent line-drive rate suggests that he hasn't been giving up much hard contact, but the few mistakes he is making are getting hit out of the park. That will change as he makes more starts at Dodger Stadium, one of the best pitcher's parks in baseball. Three of his four starts so far have come away from home.
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