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The Best Unknown Performances Of The Week

Beginning this Sunday and continuing every Sunday during the baseball season, I will be reviewing weekly performance and pointing out those players whose efforts are not readily apparent from the season-to-date statistics.  The genesis of this feature was born in last season's weekly BABIP columns.

What persistantly bothered me, and led to the cessation of those columns, was the fact the BABIP numbers I was using were season-to-date ones that could easily have changed from week to week but weren't readily apparent thanks to the larger season-to-date sample size. 

If Detroit Tigers SP Armando Galaragga's STD BABIP was .240 through 15 starts, he would still show-up the following week atop the lowest BABIPs even if his most recent effort(s) showed a BABIP of .300.  There was no real way to pinpoint when an unusual statistics had already turned.

This week I am pointing out some of the hitters who have drawn more walks than anyone may yet realize.  I chose walks because they do not necessarily show-up in the counting stats most fantasy baseball leagues focus on.  Who is looking at OBP before AVG, HR, RBI and SBs?  No one, but players drawing an unusually high number of walks could be in store for more of those counting stats if the walks indicate a better plate discipline.

Here are five players whose 1st week walk totals could be saying something potentially valuable.

Los Angeles Angels 3B Chone Figgins, 7 BB:  The word all Spring Training was the shifting philosophy of the Angels from making contact to increasing on-base percentage.  Figgins has always been one of the higher walk drawers on the team, but an increase from the 60 he typically draws to 80+ would keep him atop the All Speed/No Power 3B listings - ahead of 1st week wunderkind Emilio Bonifacio.

Minnesota Twins OF Denard Span, 6 BB:  Last season, Span surprised the baseball world by showing plate discipline not previously seen in his five-year professional career.  Was his .387 OBP a fluke?  Not so far, and Span will be amongst the top lead-off men in baseball if this continues.

Cincinnati Reds 3B Edwin Encarnacion, 6 BB:  Encarnacion has been negatively effected by reports of poor defense, a low RBI total (68) and a poor AVG (.251) that negated the fact he hit 26 HRs last season - a 57.5% increase over the prior season totals.  More interesting, he increased his walk totals by more than 50%.

San Diego Padres SS Luis Rodriguez, 5 BB:  I was just completely baffled by this.  Luis Rodriguez was amongst the worst hitters in the majors in his three season with the Minnesota Twins with a steadily worsening AVG of .269 to .235 to .219.  Those efforts "hid" a slightly-below average middle infielder 2009 slashstat line of .287/326/351 with the Padres last season.

Digging a little deeper, Rodriguez did show the ability to take walks while in the minor leagues drawing 53 as recently as 2004 and 82 in 2001.  Yeah, that is almost meaningless, but, in light of his 2009 start, his career 90% contact rate, and the fact there is no credible SS competition in San Diego right now, Luis Rodriguez could be in for a surprisingly good, empty-caloried 2009 fantasy season.

Detroit Tigers C/3B Brandon Inge, 5 BB:  Can the move back to 3B have matured Inge to the point that he becomes a more patient hitter?  Unlike the aforementioned Luis Rodriguez, Inge has never really demonstrated the ability to draw walks at levels that would negate a low AVG and mediocre/bad contact rate.  With just two Ks this week, I am interested to see which skill still exists with another week of data.