What is wrong with Joey Votto?
After going 1-4 with a runs scored and an RBI in the Reds 6-5 win over the Pirates on Sunday, Reds first baseman Joey Votto is hiring just .230-.330-.310 with 2 home runs, 7 runs scored, 12 RBI and a 25-13 strikeout to walk rate in 100 plate appearances. To put into perspective how bad he is hitting, we have to go way back to September 2011 to find a month where Votto hit below .240. Think about that. It's been five years since Votto hit below .240 in any one month of the season. I am not counting 2014 since he was playing injured before missing half of the season due to a quad injury.
He is striking out at a 24.3% rate at the moment, the highest of his career, and he is walking at a career low 12.6% as well. One positive is that he is making a ton of hard contact, 43.8% at the start of Sunday's action, but is hitting more ground balls than ever, offsetting the increase in hard contact to an extent.
FanGraphs' Owen Watson wrote an excellent piece on Votto's struggles on Friday, and you can find it here. In that piece, Watson showed that pitchers are pitching Votto inside more than ever before, and he is facing a shift more than ever before, as well. Votto is too good of a hitter to continue struggling like this, but he will have to make some adjustments in the meantime.
The Dodgers have had a tough week, losing six straight games heading into Sunday's game vs the Padres with Clayton Kershaw looking to stop the bleeding. That he did. Kershaw absolutely dominated the Padres, throwing a complete game shutout, giving up just 3 hits, no walks and striking out 14 batters. He needed just 101 pitches to finish the game, threw first pitch strikes to 22 of the 29 batters he faced, and induced 27 swinging strikes and 8 ground ball outs in the Dodgers 1-0 win. Kershaw rebounded from a bad start last time out where he gave up 5 runs in 7 innings vs the Marlins. The win moved his record to 3-1 with a 1.96 ERA, 0.72 WHIP and a ridiculous 54-3 strikeout to walk rate in 46 innings. He has pitched seven or more innings in each of his six starts this season, has given up two earned runs or fewer in five of his six starts, and is well on his way to another 300 strikeout season.
According to Game Score, Kershaw's performance was better than Jake Arrieta's no-hit performance vs the Reds earlier in the week:
Kershaw today: 9 IP | 3 H | 0 BB | 14 K | Game Score: 95— Jason Foster (@ByJasonFoster) May 1, 2016
Arrieta's no-hitter: 9 IP | 0 hits | 4 BB | 6 K | Game Score: 89
Who was better?
Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman had his best outing of the season on Sunday, limiting the Rays to one run on 3 its, 2 walks and 9 strikeouts in the Blue Jays 5-1 win. The win moved his record to 4-0 with a 3.77 ERA, 3.80 FIP, 0.,95 WHIP and a 28-11 strikeout to walk rate in 43 innings. Stroman is not a dominating starter, but he does own an elite ground ball rate (59%), and lints the free pass. His low BABIP and strand rate are interesting because one tells us he is due to get hit around a bit, while the other indicates his ERA should drop once his strand rate regresses to the mean.
Diamondbacks infielder Brandon Drury just continues to hit and manager Chip Hale says he will continue to play all over the field for the Diamondbacks as long as he's hitting. Yesterday, Drury had a nice day at the plate, going 3-5 with a home run, 2 runs scored and an RBI in the Diamondbacks 6-3 loss to the Rockies. Drury is now hitting .315-.329-.630 with 5 home runs, 10 runs, 11 RBI and a 16-1 strikeout to walk rate. Yeah, he doesn't walk, and he has struck out in 21% of his plate appearances. Drury's 21% HR/FB rate will probably drop some going forward, but he has a chance at hitting 15-20 home runs with regular playing time. He will benefit from hitting at Chase Field to boot.
Rays starter Jake Odorizzi pitched well enough to win yesterday, but did not receive the run support. He limited the Blue Jays to a run on just 2 hits, 2 walks and 6 strikeouts in 7 innings of works in the Rays 5-1 loss. His record still sits at 0-1 with a 3.12 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and a 30-7 strikeout to walk rate in 34.2 innings of work thus far. He has pitched well in four of his six starts to date, but needs to learn to be more efficient on the mound, and go deeper in games. He has gone six or more innings in just three of his six starts this season.
Chris Carter is enjoying his move to the National League, and yesterday he had a big day at the plate, going 3-5 with 2 home runs, a double, 3 runs scored and 3 RBI in the Brewers 14-5 win over the Marlins. He is still striking out in 29% of his plate appearances, but he has hit well to date, slashing .278-.355-.671 with 7 home runs, 15 runs scored and 18 RBI in his 90 plate appearances. He is hitting more ground balls this season, 41% vs 30% last season, and fewer fly balls - 52% vs 35% - but Miller Park is still having a hard time keeping his fly balls in the park, as he has hit six of his seven home runs at home thus far. He should be a slam dunk for 30 home runs this season.
I have to admit, I have yet to write about Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun in these pages this season, but it is not because he isn't hitting well. Braun is off to a fast start to the 2016 season, and he had another big day at the plate on Sunday, going 3-5 with 2 runs scored and 2 RBI, and is now slashing .349-.419-.578 with 5 home runs, 14 runs scored, 20 RBI and 2 stolen bases. Some were scared off of him on draft day as he was coming back from back surgery, but so far this season he has shown that the back is 100% healthy. I regret not drafting him in any leagues this season.
Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager was a consensus top 5 shortstop coming into the season after his strong September debut, but he has failed to live up to expectations through the first month of the season. After going 0-3 with a strikeout on Sunday, Seager is hitting .242-.303-.384 with 2 home runs 14 runs scored, 12 RBI and a stolen base in 109 plate appearances this season. After making hard contact on 47% of his balls in play last season, his hard contact rate has dropped to 32% in April and he is hitting 55% of his batted balls on the ground. His batted ball mix will have to change for Seager to reach the power and batting average projections given to him in the preseason. One positive takeaway to his slow start is he is walking in 8% of his plate appearances and his strikeout rate is an acceptable 14.7%.
After a dominating performance in his last start, Red Sox ace David Price struggled once again last night on Sunday Night Baseball. Facing a struggling Yankees lineup that ranks 28th in runs scored, Price gave up 6 runs on 8 hits, a walk and just 3 strikeouts in 7 innings last night in the Red Sox 8-7 win. The win moved his record to 4-0 with a 6.14 ERA, 2.88 FIP, a 1.28 WHIP and a 49-9 strikeout to walk rate in 36.2 innings. He has given up five or more runs in three of his six starts this season, and is allowing hard contact on 41% of balls in play vs 28% in 2015. His FIP indicates he has pitched better than his ERA shows, and his BABIP and strand rate support that as well. He should be fine going forward.
White Sox second baseman Brett Lawrie didn't get much love from the fantasy writers here in our consensus second base rankings in the preseason, mainly due to the fact that ha has never lived up to the high expectations we set upon him after his 43 performance after his initial call up to the big leagues way back ion 2011. The move to Chicago seems to be sitting well with Lawrie as he is off to fast start to the 2016 season. On Sunday, he went 3-3 with 2 walks and a home run in the White Sox 7-1 win over the Orioles. He has now homered in three straight games, and is hitting .290-.377-.505 with 4 home runs, 15 runs scored, 10 RBI and 2 stolen bases in 106 plate appearances. He is hitting more fly balls than ever, so he could exceed his 16 home runs hit in 2015, and he appears to have more discipline at the plate this season, as he is walking in more than 11% of his plate appearances.
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