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Improving Players

Sometimes with the mass of rookies and midseason callups we tend to forget players who have already been in the league for a year or two who are also (appearing to be) establishing themselves. Let's take a look at a few pitchers who have really started to come into their own during the second half of the season.

Kazmir's main problems? Too many walks in comparison to his strikeouts (or actually, at all) and too many homeruns for someone who walks so many batters. He did not improve on the number of walks allowed so far in the second half, as you can see by the change of 0.01 to his BB/9. He did however drop his HR/9 by .236 points, raise his K/9 over 2.5 K's, all while having a much higher than league average BABIP. My thought? When his BABIP regresses to the mean, Kazmir is going to be just that when hitters have to face him (for those of you who missed it, I used the word mean with two different meanings...yeah I know, sad attempt at some type of wordplay.) Now if he can just work on walking a few less batters...

Shelled in RFK (a pitchers' park) and thriving in Bank One Ballpark (a bandbox). How do you explain this? Check out the BABIP, exactly .100 points lower. Yes he has struck out more men in the second half, and walked less (and the ball isn't leaving the park twice per nine innings helps too) but as you can see from the fact that his hits per 9 innings pitched dropped 4.99 between halves, you can most assuredly throw this one into the fiery maw of BABIP luck. Vargas is most likely the pitcher his season stats are showcasing at the moment, rather than the pitcher his second half is currently benefiting from.

Lowry is somewhere in between Kazmir and Vargas. He has seen his luck turn around for the better, with his BABIP falling almost 100 points, but alot of it seems to have to do with his falling homerun rate (from over one every nine innings to more like one every nine games) as well as his rising strikeout rate and improving walk rate. Again, I do not think he is as good as his second half has shown, but he is nowhere near the dead weight his first half numbers attest. Another pitcher most likely closer to his actual season totals than either one of his halves, although I think he could be a little better than that.

And now for something completely different, as the timeless Monty Python cast would tell say. Josh Towers is fun to watch sometimes. He does not strike anyone out, but he walks even less people. He gives up homeruns, but no one is on base unless they got a hit. His BABIP in the first half was well above league average, and it has now regressed closer to the mean. If he could get it to drop just a tad more, he'd be all set due to a lower hit rate to go along with his nonexistent walk rate. 0.77 BB/9 in a 47 inning stretch is quite impressive, even if you only struck out 18 guys during that stretch. Here's hoping the low walk total is due to Towers beginning to master his command, and not because everything is a fat pitch over the plate (is it wrong that fat pitch over the plate made me think of Sidney Ponson for two reasons?)

One of these things is not like the others...

Dave Williams: shiny ERA, as many strikeouts as walks in the second half, but much fewer homeruns allowed. Williams is a funny player to look at. In the first half he was screwed over by giving up the long ball too much while keeping a respectable distance between his strikeouts and walks. Now that he gives up fewer homeruns, he cannot seem to strike anyone out (but he also is not walking a huge number of players, just too many for my tastes). Someone is bound to pick him up in fantasy baseball and then he'll start giving up homeruns again, and that teams ERA is going explode. I'd mention the effect on the Pirates, but his name isn't Bay, Perez, Gonzalez or Duke, so I think he might mean more to fantasy squads than the real thing.

I'll post some hitters establishing themselves in the second half tomorrow. Possibly followed up by the reverse: players we thought were establishing themselves in the first half but have fallen apart in the second half, also known as the Brian Roberts Article.