Billy Butler (and his milkshake) brings all the balls to go yard. This year, for the first time in his career, he’s hit his eighth home run before June. Butler has been a perennial candidate to experience a spike in homers because he consistently ranks among the league leaders in hitting doubles, with at least 44 in each of the last three years. Unfortunately, those doubles have not become homers at a higher rate, evidenced by his career high 21 homers and a career 10% HR/FB that ranks him alongside teammate Jeff Francoeur. To contrast, this year he’s managed an HR/FB over 18%, which is responsible for him posting an .876 OPS due to the increase in slugging. His plate discipline appears to be suffering but, despite a decreased walk rate, his OBP is on par with his .360 career average. Moving forward, a key determinant of his OPS performance will be his HR/FB. The average true distance of his eight home runs is roughly 400 feet, which is a negative sign because he averaged above 405 feet every previous season and averaged nearly 415 feet in 2011. Yes this is a small sample, but I’m skeptical of him realizing any sustainable power increase. Furthermore, three of his eight homers wouldn’t have left his home park, compared to only two of his nineteen home runs having the same fate in 2011. For the rest of the season, I don’t expect improvement upon last year’s line of .360/.460/.820. At first base or designated hitter, that’s nothing special. You’ve built me up Billy, but don’t break my heart.
Hanley Ramirez claims to be a big fan of 50 Cent, whose last album Before I Self Destruct was released in 2009. Oddly enough, 2009 was the last year Hanley has posted one of his .940+ OPS seasons. Since then, his OPS has declined: .853 in 2010, .712 in 2011, and .765 in 2012. This 2010-2011 trend appears to be related to a decreased line drive rate and fly ball rate, with an increased ground ball rate. This year’s he’s started hitting more fly balls and less ground balls, resulting in a rise in home runs. One positive factor is that his .275 BABIP, which he also had last year, should increase. However, since he isn’t hitting line drives like he used to, he may not see it increase much above .300. Additionally, his .192 ISO is encouraging (he has a .200 career ISO) and suggests that he may be able to maintain his power. For the rest of 2012, I think he will be able to approach a .350/.475/.825 line. At shortstop, that is almost certainly one of the top three and may only trail Tulowitzki. At third base in OPS leagues, Hanley will be closer to a borderline top five option.
Albert Pujols has an OPS below .600. I’ve heard analysts talk about how he’s struggling to adjust to American League pitchers, how there are questions about his age, and even how they would trade Pujols for Konerko. As somebody who has Albert in more than one league, I understand that it’s been frustrating to own him this year, but I’m not ready to give up hope: Pujols isn’t dead yet. In fact, his batted ball profile is in line with what I’d expect, except for his insanely low HR/FB of 6.9%. This is a clear indication of some bad luck, and I expect him approach the 18.3% rate he’s had over the last two years. Another source of bad luck is his .225 BABIP, which will definitely improve. One potential concern is his lack of walks, but I’m willing to pass this off as a sign of him pressing at the plate rather than a sudden loss of ability. Over the rest of the season, I believe that last year’s line of .360/.540/.900 is his baseline, with upside for more is he can turn things around quickly.
Adam Jones realizes that if he keeps this up, he will be able to achieve the dream of every Orioles player: leaving the Orioles. After never attaining an OPS above .800, Jones is now over .950 this season. The strange thing is that I am not finding any significant changes in his plate discipline or his batted ball profile. The only factor that is an obvious outlier is his 26.4% HR/FB. Last year he had a 16.7% HR/FB and his career high is a 17.8%, so it is reasonable to expect 20% to be his ceiling for the rest of 2012. In terms of home runs, he should be able to approach 30, seeing as he already has 14 on the year. I predict a line of .320/.480/.800 for the rest of the season, which captures some extra slugging relative to his career rate and his typical lack of OBP.
Carlos Beltran’s owners shouldn’t be concerned whether he will continue to produce. The only red flag is that his HR/FB will definitely decrease but, aside from that factor, his batted ball statistics are in line with his career norms. His walk rate and strikeout rate are higher than usual, but I see this as a combination of him trying to swing more since he is consistently homering as well as pitchers more inclined to avoid him. With some regression, it would be fair to expect close to his 2011 line of .380/.520/.900 over the rest of the season. The only caveat is that his health may cause him to miss games. However, while on the field, he will continue to be a great outfielder in OPS leagues.