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What's Real & What's Not, Take 2

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(A continuation of yesterday's post.)

Jose Vidro

You'd be hard-pressed to find too many differences between Vidro 2006 and Vidro 2007. Mostly because, in terms of peripherals, there aren't any. Same contact, same walks, same groundballs, same everything. Except this: last year, Vidro had a .311 BABIP and a line drive rate of 21.8%. This year, it's .333 and 17.6%. As far as these numbers are concerned, 2006 is much more indicative of Vidro's true talent level (being a BABIP about 90-100 points over his LD%). So far he's just gotten lucky on ball-in-play location. The line drives will come up, but the BABIP will come down. If he keeps swinging the bat like this for the rest of the season, he'll finish in the .280-.290 BA range, rather than .310-.320.

Verdict: Unsustainable

Yuniesky Betancourt

YuBet's a funny guy - his patience has improved over the last three years (as determined by how often he swings at the first pitch), but at the same time his walks have dropped to virtually non-existent levels. He doesn't strike out, either, meaning pretty much every single one of his at bats is a guaranteed ball in play. And that's where he's been getting burned so far in 2007 - among players with at least 50 plate appearances, his BABIP is the 9th-lowest in baseball despite an above-average line drive rate. That takes an incredible amount of bad luck. While Betancourt's ability to hit into infield pop-ups is historically prolific, he's way, way better than his current numbers would suggest. If he keeps this up, he'll be batting over .300 by late August. And the extra fly balls he's hitting right now will keep that from being a Jason Tyner .300. Buy low.

Verdict: Unsustainable

Miguel Batista

Someone please explain this to me. Batista's K% is at a career high, but so is his contact rate. Oh, he's also become a completely different pitcher in terms of walks and fly balls. Where he's generally been a groundball pitcher with a K/BB around 1.5 or so, suddenly he's changed everything around at the tender young age of 36. I don't really know what to think. In terms of straight performance, though, the ERA's a total fluke. I don't know who Batista is right now, but I know who he isn't, and that's a guy who deserves a 7.54 ERA.

Verdict: Unsustainable

Jeff Weaver

Aside from a better groundball rate, Weaver's exactly the same guy he was in 2006. That's bad. The runs'll come down once he stops giving up hits on half the balls in play he allows, but this is a replacement-level arm at the end of his starting career.

Verdict: Unsustainable, but still bad

Ho Ramirez

I'm going to give Ho the benefit of the doubt here, because even though he's never been a strike-throwing machine, nobody's as bad as a 0.55 K/BB. He's been lucky so far, but as the luck evens out, so will the walks, and I imagine they'll meet somewhere in the middle. What he needs to do is keep the ball on the ground more often, because that's the only thing keeping him in the league. The 1.45 GB/FB is a new career low, and that's bad news. This is a borderline case.

Verdict: Sustainable ERA, unsustainable peripherals. Lots of crater potential.

Jarrod Washburn

Much attention has been paid to Washburn's transition from extreme flyballer to moderate groundballer, but what nobody's noticed is the 8.4% line drive rate or .229 BABIP (thanks, Oakland!). It's neat that Jarrod's keeping the ball down more often, but even if that's real and not just a statistical fluke, his strikeouts are also at an all-time low, so there go the good vibes. This version of Washburn is just taking a slightly different path to the same ERA. Don't buy the hype.

Verdict: Unsustainable

Felix Hernandez

The best pitcher in baseball.

Verdict: Sustainable