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Wednesday Wallpaper: Ortiz’s Injury, Youk’s Return, Cutch Still on Fire, Why Justin Upton Is Not Justin Upton, More

David Ortiz is wearing a protective boot after injuring his Achilles tendon while trotting around second base during an Adrian Gonzalez home run on Monday evening. Meanwhile, Kevin Youkilis returned to Fenway on Monday and stroked a single in his first plate appearance, then clubbed a three-run home run off of Jon Lester yesterday in the White Sox’s 7–5 win.


Andrew McCutchen remains on fire. After going 2 for 4 with a home run in the Pirates’ 6–2 victory against the Rockies in Coors Field last night, his slash line currently stands at a stellar .374/.426./657, and he has accumulated a 5.4 fWAR.


Of course, not every player is having a blast in 2012: Sweet Spot’s Mark Simon looks at the spray charts to analyze why Justin Upton’s offensive numbers, and his slugging percentage in particular, are down this season. In short, he discovers that Upton is looking at strike three far more frequently, hitting the ball in the air less frequently, and not pulling enough of the balls that are put in the air.


John Axford is struggling too. Cris Cwik of Fangraphs puts his finger on what has gone so wrong with the now-former closer for the Brewers:

Axford’s biggest problem this season has been his control. Axford has never had pinpoint control — as evidenced by his career 10.4% walk rate, but he did a better job limiting his walks last season. After walking 8.2% of batters last year, Axford has walked 11.7% this season. And while his strikeout rate is up from last year, it hasn’t been enough to compensate for more walks. Axford has managed to get by with shaky control in the past, but it’s catching up with him this season. . . .

It looks like the problem might be Axford’s fastball. After years of good results with his fastball, it’s been dreadful this season. Axford has a -6.0 pitch value with his fastball, which puts him among the worst qualified relievers this season. It’s difficult to determine why Axford’s fastball has been hit so hard this season. He hasn’t lost any velocity. In fact, he’s actually throwing harder this year. His average fastball velocity is up to 96.3 mph. Axford has also lost some effectiveness on his slider. The pitch had been a weapon in the past, but this season it hasn’t saved or lost any runs, leading to a 0.0 pitch type. The only pitch that has worked for Axford is his curveball. The problem is that the curve has always been Axford’s most difficult pitch to throw for a strike, according to BrooksBaseball.net. That could be one explanation for the heightened walk rate.


Ben Lindbergh is leaving Bloomberg Sports to become editor-in-chief of analytics-friendly Baseball Prospectus.

Jason Epstein is the president of Southfive Strategies, LLC. He was a public-relations consultant for the Turkish embassy in Washington from 2002 to 2007.


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