Eyeing Grady Sizemore's brutal start

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pained sizemore.jpgThe bruised knee that knocked Grady Sizemore out of Sunday’s game and is sidelining him again Monday might have been the best thing that could have happened to the 27-year-old center fielder. He may not want to, but he definitely needs to sit back and watch a couple of games.
There were reasons to be concerned about Sizemore headed into this year, most of them having to do with his surgically repaired left elbow. He didn’t perform at nearly his usual level before shutting it down in 2008, and it remained to be seen whether his power would come all of the way back after his arm problems.
But then Sizemore went and hit .364/.500/.614 with just five strikeouts in 44 at-bats this spring. Questions answered, or so it seemed.
Sizemore, though, has been positively terrible this year. He’s hitting just .211/.271/.289 through 128 at-bats. He’s drawn a mere nine walks after working 12 in spring training, and he’s struck out 35 times. He’s also without a homer, though he did hit his first earlier this month on a game that was unfortunately halted and postponed due to rain.
If it were just the power, that’d be one thing. However, Sizemore’s offensive game has completely fallen apart. Most players with weaker-than-expected batting averages this time of year are probably experiencing some poor luck on balls in play. Sizemore, though, is hitting a reasonable .287 there. When he hits a liner, it’s generally falling in. It’s the simple act of making contact that’s giving Sizemore trouble.
Just look at Sizemore’s plate discipline chart over at Fangraphs. Even if you don’t know what the numbers mean, you can see how consistent Sizemore was in previous years and how much things have changed this season. Most notably, Sizemore is swinging at pitches outside of the strike zone far more often than ever before. He’s at about 180 percent of his career rate there.
But that’s not to say he’s suddenly swinging at everything. He’s actually swinging at fewer pitches inside the strike zone. While his overall swing rate is up a bit, it’s still pretty modest. But since he’s swinging at bad pitches, his overall contact rate is way down.
Of 178 qualified hitters, Sizemore ranks 161st in the percentage of swings in which he makes contact. He’s at 73.4 right now. Sizemore has always struck out plenty, in part because he takes plenty of pitches, but in a typical year, he’s right around the 50th percentile when it comes to making contact.
If I ran the Indians, I’d politely request that Sizemore undergo an eye exam to see if anything has changed there. If that’s not the problem, then, yeah, Sizemore needs to kick back and watch a few games. Maybe the power isn’t going to come back anytime soon, but he can stop getting himself out.

Jose Fernandez’s high school jersey was returned

MIAMI, FL - JULY 09:  Jose Fernandez #16 of the Miami Marlins pitches during the game against the Cincinnati Reds at Marlins Park on July 9, 2015 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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Yesterday it was reported that someone stole Jose Fernandez’s high school jersey, which had been hanging in the Alsonso High School dugout in Tampa for a vigil. That was pretty vile stuff indeed.

Thankfully, however, someone’s conscience got the best of them: the jersey has been returned. School officials say that a family found a large envelope outside of the high school with the words “Jose’s jersey” written on it. They took the envelope into to the school this morning and the jersey was found inside.

Bad form taking it, whoever you are, but in most cases it’s never too late to make a better decision and fix your mistakes.

The Tigers have an interesting weekend ahead of them

ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 08:  A general view of outside the stadium ahead of the Philadephia Phillies versus Atlanta Braves during their opening day game at Turner Field on April 8, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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In late August, when everyone started looking at the schedule in an effort to see who had the easiest road ahead of them to the playoffs, the Tigers stood out as particularly blessed. The end of their season featured several games against the lonely Twins and, if things were tight heading into the final weekend, a three-game series against the lowly Braves.

Problem: the Braves have not been very lowly lately, and that could cause the Tigers all kinds of grief.

Atlanta has won 10 of 11 games. They’ve scored 66 runs in those games and their pitching staff has an ERA of 3.28 over that span. Oh, and remember how, earlier in the season, the Braves were hitting like a deadball era team, being outhomered by multiple individual players? Well, they’ve hit ten during this neat little run. Really, though, the run isn’t that little. They’ve won 19 of 30 and have been a solid team, offensively speaking, since late July. They’re hot as heck now and haven’t been pushovers for some time.

So enter the Tigers, who have been seesawing through August and September and who have to play in Atlanta this weekend without their DH, Victor Martinez. Oh, and who stand a halfway decent chance of having to fly out of Atlanta Sunday evening for a makeup game in Detroit that could then cause them to play a tiebreaker game in Toronto or Baltimore which could then have them travel to the other city for a Wild Card game. And that’s if things break decently.

If they break poorly? It’ll be a long, season-closing flight home from Atlanta. A city that was supposed to provide respite for them when it first appeared on the schedule.