The Sizemore Problem

When you draft a player in the top three rounds, you don’t expect a .211/.271/.289 line with zero home runs having gone over 100 at-bats. Well, for Grady Sizemore owners that is indeed the reality. Midway through May, this lack of production is now officially beyond a simple slump. It’s getting into “bust” territory.
The problem is that there is still plenty of season left. Plenty of time for things to turn around and for players like Sizemore, plenty of upside to make it happen. It’s the inability to fathom simply cutting a player of Sizemore’s talent loose. Instead he sits on fantasy team rosters, eating up replacement production because we all want too believe that things will get better.
 

Some people I talked to last season thought that Sizemore was trying to pull the ball too much. The numbers, however, did not back that assumption. You can see that data here. The big culprit last season was a career low in line drives and a career high in fly balls. To this point in 2010, Sizemore hasn’t been pulling the ball too much (see below) and his line drive, ground ball and fly ball rates are all in line with his career averages, so we can’t point to that as the main cause for the low AVG. The big issue has not been the results of balls off of his bat, but rather the frequency in which the ball has missed his bat.

 
Pull 26%
Middle 58%
Oppo 16%
 
Sizemore has been a fairly patient hitter over his career posting above average walk rates up until this season. He has never been one to chase bad pitches very often and his swing was always produced good contact rates. That has all changed so far in 2010.
 
Below is a chart showing the last three years of three distinct categories: walk rate (BB%), swings on pitches outside the strike zone (O-Sw%) and contact rate (CT%)
 

Season

BB%

O-Sw%

CT%

2008

13.2%

19.5%

82.9%

2009

11.9%

17.9%

83.1%

2010

6.4%

33.0%

73.8%

 
The O-Sw% is the most concerning to me and is a clear indication of a hitter not only pressing, but losing confidence in his swing. By swinging at more bad pitches, Sizemore is swinging and missing more often, taking fewer walks and striking out more. All factors together lower Sizemore’s chances of getting a base hit dramatically.
 
The lack of power is a by-product of this new approach.
 
Given Sizemore’s track record, this prolonged slump seems likely to end at some point. Once his plate approach returns the AVG should rise and the power should show up. The question then becomes: By how much?
 
The chances of Sizemore breaking out with the production of old seems slim. Even if Sizemore makes a dramatic adjustment in his plate approach, it is going to take some time. Also, even if only a minor injury, knee problems are never a good thing for players who carry value with stolen bases, so we’re not likely going to get 30-plus steals as in seasons past.
 
This might be a good situation to use in a sell low, buy low trade. While owners are unlikely to get full value for Sizemore in a deal, there is a chance to land another struggling star in return.
 
According to CBSSports.com Sizemore recently traded for:
 
Denard Span
Aaron Hill
Adam Lind
Aramis Ramirez
Carlos Lee
 
These are fine players to target in a potential deal if they can fill a specific need (Lind for power, Span for speed etc…).
 
Don’t give up on Sizemore yet, but don’t expect third round value for the rest of the season either.