The Maturation of Dexter Fowler

It sucks being on the losing side of a near no-hitter.  When the pitcher’s name is Anibal, the embarrassment is compounded.  The Rockies played an ugly game last night.  It wasn’t quite as ugly as the tie Ringolsby wore on the Root Sports pre-game broadcast, but that’s not saying much.  His tie was the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen.  As a general rule, ties with scenery are a bad idea.

Last night’s lone bright spot was Dexter Fowler.  In an effort to remain positive, I’m going to focus on him this morning.  Dexter reached base in three of his four plate appearances.  If not for a Helton walk and Tulo getting on via a Gaby Sanchez error, Fowler would have been the only Rockie to reach base.  And, of course, it was Fowler that broke up the no-hitter in the ninth.

Clearly, Dexter is a better hitter this year, but many wonder if he can maintain his early success.  At this point, it’s hard to tell.  In some aspects of his game, Fowler has made dramatic improvements, but he has regressed in other areas.  It could be that Dex has taken the next step as a professional baseball player, but it’s also possible that he is just hot right now.

The first thing that stands out about Fowler’s season thus far is his walk rate — 13.5%.  That’s outstanding.  If he is able to maintain his current base-on-balls ratio and assuming he stays healthy enough to accumulate 700 plate appearances, Dex is going to have around 100 walks this season.  I’m going to venture out on a limb here and say that if Fowler draws 100 free passes, the Rockies’ offense will rank among the best in baseball.

Right now, Fowler’s BABIP is .396.  Some of that is luck, but it’s also a product of Dex making better contact.   His groundball and fly-ball ratios have decreased, while his line drive percentage has gone up significantly.  30.8% of Fowler’s batted balls have been line drives — up from 21.6% in 2010. To put that in perspective, the reigning NL MVP, Joey Votto, has a 30.6% line drive percentage.  In fact, there are only five players in all of baseball that have a better line drive percentage than Fowler.  That’s a very good sign; it means he is hitting the ball on the screws.

However, there are also red flags.  Dex is striking out at the highest rate of his career — 30.7%.  If he continues to strike-out like this, he’ll have 180-200 Ks this year.  That’s Mark Reynolds territory.  Also, Dexter’s slugging percentage is slightly lower than last year, but he hasn’t hit a homerun yet.  That number will increase when he hits a few balls out of the yard.

My prediction for Fowler is that he will maintain his solid start.  He finished the 2010 season on a good note and it appears that he has built off that success.  Yes, he is striking out more, but he is also driving more pitches.  Currently, he has a WAR of 0.9, ranking him among the thirty best players in baseball.  Tulo is the only Rockies position player that has been more valuable this season.  That pretty much says it all.  Pay attention, Fowler is developing into a premier lead-off hitter and centerfielder right before our eyes.

Here’s yesterday’s win probability graph.  Of course, this doesn’t mean much.  Failing to get a hit until the ninth inning makes this kind of irrelevant.

The Rockies traded for Blue Jays prospect Brad Emaus.  Emaus was a Rule 5 selection of the Mets and we actually played against him this year.  However, the Mets recently sent him back to the Jays because they no longer had room for him on their 25 Man roster.

This was a very curious trade.  Not only is Emaus a solid middle infield prospect — hit .298 last year in the minors — but the Jays didn’t ask for much in return.  The Rockies gave up Chris Malone, a 27-year-old middle reliever with the Drillers.  Malone is a very nice guy, but his value as a prospect is minimal.

Asheville outfielder, Kyle Parker, drove in seven last night.  Parker, the Rockies’ 2010 first round pick, was making his return after missing several games with the flu.

This Date in Baseball History:

1902 In his major league debut, Luis Castro plays second base for Connie Mack’s Philadelphia’s A’s in an 8-1 victory over the Orioles at Oriole Park. The 25-year old Medellin native is the first and last player from Columbia to appear in the big leagues until Orlando Ramírez breaks in with the Angels in 1974.

1954 In his seventh major league game, Braves’ outfielder Hank Aaron hits the first of his 755 career home runs off Cardinal hurler Vic Raschi at Sportman’s Park.

2007 At the age of 73, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Halberstam is killed as a passenger in an auto accident near San Francisco. The prolific writer’s books covered various topics in American history including pennant races (The Summer of ‘49) ,World Series (October 1964), and ball players who were lifelong friends (Teammates)

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Tags: Anibal Sanchez Brad Emaus Chris Malone Connie Mack David Halberstam Dexter Fowler Florida Marlins Hank Aaron Joey Votto Kyle Parker New York Mets This Day In Baseball History Todd Helton Toronto Blue Jays Tracy Ringolsby Tracy Ringolsby's Tie Troy Tulowitzki Tulo Tulsa Drillers WAR

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