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Golden Sombrero: Clete Thomas (4/18/2012)

Date: April 18, 2012 vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

Top 1: Clete Thomas struck out swinging against Hiroki Kuroda (5 pitches)

Top 3: Thomas called out on strikes against Kuroda (6 pitches)

Top 5: Thomas struck out swinging against Clay Rapada (7 pitches)

Top 8: Thomas struck out swinging against Boone Logan (3 pitches)

Final Line: 0-for-4, 4 K

RE24: -1.476

WPA: -0.105

Notes: It’s games like this that ultimately get you DFA’d.

2012 Total Sombreros: 8

Video: NL Cy Young Winner Clayton Kershaw

2011 NL Cy Young Winner Clayton Kershaw warms up in the bullpen before a 2010 start

2011 Sombreros in Review: Adam Dunn

What’s there to say about Adam Dunn’s 2011 season that hasn’t already been said?  With an fWAR of -2.9 over 496 plate appearances, Dunn had one of the worst seasons in baseball history and recorded career lows in nearly every offensive category.  He finished the season with a triple slash line of .159/.292/.277, wRC+ of 59, .118 ISO, 27 extra-base hits, and a measly 42 RBI.

Along the way, the big man amassed three golden sombreros, putting him in a seven-way tie for first place in Major League Baseball.  He picked up his first on May 21 against the Dodgers and then followed it up with his second on May 26 against the Blue Jays.  The final sombrero came exactly a month later at the hands of the Washington Nationals.

Absolutely nothing went Dunn’s way in 2011; he hit like crap and was an utter disappointment in his first season with the White Sox.  There wasn’t a single moment where it seemed as though Dunn might turn the corner.  He never hit that dramatic walk-off bomb in front of a sold out home crowd or had a multi-home run game to rally the troops in his favor.

So what can be attributed to Dunn’s abysmal season? Well, his 35.7% strikeout rate is a good but obvious starting point.  In 415 at-bats this season, Dunn set a franchise record by fanning 177 times.  And although his penchant for striking out is as much of a defining trait as his longball potential, nothing pointed towards a complete offensive collapse.

In 2010, Dunn absolutely torched fastballs, as evidenced by a 32.1 wFB.  This past season, however, he posted a wFB of -8.5 (!), which is easily the worst of his storied career.  His inability to square up fastballs in turn damaged his approach at the plate, causing him to struggle mightily against offspeed pitches: -7.2 wSL (0.7 in 2010), -3.6 wCT (-2.5 in 2010), and -5.8 wCH (-3.9 in 2010) – all career lows.

Dunn also recorded a 57.8% O-Contact% (contact percentage on pitches thrown outside the strikezone), which, when supplemented by his 9.6% HR/FB rate, explains why he was seldom feared by opposing pitchers; they could comfortably attack him within the strikezone without the fear of 450-foot repercussions.

Here is Dunn’s ‘Swing Pitch Type’ chart from this past season:

While his selectiveness was decent—he did manage to coax 75 walks (15.1%)—Dunn simply was unable to consistently drive pitches within the strikezone, something that he’d never really struggled with.  Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Dunn failed to provoke an intentional walk all season for the first time in his 11-year career.

Yet, what Dunn’s season indicates, more than anything else, is a total lack of comfort and confidence at the dish – a realm of the game that cannot be quantified. Sure we can delve through endless statistics in search of some type of rationalization, but there is no true, metric-based explanation for why a player who averaged nearly 40 home runs and 100 RBI per season would suddenly hit his way out of a starting line up.

As any hitter will tell you, there’s nothing more detrimental to one’s performance than a waning level of confidence at the plate.  Once that confidence begins to waver, a hitter suddenly becomes susceptible to a slew of problems – some old, some new.  After scuffling through the first month of the season, Dunn never quite turned the corner as everyone expected he would, including himself.  Instead, his season spiraled out of control, as he absorbed the majority of the blame for the White Sox struggles, which in turn compounded his own personal issues.

Video: Jarrod Parker’s Major League Debut

Jarrod Parker‘s MLB Debut, September 27 vs. Los Angeles Dodgers: 5 2/3 IP, 4 H, BB, K


Happy Jarrod Parker Day

2011 has been a monumental year for MLB prospects.  This season we have seen an inordinate amount of top-ranked prospects make their Major League Debuts, most of which have been celebrated here at the Sombrero.

On June 10 we celebrated Mike Moustakas Day; June 17: Dustin Ackley Day; July 8: Mike Trout Day; July 22: Jason Kipnis Day; August 5: Brett Lawrie Day; and most recently, Matt Moore Day on September 12.

Today we celebrate the debut of The Golden Sombrero’s No. 8 prospect, RHP Jarrod Parker.

Drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in first round (9th overall) of the 2007 draft, Parker validated his draft position by going 12-5 with a 3.44 ERA and 117/33 K/BB ratio over 118 inning for South Bend in 2008.  He began the following season with High-A Visalia before earning a quick promotion to Double-A Mobile where he recorded a 0.95 ERA over four starts.

However, the 6-foot-1 right-hander was plagued by elbow problems and Tommy John surgery prematurely ended his season, while the subsequent rehabilitation forced him to miss the entire 2010 season.

With a brand new elbow, the 22-year-old has stayed healthy this season, and his numbers reflect such: 11-8 with a 3.79 ERA and 112/55 K/BB in 131 innings.

Parker’s fastball sits in the low- to mid-90s, and he has touched 96-97 mph on occasion.  His slider, which was graded a plus pitch and served as his out pitch prior to surgery, remains a plus despite the fact that he’s thrown it considerably less.  In it’s place, the Indiana native has shown an improved changeup – many consider it to be a plus now, too – and he also flashed a solid curveball.

With four above average pitches and mechanics that make pitching coaches uncontrollably drool, Parker figures to become a front-end starter (likely a two or three) for the Diamondbacks within the next couple years.

Parker’s debut tonight against the Los Angeles Dodgers will be fans first taste of the highly regarded prospect, as he hopefully makes his case to be part of the D-backs’ 2012 starting rotation.