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Lawrie's frustrations mirror those of fantasy

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - After spiking his helmet in the direction of plate umpire Bill Miller as if he were a member of the Toronto Argonauts on Tuesday night, Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie is likely due a short unpaid vacation courtesy of Major League Baseball.

And while Lawrie's actions were boneheaded, his frustrations with Miller's strike zone perfectly summed up what it's been like owning him in fantasy baseball this season.

He's been so consistently mediocre that I don't doubt many of us who drafted him with high hopes have looked around the house more than once for something to toss.

After hitting .293 with nine home runs, 25 RBIs, seven steals and a .953 OPS in 150 at-bats last season, the British Columbia native flew off draft boards in 2012 -- owners selected him with the 50th pick on average in Yahoo! leagues.

However, with a .289 average and a .727 OPS through Tuesday, Lawrie is ranked 120th overall, 13th among third basemen.

Lawrie has actually picked up at least one base hit in 28 of his 37 games this year, but only 11 of those 28 were multi-hit games. He also has just eight extra-base hits, which explains his .394 slugging percentage.

Lawrie has become an extreme groundball hitter, hitting 2.34 balls on the ground to every fly ball -- his G/F last season was 0.85.

The Toronto third baseman has actually had some moderately good luck on balls he's put in play, as his BABIP is .333, while the league average is usually between .290-.310. Once some of those ground balls find opponents' gloves, his batting average will drop into the .275 range.

Unfortunately, there's not much for Lawrie owners to do besides wait. It's still May and there are many games left this season.

On the plus side, Lawrie has provided above-average value in the speed department, as he's swiped five bases, which ranks fifth among third baseman who are widely owned (Maicer Izturis has seven and Eduardo Nunez had six, but both of those players are owned in less than 6 percent of Yahoo! leagues).

Lawrie's contact percentage is up 5 percent from last season, so he's putting the bat on the ball more, but he's struggling to get the ball in the air.

The reason for that could be an increase in the number of sliders pitchers have thrown to him this season. Lawrie saw sliders 13 percent of the time in 2011, but this year, pitchers have thrown a slider 18.5 percent of the time.

In addition, Lawrie's pitches per plate appearance have declined from 4.07 to 3.79, meaning he's trying to make contact early in the count but he's coming up against a ton of sliders, leading to more grounders.

A lesser hitter might be struggling to adapt to the change in approach from opposing pitchers this season, but Lawrie is so talented that he's been able to at least get his bat on the ball most of the time.

Once he learns to become more selective at the plate and lay off those sliders altogether, his fly ball rate should return to where it was last season and his extra-base hit percentage will increase as a result.

Right now, I'd say there is very little chance Lawrie becomes the next Gordon Beckham, another heralded prospect who made waves in his first season -- Beckham hit .270 with 14 homers, 63 RBIs and seven steals in 378 at-bats in 2009 and was a popular breakout pick at second base the next season, but he's declined massively each year since then.

Patience is the key for Lawrie owners. Stash him on the bench and hope that Major League Baseball Executive Vice President Joe Torre goes easy on him since the helmet contact with Miller was inadvertent. Once this incident is behind him, expect him to start hitting more doubles and home runs instead of umpires.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Thomas Harrigan at tharrigan@sportsnetwork.com.


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