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Now that we are approximately two and a half months in to the baseball season, each player’s statistics have begun to hold a little bit more weight. Thus, we can begin to analyze some of the more unlikely numbers of the season so far.
Tied with Freddy Sanchez for the lead in doubles, Adam Lind is off to a scorching start. He’s always been a very highly rated prospect, but his playing time in Toronto the past two years produced rather underwhelming results. Now, at 25 years old, he has put it together at the major league level. He’s increased his doubles rate, home run rate and his walk rate. He’s part of the reason for Toronto’s hot start.
One of the most surprising names at the top of the HR leader board is that of the 37-year-old Raul Ibanez. As has been covered in other media outlets, Ibanez’s HR rate this year has increased enough that some have wondered if it’s outside of the statistically likely realm and wondered if there were performance enhancing drugs involved in the increased power. Ibanez’s HR count over the rest of the season will help determine whether speculation about his body increases or dies out.
One of the names leading the walks category is surprisingly Marco Scutaro. At 34 years old, Scutaro is off to a very hot start and is both hitting for more power and walking more. He’s increased his walk rate by 5% this year and none of them have been intentional. An interesting part of the increase in the rest of his offensive stats has been that he’s hitting for less line drives and more fly balls, and those fly balls are going to the outfield at a higher rate, as well.
Also, more of them are turning into home runs. Line drives are usually turned into outs less often than fly balls, which makes his sudden usefulness with the bat quite intriguing. And he’s not benefitting from amazing good luck on his balls in play, either. Is it possible that Marco Scutaro has finally made himself useful with the wood?
One interesting player on the opposite end of the walk spectrum is catcher Bengie Molina. He has drawn just 2 walks this year, and while he has never walked much at all, he used to at least walk in 3 percent of his plate appearances. If he continues at this rate, he’ll walk in under 1 percent of his plate appearances.
Atop the “Create a breeze” leader board are Chris Davis and current strikeout record holder, Mark Reynolds. Both are on pace to break Reynolds’ record, with Davis on pace to strike out a likely 240 times this year. Reynolds has at least found ways to make himself useful with a near .850 OPS, but Davis has a sub .700 OPS, which is just poor for a DH/1B. It’s quite amazing how Texas is in first despite running him out as often as they do.
If Red Sox fans feel like Mike Lowell has killed plenty a rally, they may not be far off in their thinking. Thanks to diminished baserunning speed from hip surgery, Mike Lowell has grounded into a league-leading 15 double plays. He is otherwise having a fine season, but WPA agrees that the GIDP totals are not clutch.
Amazingly tied for the lowest OBP amongst qualified players is Jimmy Rollins. Rollins walked in 9.4% of his plate appearances last year, but that has dropped to 4.4% this year. Combine that with a low average thanks to poor luck on balls in play and you have a recipe for a .252 OBP. I suspect that with his talent, as long as he’s healthy, Rollins will pull those numbers up.
Edwin Jackson looks like he’s finally fulfilling the promise scouts saw in him for the past six years as he finally has his walk total under control, which has resulted in a stellar 2.24 ERA. However, he’s not even the best pitcher in his own division. That has to go to the very talented Zack Greinke, who everyone feels good for after his mental issues a few years ago actually caused him to miss much of the season. Plus, everyone feels good for Kansas City to actually have hope.
Finally, surprising performances cannot be discussed without discussing Chien-Ming Wang. Wang, usually a sinker baller has looked far from that this year. Whether it be that he didn’t fully recover from his foot injury or that he just no longer has confidence, Wang has looked lost more often than not on the mound and very often has had subpar stuff. He has even causes the Yankees to decide to limit his number of chances.