As I've discussed before, I like to look at numbers. I tend to do it a lot, and I tend to notice things, things that might or might not be worth talking about. Either way, maybe it can breed some discussion, and I have some time to kill this morning so I might as well write up a few blurbs here.
I know, shocker. But seriously, one of the game's most notorious anti-TTO's (is that right?) in Eckstein has taken it to another level this season. After posting walk, strikeout and home run rates of 6.9%, 9.1% and 3.5% in 2009, those marks are down to 3.4%, 1.8% and 8.6% in 2010. He didn't put up one of the TTO's in 80.5% of his plate appearances in 2009, but this season that mark is up to 86.2% of the time. Juan Pierre's avoided TTO's in 89.4% of his plate appearances, while Houston's Jeff Keppinger has done the same in 86.9% of his plate appearances. If you like bloopers and balls beaten into the ground, these are your guys.
The world hates the White Sox's sluggers
Right now, three White Sox are among the bottom five among qualified MLB hitters in BABIP. Carlos Quentin's mark sits at .188, while Paul Konerko is at .189 and A.J. Pierzynski is at .200 for the year. Unsurprisingly, Quentin and Pierzynski have struggled, although Konerko has rode an MLB-leading 13 home runs and 21 walks to a .456 wOBA thus far.
There's something wrong with Aramis Ramirez
He's got a .163/.226/.260 line, good for the second-worst wOBA in baseball, ahead of just Jerry Hairston Jr. His power is gone, although he can somewhat turn to his .183 BABIP, which is the lowest in baseball among qualified hitters. The bigger concerns though, are presumably his contact and strikeout rates. His contact rate sits at 76.6% compared to his 80.9% career mark, and unsurprisingly his walk rate is up to 24.4% compared to his 15.4% career mark. He was expected to anchor Chicago's offense this year, but right now he's been one of the least productive players in the game.
Kyle Blanks needs to work on making contact
This is like the Chris Davis situation all over again. A top notch hitting prospect comes up and plays exceptionally well late in the season, hitting for big-time power along with big strikeout rates. Enter Kyle Blanks. After posting a .372 wOBA, along with a 37% strikeout rate, in 172 PA with the Padres in 2009, he won a spot in their everyday outfield for 2010. He's promptly fallen apart just like Davis did last season, with a .305 wOBA. The bigger issues, though, are his league-worst strikeout (45%) and contact rates (63%). For a guy who depends on his bat to offer value, he really needs to make some adjustments or he'll lose playing time to Tony Gwynn Jr., Scott Hairston and possibly Aaron Cunningham. The Padres are trying to win right now and Blanks isn't really helping that cause.
Jason Heyward is going to stop hitting so many home runs
Right now, the Braves right fielder is on pace for 45 home runs in 158 games, which would be one of the top marks in the league. Unfortunately, Heyward has hit home runs on 38% of his fly balls thus far, a mark that simply isn't sustainable given that the league average is generally around 8-10%. Even for a hitter with good power like Heyward, a 38% HR/FB just isn't remotely reasonable. Heyward is almost sure to hit home runs at a slower pace than he has so far in 2010, but he does seem to have established himself as a legitimate power threat. ZiPS projects Heyward for 25 home runs per 600 plate appearances for 2010 now, which would still be a pretty impressive mark for a 20-year-old outfielder, even if it's not 45 homers.
Mike Leake is pretty good
When the Reds drafted Leake in the first round last year, his primary strengths were his polish and his MLB-readiness. Well, he's sure proven that so far in his professional career. After surprising some by winning the No. 5 spot in Cincinnati's rotation this spring, Leake has actually emerged as their best starter so far. In six starts, he's 3-0 with a 3.10 ERA, but he's also got a 3.91 FIP and a 4.10 xFIP, indicating that he's actually pitched quite well. His fastball might sit in the upper 80's, but his command and control certainly weren't overrated coming into the draft, and the most impressive thing about his performance so far might be his 56% groundball rate. With Leake, Johnny Cueto, Edinson Volquez, Homer Bailey and Aroldis Chapman coming, the Reds appear to be building a pretty nice starting rotation.