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Morneau, Cecil Among Those Worth Watching

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Well, the weekend is here, and so I thought that it would be a good time to share some of my thoughts with you, now that all of your pesky work and lives and such won't get in the way. I certainly don't have any shiny analysis of hitters that suck at everything else like Adam, but I do have some nice little tidbits with chrome on the edges.

-Justin Morneau has the same WAR on June 5, 2010 as he had during his entire 2006 MVP season

Morneau's 2010 season has essentially been a perfect storm of first baseman dominance. What would you reasonably expect in an absolutely monster season from a first baseman? Getting on base? His OBP is .483 and his walk rate is over 17%. Hitting for average? He leads the majors with a .372 batting average. Hitting for power? His .319 isolated power is the fourth-best in baseball. Being extremely lucky? His BABIP is over .400 this season. Hell, how about defense? His UZR and DRS have him at +6 already and +19 over 150 games.

In 2006, Morneau managed to sneak away with the AL MVP award, even though many smart people were astute enough to point out that Morneau wasn't even the best player on his own team. If you'd like to put into perspective why he wasn't quite that deserving, I'd like to present to you that his 2010 WAR as of today and his full-season 2006 WAR are presently identical 4.3 marks.

- Keep an eye on Brett Cecil

As I've already noted before, it appears that Toronto may already have found their replacement ace for Roy Halladay. But beyond the guys in Toronto who have gotten more attention so far, I'd like to point everyone in the direction of Brett Cecil. After being a top pick for Toronto a few years back, he was converted from the bullpen to the rotation as a professional. He thrived in the minors before a mediocre 18-start stint with the Blue Jays last season, and started 2010 in Triple-A.

He was called early in the season though, and has been nothing short of excellent so far for the Blue Jays. Back in his role as a starter, Cecil has made 9 starts with the Blue Jays, covering 53 innings. And, well, they've been pretty damn good, as Cecil's 1.5 WAR is 11th among AL starting pitchers, most of whom already have 10 or 11 starts. He's combined some seriously impressive command (2.03 BB/9) with league average strikeout and groundball rates, good enough for an FIP of 3.12 and a still-impressive xFIP of 3.89, right in line with his 3.43 ERA on the season.

Cecil uses a four-pitch mix (FB, CU, SL, CH), although he generally prefers to use his slider and change in favor of his curveball. He's never shown this kind of command in the upper minors, but had walk rates well below 2 in A ball. Even with some regression in his walk rate and HR/FB ratio (he's giving up a very small amount of homers relative to his flyball rate), Cecil appears to be emerging as a very solid mid-rotation starter for Toronto.

- Tim Hudson isn't missing enough bats

Frankly, that's about the only bad thing that I can say about Hudson's season so far, considering that he's 6-1 with a 2.30 ERA in 11 starts so far. But the way he's pitching, those numbers just won't last.

Hudson's currently rocking an awful 4.22 K/9 and an ugly 1.22 K/BB ratio, both of which are well below average and would easily be career-worst marks for the 34-year-old righty. His success this season has been based around a 66.7% groundball rate, easily the best in the majors and nearly 25% above the league average. But realistically, it's going to be really tough for Hudson to keep pitching even close to this well unless he gets his K/9 back up into the 6-7 range. He's giving up contact on 85% of his pitches while inducing whiffs on just 6.6%, marks that indicate that maybe this is just a sign of Hudson's declining skills.

Only one starting pitcher finished last season with a K/9 lower than Hudson's current 4.22 mark, and that was Washington's John Lannan, who's well-known as a player whose posted lucky ERA's. And most successful pitchers with K/9's in that range had sub-2 walk rates, while Hudson's walked 3.45 guys per 9 innings. FIP and xFIP have Hudson at nearly identical 4.36 marks for 2010, and I think that would be a much more reasonable expectation for his ERA going forward.

- You can get steals without getting on base much..   sort of

Currently, the top two base thieves in the majors are Oakland's Rajai Davis and Chicago's Juan Pierre, with 23 and 22 steals, respectively. Both of whom reside in the bottom 50 of all players in OBP so far this season, with Pierre's mark sitting at .316 while Davis is even worse at .299 on the year.

The funny thing though? Of the next seven guys on the list, six of them are batting at least .300, and the only one that isn't is Houston's Michael Bourn, and he's still got a shiny .365 OBP on the year. I'm not sure what all of this means, but I'll just assume that Pierre and Davis have realized that their big stolen base numbers are pretty much the only thing that keeps tricking the public into believing that they're productive baseball players. Who cares about that stupid OBP decimal stuff anyways, Davis has TWENTY-THREE steals already!! (Sorry, I don't buy into Davis' 2009 much, he can be useful but he's more of a fourth outfielder)