Yesterday, I wondered aloud how surprising the respective league leader for each major statistic is, and went about answering the question in a somewhat informal manner.
And because the biggest news of the past couple days consists of the Yunel Escobar-Alex Gonzalez deal, the death of Yankees owner/legend/hero/saint George Steinbrenner and the Long Island Ducks' signing of Kip Wells, I thought I would just continue the exercise today. I covered the more traditional counting stats yesterday, so today we'll cover the rate stats and maybe a shiny, advanced saber-stat or two.
Batting average: 1B Miguel Cabrera, Detroit. .346 batting average. Surprise factor: 3
For what it's worth, Josh Hamilton has the same .346 average as Cabrera, but Cabrera wins out when you add one more decimal rather than rounding: .3462 versus .3460.
Hamilton's presence is pretty shocking, but Cabrera's? Not so much. This will mark for fifth time in six seasons that Cabrera has batted .320 or better, excluding only his debut season in Detroit when he was transitioning to the new league. A prodigious hitter who routinely puts up a BABIP in the .340-.360 range, Cabrera is essentially a lock to bat .300 year-in, year-out.
He nearly won a batting title back in 2006, losing out to Freddy Sanchez despite a .339 batting average. Outside of 2008, he's finished in the top-10 in batting average in his respective league every season, including three top-5 finishes. Honestly, if anyone in the game is going to secure a Triple Crown, it'll be Miggy Cabrera.
On-base percentage: 1B Justin Morneau, Minnesota. .437 on-base percentage. Surprise factor: 8
Morneau has always been a solid-OBP guy, but he's never put up a mark like this. We've seen Morneau put up good batting averages before, like the .321 mark in his 2006 MVP season, but they've never been combined with a walk rate like the one he's flashing this season.
After putting up OBP's between .360 and .375 in three of the past four seasons (.343 in the other season), he's managed to time huge jumps in both his BABIP and walk rate almost synchronously, leading to a perfect storm of on-base ability. Morneau's unique performance this season probably deserves a post of its own, but I'll just throw one set of numbers out there to explain his improvement over the years: his walk rates.
2006-2010 walk rates: 8.0%, 9.6%, 10.7%, 12.2%, 14.4%
That's some nice, steady improvement.
Slugging percentage: 1B Miguel Cabrera, Detroit. .651 slugging percentage. Surprise factor: 4
I suppose this one isn't too surprising either. Because, you know, Miggy Cabrera is really freaking good.
Albert Pujols has topped this list three times in the past four years, but he's currently seventh in the game after some underwhelming power production in May and June. Factor in Cabrera's uptick in power and the high BABIP, and his landing at the top of the list really just seems appropriate.
Isolated power: RF/3B Jose Bautista, Toronto. .306 isolated power. Surprise factor: 10
You could probably just copy-and-paste what I wrote about Bautista's league-leading 24 homers yesterday, but now I get another chance to harp on how incredible it is that Bautista is where he is.
Coming into this season, Bautista's career ISO in over 2000 plate appearances was .162. He's within 20 percentage points of doubling that mark so far in 2010. And you know what else is a tad crazy? His 18.8% HR/FB is kind of high, but it's really not that out of line with the 12-14% marks he put up in 2008-2009. The weird thing is that he went from hitting fly balls roughly 40% of the time to hitting them 54% of the time this season.
Strikeout rate: 2B David Eckstein, San Diego. 4.0% strikeout rate. Surprise factor: 2
The ability to make contact has long been one of Eckstein's best skills, and he's really showing that off this year with only 12 strikeouts in 325 plate appearances. Only Marco Scutaro and Juan Pierre have better contact rates so far this season, and he's essentially tied for the third-lowest whiff rate in baseball with three other guys. He may not walk much, hit for a lot of power, or post any monster batting averages. But boy, that [35-year-old] kid sure can put the ball into play!
Walk rate: 3B Chipper Jones, Atlanta. 17.0% walk rate. Surprise factor: 2
I have to imagine that this one didn't surprise too many people. Jones is putting up a roughly 17% walk rate for the third consecutive season, as he continues to be an OBP machine despite declining all-around skills.
And here's an extra little tidbit: The only guys in the top-25 for walk rate with lower wOBA marks than Jones are Carlos Pena, Justin Smoak and Bobby Abreu.