Five non-superstars who had a great May

May, 31, 2012
5/31/12
6:10
PM ET
It was a good month of May, and not just for the superstars like Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Paul Konerko. Here’s a look at five under-the-radar players who starred in May.

R.A. Dickey, New York Mets
(4-0, 1.83 ERA, 0.96 WHIP in five May starts)

He has allowed three earned runs or fewer, pitching six innings or more in 21 of his last 22 starts. Dickey showed a great touch with his knuckleball, and seemed to be able to put it wherever he wanted.
R.A. Dickey
Dickey
Dickey’s money pitch was the knuckleball on the outer-third of the plate. He got 36 outs with pitches to that spot and allowed only three hits.

Our pitch-trackers charted him hitting 80 mph with a knuckleball 20 times in May. That netted him 14 strikes, nine outs and no base runners allowed.

Chris Capuano, Los Angeles Dodgers
(1.62 ERA in 5 May starts)

After a strong April (3-0, 2.73 ERA), Capuano was even more dominant in May. He threw more than half of his changeups out of the zone in May (84 of 160) and got batters to swing at 51 of those pitches for a chase rate of 61 percent. He got 18 outs, including 12 strikeouts, on changeups he threw out of the zone, allowing just one hit.

Capuano’s fastball averaged 87 mph this month, the lowest among pitchers who threw at least 250 fastballs. Still, opponents hit just .180 (9-50) in at-bats ending in his "heater" and he allowed just five line drives among the 44 balls hit into play against him.

He was at his best when he kept the ball down. He threw 46 percent of his pitches this month in the lower third of the strike zone or below, and allowed just three hits in 46 at-bats ending in a pitch thrown there. Twenty-one of his 29 strikeouts also came on pitches in that location.

James McDonald, Pittsburgh Pirates
(3-1, 1.54 ERA, 39 K in 35 IP)

McDonald, who owns a career-best 2.20 ERA this season, has been lights-out in May. His ERA ranks second in the majors and his .509 OPS ranks fourth.
James McDonald
McDonald
McDonald's breaking pitches were very tough to hit this month, something that has held true all season. In his last two starts, he's gotten 18 outs with his breaking pitches and allowed just one hit.

The slower McDonald throws his breaking ball, the more success he's had. He threw 53 of them at 77 miles-per-hour or slower in May, netting 15 outs without any batters getting a hit. He threw that pitch for a strike 68 percent of the time.


Melky Cabrera, San Francisco Giants
(.429 BA, 1.104 OPS, 51 Hits, 15 XBH, 16 multi-hit games)

He has established himself as a fan-favorite in San Francisco in May after netting 51 hits in 29 games.

Cabrera finished the month with a 25 percent line-drive rate, nearly double his 14 percent rate in April. He also had 23 hits on his 51 ground balls. (The average major leaguer gets hits on about 23 percent of his ground balls. Cabrera would match that with outs on his next 49 grounders.)

ESPN Stats & Info
Notice the pattern in the heat map above how Cabrera fared from the right side of the plate. Ten of his 16 hits as a right-handed batter came on pitches in the lower-third of the strike zone or below. Cabrera was 28-for-60 when an at-bat ended with a low pitch.

Dayan Viciedo, Chicago White Sox (.351 BA, 8 HR, .995 OPS)
Viciedo is emerging as a star. In his last 16 games (which coincides with the White Sox hot streak), Viciedo is 28-for-63 with twice as many home runs (8) as strikeouts (4).

If a pitcher left an off-speed pitch in the strike zone, Viciedo crushed it. Five of those home runs came on changeups, curveballs or sliders.

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