- David Schoenfield, SweetSpot blogger
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Maybe we'll make this a regular Monday feature. I'll spend a few minutes and report back with some of the interesting nuggets that pop out to me.
I love looking at a hitter's walk-to-strikeout ratio early on because I think it's indicator on whether a player has had a good approach or is just on a hot streak. Matt Kemp is hitting .474/.545/.719 and has more walks (9) than strikeouts (8). That's a big change from a guy who had a 170/53 SO/BB ratio in 2010. Look, Kemp could go backwards the first week the hits don't start falling and start swinging at pitches out of the zone, but so far the improvement looks real.
Who is Jonathan Herrera and why is he hitting .400? Colorado's little second baseman (5-foot-9, 150 pounds) is winning the everyday job from Jose Lopez ... and deserves to. Lopez is a bad major league baseball player. Herrera has 11 walks against only three strikeouts and is 4-for-4 in stolen bases. Lopez played 150 games last year and drew 23 walks. Herrera never walked much in the minors, so I'm not sure if this is a new skill or a two-week fluke.
One last note here: Troy Tulowitzki is starting to receive a lot more respect from pitchers. He had a 48/78 BB/SO ratio in 2010, but is already at 14/5 this season. It's no surprise that the Rockies lead the NL in walks so far.
American League teams averaged 4.45 runs per game in 2010, the lowest average since 4.32 in 1992. So far, scoring is down again, to 4.33 runs per game. Home runs aren't down that much (and are higher than 1992), but the league average is just .247. The AL hasn't hit that low since a .239 mark in 1972 -- the last season before the designated hitter rule.
A lot of people pointed to a high BABIP (batting average on balls in play) as a reason Detroit's second-year center fielder Austin Jackson was unlikely to repeat his excellent rookie season (.293/.345/.400). So far they've been proved right, as Jackson continues to whiff at astronomical rates (19 K's in 65 PA's) and is hitting just .175. The Tigers don't really have another good center-field option, as Brennan Boesch and Ryan Raburn are best suited for left field.
Good news for the White Sox: Carlos Quentin is mashing again, with nine doubles and three homers through 15 games. If Quentin can approach his 2008 numbers, when he was an MVP candidate before getting injured early in September, that lineup looks even more dangerous.
Have pitchers figured out Brett Gardner? His basic plan last year was "don't swing." He worked that approach for 79 walks and a .383 OBP. This season, he's hitting .140/.213/.209 with four walks and 14 strikeouts. With no power, pitchers may as well throw him strikes.
Ryan Franklin and Matt Thornton each have four blown saves already. The single-season record is 14, shared by five pitchers -- Bruce Sutter, Bob Stanley, Gerry Staley, Rollie Fingers and Ron Davis. But those guys did that in a different time, when the closer often came in in the seventh or eighth inning. The most blown saves since 2000 is Ambiorix Burgos of the 2006 Royals. Wow, his numbers that year were pretty astonishing: 16 home runs allowed in 73 innings. Some of those blown saves came as a setup man. Brad Lidge had 11 blown saves in 2009 for the Phillies and Huston Street had 11 for the A's in 2006.