Did You Realize…? AL Edition

It’s June 1st, did you realize…

…that Felix Hernandez is toting a 3.42 ERA, good for 40th among qualified starters in the majors?

He posted a 4.45 ERA in May, but still had 33 strikeouts in his 32 innings with a 3.3 K/BB so I wouldn’t rush to the panic meter.  He had a BABIP of .378 for the month including three outings in which he allowed 10 or more hits.  Oddly enough one of his two good starts in May came against the Texas Rangers as he went eight strong allowing a run with seven strikeouts and a pair of walks.

…that Chris Sale leads the American League in ERA at 2.34 in 58 innings?

The month of May saw him get removed from the rotation (on May 4th) and thrust into the closer’s role where it was reported he would stay for “at least the rest of 2012”.  About a week later, he was having an MRI on his elbow and there was even some concern that he could be shutdown altogether.  He stayed in the closer’s role for all of 10 minutes blowing one save in his only relief appearance on May 8th before returning the rotation on May 12th.  He closed the month out with 25 innings of 1.82 ERA and 0.97 WHIP with 31 strikeouts including a 15-strikeout outing on Memorial Day.

…that Sale’s White Sox are 30-22 with a +40 run differential despite Gavin Floyd (5.02), Philip Humber (5.37) and John Danks (5.70) all toting >5.00 ERAs?

It helps that Sale leads the AL and Jake Peavy isn’t far behind with a 3.05 ERA of his own.  Of those three, I am still buying Floyd.  He has a 3.2 K/BB built on a career-high 8.0 K/9 in 61 innings.  Home runs have killed him, especially in his last three outings as the Angels, Twins and Indians trounced him for 21 runs in 15 innings with five bombs.  The velocity is fine and the control only fell off in the Minnesota game (3 BB) so I don’t think there is an issue that plague him in the long term.  It appears to be a rough patch with better times ahead.

…that Felix Doubront has a 9.5 K/9 and has arguably been Boston’s best start thus far?

If you’ll afford me a small back pat, I would point out that I touted Doubront in this year’s pitching guide advising that if the Red Sox gave him the shot he deserved then he should be targeting.  He is even out-doing my expectations pairing the strikeouts with a 3.86 ERA and five wins in 56 innings.  His 1.36 WHIP is a bit high, but at his cost you can easily accept that flaw.  Furthermore, he is running hot of late with a 2.28 ERA and 1.08 WHIP over his last four with 27 Ks in 24 IP.

…that MLB’s strikeout leader, Max Scherzer (11.7 K/9), labored to a 4.04 ERA in May despite a 12.8 K/9 and 6.4 K/BB?

It was actually a marked improvement from his 7.77 ERA in April.  The big issue in May was a severe case of gopheritis as he allowed at least one home run in every start (yielding a 2.0 HR/9).  While some these struggles definitely fall on Scherzer’s shoulders, a good bit is bad luck, too, as his skills have been far more elite than his 5.55 ERA would suggest.  He has a 3.19 xFIP as his .387 BABIP and 17% HR/FB rate have to regress some in his favor.  He fanned 9 or more in four of his six May outings, I’d buy in if you can as his best outings are still ahead.

…that Henderson Alvarez and Derek Lowe both have K/9 rates lower than their ERAs?

Their ERAs are both on the right side of 4.00 which is what makes that such a weird phenomenon.  In the last 10 years, only three pitchers with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title have managed to post a K/9 lower than (or equal to) their ERA while maintaining a sub-4.00 ERA:

  • 2006 Chien-Ming Wang: 3.63 ERA, 3.1 K/9 in 218 IP
  • 2005 Carlos Silva: 3.44 ERA, 3.4 K/9 in 188 IP
  • 2009 John Lannan: 3.88 ERA, 3.88 K/9 in 206

…that Phil Hughes has allowed at least one home run in every start of the year?

His 14% HR/FB rate is high, but not as egregious as I thought it might be when I saw his 2.1 HR/FB.  His generally heavy flyball rate (career 46%) is at its heaviest of 49% so while I am intrigued by his 8.4 K/9 and 3.8 K/BB, that intrigue is tempered by home run issues that are unlikely to evaporate barring a change in his approach.  While it is easy to envision his 5.64 ERA coming down some, the xFIP of 4.34 says it isn’t exactly set to plummet in the vein of Scherzer.

…that Ervin Santana actually did make a change to curb his gopheritis with a 64% groundball rate in May?

After allowing 10 home runs (2.9 HR/9) in April en route to a 6.16 ERA, he figured that keeping the ball down going forward would be helpful.  His 41% groundball rate in April skyrocketed to an AL-best 64% and yielding a far more palatable 1.2 HR/9 in May.  That is right in line with his career mark of 1.1 HR/9 coming into this season.  He was actually in the midst of a great May with a 2.17 ERA through his first four starts before stumbling a bit against Seattle and New York and settling for a still solid 3.69 ERA in 39 innings.  I’m still buying where available.

…that Mike Trout is on pace for 96 Rs, 22 HR, 83 RBIs and 35 SBs?

In the last three years only two players have hit those thresholds: both Matt Kemp and Jacoby Ellsbury last year.  Even if you chop 20% off of those paces to 77-17-66-28, there are only 12 such seasons in the last three years across 10 players as Kemp and Ian Kinsler each did it twice.  Early on it looks like Trout is exactly the stud he was predicted to be when he was checking in as a top 3 prospect on lists all across the industry this preseason.

Here’s the kicker: take the 80% figures and tack on a .309 batting average threshold and we get just four instances in the last three years (it drops to three instances at the 100% paces).  Let’s say he hits the 80% paces and hits “only” .290, where does he go in 2013 drafts?  Is he a first rounder already?  What if he hits 95% or better of the current pace?

…that no one is on pace top 40 stolen bases in the American League?

Both Alejandro De Aza and Jason Kipnis are pacing the league with 12 apiece pacing them for 37 and 38, respectively, based on their team’s games played.  Paces can still be out of whack even two months into the season and with a category like steals, things can change rapidly.  Rajai Davis has 10 in his 38 games played, but has recently fallen into more playing time.  If he maintain anywhere near his current .819 OPS, he should stick in the lineup and I don’t think he would have any trouble reaching and topping 40 stolen bases.  If he gets a full set of at-bats in 90 of the remaining 110 games, he paces to steal about 50 steals based on his 10 in 68 at-bats thus far.  He is on a roster in just 3% of ESPN leagues.  That number should be much, much higher.

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