Fri May 07 02:15pm EDT
Big League Stew goes through the quad and into the gymnasium to look at some of the hottest players in baseball and their chances of keeping it going.
The Naked Truth: 2-1, 1.29 ERA, 0.80 ERA
Having a nice little Saturday: In his last four starts, Fister has pitched 31 innings, allowing just three runs while striking out 14 and walking just two. Chip Caray's favorite pitcher — a 26-year-old sophomore with a 4.13 ERA in his rookie season last year — might be the hottest pitcher in baseball.
You're my boy, Blue!: This is great for everyone who loves baseball. Honestly, who doesn't want more excuses to say the word "Fister?" But he's not exactly Felix Hernandez(notes) out there; he's more like Chris Young. He's 6-foot-8 with a high-80s fastball and a low-80s changeup, and even though he isn't walking many (1.29 BB/9), he's barely striking out anyone — his 4.11 K/9 is tenth-worst in the American League among pitchers with at least five starts. (Cleveland fans take note: Three Indians are ahead of him -- Mitch Talbot, David Huff(notes), and Fausto Carmona(notes). That's not the only reason they're in last place, but it certainly doesn't help.) Fister wasn't very good in the minor leagues, where he had a 4.38 ERA in four seasons. Moreover, he has a .218 BABIP this year, compared to a .342 minor league BABIP and a .271 BABIP in limited innings last year. So, concludes Fangraphs' David Golebiewski, "he's been incredibly lucky."
Think KFC will still be open?: Sadly, no. Pitching in Safeco certainly gives Fister a lot more margin for error than most parks and people are saying he can be the Jarrod Washburn(notes) of this year, but he just doesn't have the stuff for success. He doesn't miss bats, and Franklin Gutierrez(notes) can't catch everything. (Just 99 percent of everything.) Fister's a great story, but eventually his luck will run out. Which will be too bad because then I won't get to write "Fister" as often. Fister.
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Adrian Beltre(notes), Boston Red Sox .343/.375/.467, 2 HR, 16 RBI
Many Red Sox fans quibbled with Beltre's $10 million contract when the Sox signed him over the offseason — $10 million for a guy who's hit .266 the last two years? — but not only has his defense been as advertised, he's hitting well, too. That success at the plate is less than it appears, though. He's just been hitting a lot of singles, rarely walking or hitting for extra bases. Still, going from Safeco to Fenway is enough to put air in anyone's stats. Thanks to his great glove and decent bat, he's still one of the better third basemen in baseball, so even when his batting average comes down, he'll be plenty valuable to the Sox.
Ty Wigginton(notes), Baltimore Orioles .299/.386/.690, 10 HR, 19 RBI
Ty Wigginton is second in the major leagues in home runs. Read that again. He's quietly been one of the best supersubs in baseball the last few years, acting as Ben Zobrist(notes) before Ben Zobrist for the 2006-2007 Devil Rays before alighting in Baltimore in 2009. So far this year, he's played games at 1B, 2B and 3B, and last year he logged a little time at SS, LF and DH, as well. He isn't going to keep hitting this many home runs, but it's worth remembering that this guy is actually one of the best at what he does in baseball, possessing a decent bat with pretty good power and as many infield gloves as you need.
David Freese(notes), St. Louis Cardinals .348/.402/.522, 3 HR, 19 RBI
One of the oldest rookies in baseball, the 27-year-old Freese is finally making the most of his opportunity. But his .435 BABIP is unsustainable, and his 27 percent line-drive rate probably is too. (He had a .348 BABIP in the minors.) Still, he also hit for power and average in the minors, so his success isn't a total fluke, either. Most sluggers who start out as late as he has — like Garrett Jones — tend to have a relatively brief peak around their 30th birthday and peter out shortly thereafter. Morgan Ensberg might be a good comparison for Freese, another ninth-round draft pick and third baseman who had his first full season at 27.