The numbers don't lie. It's an old adage that should be qualified with "but …" when dealing with baseball statistics. Home runs, ERA, and stolen bases can certainly tell you some things about a player, but you've got to look a bit deeper than the standard 5x5 stats to get the entire picture. Splitsville is a weekly look at some of the numbers, but we'll take a deeper look to make sure we're getting the whole story, while also calling out some of the week's notable pitching and batting lines.
Stat Trends, Streaks and Anomalies
• Dan Uggla has gone from an underachieving mid-round draft pick to one of the top players in fantasy in recent weeks. He was hitting .167/.219/.333 as of April 18, but has hit .385 (30 for 78) with 24 runs, 10 home runs and 22 runs batted in over the past 22 games. It's brought his season line to .290/.375/.652 and his season ranking to ninth overall. Fantasy owners may want to consider a sell-high scenario at the end of the month, however. He's hit .340 in 268 May at bats thus far in his three-year career, but just .248 in 1,113 non-May at bats.
• Josh Hamilton isn't the league leader in runs batted in (43) by accident. He also leads the league with 83 at bats with someone on base, and he's hit .313/.347/.602 during those opportunities. Dustin Pedroia (second with 82 bats) seems an odd fit in the top five that also includes sluggers David Ortiz (81), Garrett Atkins (78), Magglio Ordonez (75), David Wright (75) and Matt Kemp (75).
• If Michael Bourn could raise his average above .198 or his on-base percentage above .269, he'd really be something. Here's an unscientific study: Bourn has a steal every 1.94 trips to first base (1B+BB+HBP for our purposes). Jose Reyes' figure in 2007 (78 SB) was once every 2.70 trips and Rickey Henderson's was 1.72 during his record-setting 1982 season in which he had 130 steals.
• Perhaps Brad Lidge's decline has been greatly exaggerated. He has yet to allow an earned run this season, a career-best span of 17 appearances. His previous high for consecutive scoreless appearances was 13, set during a 2004 season in which he compiled a 1.90 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, .174 BAA and 157 strikeouts in 94.2 innings (80 G).
• Chad Billingsley hasn't been a success overall in 2008, thanks largely to 5.4 BB/9, but he is striking out batters at a very impressive rate. With 48 strikeouts in 38.2 innings, his current K/9 of 11.172 would rank 18th all-time in a full season. His K/9 has improved to 11.394 since moving to the rotation after two relief appearances. Edinson Volquez has been a success overall, and his current K/9 of 11.055 is only slightly behind Billingsley's mark.
• Cliff Lee continues to astound and amaze, and his opponent line is now a measly .176/.193/.220 after seven starts (53.2 IP). FanGraphs.com has an amazing comparison to put his success in some historical perspective. Orel Hershiser's numbers from his record-setting September are quite the thing of beauty, and Lee is in some rare company at this point.
• Lance Berkman is the Cliff Lee of hitters at this point, thanks to an absurd streak of production. He's batted .686 (24 for 35) over the past nine games, with 15 runs, seven doubles, four home runs, 12 runs batted in and even two steals. Berkman leads the league in runs scored (42), doubles (16) and home runs (13), is second in hits (55) and runs batted in (38) and has a comfortable margin as the top-ranked player in the Yahoo! game.
• Widely-available starters among the league leaders in opponent OPS over the past three weeks (minimum three starts): Aaron Laffey (.433, second), Daniel Cabrera (.475, fourth), Garrett Olson (.568, 14th), Tom Gorzelanny (.574, 18th), Matt Garza (.583, 20th) and Mike Mussina (.602, 23rd).
Notable Pitching Game(s) of the Week
Daniel Cabrera (Bal – SP) 5/8 at KC
9.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K (115 pitches, 75 strikes)
The 26-year-old Cabrera (yes, he's still only 26) was dominant in the complete-game win over the Royals, his sixth consecutive quality start. He's compiled a 2.28 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in those six starts (43.3 IP), with 29 hits allowed, 15 walks and 27 strikeouts. While his control remains iffy (4.1 BB/9) and his strikeouts are down (5.7/9), he's raised his GB% to a career-high 56.8% and limited opposing hitters to a .206/.304/.330 line. His current opponent OPS of .633 is roughly the same as Roy Halladay's (.631), but Cabrera's been doing it with a BABIP of .221, compared to Halladay's .282. The last time Cabrera's GB% was north of 50% was in 2005, when he had a 4.52 ERA, 1.43 WHIP and .235 BAA (.304 BABIP) in 161.1 IP. What is also of note is that Cabrera has been much more reliant on his fastball this season, which drew comments from the Royals that included phrases like "95 with sink" and "a half-foot of movement." He may be bringing a different approach this season, but at the very least his BABIP is due for a correction, so the ratios are likely to be bound for familiar territory (career 4.89 ERA, 1.51 WHIP). A good test for Cabrera's luck comes Wednesday when he's scheduled to face the Red Sox. He's 1-9 in 11 career starts against Boston, with a 7.84 ERA, 2.07 WHIP and .296 BAA.
Justin Duchscherer (Oak – SP, RP) 5/6 vs BAL
7.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K (85 pitches, 56 strikes)
Injuries have limited the converted RP to four starts on the season, but he's been effective when he's pitched. He's limited opponents to a .244/.284/.366 line and his K/BB (3.6) is twice the league average, a combination that tends to lead to success. Success isn't something new for Duchscherer. He compiled a 3.51 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 937.1 innings mostly as a starter in the minors, and he was one of the steadiest relievers in the majors from 2004-06 (2.80 ERA, 1.11 WHIP in 237.2 IP) before a hip injury derailed his 2007 season. The A's moved him to the rotation this season because of a combination of team needs and his success as a starter in the minor leagues, and he's responded well so far. He's got a four-pitch repertoire that he uses effectively and has exhibited the makeup to be successful in whatever role he fills, as long as he can stay healthy. The A's won't pitch him deep in many games as he transitions back to starting pitching, but he should continue to post solid ratios and an above-average K/9, so fantasy owners need to take note.
Notable Batting Game(s) of the Week
Jeff Keppinger (Cin – 3B, SS) 5/10 at NYM
5 AB, 5 H, 2 R, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 0 SB
Keppinger recorded the first five-hit game of his career in the 7-1 win over the Mets, a performance that may have been a sign of good things to come. The 28-year-old entered the second game of the Saturday double-header having hit just .224 (11 for 49) over his previous 14 games, but now has hit in four straight (9 for 17 combined) while scoring four runs and driving in four in the past three games. Despite his sluggish production in recent weeks, he's the eighth-ranked SS on the season at 116th overall and his .320 average in 147 at bats is currently the 17th-largest positive contribution in the category. With Alex Gonzalez still not moving too good, Keppinger remains the starter for an indefinite period and figures to keep helping fantasy teams, although he's available in roughly half of Yahoo! leagues. He's a no-brainer for those of you who are looking to fill Rafael Furcal's spot for the next 10 days. Another good sign for Keppinger: He was back up in the more desirable second spot of the lineup on Monday after batting sixth or seventh in recent games, and he should stay there if he once again has found his stroke. He hit .329 with 10 runs and 11 runs batted in over the season's first 21 games.