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: 3-2, 1.09 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 14 Holds, 2.67 K/BB
Having a nice little Saturday: Arthur Rhodes is having an amazing season, to put it mildly. He recently tied the all-time record for most consecutive scoreless appearances with 33, and if anything he's been even more dominant than that. Of his 37 appearances, 35 have been scoreless, 24 have been hitless, and 18 have been perfect — and he has yet to give up a single run on the road.
His scoreless streak came to an end against Philadelphia on Tuesday, but he rebounded on Wednesday with two strikeouts in a scoreless inning. He hasn't been this good since his 2001-2002 Seattle prime, when he was arguably the most dominant non-closer relief pitcher in baseball, making 137 appearances and going 18-4 with 58 holds (just eight blown), a 2.03 ERA, a 0.84 WHIP, 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings and a preposterous 6.56 K/BB. His peripherals aren't as gaudy this year, but he's been even more successful. This is all the more remarkable because it looked like his career was over four years ago, after he had an ERA over 5.00 in 2006, when he was 36, and elbow surgery after that. But somehow, he's back.
You're my boy, Blue!: Actually, Rhodes is in the midst of his third straight stellar season. Since returning from surgery, he posted ERAs of 2.04 and 2.53 in 2008 and 2009, with over 60 appearances each year. He's walking a few more men and striking out a few fewer than he did at his absolute best, but his postsurgery 8.88 K/9 and 2.5 K/BB are both very good marks, and his heavy sinker continues to be almost homer-proof — which is a good thing, considering the bandbox he calls home, Cincinnati's Great American Ballpark.
Though the 40-year-old has pitched 1,132 innings in 817 games over 19 seasons in his career, his velocity isn't down much, either — he's averaging 91.6 mph with his fastball this year, compared to 91.4 in 2008 and 91.6 in 2004. That fastball has been his bread-and-butter his entire 19-season career, and it's still one of the most devastating pitches in baseball.
Think KFC will still be open?: He's bound to give up a run on the road eventually, and his ERA may even creep above 2.00 as it has the last few years, but with his control and his avoidance of big innings, there's no reason to believe he'll slow down this year.
What other golden oldies are currently streaking?
Jamie Moyer(notes), Philadelphia Phillies 9-6, 4.30 ERA, 1.048 WHIP, 3.0 K/BB
Jamie Moyer isn't having the best season of his career. But he's having a decent one, filling in for the injured J.A. Happ(notes) as the Phillies' No. 3 starter and outpitching both Kyle Kendrick(notes) and the woeful Joe Blanton(notes). He's also flashing some of his best control in years as he's only walking 1.6 men per nine innings, which is tied with his stellar 1998 season as the best mark of his career. He's getting lucky — his BABIP is .230 this year, against a career mark of .286 — and odds are good that he'll start allowing more baserunners, and more runs, later in the year. Stilll, his contribution to the club has already been a good one. He isn't an All-Star but he's adequate, and he's the oldest starting pitcher (he's 47) in major league history to even be adequate.
Mariano Rivera(notes), New York Yankees 2-1, 18 SV, 0.89 ERA, 0.593 WHIP, 5.0 K/BB
What can I tell you about this guy that you don't already know? He has the best career ERA, WHIP and K/BB among all active players. He has 544 saves, second only to Trevor Hoffman's(notes) 596, and considering Trevor Hoffman's performance this year, Rivera could probably pass him by the end of 2011. He has five championship rings, tied with teammates Andy Pettitte(notes), Derek Jeter(notes) and Jorge Posada(notes) for the most among all active players. And somehow he still has an ERA under 1.00 this season. He's basically Hank Aaron in his prime: All of his seasons are his best.
Takashi Saito(notes), Atlanta Braves 1-3, 3.81 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 8 Holds, 3.55 K/BB
During the offseason, the Atlanta Braves spent $10 million to import the two oldest members of the 2009 Boston Red Sox bullpen — Billy Wagner(notes) and Takashi Saito — and so far the investment is paying off handsomely. Wagner has been one of the best closers in the league, and Saito pitched brilliantly until allowing two runs in two consecutive appearances at the end of June, after returning from the DL for a hamstring injury. He's been a remarkably durable pitcher in his major league career — since coming over from Japan at the age of 36, he has never failed to pitch at least 47 innings in a season, nor has he ever posted an ERA above 2.50 — so his success is hardly unprecedented. But his 12.4 K/9 is. If it holds through the end of the season, it will be the highest K/9 of any 40-year-old ever.