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: 2-7, 4.80 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 2.67 K/BB
Having a nice little Saturday: A funny thing has happened on the South Side of Chicago, where the White Sox spent most of the season below .500 and the manager and general manager nearly came to a fistfight over the team's drafting of the manager's son: Winning. A lot. Nine-game winning streaks have a habit of healing a lot of wounds and a resurgent Gavin Floyd has had a lot to do with it. Since a blowout on June 2, when he got knocked out in the third inning and departed with an ERA of 6.64, he has been simply sensational, allowing three earned runs on fifteen hits in 29 innings, and collecting 31 strikeouts against just seven walks. He didn't actually record a win in any of those games, but the Sox won the last two in late innings, wins No. 4 and No. 9 in the streak. (He lost 1-0 in the game before the streak began.)
You're my boy, Blue!: Floyd has the highest strikeout rate of his career this year and his poor ERA is likely to come down once his BABIP comes back down from its current mark of .323 to his career rate of .289. He's 27, so it's possible that his game is improving by a combination of physical maturity and the savvy of experience. Interestingly enough, and contrary to the usual experience of young pitchers losing fastball velocity as they age, his fastball is the fastest it's ever been. In 2009, his average fastball was 91.8, nearly 1 mph faster than it had been in 2008, and in 2010, it's 92.2, nearly half a tick faster than that. Unsurprisingly, he's getting more swings and misses than before. The overall ERA is ugly because of his slow start, but it's very possible this could turn out to be a career year for him.
Think KFC will still be open?: That note should come with a caveat: This could be a career year, if he can avoid his tendency to get blown out — he's given up at least five runs in six of his 15 starts this year, including five out of six from April 18 to May 16. His control has been sharp, as he hasn't yielded more than four walks in any start, but his command has not, as he goes through stretches where everything he throws is hittable. Watch his strikeouts: if they keep coming, he'll continue to pitch like an ace. If not, look out.
Who else is currently streaking?
Carlos Santana(notes), Cleveland Indians .316/.438/.632, 2 HR, 10 RBI
It's almost supernatural how smooth the Cleveland rookie has been since his callup two weeks ago. The catcher they acquired for Casey Blake(notes) has been absolutely en fuego, and in a hard year for Indians fans — when they had no one to depend on — Santana has been everybody's everything. Oye como va, Carlos! (OK, I went a little far with this one.)
Jonathan Broxton(notes), Los Angeles Dodgers 3-0, 16 saves (2 blown), 0.86 ERA, 0.96 WHIP
Jonathan Broxton hasn't given up a run this month. Since May 31, he's pitched nine innings in 10 appearances, has notched three saves, and he's struck out 13 men while allowing just one walk and nine hits. His average fastball is over 95 miles per hour, and he routinely flirts with triple digits. And his control has been otherworldly this year: 46 strikeouts against just four walks. If he keeps this up, Broxton and Cliff Lee(notes) could be fighting for the best K/BB in baseball.
Colby Lewis(notes), Texas Rangers 7-4, 3.07 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 2.73 K/BB
How could you not root for this guy? The last time we saw him, he was a fringy pitcher who couldn't stick in the majors and went to Japan, where he dominated like a pitching version of Roberto Petagine. Now, he's back with the Rangers, the team that drafted him in 1999, for whom he had a 6.83 ERA in 33 starts from 2002-2004. And he's finally earning a measure of redemption, thanks to a great slider and a world of experience. He is getting lucky — he's leading the majors in fewest hits per nine innings, thanks to a wholly unsustainable .224 BABIP — but he also has struck out 90 batters in 93 2/3 innings, eighth in the American League. It took him a decade and a trip to the other side of the world, but it looks like he's in the majors for good.