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: 4-0, 0.82 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, two complete games, 28 strikeouts, three walks
Having a nice little Saturday: Will Roy Halladay ever lose? He's either leading or tied for the National League lead in wins, innings, complete games, shutouts, strikeouts, walks per nine innings, and strikeout-to-walk ratio. Widely considered the best pitcher in the game, he's also pitching on the best team in the NL. And instead of facing the Yankees and Red Sox, he's faced the Nationals, Astros, Marlins, and Braves — and cut through them like a frickin' laser. National League, you're on notice: Bob Gibson's 1.12 ERA in 1968 is officially in play.
You're my boy, Blue!: Not to get all Mr. Ed on you, but Halladay is known as a horse, of course. A few days ago, Fangraphs' R.J. Anderson mused on Doc's chances to pitch 250 innings this year, something no one has done since Livan Hernandez(notes) in 2004 and Halladay himself in 2003. His utter dominance, completing 50 percent of his starts so far, is reminiscent of C.C. Sabathia's(notes) stellar second half of 2008 with the Brewers, his only tour of the NL, when he completed seven of 17 starts and finished 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA for Milwaukee. Sabathia had a sick 5.12 K/BB ratio during his time in Milwaukee, which is incredibly good; but Halladay, who has led the majors in K/BB each of the past two seasons, has a 9.33 K/BB so far. Basically, he's throwing a ton of strikes — 69 percent of his pitches are strikes, well above the major league average of 62 percent — and National League hitters have been powerless against him.
Think KFC will still be open?: None of this has been a surprise. The moment he was traded to Philly, most pundits predicted he'd be dominate the league, leaving the hellish AL East for a league where pitchers bat ninth and payrolls are lower. His ERA will rise, of course, and he may even lose a game at some point. But he will be really, really good all year. No mystery here, folks: This is the real deal and the first of many apperances on Streaking.
Who else is streaking?
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Nelson Cruz(notes), Texas Rangers .327 AVG, 7 HR, 17 RBI, 1.246 OPS
Cruz is currently tied for the major league lead in homers, is the major league leader in slugging and OPS, and is tied for fifth in the majors in RBI. Like Garrett Jones, he's a slugger who didn't enjoy his first full season until he was 28, but he made the most of it, slugging 33 homers last year in just 128 games, and racing to a red-hot start so far in 2010. He's 29 and has fairly poor plate discipline — despite all those homers, he had 118 K to just 49 BB last year, and his .332 OBP is simply unacceptably low for a frontline slugger. So his window of effectiveness is likely to be brief, and he'll likely undergo a horrific slump at some point in the season, like his 17-for-88 stretch in June 2009. But he'll finish the season with more than respectable power numbers.
Scott Podsednik(notes), Kansas City Royals .449 AVG, 0 HR, 6 RBI, 7 SB, .996 OPS
Podsednik is a fast guy with an uncertain bat. He's batted .300 exactly twice in his career: his 2003 rookie season, and his 2009 comeback with the White Sox. They were, by far, the best seasons of his career. As Rany Jazayerli has written, "Podsednik's value is almost entirely driven by his batting average: he doesn't hit for any power, and he doesn't walk a lot." Currently, his BABIP is a comically unsustainable .512. His average will drop. If it drops 150 points, he'll still be a valuable player to the Royals. If it drops 200 points, he'll be useless. That's how it goes.
Ivan Rodriguez(notes), Washington Nationals .449 AVG, 0 HR, 8 RBI, 1.069 OPS
Funny how the two players tied for the major league lead in hitting are a couple of retreads on two of the worst teams in baseball, isn't it? The 38-year old Rodriguez was woefully bad in 2009, and he wasn't great in 2007 or 2008, either. He's found new life in 2010, partly by significantly cutting down on his strikeouts, and partly thanks to a similarly unsustainable .468 BABIP. Neither Podsednik nor Rodriguez has hit with any power or shown much ability to take walks this year, so once the singles stop falling their value is sure to start falling. But until that happens they're awesome stories.