What We Learned In Week Four

Another week, another series of lessons. On to the learning.

Carl Crawford is fast.

Other than Crawford, two players have stolen at least 11 bases this year. Bobby Abreu has exactly 11, while Jacoby Ellsbury has 13. Crawford stole 11 bases last week. Stealing six yesterday helped, obviously, but even without the record-tying display of running, Crawford was stealing bags at a ridiculous rate. He now has 17 steals on the season, and he hasn’t been thrown out once. He’s setting a pace for 86 stolen bases per 600 PA, and given how well he’s running right now, it’d be a surprise if he didn’t beat his own personal best of 59 stolen bases. With a career 84% success rate, Crawford isn’t just prolific, but he’s establishing himself as one of the premier baserunners of this generation.

Justin Morneau will not wait for you to throw him a strike.

Morneau is a very good hitter in the midst of another very good year. He’s the classic left-handed power hitter, driving in runs in bunches in the middle of the order. He’s the kind of hitter that pitchers don’t want to make a mistake to, and are usually willing to put on first base with a base on balls. Only, Morneau won’t let them. He’s drawn just seven walks this year, and it’s not because pitchers are challenging him – he swung at a staggering 51.2% of pitches outside the strike zone last week, the highest mark in the league. His O-Swing% for the season stands at 37.8%, meaning that he’s swinging at nearly two of every five balls that a pitcher throws. I’m not one to critique the work of a guy with a .404 wOBA, but patience is a virtue, Justin.

Power pitchers were tough to hit.

The five lowest FIPs for last week among starting pitchers belonged to Randy Johnson (0.60), Yovanni Gallardo (0.79), Matt Garza (0.95), Justin Verlander (1.17), and Felix Hernandez (1.29). I love watching guys with impeccable command carve up hitters with deception as much as the next guy, but there’s something to be said for being able to throw really freaking hard. These guys are among the best stuff guys in baseball, and they rack up the strikeouts by having more chutzpah than the opponents. A good old fashion just-try-to-hit-it-i-dare-you fastball can be fun to watch, and those guys were on full display last week.

The Pirates offense could use some more punch.

Last week, Pittsburgh’s offense had a 35,000-way tie for first place in home runs, as everyone who attended a Pirates game had as many home runs as the team they were watching. Andy LaRoche hit two doubles, but he was the only guy on the team with multiple extra base hits. Pointing to a guy who hit .211/.348/.316 as your big thumper over the last seven days doesn’t exactly sound like a way to win games, though. Not surprisingly, the Pirates had a team ISO of .047 and they scored a whopping 18 runs. Their run prevention has been a nice story so far, but with that kind of offensive levels, they’ll be a footnote in the N.L. Central again before too long.

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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

18 Responses to “What We Learned In Week Four”

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  1. lookatthosetwins says:

    hopefully having Mauer back in the lineup will remind Morneau what walks can do for you. Untill then, he’s Vlad Guererroing his way to a pretty nice season so far.

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    • Davidceisen says:

      When Morneau starts to struggle a bit he’ll probably start being more patient, but as long as he is hitting the way he is now there is no reason for him to be more patient.

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  2. JW says:

    No way the Pirates drew 34,975 fans last week….

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  3. Michael says:

    Wow, no love for Andy Laroche? He’s beginning to turn things around. And, I mean really, isn’t it just a matter of time before that kid realizes his all-star potential and becomes the Longoria-esque?

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    • Michael says:

      Err… remove that last ‘the’ above and that sentence makes a lot more sense.

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      • B says:

        Or you could try removing the Longoria comparison from anything having to do with Andy Laroche and it will make a lot more sense…

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      • Matt H. says:

        Andy LaRoche and Evan Longoria are not in the same class of players. Andy is a major leaguer, Evan is a perennial all-star.

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      • Nick says:

        Andy was once a top prospect, with a great hitting approach and a good glove, and he is still pretty young. Obviously we shouldn’t expect him to be Longoria-esque, but that is certainly his potential.

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    • Davidceisen says:

      How exactly is he turning things around?

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  4. Tom V says:

    citing that the best FIP pitchers are those who have high K’s is kinda redudant seeing as FIP is strongly correlated to K. Thats almost like saying the the players with the most hits are going to lead the league in BA.

    has anyone else noticed that the FIP formula only correlates to ERA in the last 10ish years? If you go back to the 70′s or earlier, the numbers are way off.

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    • Nick says:

      That is probably because the spread in defensive talent was a lot wider back then. FIP is completely dependent on normalized BABIP, and if you have one player allowing a .400 BABIP and another one allowing a .250 BABIP, then obviously FIP won’t match ERA.

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    • Top2124 says:

      And he was citing that they throw hard, which is the reason they rack up strikeouts, thus having low FIPs.

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      • Tom V says:

        maybe there are 2 different FIP formulas??? but the one Im aware of is FIP=(HR*13+(BB+HBP-IBB)*3-K*2)/IP + 3.2. My point was that this formula doesnt translate well among different eras. There werent nearly as many HRs hit in the 60s 70s 80s as there were in the 90s and 00s, which is probably the single most relevant factor fot this discrepancy. The FIP numbers for MLB is close to the actual ERA for MLB in the late 90s and 00s, but way off in other decades.

        Im completely aware the author meant those pitchers throw hard, thus have high Ks, hence my comparison to saying players who have a lot of hits will have high BA.

        See, when a formula is highly based off of a stat (as in FIP and Ks or BA and Hits), its kinda redundant to say that players with a lot of the component of the stat (K or H), will have a very good stat (FIP or BA).

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  5. CC says:

    I actually think that Morneau had been pressing to create “something,” seeing as how he’s the only above average hitter (along with Span, potentially) in that dreadful lineup. Lord knows Michael Cuddyer and Delmon Young aren’t going to carry the Twins . . .

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    • twinsfan says:

      And Nick Punto….and Alexi Casilla….and Carlos Gomez….

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    • lookatthosetwins says:

      Judging by last year and the start of this year, Kubel and Span are both above average hitters. Now with Mauer back, they’ve gone from dreadful to just bad.

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  6. J.J. Hardy says:

    When are we getting a column about Ryan Braun and his patience? His walk rate went up each month last season–culminating over ten is September–and this year he’s been Pujolsian.

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  7. joser says:

    Speaking of patience, the big news this week is going to be that Yuniesky Betancourt finally drew a walk, leaving Bengie Molina in sole possession of the “no free pass” club. Though it took 97 PAs for Yuni to finally watch four balls go by, so Bengie still has 6 more to go.

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