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.