What We Learned In Week Six

After taking a week off, the things we learned make their triumphant return.

Jose Bautista is doing a pretty good Vernon Wells impersonation.

While Wells gets most of the credit for the resurgent Blue Jays offense (and rightfully so), Bautista is also whacking the baseball with regularity. He led all major league hitters in wOBA last week, putting up a .444/.565/1.111 line. Of his eights hits, four left the yard, bringing his season total to 10 – his career high in home runs is 16, accomplished in 2006 when he racked up 469 plate appearances. He’s always had above average power (career ISO of .171), but an increase in the amount of balls in the air has allowed him to act like a true cleanup hitter so far.

He won’t keep this up all year, but he will be an interesting trade chip for the Blue Jays. He’s capable of playing all four corner positions, makes just $2.4 million this year and is arbitration eligible at the end of the season, so he’s not strictly a rent-a-player. Come July, when Toronto’s efforts to keep up with Tampa Bay and New York have fallen short, don’t be surprised if Bautista is one of the more coveted guys on the market.

It’s time to start paying more attention to Tommy Hanson.

The Braves right-hander made a pretty nice splash as a rookie last year, running a 4.03 xFIP in 120 innings after tearing up the minors. However, while the results were good, the stuff was a tick below what it was in the minors, as his fastball averaged just 92.3 MPH after being consistently in the 93-96 range in the minors. This year, he’s found his old velocity (fastball is now averaging 93.6 MPH) and his strikeouts have been the big benefactor – he struck out 18 batters (while walking just one) over two starts last week, and his K/9 for the season now stands at 10.08, seventh highest in baseball.

Hanson was a strikeout machine in the minor leagues, and with his increased velocity, there are reasons to believe he can sustain his early season performance. Hanson is legitimately one of the best young arms in baseball, and given the way he’s pitching so far in 2010, he may be on his way to his first of many all-star appearances.

Jake Westbrook looks healthy.

Before Tommy John surgery cost him all of 2009, Westbrook was the classic model for how a sinkerball pitcher could succeed – pound the strikezone, get a ton of groundballs, and keep the ball in the yard. In two starts last week, Westbrook looked as good as new, running a 70.5% GB% while walking just three batters in 15 innings of work. He even tossed in 10 strikeouts for good measure, but don’t expect that to continue – he’s definitely still a pitch-to-contact guy.

With a 4.13 xFIP through his first eight starts of the season, Westbrook is pitching near his pre-surgery levels when he was an extremely effective innings eater. With the Indians seven games behind the Twins and Westbrook due for free agency at year’s end, it’s a pretty good bet that he won’t finish the year in Cleveland, but he certainly made himself more attractive to potential suitors with the way he pitched last week.



Print This Post



Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Dan
Guest
Dan
6 years 1 month ago

Dave,

The Bautista situation becomes even more interesting when you consider he hit 10 HRs in September/October of last year:

http://www.fangraphs.com/statsplits.aspx?playerid=1887&position=3B/OF&season=2009

So, by my quick count, that’s 20 HRs in his last 250 ABs.

mowill
Member
mowill
6 years 1 month ago

Don’t forget we also learned that Don Wakamatsu is the worst major league manager that still has a job.

AnotherFan
Guest
AnotherFan
6 years 1 month ago

And that the Seattle Mariners suck.

Reuben
Guest
6 years 1 month ago

No one will ever be worse than Dusty Baker.

Grant
Guest
Grant
6 years 1 month ago

Dave,

What kind of return would you expect the Jays to get if Bautista were made available?

everdiso
Member
everdiso
6 years 1 month ago

Amazing how many “great trading chips” this crappy Jays team without a hope of contending has. On other teams they might actually be called “good players” – but on the Jays, they’re “trading chips”!

as for that super-duper talented Rays roster…..would Bautista keeping up this performance be any more surprising than what Bartlett and Zobrist did last year as two of the most important players on that unchallangably talented Rays’ roster ? (and hey, how are those rays’ hitters looking now anyways, since Bartlett and Zobrist came thundering back down to earth?).

For a little extra info on Bautista, Cito made him a full-time start against both RHP and LHP, for the first time in his career, on August 20th of last season.

You guys can check my math, but this is his line since he became a full-time everyday MLB starter for the first time in his career:

Bautista: 285ab, 20hr, 54rbi, .249avg, .358obp, .530slg, .888ops

not bad.

Reuben
Guest
6 years 1 month ago

They’re currently third in their division and playing great. What happens if/when they play crappy? Their lineup and rotation are simply not as good as the Rays’ and Yankees’. Do you think they could play better than them for 162 games? Do you think they could really compete for a World Series against the Twins, Rangers, Phillies, Yankees, Rays, Rockies, Cardinals, etc. of the world?

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
6 years 1 month ago

How did the Rangers sneak into that group? Toronto may be as good or better than them; its at least close enough that they aren’t in the “demonstrably better than Toronto group” that would include New York, Tampa, and Philly.

And given the clear, multi-year disparity between the AL and NL and the way anything can happen in a short series, yes, I think they could compete in a W.S. against St Louis or Colorado also.

everdiso
Member
everdiso
6 years 1 month ago

playing great?

their three best hitters from last year – Hill, Lind, and Overbay – have been hovering around .650ops this year. They’ve had 24 year old Rzep and 25 year old Litsch on the shelf all year, both with career eras under 4, and both just coming back and pitching in AAA this week for the first time. They’ve had pretty much every reliable bullpen arm blow up at some point alrady.

They’ve played well, but they certainly haven’t played great, and have plenty of areas to look forward to signficant improvement when the overachievers cool down.

Reuben
Guest
6 years 1 month ago

Let’s see, Buck, Wells, Lewis, and Alex Gonzalez have all played above their heads. And despite the claim of their bullpen blowing up all over the place, their major three relievers have all be pretty significantly positive contributors: Downs and Frasor have .3 and .2 WAR and Gregg ha .7. They all have FIPs under 3.5. To me it seems like they’re performing above their true talent level, not below it.

everdiso
Member
everdiso
6 years 1 month ago

Lewis is hardly playing over his head with his .796ops.

What we’ve got is Buck, Bautista, Gonzo, and Wells hitting well above expectations. We can argue about the sustainability of their hitting, but we should note that Wells and Gonzo have already cooled down considerably the past few weeks and the Jays are still winning – and now while their overall numbers this year are still above expectations, they’re not as crazy high as they were earlier.

But to balance out those 4 hot bats, the jays have had 4 ice cold and/or injured bats in Lind, Hill, Overbay, and Encarnacion – that’s 4 hitters with career OPS near or above .800ops (and 3 of them with OPS well above .800 last year), all of whom have been stuck down in the mid-.600s this year, with two of them missing signficiant time to injury as well. That’s their projected 2/3/5/6 hitters in their lineup. These four bats have been every bit as ice cold as the other four bats have been red hot.

Offensively, if everyone reverts back to their expected levels, you’ll see as much improvement from the ice cold bats as you’ll see regression from the red hot bats.

Meanwhile, pitching wise, Litsch and Rzepczynski will both be ready to go in the next week or two, which will likely preclude the Jays from every having to use the likes of Tallet and Eveland in the rotation, which should be a nice boost to the starting piching, with the Jays have a choice between the best 5 of 6 taletned young pitchers in Marcum, Romero, Litsch, Cecil, Rzep, and Morrow.

Even better, that should free up Tallet to go back to the pen where he’s been invaluable as a longman in the past, which should be a nice boost to the ‘pen as well. Not to mention that Eveland might be useful there as a loogy as well, which would allow the team to not have to employ unreliably guys like Roenicke and Lewis. As for Downs and Frasor being positive contributors – both have been a big step down from last year, although both have started to nicely round back into form the last couple of weeks, as expected, after flat out costing us a few games in the standings early in the season.

The Jays have been playing well, but there are plenty, plenty of reasons to look for improvment going forward – as many as there are to worry about dropping.

everdiso
Member
everdiso
6 years 1 month ago

and one quick last note – I left out potentially the biggest reason to hope for improvement going forward……Travis Snider.

Deece
Guest
Deece
6 years 1 month ago

I would hardly call roenicke and lewis unreliable. In fact they have come in and done a commendable job thus far. . . this jays team may lead the majors in extra base hits and hrs, but the offence has been spotty. The real reason this team continues to win games, despite wells and gonzalez cooling down, and hill and lind not even heating up yet, is starting pitching. I don’t think anyone expected Ricky Romero to develop so quickly, and only question marks surrounded Marcum’s return. Thus far both have been absolutely great, with a few great starts/bad starts mixed in from tallet, cecil, morrow and eveland.

Also the bullpen has settled down after the early implosion. Frasor’s velocity is back and his change up looks effective once again. Downs, Janssen and Camp have all looked great lately. The jays will not made a wild card push, they are a few years off, but with how quickly ricky, brett wallace, cecil, and snider are coming along, the day may be sooner then later.

everdiso
Member
everdiso
6 years 1 month ago

You make it sound as if one of the best rookie starters last season (Romero) improving in his 2nd year, and as if a very good pitcher regaining his form after TJ surgery (Marcum) are big shockers….but I don’t think that’s the case.

The Jays have some very nice starting talent – 3 top-end 1st round pick arms in Romero, Morrow, and Cecil, and 3 guys with less impressive arms but with stellar track records at every level of the minors and majors in Marcum, Litsch, and Rzep.

The starting pitching SHOULD be pretty good. It’s unfortunate, really, that the Jays have been forced by injury and poor decision making to use Eveland and Tallet for as many starts as they have.

.

wpDiscuz