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