What We Learned In Week Six

Just as we thought that baseball was returning to normalcy, we have a week like the last one, where unexpected and interesting things occur. Let’s take a look at what we learned in the last seven days.

The Rangers aren’t going away.

Texas is riding a seven game winning streak thanks to some terrific performances from their position players. They continued thumping the ball as always, hitting .277/.352/.505, but those same big bats also continued to flash the leather – the Rangers held opponents to just a .259 batting average on balls in play last week, and they continue to impress with their ability to take away hits and support their pitching staff. Elvis Andrus is the early leader in the clubhouse for American League Rookie of the Year, as he’s playing at a +4 win level through the early part of the season. Not bad for a 20-year-old.

The Tigers role players can hit.

Detroit got some monster offensive performances last week, but it wasn’t Miguel Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez, or Curtis Granderson swinging the hot bat. Try Ramon Santiago, Jeff Larish, and Ryan Raburn instead. Those three had wOBAs of .870, .615, and .605 respectively over the last seven days. Santiago, in particular, is trying to prove that last year’s offensive surge was for real. He was one of the worst hitters in baseball during his early career, but he hit .282/.411/.460 in ’08 and he’s followed it up with a .352/.386/.611 line so far this year. This is a guy with a career .353 slugging percentage in the minor leagues, and he racked up six extra base hits in 12 at-bats last week. Baseball is a crazy, weird game.

The Cardinals miss Rick Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick

With two of their regular outfielders on the disabled list, St. Louis needed to get some help from their reserves last week. They didn’t get it. Chris Duncan went 1 for 13. Colby Rasmus went 3 for 16. Nick Stavinoha and Shane Robinson combined to go 6 for 26. Those four gave them a whopping two extra base hits in five games. Albert Pujols is awesome, but he can’t do it by himself. St. Louis is going to have to get some production from positions other than first base while their two starters are on the DL, or they’re going to be digging themselves out of a hole by the time they get back.

Strikeouts are great and all, but home runs are a killer.

The Florida Marlins pitching staff racked up an impressive 9.35 K/9 last week, which isn’t all that surprising considering the talent they have in their rotation. Ricky Nolasco, Josh Johnson, and Chris Volstad are all very good arms capable of making hitters look foolish. Unfortunately, all three made mistakes in the strike zone as well, and they paid dearly for it, as the Marlins also gave up 1.76 HR/9, which was the driving force behind their 6.35 ERA. You can strike out all the batters you want, but if you keep giving up the long ball, you aren’t going to win too many games.

David Wright doesn’t want to be blamed for the Mets struggles.

An early season target for criticism, Wright has shut up those who were picking his game apart to begin the year. Last week, he hit .556/.625/.741 and stole five bases to boot, making him one of the game’s most productive all-around players. The updated ZIPS projection here on the site has Wright hitting 23 more home runs and stealing 19 more bases, which would give him 26 home runs and 29 steals to end the year. He’s got a legitimate shot at 30-30 if he can stay hot, and you don’t get that kind of power-speed production from a corner infielder very often. Wright is legitimately one of the superstars in today’s game, and hopefully people will begin to realize just how good this kid is.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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