I get heat all the time for putting pictures of beautiful women on my site (I even had a female follower tell me I should even things out and put a beefcake on the site. She’s obviously right, but there’s just no way I can bring myself to do it). Why do I it? Who doesn’t like to look at beautiful women? Am I right?
After that brief digression, and the shameless use of the feminine form to boost my readership, it’s time to hit on some players that are performing at levels that you may not have been aware of (hence the title of this piece).
Lance Berkman is 0-for-14 to drop his batting average to .282. In fact, the only month in which he has really impressed in the batting average category was April when he hit .388. Since then his monthly averages are .262, .221, .250 and .281. You shouldn’t be too surprised as the 35 year old Berkman hit .274 in 2009 and .248 in 2010.
Johnny Cueto leads baseball with a 2.05 ERA over 21 starts. This is shocking for numerous reasons, not the least of which being that Cueto came into the year with a 4.27 ERA over 531 innings (that mark of 4.27 was worse than the league average in that time of 4.17). Cueto is having this success despite a four year low in punchouts (6.22 per nine). Looks like all those extra grounders have been the key. In his first three seasons his ground ball rate was 39, 42 and 42 percent. This year that mark is about 25 percent up at 53.3 percent. Pretty amazing.
Ian Kinlser has 23 homers, 23 steals and 94 runs scored. With two more homers, two more steals and six more runs scored he’ll have produced just the sixth such season by a second sacker of the 21st first century of 25-25-100. It’s old hat for him. He did it back in 2009 when he hit 31 homers, stole 31 bases and scored 101 times.
James Loney is leading baseball, that’s not a typo I swear, with a .397 batting average the past 30 days (that’s .010 points clear of Derek Jeter). A monumental bust for nearly the durations of the season, Loney has come alive of late making it conceivable that he’ll reach his career norms in two categories you likely thought he had no chance of reaching. He’s hitting .277 and his career mark is .286. He also has nine homers leaving him a big month from hitting his average the past four years of 13.
Cliff Pennington (.272) is batting better than Kevin Youkilis (.266) this season. Speaking of Cliff, were you aware that he has been one of the most productive shortstops in baseball since the All-Star break? Pennington hsa hit .347, managed to plate 25 runs, and posted a .905 OPS over 41 games. I know, shocking ain’t it?
James Shields has 10 complete games this season, more than the total of the #2 and #3 men in the American League, combined. Felix Hernandez is second with five, and there is a list of six men who have recorded four complete games (Jered Weaver, Ricky Romero, Jason Vargas, Ervin Santana, Derek Holland and Justin Verlander). All told that group has 39 complete games. That means those eight men are barely halfway to the all-time record of 75 complete games held by Will White way back in 1879. For the modern record, since 1900, the eight are still well behind Jack Chesbro’s mark of 48.
Chris Young, who coincidentally I picked up in a trade about when this slump started, is hitting .148 over the last 30 days, the worst mark in baseball. It’s not like we haven’t seen him struggle before as he hit .212 in 2009 and owns a .239 mark in his career. Still, he’s one homer and one steal away from a 20/20 season, and that would be the third time in five years he has hit that plateau so I’ll cut him some slack.
By Ray Flowers