Friday, August 26, 2011

Surprise, Surprise

Certain parts of the baseball season truly do surprise us; others not so much. Naturally, we have both positive and negative surprises.

First, the positive.

Jonathan Papelbon. It wasn't as though Papelbon forgot how to pitch, but he had negative trends in both ERA and the underpinning, K/9 IP and K/BB ratio. At times he became a one-pitch pitcher; he knew it and they knew. In his contract year, he didn't reinvent himself, he just did whatever it took to regain effectiveness AND get paid.

Jacoby Ellsbury. After a lost season in 2010, Ellsbury returned to be one of the top players in the AL. Top 4 in hits, runs, and stolen bases, and top 10 in OPS and RBI, out of the leadoff spot. As for Yankee fans, I won't insult you in saying that he's been as good as Granderson, but spare me the Brett Gardner and Ellsbury are the same player talk.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The young veteran came in as a big question mark, but has been productive offensively and is 4th in runs created per 27 at bats. He's also thrown out 9 of the past 20 runners, and has the disadvantage of catching Tim Wakefield.

Dustin Pedroia. Well, can you expect too much from a previous MVP? After returning from season-ending injury and surgery, Pedroia has been perhaps better than ever defensively and at least as productive as during his MVP season. Although some hate the WAR (wins above replacement stat), Pedroia has excelled there, although falling to 16th in OPS. Pedroia is tenth in runs scored and sixth in the AL in the Sabermetric runs created.

Josh Beckett. Beckett had an injury and ineffectiveness-filled 2010. But in 2011, with the added burden of having Clay Buchholz out for much of the season, Beckett rebounded with power pitching, the fourth best ERA among AL starters and leads the team in innings pitched.

Now the lesser luminaries.

Carl Crawford. Fans and management expected a lot from a historically productive player, especially one with the hype and the big price tag. Yes, he's shown flashes, with some game winning hits and recent production, but nobody, including CC himself feels good about the production so far. There's a gap between production and caring, and one has to hope the left-fielder, who does care gets it in gear down the stretch.

J.D. Drew. Drew is the forgotten man, with an injury and low production during his contract year. There's simply not much to say about a guy who has never cultivated a following or sought adulation. It's fair to say that a collective "we" never knew Drew, and to his credit, he never sought to ingratiate himself via the media.

Surely there are others who outperformed expectations (Aceves, Albers , and Miller) and didn't (McDonald) but you usually win because the stars were stars, not because the understudy got the curtain call.

And although we have a panoply of stats to support our various arguments, usually your mind's eye sees the players about the same way as the statistics. There aren't a lot of Satch Sanders full-time contributors with few stats in baseball.

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