Melky Cabrera was once a slap-hitting fatty for the New York Yankees. We all know now that he changed his body and skills with synthetic testosterone, but his statistics in the 2012 season were nothing short of impressive, enhanced or not. Cabrera’s .346/.390/.516 with 25 doubles, 10 triples, 11 home runs, 60 RBI and 13 stolen bases in 459 at-bats were enough to have him leading the NL for the batting crown prior to his dopey doping suspension, but now we’ll all wonder, once again, just how much of his improvement and abilities can be traced back to the fake hormones.
Outside of Melky Cabrera, there are other strange statistics that baseball fans may be overlooking this season. While everyone watches Mike Trout pile up crazy stats for a rookie, or any player for that matter, there are others, who may not be your typical highly-respected and hyped player, who are putting up tremendous numbers this season.
You Don’t Belong Here: OPS-Version: A.J. Pierzynski, Catcher, Chicago White Sox
The most-hated player in baseball has returned with a vengence in 2012, hitting a robust .294/.340/.539 with 14 doubles, four triples, 23 home runs and 70 RBI. Pierzynski is ranked 20th in MLB in OPS. His current .879 OPS would eclipse his career high, .824, which he set as a 26-year-old in 2003 for the Minnesota Twins. Add in the fact that Pierzynski hit 17 home runs COMBINED in 2010 and 2011 over 938 at-bats, and there is no reason that anyone should have expected the aging catcher to be anywhere near this productive in 2012.
You Don’t Belong Here: Home run-Version: Jason Kubel, Outfielder, Arizona Diamondbacks
Jason Kubel signed a two-year, $16 million deal with a 2014 club option this past offseason, leaving Minnesota for the desert. The change of scenery has worked out nicely for Kubel, who has posted a .270/.341/.531 line, with 25 doubles, three triples, 26 home runs, and 79 RBI in 418 at-bats for the Diamondbacks. Kubel was always a solid hitter, even hitting 28 home runs and driving in 103 runs in 2009 for the Twins, however his current .872 OPS for Arizona is 78 points higher than his career OPS (.794). You can add in the fact that he moved to a hitter’s park for the bump there, and his .872 OPS is still lower than his .907 OPS in 2009, as well, but Kubel is definitely a surprise at No. 14 in MLB in home runs right now. If he had stayed healthy for Minnesota in 2010 and 2011, it’s possible that his production wouldn’t be quite so surprising for some.
You Don’t Belong Here: NL Rookie of the Year-Version: Todd Frazier, INF/OF, Cincinnati Reds
What do you get when you take a former MVP who has knee surgery, plug in a rookie for him, and proceed to go 27-12? You don’t get Bryce Harper, that’s for darn sure. Todd Frazier should be the NL Rookie of the year, as he is hitting .296/.355/.555, with 21 doubles, five triples, 18 home runs, 60 RBI and three steals in 328 at-bats. He wasn’t supposed to win the award and he still may not, as Harper was awarded a spot on the NL All-Star team in July and has the hype machine on his side. It isn’t very close based on statistics alone, though.
You Don’t Belong Here: Pitching-Version: R.A. Dickey, RHP, New York Mets
Take nearly every category and you’ll see Dickey there: Wins (tied for 1st in MLB), ERA (9th in MLB), Innings Pitched (3rd in MLB), Strikeouts (3rd in MLB), Batting Average Allowed (8th in MLB), and WHIP (6th in MLB). Dickey has redefined the journeyman label for pitchers since arriving in New York. Did anyone see this out of the guy who had a 5.72 ERA over 77 appearances (33 starts) before joining the Mets in 2010 as a 35-year-old? Dickey his knuckleball continue to baffle opposing hitters, as he continues to make it hard for ESPN to not force him down our throats as the best pitcher in the National League.
You Don’t Belong Here: Strikeout-Version: Aroldis Chapman, LHP, Cincinnati Reds
When you look at the strikeout leaders in MLB, you should see starting pitchers all over the place, especially in the top 100. The number of innings pitched for starting pitchers makes it impossible for relief pitchers to hang with starters in that category, as they tend to face between three and six opposing batters per game, rather than the 18 to 30 that starters may face, depending on their success in a given game. Well, say hello to the “Cuban Missile”, Aroldis Chapman, who is 59th in MLB with 112 strikeouts, one less than Jered Weaver and tied with Ryan Dempster. His 16.9 K/9 is higher than Eric Gagne‘s 15.0 K/9, which Gagne posted in his 2003 Cy Young season, the last relief pitcher to win the Cy Young award. Chapman is nothing short of dominant, having allowed a total of nine earned runs over his 62 innings pitched.
Honorable Mention: NONE
Numbers are fun and the constant flow of them in baseball is one of the most intriguing parts of the game. Players surprise with production every year. Who has surprised you in 2012?