Earlier Friday, Grant Brisbee wrote about some early-season statistics. This piece is not that piece, because this piece links to that piece and that piece is separate. But this piece is along a similar vein. In that, in this piece, we're just going to have some fun with early-season statistics. Are you opposed to statistics? Of course not, you're a baseball fan. Are you opposed to fun?
Of course not maybe, you're a baseball fan. Let's see where this takes us. You don't have anything better to do.
This piece does not present an exhaustive list of the numbers that're interesting right now. This piece presents a list of some numbers that stood out to me at first or second glance. It's too early to know whether or not they're particularly meaningful, but it's not too early to know whether or not they're interesting. I know that they're interesting. Something doesn't have to be meaningful to be interesting. Think about art.
Onward and upward:
Matt Kemp has more home runs than the Phillies, Pirates, and Cubs
You already know that Matt Kemp is off to a hot start, and you already know that the Phillies, Pirates, and Cubs are not off to hot starts. Maybe you've even already seen this statistic. It's one of those things that catches your eye and you recognize it as interesting, but it doesn't really sink in. Matt Kemp - a baseball player - has more home runs than three baseball teams. It's not going to keep up, but it's kept up this long. A man is out-homering teams.
Curtis Granderson is out-homering the Cubs. Josh Willingham, Mike Napoli, Adam Jones, Carlos Beltran, and Josh Hamilton have as many homers as the Cubs. Chase Headley has one fewer homer than the Cubs. The Cubs' leading homer hitter is Bryan LaHair.
Think about this. Actually think about this. A baseball team is composed of several players, many of them hitters. Individual hitters have hit more home runs than the Cubs team has. That's crazy!
The Pirates offense has a .540 OPS
And 26 runs in 12 games. Incredibly, the Pirates are 5-7, instead of the 1-11 they probably ought to be. One of the things I love to do in cases like this is to compare the team production to a player we all remember as being not very good. The Pirates have a team 51 OPS+. Jeff Mathis has a career 52 OPS+. Juan Castro has a career 55 OPS+. Curtis Goodwin had a career 57 OPS+. Bob Gibson had a career 49 OPS+ and Bob Gibson was a Hall-of-Fame pitcher.
Have you ever wondered what a team full of Jeff Mathises would look like? Of course you haven't, there's no reason to ever wonder that, because there's only one Jeff Mathis and he's dreadful. But the Pirates have hit like a team full of Jeff Mathises. A team full of Jeff Mathises would probably end up out-homered by Matt Kemp.
Yoenis Cespedes has a 58.9 percent contact rate
Unsurprisingly, that's the lowest contact rate in baseball among qualified hitters. It's also the lowest contact rate in baseball among hitters who've batted at least 22 times. We have pitch data going back to 2002. Since 2002, the worst contact rate posted by a hitter who batted at least 100 times is 54.7 percent, by Brad Eldred in 2005. The next-worst is 58.0 percent, by Kelly Shoppach in 2010. Then you get Jared Sandberg, and Russell Branyan four consecutive times, and Jared Sandberg again, and Wily Mo Pena, and Russell Branyan.
Cespedes is in exceptional territory. It's not a great shock that he'd struggle given an immediate promotion to the highest level of baseball in the world, but this'll be fun to monitor as the season wears on. Cespedes has a terrible contact rate, and an .873 OPS. What if this is him? What if he's Wily Mo Pena, turned up to 11? Cespedes has practically been a caricature of what people thought he might be. Baseball needs more of this.
The Blue Jays have a .224 BABIP
As a pitching staff, not as an offense. So they've allowed a .224 BABIP. Accordingly, they've also allowed the lowest rate of line drives. A year go, the Blue Jays' BABIP allowed was pretty much exactly middle-of-the-pack. So I don't know what's ... oh wait, I forgot, they added Jeff Mathis. That's probably the explanation here. The Blue Jays were all "okay", and then they added Jeff Mathis, and now they're all "yeahhh".
I'm being snarky and evading the point because there isn't a point. I don't know if the Blue Jays have a good defense now. They've had a good defense so far. To quite an extreme! But it's hard to tell what's been the defense, and what's been the pitching staff. So we let it sort out, as if we have any control over things to begin with.
The Nationals' pitching staff has been crazy
Good-crazy, not Tyra-crazy. Remember when Davey Johnson caused a little stir when he said the front of the Nationals' rotation had comparable stuff to the front of the Phillies' rotation? The Nationals' rotation has been dealing some pretty good stuff to date. As a team, the Nationals have baseball's lowest FIP, by far. They have baseball's lowest xFIP. They have baseball's fastest average fastball, at 93.1 miles per hour. The rotation has baseball's fastest average fastball among rotations, at 93.5. And the rotation has baseball's lowest ERA and FIP, and second-lowest xFIP.
This is all to say that the Nationals have been pitching their asses off. The Nationals have played just 14 games, and seven of those games have come against the Cubs and the Astros, but the Nationals' bandwagon is filling up like a water bottle you leave by the sink. I mean, it's not filling up right now because not that many people care about the Nationals, but it has the potential to fill up later on.
Albert Pujols has been chasing
Maybe this is something worthy of further investigation, but Albert Pujols is still stuck at zero home runs. He's tied for the league lead in doubles, so it's not like the power is entirely gone, but he's yet to hit a dinger. Chone Figgins hit a dinger. Here's Pujols' spray chart from last year through this date, and from this year, courtesy of Texas Leaguers:
See? No dingers. But of course, this isn't about dingers. This is about chasing, and according to PITCHf/x data, Pujols has swung at 38 percent of pitches out of the strike zone. That's comparable to Adrian Beltre and Vernon Wells. Last year, Pujols came in at 28 percent, and the year before, he came in at 24 percent. It's early enough that this could all be sample-size noise, but one wonders if Pujols might be pressing. Or if something else might be going on, since Pujols became more aggressive last season than he was in seasons previous.
Maybe this is a trend. I don't know what's up, and I'm not trying to issue a diagnosis, but I bet the Angels would feel an awful lot better about their decade-long investment if he knocked a ball out of the park one of these days. It's kind of his thing.