|NL By the Numbers|
|Written by Christopher Kreush|
|Wednesday, 13 June 2012 10:05|
Anyone who has watched for any amount of time would agree that baseball is a funny game. We do our projections for teams and individual players but rarely do things work out as we envision them before the season. There are always those that underperform and those that outperform what they are ‘supposed’ to do. The fact that this happens year in and year out is the only thing that is constant from one year to the next.
So the fact that things don’t always play out the way they are supposed to in our minds isn’t what surprises us. Rather, what catches us off guard are the specific players to the unfolding drama. For instance, in 2011 Jose Reyes led the National League in batting with a .337 average even though he had a career .285 mark entering the season and only one year at the .300 level. Matt Kemp (39) had more homeruns than Prince Fielder (38) and Albert Pujols (37). Ian Kennedy was tied for the league lead in victories with 21 and John Axford and Craig Kimbrel shared the league lead with 46 saves apiece.
This year is proving to be just as interesting or topsy-turvy, depending on which way you prefer to look at it. Let’s take a look at some of the more notable aspects of the season to this point.
After finishing third in each of their respective divisions, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals are in first place and have the top two records in the league. The San Diego Padres, who finished 20 games below .500 in 2011, are already at that mark this point in the 2012 season. After finishing 42 games above .500 last year, the Philadelphia Phillies (who had the best record in all of baseball) have quite a way to go to catch up as they are presently five games below break even.
Phillies starting pitchers recorded 76 victories in 2011 but are on a pace to finish with only 56 this year. The big three of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels had 19, 17, and 14 wins respectively in 2011. So far in 2012 Hamels has eight, Halladay has four, and Lee has zero wins. Joe Blanton with five has more than Halladay and Lee combined.
The Washington Nationals lead the league in ERA with a 2.96 mark. With their starters at 2.94 and relievers at 3.05, you can’t ask for more consistency.
The 2011 NL leaders in ERA were Clayton Kershaw, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Ryan Vogelsong, and Tim Lincecum. All five had ERA’s below 2.75 for the season. Only Kershaw and Vogelsong are below that mark in 2012. This year’s top five are Brandon Beachy, Vogelsong, Ryan Dempster, Gio Gonzalez, and James McDonald.
Lincecum’s ERA, which was 2.98 for his career entering 2012, is now at 6.00 for the year.
McDonald’s ERA, which was 4.04 for his career entering 2012, is now at 2.39 for the year.
Melky Cabrera, owner of a career .275 batting average entering 2012, is now at .366 for the year and leads the league. This after hitting .305 for the Kansas City Royals in 2011, which many said he couldn’t sustain for the entire year. He won’t sustain .366 but I believe he is a .300+ hitter. What does Ron Shandler say – once you display a skill you own it?
Two of the top five batting average leaders in the NL are catchers – Carlos Ruiz and Yadier Molina. Average leaders are normally those that can outright rake or speedsters who can leg out a good number of infield hits. Ruiz and Molina are neither.
Kimbrel again leads the league in saves with 18. 2011’s leaders along with Kimbrel were Axford, J.J. Putz, Heath Bell, and Drew Storen. If we needed any further demonstration how volatile the saves category can be, this year’s leaders after Kimbrel are Santiago Casilla, Joel Hanrahan, Jonathan Papelbon, and Brett Myers and Frank Francisco tied.
Carlos Beltran leads the NL with 18 homeruns (and has even added six stolen bases after most thought his running days were over). Carlos Gonzalez, Ryan Braun, and Giancarlo Stanton round out the leaders. Pujols and Fielder, who defected to the American League, would barely crack the NL top 20 with their totals this year.
It’s no coincidence that Beltran, Gonzalez, and Stanton are also in the top five RBI getters in the league. Andre Ethier leads the league with 54 while Adam LaRoche, who is having a resurgent year, rounds out the leaders.
Tony Campana leads the NL speedsters with 21 stolen bases. Right on his heels are Emilio Bonifacio and Dee Gordon, each with 20 swipes. Of all the NL players with at least ten stolen bases, only Gordon at .284 has an on base percentage lower than 300. Campana’s 21 steals have come in only 118 at bats.
Washington’s Danny Espinosa leads the league in strikeouts with 74 which put him on a pace for 202. He had 166 in 2011.
Drew Stubbs, who led the NL with 205 strikeouts in 2011, has improved in this area. Stubbs, who struck out 30% of his plate appearances last year, is striking out only 26% of PA in 2012.Numbers are always interesting to look at and baseball certainly doesn’t have a shortage of them. We could actually say that the numbers in baseball are, well, innumerable. They can be either looked at casually or analyzed ad nauseum. That is one of the things that make this game so great. Here’s hoping the numbers have been good to you so far in 2012 and that the rest of the year will be even better (unless you happen to play in one of my leagues).