Small sample sizes are fun. We can speculate until our faces turn blue, and when we turn out to be wrong, we can blame it on the small sample size. We’re only a few series into the 2013 MLB season, but already there are players rising to the top, some expected, and some completely unexpected.
One way to observe this set of stats, is to remember that baseball is all about streaks. No one is going to finish the season batting .500, and everybody gives up runs – sometimes more than we like to admit. For the time being, we can take note of who started the season off with a bang, and put them into two categories – the players who are streaky, and the players who build their success by keeping the streak alive. The real question is, which of the players on this list will be on next week’s list?
You won’t see a lot of superstars on this list, Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander and their counterparts are taking their time heating up; Josh Hamilton is striking out as I write this. In the meantime, here’s a look at MLB stats leaders in pitching and hitting.
Note: we’re looking specifically at batting average, and ERA in this first roundup of league leaders.
Hitting for Average: Get out the Rakes
Carlos Santana – CLE (.500, 13/26, 4 2B, 2 HR) Santana’s continued success will be integral to Cleveland staying afloat in the American League Central. He only has five RBI to compliment is work at the plate, but his .567 on-base percentage and 1.451 OPS through the first eight games of the season are eye-popping.
Lance Berkman – TEX (.480, 12/25, 4 2B, 1 HR) Replacing Josh Hamilton with Lance Berkman is not an ideal situation for a team looking to finally win a World Seires after two attempts in the last three years, but so far, Berkman has calmed the nerves of the Rangers organization. The question is, how long can the 37 year-old maintain his torrid pace.
Adam Jones – BAL (.471, 16/34, 4 2B, 8 RBI) Currenty resting under the shadow of teammate Chris Davis‘ MLB-leading 18 RBI, but not for long. Davis won’t keep it up and Jones will shoulder more of the load for the Orioles as things even out over the next few weeks.
Carl Crawford – LAD (.462, 12/27) The RBI will come for Crawford, eventually, and so will the power. At least, this is what the Dodgers organization are desperately hoping for. If they don’t get star-like production from at least two of their three former Boston Red Sox, the deal will seem like a joke to many. Other good news for the Dodgers is that Adrian Gonzalez is fired up early, batting .400 with six RBI.
Jean Segura – MIL (.458, 11/24, 2 2B, 3 RBI) The 23 year-old shortstop batted .258 last year in time with the Angels and Brewers, but his early season outburst in Milwaukee may be a sign of things to come.
Jed Lowrie – OAK (.438, 14/32, 4 2B, 3 HR, 7 RBI) Bill Beane may have found the middle-infielder he was looking for in Lowrie, but he’l have to keep the raking up for a whole season in order to do better than his .244 BA from last year. If these first few series are any indication of Lowrie’s season to come, the A’s may indeed make another run at the division title.
Pitching with the lights out: Runs, anyone?
Barry Zito – SF (14.0 IP, 8 SO, 1.00 WHIP, 0.00 ERA) The once phenomenal Zito is extending his late-2012 success into early 2013 with two wins already under his belt. The Giants are on the hook for $20MM with Zito this season, so he’ll have to stay stellar throughout 2013 in order for his massive contract to not seem like an epic mistake.
Matt Moore – TBR (11.1 IP, 13 SO, 0.97 WHIP, 0.00 ERA) Still 23 years-old, Moore is one of the strong young arms that make Tampa Bay a threat in the AL East, even with a powerhouse Toronto team and a well-balanced Baltimore. He shows the poise and calm demeanor of pitchers who have been in the Majors for a long time. Barring injury, Moore will be around for a long time himself.
Paul Maholm – ATL (12.2 IP, 13 SO, 0.87 WHIP, 0.00 ERA) Maholm seems to be turning things around after a couple horrible years in Pittsburgh. He finished 2012 with an ERA of 3.67 and he seems perfectly able to contribute to the Braves’ rotation so long as he can continue to keep his strikeout/walks ratio on the rise.
Clayton Kershaw – LAD (16.0 IP, 16 SO, 0.44 WHIP, 0.00 ERA) No surprises here. Kershaw is 25 years-old and has a record of 63-37, with an ERA of 2.75 and a SO/BB ratio of 2.89.
Clay Buchholz – BOS (14.0 IP, 12 SO, 1.07 WHIP, 0.64 ERA) What a boon this would be for the Red Sox if Buchholz can stay healthy, and stay good. The rest of the rotation has question marks, outside of Jon Lester. Lackey will miss at least his next two starts, so it’s imperative that the Red Sox get good outings from Buchholz. God forbid manager John Farrell has to rely on swing-man Alfredo Aceves for anything other than dirty looks from the bullpen.
Matt Harvey – NYM (14.0 IP, 19 SO, 0.57 WHIP, 0.64 ERA) Harvey was the 7th overall pick in the 2010 draft, and he’s starting to show the Mets a bit of early return on their investment. He’s still 24 years old, and if he does anything remotely similar to his first couple of starts in the Majors, the Mets may have something to build around between Harvey and Niese.