04/27/10 1:43 PM ET
Trendspotting: Cubs duo leading charge
Theriot, Byrd lighting it up at Wrigley; Teixeira scuffling badly
By Chris Stryshak / MLB.com
Expect to see a healthy mix of established stars performing (or not) in some unexpected areas and a few unheralded names making their marks in 5x5 play.
Ryan Theriot's six-game surge, which included a five-hit performance April 25, has his average up to .333, the eighth-best mark in the National League.
As hot as Theriot has been of late, he has nothing on Cubs teammate Marlon Byrd. The veteran outfielder has been white-hot at the dish, racking up seven multi-hit efforts in his last eight contests to raise his average from a Mendoza Line-scraping .220 to .375. Currently available in over 50 percent of Yahoo! Leagues, Byrd can provide some immediate relief in the outfield.
David Wright's power stroke may have deserted him last season, but despite his career-low .447 slugging percentage, he still managed a .307 average that fell right in line with his career mark. Unfortunately for Wright owners, the same can't be said this year, as the Mets third baseman has only tallied five hits in his last 32 at-bats (.156) since the team's draining 20-inning classic with the Cardinals.
There is not nearly enough sugar available to coat Mark Teixeira's miserable three-week start to the 2010 season. Toss out his 3-for-4 performance April 10 vs. the Rays and the switch-hitting slugger is left with a nearly unfathomably low .079 average to his name.
This one may be premature, but considering that four of Seth Smith's nine hits have gone sailing out of the yard, and that he should have an everyday gig snapped up for the next two weeks while Brad Hawpe's strained quad heals, the 27-year-old outfielder is a must-own in NL-only leagues and should even be been given consideration in mixed formats.
I'd say that the move to Arizona has agreed with Kelly Johnson so far. The resurgent keystone has mashed seven taters on the year -- the same number as Albert Pujols -- to lead all Major League second basemen.
Would it surprise you to learn that Ryan Howard has slugged exactly half the number of big flies that Andruw Jones and Ty Wigginton have swatted this season? Or that the newly minted $125 Million Dollar Man hasn't left the yard since the first week of the season, a span covering 14 games? Surprisingly, it's all true. Don't expect this to last too much longer, of course.
As lackluster as Howard's extended power drought has been, he's still swung a bigger bat than Victor Martinez, whose April 6 homer is his only one to date. In fact, V-Mart has only ripped two extra-base hits since then, which goes a long way toward explaining some of Boston's early offensive woes.
As is often the case with the underrated third baseman, Casey Blake has managed to stay well under the radar despite plating eight runners over his last six contests. The 12-year veteran has chased home 14 runners so far this season, more than such noted cornermen as Alex Rodriguez and Wright.
Mark Reynolds is one of the few third basemen looking down at Blake from the top of the RBI leaderboard. He's driven in 20 of his D-backs teammates thus far, including an astonishing 13 over the past seven games, a feat that recently nabbed him NL Player of the Week honors.
The Brewers hung 17 runs on the scoreboard April 26 vs. the Pirates, but Prince Fielder drove home only one of them. The 25-year-old has plated just eight men in '10, leaving him a long way from the 141 he put on the board last season.
The Cubs offense exploded for a combined 17 runs last weekend, but Aramis Ramirez, the team's primary cleanup hitter, contributed just one RBI over the two games. If he doesn't get things going soon, Ramirez could be in danger of getting bumped down in Chicago's order.
If you gave up on Johnny Damon after his 3-for-23 start, you've come to learn the hard way that patience is a virtue. The Tigers' primary No. 2 hitter has worked his on-base percentage up to .440 and has come around to score eight times in his past five games.
Scott Rolen may not project as the classic run-scoring machine, but that's exactly the part he's played recently, crossing home eight times in his past six games while playing his way onto deep mixed-league rosters.
Gordon Beckham was supposed to provide a needed jolt to a plodding White Sox offense this season, but the sophomore has had trouble getting on base (.295 OBP), which has curtailed his run-scoring chances. The 23-year-old infielder has found home just once over his past 38 plate appearances.
That Alexei Ramirez has scored one more run than Rockies pitcher Aaron Cook despite logging 53 more at-bats is, well, more than a little troubling, but that's where the Pale Hose shortstop, who has scored just four times this season, finds himself as the year's first month draws to a close.
Chase Headley has been downright dashing on the basepaths of late, swiping five bags over his last seven games. Owners should temper their expectations, though, as the Padres third baseman stole only six bases in 376 career Minor League games.
Headley's Padres teammate Will Venable has also been putting his legs to work recently by racking up three steals in as many tries over his past five games. But unlike Headley, Venable does have something of a track record in this department with a 21-steal Minor League season under his belt.
While he hasn't exactly had a ton of opportunities to run wild, Grady Sizemore's one stolen base in two tries has to be a disappointment for owners who were banking on a healthy return to his 30-steal form of 2007-08.
Brandon Phillips has swiped at least 23 bags in each of the past four seasons, but he'll have a hard time adding a fifth notch to that streak if he doesn't get it going soon. The perennial 20/20 threat isn't getting on base much, but what's more troubling is that he's only been successful on one steal in four attempts.
A rain-shortened victory Sunday night vs. the Braves vaulted Mike Pelfrey into the exclusive four-win club alongside stud hurlers Tim Lincecum, Ubaldo Jimenez and Roy Halladay. With the streaking Mets playing their most inspired ball in what seems like years, Big Pelf should have plenty of chances to toss a few more Ws on the pile.
Kevin Correia has been very good (3 W, 3.13 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 8.61 K/9), but he's gotten more than a little help from his friends. The normally anemic Padres offense has been anything but when Correia takes the hill, having averaged nearly 14 runs of support during the right-hander's first four outings. If the Friars keep raking, then Correia could post the team's first 15-win season since Jake Peavy notched 19 in '07.
A 2.26 ERA and a 3.65 K/BB ratio on the farm last year made Charlie Morton something of a deep mixed-league sleeper over the winter, but owners who fell in love with his sterling ratios have surely abandoned ship after an 0-4 start that has seen the overmatched 26-year-old surrender 25 runs (most in the Majors) over his first 13 1/3 innings of work. It's hard to see many wins coming his way even if the Bucs stick with him.
Whatever wins Carlos Zambrano stumbles into will have to come out of the middle-relief role that Big Z currently finds himself in after being battered for a 7.45 ERA over four starts. It's hard to envision Cubs manager Lou Piniella's experiment lasting too long, but for now, Zambrano can't be viewed as a viable fantasy option.
David Price slashed a full run off his already thrifty ERA after his latest outing against the Blue Jays on April 26 to lower his 2010 mark to a lean 2.20. Tossing a complete-game, four-hit shutout will do that.
Jon Neise has limited opposing offenses to just one earned run over his last 11 innings of work, but quite frankly, he's been fortunate to escape his last two outings unscathed after allowing a combined 13 hits and eight walks. The 23-year-old lefty is heading in the right direction and his starts deserve to be monitored by mixed- and keeper-league managers, but he's not all the way there yet.
We're about at the point where Javier Vazquez owners need to start thinking about benching the embattled Yankees hurler until he strings together some quality starts. Vazquez hasn't lasted longer than 5 1/3 frames in any of his four 2010 starts and his 9.00 ERA is worst among all qualified American League starters.
Rick Porcello overcame some rather mediocre ratios (1.41 WHIP, 4.69 K/9, 1.71 K/BB) to post 14 wins in his debut campaign, but the 21-year-old's erratic style has caught up to him this year. Porcello has rung up a 12.96 ERA over his last two starts, raising his overall mark to 7.91.
A serious lack of control has been Jonathan Sanchez's Achilles' heel over the course of his young career, but it seems that he's turned a corner in his development by compiling a 1.11 WHIP and a 33/13 K/BB ratio over his first four 2010 outings. His wildness resurfaced in the form of five walks Monday night against the Phillies, but anytime you hang in there long enough to pick up a win over Roy Halladay, it's a lot easier to look the other way.
After averaging a solid if not spectacular 1.25 WHIP from 2008-09, hardly anyone could have foreseen John Danks' sudden ascension to a top-ranking control artist in '10. Over his last two starts, the left-hander has tossed 16 frames and allowed just two walks, leaving him with a stingy 0.86 WHIP, second best in the AL.
Justin Masterson danced around trouble during his first two outings and was rostered by many an owner dazzled by his 14 strikeouts over his first 11 innings. But the big righty hasn't been nearly as lucky in his past two efforts, allowing opponents to reach base 22 times over just eight frames to send his WHIP soaring to 1.95.
It's hard to argue with Clayton Kershaw's 2010 results (23 IP, 3.13 ERA, 26 Ks) but his methods leave something to be desired. The 22-year-old hurler has walked 18 batters over his initial four starts, and his 1.65 WHIP hints that he's only a pitch or two away from a potential shelling.
It's hard to envision Colby Lewis keeping this up all year, but the 30-year-old righty has returned from a stint in Japan to notch a pair of 10-K starts and mow down an impressive 28 batters in 23 2/3 innings.
Brandon Morrow hasn't helped much in the ratio categories (6.14 ERA, 1.45 WHIP) and will have a hard time piling up victories in the powerhouse AL East, but the former first-round pick has rung up 25 batters in 22 innings, translating to a dominating 9.82 K/9 rate.
Justin Verlander's stuff has been as good as ever, but results have been spotty this season for Detroit's young ace. Hitters are making far more contact at pitches that fall outside the zone (70.7 O-Contact percentage) and he's not getting nearly as many swinging strikes as he has in the past. Verlander's current 7.77 K/9 rate is way down from last year's blistering 10.09 mark.
John Lackey's K/9 rate has been falling steadily since '05, but it has dropped off the proverbial cliff in his first year with the Red Sox. Like with Verlander, Lackey's main weapons -- his fastball and curve -- are being clocked in the same ballpark as in the past, but hitters have gotten a lot better at catching up to his offerings, resulting in a paltry 11 punchouts over 23 innings.
Through the season's first three weeks, Nationals closer Matt Capps is the unlikely big league leader in saves with eight in as many opportunities. This, friends, is why you never overpay for saves on draft day.
Francisco Rodriguez estimates that he tossed around 100 warmup pitches during the Mets' 20-inning stalemate with the Cardinals, prompting concern that he might have overtaxed his right arm. Those fears, however, turned out to be unfounded, as K-Rod has followed that marathon game with 4 2/3 scoreless innings and his first three saves of the year, all of which came on successive days.
Ryan Madson has only one blown save this year, but it was about as gut-wrenching as one could be, coming after he surrendered back-to-back homers with two outs in the bottom of the ninth against the Braves on April 20. With Brad Lidge nearing a return, it's probably time to try and spin Madson off for whomever you can.
With a blown save and a 12.27 ERA to his name, Octavio Dotel hasn't done himself any favors during his first year in Pittsburgh. In all fairness to the scuffling fireman, it's hard to close out opponents when your team's ERA stands at an MLB-worst 7.74, a full run and a half higher than that of the No. 29-ranked Reds. It's hard to see Dotel getting many leads to work with in 2010.
Chris Stryshak is a fantasy writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.