Three surprising early season stats

by May 6, 10:51 AM
Rick Osentoski / USA TODAY Sports

1. Victor Martinez: 3.5 K%

Martinez has always been a tremendous contact hitter. Martinez struck out 12.5 percent of the time in 2005, his second full season as a major leaguer, and that remains the worst mark of his career. But what he has done in 2014 defies logic, and defies the increasingly strikeout-heavy nature of today's MLB. In a league in which pitchers amass nearly 8 strikeouts per nine innings, Martinez has struck out just four times in 113 plate appearances. For comparison, he has been intentionally walked seven times. And, as MLive.com's Jason Schmehl noted over the weekend Martinez has not struck out looking since May 21, 2013, a stretch covering over 630 plate appearances. 

Martinez is hitting .323 despite a rather typical .290 BABIP thanks to his fantastic contact skills. There was some doubt Martinez could remain productive in a designated hitter role after missing the 2012 season due to an ACL tear. But even though his power has dipped from his pre-injury peak, Martinez's ability to put the barrel on the ball has made him a worthwhile player without any fielding contributions in his mid-30s.

2. Eric Young, Jr.: Scored 60% of the time he has reached base

Eric Young Jr. is a bad hitter. He owned a .213/.318/.266 line through Sunday's action and a .254/.325/.332 line in 1,386 plate appearances. But despite having just 20 hits and 33 walks on the season, Young has already scored 21 runs, seventh most in the National League, thanks to his absurd 60 percent scoring rate once he reaches base. Among hitters with 100 plate appearances, only Milwaukee's Khris Davis is also above 50 percent

Young has done it with tremendous baserunning, primarily an absurd 12-for-13 success rate on stolen bases. Young has yet to be picked off, has scored from second three times on four Mets singles, and has made just two outs on the bases despite an aggressive approach. Baseball-Reference has rated his baserunning as four runs better than the league average, an incredible total for just one month (and how often he fails to reach base).

Young has been out for the last few days with a bruised right cheekbone. Juan Lagares has been leading off and playing center field in the interim, and Mets manager Terry Collins said Lagares will be more or less a full-time player going forward. With Chris Young hitting a cool .273/.344/.455, this likely means Eric Young will be spending much more time on the bench going forward. 

It's probably the right move. Lagares is a tremendous defensive center fielder and has shown enough life in his bat to warrant an everyday role. But this just means the Mets can leverage Eric Young's excellent baserunning better going forward. Eric Young, a switch-hitter, can fill in for Chris Young against right-handers (Chris owns just a .226/.295/.416 career mark against right-handed pitching) and can pinch-run off the bench. Smarter use -- batting him in front of singles hitters at the bottom of the lineup or pinch-running him in late situations where the Mets need a single run -- can make Eric's contributions on the basepaths even more valuable.

3. Drew Hutchison: 13.06 K/9

Through Sunday's action, twelve pitchers (qualified for the ERA title) owned a K/9 of 10.0 or greater. The list:

NameK/9
Stephen Strasburg13.05
Jose Fernandez12.54
Max Scherzer11.77
Zack Greinke11.72
Masahiro Tanaka10.76
Jon Lester10.73
Michael Wacha10.63
Madison Bumgarner10.44
Drew Hutchison10.36
Felix Hernandez10.29
David Price10.17
Yu Darvish10.04

Established aces, young phenoms, and Drew Hutchison. 

Hutchison, a 23-year-old 15th-round find out of a Florida high school, is way ahead of schedule even without accounting for his recovery from Tommy John surgery last season. Hutchison was never a top prospect and had started just 24 games above the Single-A level entering 2014. By even making the major leagues at this point in his career, Hutchison has more than earned the $400,000 signing bonus the Jays offered to keep him away from a commitment to Stetson University.

Hutchison has showcased improved velocity this year (92.0 MPH average fastball). Thus far, hitters have missed Hutchison's four-seamer on 26.4 percent of swings, fourth behind Bumgarner, Wacha and Garrett Richards. Additionally, Hutchison has increased his reliance on his changeup and slider, both up five percent each from his first stint in 2012, and he has been able to throw both for strikes. Even if his fastball fails to draw the whiffs it has so far, the changeup and slider give him reliable putaway options against hitters from each side of the plate. His 10.6 percent swinging strike rate ranks 24th among starters, so even if the ever-feared regression happens, Hutchison should still be able to rack up an above-average amount of strikeouts and serve as a bright spot in a beaten and bruised Toronto rotation.

Feature photo courtesy of Rick Osentoski / USA TODAY Sports