Posts Tagged ‘Surprise MLB players 2010’

While perusing the stats for the hitters on my DMB (Diamond Mind Baseball) keeper league roster I suffered what must have been a mild hallucination or some strange dream.   With a roster that features prominent sluggers like Justin Upton, Matt Holliday, Jorge Posada, Hanley Ramirez, Evan Longoria and Andre Ethier, I must have been in a daze when I sorted by wOBA and saw a strange four letter word at the top.

It read Huff, as in Aubrey Huff, who was apparently leading the way on this once proud roster filled with superstars at almost every position.  I panicked and quickly closed by internet browser, headed upstairs and tried to drift asleep, to no avail.  To confirm I had not gone crazy, I wandered back downstairs and fired up the computer and sorted my roster by wOBA and again – Huff, Aubrey (.408 wOBA).

Aubrey Huff was quietly signed in the off-season by the San Francisco Giants and was expected to compete for at-bats at first base and occasionally play the outfield.  He was coming off a pretty terrible season split between Baltimore and Detroit in which he slugged a career low .384 (ISO .144) and suffered the worst statistical season of his career (.297 wOBA).

Fast forward to 2010 and Huff has clearly been rejuvenated and it appears the Giants low key investment has paid pretty big dividends thus far.  In 96 games Huff has mashed NL pitching to the tune of 309/397/549 with 20 2Bs, 19 HRs 49 BBs and 45 Ks in 406 PAs – good for a .408 wOBA.  He has even chipped in 5 SBs (0 CS) and played multiple positions for the Giants (1.9 UZR at 1B, 4.4 UZR at LF).

In the “year of the pitcher” Huff has been a revelation at the plate, sporting a career high 12.1% BB rate and a strong 13.0% K rate while also knocking the cover off the ball for most of the season (.240 ISO).  Equally impressive is how he has handled hitting versus southpaws this year (314/390/539 – .402 wOBA). 

Take out a relatively rocky April (247/344/403 – .336 wOBA) and his line improves to (316 PAs 327/411/591 – 39 BBs, 33 Ks).

Huff will surely see a bit of regression for the rest of the season (ZIPS projects 284/354/483 the rest of the way) as Huff has been slightly aided by a 16.5% HR/FB ratio (career 13.9%) and has a bit of an oddity in his plate discipline statistics where his O-Contact% has spiked from 61.6% in 2009 to 75.2% in 2010 (60.6% career) probably partially helping to explain his slight drop in K% (2010 13.0%, career 14.4%).

Even with the expected slowdown Aubrey Huff has put together quite an impressive season.  Luckily enough I decided to give “Brennan” Huff one more season to prove himself, at the expense of letting Bill Hall go (we have deep rosters), now that would have been a tough decision to live with.  It’s a tight race between Huff and Brett Gardner for my surprise player of the 2010 season, and a race I never thought I would see.

BallHype: hype it up!

Brett Gardner gets down and dirty.

What if I told you a man existed who could single-handedly unite two sides that we have been told since birth are un-unite-able, one stolen base/triple/infield single at a time? Ok, with the hyperbole firmly in place I give you the one player that both scouts and sabermetricians can appreciate and claim as their own, that man is none other than Brett Gardner.  Currently sporting a 307/399/411 slash line, 40 BBs and 50 Ks, and successful on 25 of 31 stolen base attempts.  Drafted in the 3rd round of the 2005 amateur draft, he has slowly progressed into a solid everyday ballplayer.

Forget the fact that his jersey is dirty before the first pitch and that he takes the extra base when possible and more importantly steals bases (always big with the scouting/skills crowd) and looks great running down the first base line trying to chug out another infield single – Brett Gardner just looks like a ballplayer no? Even the lame Joe Morgan couldn’t disagree Gardner has been a revelation for the Yankees this season, playing solid defence (he should be starting in CF, but we will leave that for another time), giving the Yankees a spark at the bottom of the order with his all-out hustle and blazing speed – the guy can flat out fly.

However he is also extremely “saber-friendly” for a player of his ilk and style. He rarely swings at a bad pitch (18.5% o-swing) or really at all (31.2% swing rate) and when he does swing he makes contact (91.9% contact rate). Gardner currently sports a .374 wOBA mostly due to his patience at the plate (399 OBP – 12.2% BB) and despite a small hiccup in terms of his relatively neutral UZR rating this season he has already produced a 2.4 WAR in only half a season worth of games. Not bad for a guy who was barely an afterthought in the off-season and viewed more as a depth/bench player. The left-handed hitter is not a total liability versus lefties (261/371/375 – 340 wOBA) and has really earned his keep versus righties (328/412/427 – 375 wOBA) while mostly batting 8th or 9th for the Bronx Bombers this season.

While discussing Gardner’s season with my buddy Harry (also a New York native and Yankee fan – street cred enough? His last name even sounds Italian) he had made the comment that he wished the Yanks did not pull the trigger on their trade for Curtis Granderson in the off-season. He would go on to explain it had nothing to do with any particular dislike for Granderson, or that he was absolutely sold on Austin Jackson or Phil Coke, but more so the fact he felt they had the CF answer already in-house with Brett Gardner.

Not to say Gardner is a bonafide superstar, he hits more singles than rock stars and has been slightly propped by a .357 BABIP – though not outlandish given Gardner’s propensity to hit groundballs coupled with the fact he might be the fastest player in the majors. However to say he hasn’t been the Yankees biggest surprise this season would be a lie, Gardner has performed like Ichiro with more patience, he is here to stay.