Jose Reyes, Mets
After missing the majority of the 2009 season with a hamstring injury and then being reduced to spectator status with a thyroid condition in early April of 2010, Reyes was understandably rusty at the plate. The switch-hitting speedster posted a .285 wOBA and a .088 Isolated Power in April, and slogged through a May in which he put up a .311 wOBA and a .112 ISO. But in June, Reyes has heated up — a .403 wOBA and a .220 ISO. His season line has climbed to .279/.323/.420, with a .335 wOBA. The 27-year-old has also swiped 19 bases in 21 attempts.
Reyes’ turnaround has been fueled by fewer swings on outside pitches, more contact and a sinking infield/fly ball rate:
ZiPS projects a .288/.348/.446 rest-of-season line, with a .359 wOBA. Those who gambled on Reyes over the winter (and held onto him after his rough start) are being handsomely rewarded.
Trevor Cahill, Athletics
Last season, Cahill was jumped to the big leagues as a 21-year-old with minimal experience above A-Ball. As such, he kicked and flailed to keep his head above water at the highest level. Cahill finished his rookie year with 4.53 K/9, 3.63 BB/9, a 47.8 GB% and a 4.92 xFIP. While no stud against same-handed hitters (4.53 xFIP), Oakland’s second-round pick in the 2006 draft was lashed by lefties for a 5.31 xFIP.
Given Cahill’s impressive minor league resume (including a career 9.9 K/9 and a 58.6 GB%) and prospect pedigree (Baseball America ranked him as the 11th-best prospect prior to ’09), he was expected to make considerable progress with more major league experience. And he’s on his way — in 2010, Cahill has whiffed 6.24 batters per nine innings, walked 2.88 per nine and has induced grounders 53.3%. His 4.02 xFIP (3.88 versus lefties) isn’t close to his pristine 2.88 ERA (he’s not gonna keep that .235 BABIP all season long), but Cahill is showing across-the-board improvement.
His swinging strike rate is 7.9%, up from 7.4% last season (8.3% MLB average). Cahill’s contact rate has decreased to 81.1% from 82.1% in ’09 (81% MLB average), and his outside swing percentage is comfortably above the big league average after coming in well below that level as a rookie. He got batters to chase off the plate just 21.6% last season (25.1% MLB average), but opponents have gone fishin’ 29.2% in 2010 (28.4% MLB average).
According to Pitch F/X data from TexasLeaguers.com, Cahill has marginally increased the whiff rate on his fastball (4.9% this season, compared to 4.6% in ’09 and the 6% MLB average). But his secondary stuff is fooling hitters more — Cahill’s getting whiffs 14% of the time that he spins a breaking ball, up from 7.3% last year and above the MLB average of about 13%. His changeup is getting a whiff 15.9% in 2010 after posting a 13.6% rate in ’09 (12.6% MLB average). Why is this guy still on the waiver wire in 60% of Yahoo leagues?
Todd Helton, Rockies
We chronicled Helton’s power outage last month, and things haven’t improved for the 36-year-old since then. He’s got a .250/.344/.318 triple-slash on the season, with a .068 ISO. That’s Jason Kendall/David Eckstein territory there. He has been bullied by fastballs — Helton hit heaters for a +0.99 runs/100 value from 2007-2009, but he’s down to -0.62 per 100 this season. Once you adjust for the Coors assist that Helton receives, his hitting has been 20 percent worse than the league average (80 wRC+). It’s no surprise, then, that the singles-hitting first baseman has been sub-replacement-level (-0.2 WAR).
Trying to figure out whether a player is “done” is often a fool’s errand — see David Ortiz — but Helton’s hitting with little authority, struggling to fend of fastballs and putting the ball in play more to left and center field, with ghastly results. At the very least, it’s not looking good.
Brad Bergesen, Orioles
The 24-year-old sinker/slider pitcher shouldn’t have been expected to replicate his 2009 season, as there was nearly a full run separating his ERA (3.43) and xFIP (4.42). Bergesen garnered a reputation in the minors for pounding the strike zone (1.6 BB/9 on the farm) and keeping the ball down (52.6 GB%), and he continued to limit free passes and fly ball balls in the majors (2.34 BB/9, 50.1 GB% with the O’s in ’09). However, Bergesen missed few bats in the minors (5.8 K/9) and whiffed just 4.74 per nine during his rookie year. His BABIP (.289), strand rate (75.2%) and home run per fly ball rate (8.3%) all figured to climb in 2010.
However, instead of regressing to a mid-four ERA-type pitcher, Bergesen has been the AL’s answer to John Lannan this season. In 58 innings, Bergesen has just 2.17 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, a 50.2 GB% and a 5.90 xFIP. That K rate is by far the lowest in the majors among pitchers tossing 50+ frames. His contact rates were high last season, but they’re untenable this year given just average control.
Bergesen is getting swinging strikes 3.4%, compared to 6.4% in ’09. His overall contact rate has spiked to 92.2% from last season’s 85.5%. On pitches within the strike zone, batters are connecting an astounding 97.7% (91.2% last year, 88% MLB average). That’s the highest rate of in-zone contact in the majors. Bergesen’s fastball didn’t get many whiffs last year (3.5%), but that figure is down to 2.4% this season. His slider (12.2% in ’09, 8.3% in ’10) and changeup (6.9% in ’09, 3.8% in ’10) are also getting fewer whiffs. With good control, ground ball tendencies and a mediocre K rate, Bergesen can be of use to the O’s. With OK control, ground ball proclivities and an abysmal K rate, he’s a batting practice pitcher.
A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at email@example.com and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.