Ryan Braun – For me, one of the biggest surprises on this young season is the quick development of Ryan Braun’s plate discipline. He posted EYE’s of .26 and .33 in his first two big league seasons. So far, this season, Braun continues to strike out in just under a quarter of his at bats, but he has also greatly improved his walk rate, leading to an EYE of .71. That adjustment has reaped its benefits, as Braun is currently posting a LD% of 24.3, compared to 16.3 and 17.3 his first two seasons. This, in turn, has lead to an increase in Braun’s singles average (current: .300, 2007/2008: .254). Now, Braun will still likely see his singles average fall, but if he continues to show a keen EYE at the plate and scorching line drives, he could hit .300 this year.
Zach Duke – Duke allowed 4 ER and lasted only 5 and a third innings yesterday, taking the loss to even out his record at 3-3. Still, Duke’s ERA remains below 3, and he has been one of many pleasant pitching surprises so for on this young season for the Pirates. Duke’s success can be attributed to his stinginess with walks, as he has allowed just 2.14 BB/9. As a result, Duke’s FIP is 3.42, meaning his actually ERA is not as much of a fluke as some might initially think it is. Still, Duke is in line for some regression as his current BABIP of .279 is well below his career average of .326, and his 4.1% HR/FB% is half of his career mark.
Jorge Cantu – Cantu had a great offensive day, raising his average to .326 by going 3 for 5 with his 8th HR of the year. He totaled 3 RBI and 2 RS on the day. Over a full season, Cantu’s best average is .286 back in ’05 for the then Devil Rays. So, we should expect to see that average drop, but Cantu could be over .280 and approaching .290 this season if he continues to show an improvement in his EYE. Right now it is .69, and his career mark is .31, never topping .49 in any one season. Cantu does have some good power. His 29 HR last year were not a fluke, as Cantu took his GB/FB rate from 1.32 in ’07 to .74 last year. He is continuing to put the ball in the air so far this year with a .76 mark, but his HR/FB% of 22.9 is well above both his career mark of 12.4 and career high of 14.7. So, Cantu’s power is for real, but he is more of a 30 HR type guy than the 40 he is currently on pace for.
Rafael Furcal – It was nice to see a somewhat big day out of Furcal, as he recorded 3 hits and crossed home plate equally as many times. It was Furcal’s first three hit game of the season. He entered play yesterday with a .256 singles average; his three year average is .276. So, yesterday’s performance was the start of Furcal turning things around, as his singles average is likely to rise. Also, Furcal is no huge power threat, but his current HR/FB% is more than half his career average, so a few long balls are likely on the horizon for Furcal as well. This information is part of the reason that Furcal is a buy low recommendation.