Surveying the batting and pitching leaders six weeks into the 2013 Major League baseball season it is intriguing to look at the league leaders and wonder who is going to hold up and who is going to fade.
Is the American League batting champion going to be the same person leading today? Or is it going to be someone who is 10th? Is the National League home run champ going to be today’s king swatter or someone who has yet to get hot?
Are we going to see a 20-game winner amongst the starting pitchers who started fast this year or are they going to hit rough patches and end up like 12-12?
Here is what the list of top hitters in the American League looks like: 1) Miguel Cabrera, Tigers, .382; 2) James Loney, Rays, .376; 3) Carlos Santana, Indians, .354; 4) Jose Altuve, Astros, .342; 5) Torii Hunter, Tigers, .338. It should also be noted that the Rays Evan Longoria is at .336 and the Red Sox’ Dustin Pedroia is at .324.
We know that Cabrera can stay right where he is because he won the Triple Crown last year, though he won’t hit this high. Loney won’t last. Santana will drop 50 points. Altuve, really, who knows? Hunter is benefiting from being in a powerhouse lineup, but should drop to around .300. Longoria and Pedroia might well maintain while the others drop beneath them.
On the National League side Carlos Gomez of the Brewers is hitting .373, Yadier Molina of the Cardinals is at .344; Adrian Gonzalez of the Dodgers is batting .339, Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies is at .337 and Starling Marte of the Pirates is at .333. It’s difficult to picture any of them hitting for as high an average over the course of a season. They should all drop and someone like the Brewers’ Ryan Braun .319, might sneak in and overtake everyone.
The guys who really get fans buzzing are the early home-run leaders. Their totals can never go down, only go up, so every one notched produces a little electrical charge about just how hot that guy is. The hottest slugger in the AL is Cleveland Mark Reynolds with 11 blasts. Edwin Encarncion of Toronto and Chris Davis of Baltimore have 10 apiece. Reynolds strikes out too much to maintain his lead, but Davis is an intriguing figure to consider as a league leader. More likely the Tigers’ Prince Fielder and Cabrera will heat up.
Justin Upton of the Braves has ripped 12 homers this year. John Buck of the Mets and Bryce Harper of the Nationals each have 10. Nice start for Upton, but he won’t keep up the pace. Buck’s homer bashing is a fluke. Harper might be the trendy pick, but Carlos Beltran, with nine for the Cardinals, could be there in the end.
In the RBI world Cabrera, again the defending champ, is starting to run away with the title in the AL. He has 40 and Fielder and Davis have 33 each. The unlikely leaders in the NL are Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips (31), Diamondbacks young man Paul Goldschmitt (30) and Buck (29).
None of them seem like good bets to sustain the pace. Braun (25), the Giants’ Pablo Sandoval (24) or Beltran (22) of the Cardinals, are better prospects to lead the league.
On the pitching side, it is becoming more challenging for rotation members to win 20 games. They seem to get more rest than ever between starts and get yanked out of games more quickly. But you can always hope.
The early six-game winners in the American League are Boston’s Clay Buchholz and Tampa Bay’s Matt Moore. Washington’s Jordan Zimmerman is the man in the NL. Cardinals rookie Shelby Miller has won five.
There are a whole bunch of pitchers with great earned run averages, an inordinate number, it seems. Seattle’s Felix Hernandez is at the top of the AL chart with a 1.53. The top two guys in the National League are rookies in Matt Harvey of the Mets at 1.28 and Miller at 1.58. Hernandez may well start winning big and hold his ERA down.
It’s also quite crowded atop the fireman charts. Already there are five relievers in the American League with at least 10 saves. Baltimore’s Jim Johnson has 14 and indefatigble Mariano Rivera has 13. Another four relievers in the NL are into double-figure saves, too. Jason Grilli of the Pirates is tops with 14. We may be looking at a season with up to 10 relievers amassing 45 saves or better.
Of course, a lot of this supposition is built around the belief that these guys will stay healthy. Some of them won’t make it and their fast starts will be forgotten.