Nearly 20% of the season has now been played and while it's still early, there have been a significant amount of games already played. With that sample size, here are the five biggest batting surprises thus far: Aaron Hill, Carl Crawford, Orlando Hudson, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Jones.
Aaron Hill was a good second baseman in 2006 and 2007. He batted .291 both seasons and showed decent pop in 2007 with 47 doubles and 17 homers. Then last year, he got into only 55 games and really seemed to struggle when he did play. His average dropped to .263. Watching his career to date, you had to figure (if he was healthy) that he would hit .280 or better and have an OPS in the .790 range. That seemed consistent with his career path to date.
But Hill leads the league in hits with 52. He is slugging at a .554 clip and he already had 8 homers, six doubles and he's driven in 28. That projects to a season with 250 hits, 40 homers, 30 doubles and 140 RBI. While it's hard to imagine Hill reaching those kinds of numbers, he can be only so-so the rest of the year and still finish with really impressive totals.
Carl Crawford has been a really good player for most of his career. He has hit over .300 three times in his career and could be counted on for ten to eighteen homers a season and around 50 stolen bases. Those are pretty impressive numbers. His one flaw was a low On Base Percentage in relation to his Batting Average. With a .295 lifetime Batting Average, you would expect his On Base Percentage to be greater than .332. Because of that, he has only barely scraped above an .800 OPS twice in his career.
Fast forward now to this year. Crawford was coming off his worst year in 2008 where all of his numbers were down. He felt his legs were the problem and worked on grass in the off season instead of on harder surfaces and was determined to keep his legs under him for the full season. And it seems to be paying off as he is having his best season. He is batting .331 with a .397 OBP, by far the best numbers of his career. He has already stolen 21 bases, or four less than all of last year. The only striking number for him has been the lack of power as he only has one homer.
But at his current pace, Crawford projects out to 100 stolen bases, 215 hits, 40 doubles and that would be a really good season!
This season shouldn't really surprise us about Orlando Hudson. He has raised his Batting Average for six straight seasons and hit .302 last season, his first ever over .300. He's always had an above league average On Base Percentage and could be counted on to be around the .350 mark.
This season, Hudson is batting .336 and he is walking more and he already has 11 doubles. But best yet, his OBP is a robust .426 and his OPS is .852. Both numbers are big surprises.
Projecting his season, he would finish (at his current pace) with 55 doubles, 215 hits, 100 walks. That's an awesome season. He could be the free agent signing of the year for the Dodgers. The only surprise so far has been a slow down in his range factor at second. But we'll see where he ends up for season.
Ryan Zimmerman came in the major leagues with a lot of hype. He was the next big thing. He was going to be the next superstar. Somewhere along the way in his first full three season, he was only a little above average. Nothing spectacular. Nothing earth shattering. He hit over 20 homers twice. He drove in over 100 once. But a career .OPS of a little over .800 seemed a bit of a let down.
Perhaps 2009 is his coming out party. It could be when he became the superstar predicted four years ago when he first came to the bigs. He's batting .336 and his OPS is currently at .943. If he continues at this pace for the season, he'll end up with 208 hits, 30 homers and 55 doubles. It would be nice to see him develop a little more patience at the plate, but overlooking that one thing, Mr. Zimmerman has possibly arrived.
Last year was Adam Jones' first full season in the big leagues. The Orioles' outfielder didn't do anything but suggest that he was a marginal talent. He batted .270, had a .311 OBP and a .400 Slugging Percentage. A .711 OPS wasn't all that exciting.
Zoom ahead to 2009. Jones is batting .353 after 20% of the season, has a .415 OBP and an unreal OPS of 1.044! His season projects out to 205 hits, 105 RBI, 50 walks, 30 homers and 62 doubles. He's already scored 32 runs and is on pace to score 160! Obviously, those numbers seem hard for him to reach, but like Aaron Hill above, even if he finishes so so the rest of the season, he will shatter last year's stats without any problem at all.