MLB Power Rankings: Matt Kemp and 7 Players Who Will Cool Down in Second Half
We have reached the midway point of the 2011 MLB season. Needless to say, there have been many surprises through the first 81 games.
Derek Jeter can't hit even when healthy, Jose Bautista has proven that his 2010 performance was no fluke and many players have reached levels no one thought they could or would ever again.
The question is, which ones are for real?
Jose Bautista? I am now a believer. Adrian Gonzalez? Every baseball-minded individual knew he would rake at Fenway Park.
There are many players off to fast starts to the 2011 MLB season, but there are a handful who are playing so out of their minds that they are bound to see a drastic drop-off in performance over the remainder of the season.
This is not to say they are not good players—they are just playing at a level above their own.
Here are seven players who will cool off during the season's second half.
7. Lance Berkman: St. Louis Cardinals
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2011 Midseason Stats: .294/.496/.570, 18 HR, 174 OPS+
At this point, Lance Berkman is already a shoo-in for NL Comeback Player of the Year. If he had produced at this level the last couple of seasons, the Houston Astros might possibly have a much different roster right now.
At 35 years old, one would not expect Berkman's production to reach these heights—at least not in the post-steroid era.
Berkman was the direct beneficiary of being in a lineup with Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday—a point easily proven by his .067 batting average since Pujols went down to injury.
Regardless, Berkman was a force to be reckoned with in MLB for many years. Even during the best season of his career in 2001—where Berkman slugged 34 home runs and batted .331—his OPS+ sat at only 160.
This season is surely too good to be true for Berkman, and the former "Killer B" will see his performance continue to die as the season progresses.
6. Michael Pineda: Seattle Mariners
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2011 Midseason Stats: 102 IP, 2.65 ERA, 1.029 WHIP, 99 K, 139 ERA+
Michael Pineda—the leading AL Rookie of the Year candidate—is off to a phenomenal start to his rookie campaign.
Mariners fans can sleep well at night knowing that Pineda and Felix Hernandez will be leading their team into the future—but future is the key word to that equation.
Can Pineda keep this performance up for a full season in the big leagues? Between Double-A and Triple-A in 2010, his combined ERA was 3.36.
With Seattle only four games out of first place in the AL West, the Mariners will need Pineda's contributions down the stretch—but will he be able to give it to them?
In 2010, Pineda pitched a career-high 139.1 innings—with the general rule for a pitcher of his age being not to increase his year-to-year innings pitched by more than 30. At his current pace, it means he has 10 more starts left in him, which would take him to mid-August.
As his arm wears down, so will his effectiveness. When that happens, the Mariners will be forced to shut him down.
5. Jose Reyes: New York Mets
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2011 Midseason Stats: .349/.393/.525, 15 3B, 156 OPS+
Jose Reyes is probably the most exciting player in MLB. He is fast and makes triples look like doubles.
In a contract year—a season that could lock him into a nine-figure deal—it may not be a surprise that Reyes is off to a great start.
The problem is, he is playing that much better than his five full seasons in the league prove he should.
First of all, Reyes' career high in batting average is .300 back in 2005. Yes, money can make you do crazy things, but there are reasons Reyes is off to such a hot start.
For one, Reyes' .369 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is at an extreme high when compared to his career-high mark of .320—so he has a little bit of luck going his way at this point.
Another thing to consider is his 156 OPS+, which is a dramatic increase over his career-high 118 OPS+.
Reyes is great, but he is not this great.
4. Jair Jurrjens: Atlanta Braves
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2011 Midseason Stats: 95.2 IP, 2.07 ERA, 1.139 WHIP, 55 K, 183 ERA+
Jair Jurrjens' 2011 season is off to a fantastic start—yet it is quite the anomaly.
Jurrjens is still only 25 years old, so it's more difficult to speculate as to where his dominance has come from. Simply put, we don't have as much to compare it to.
His 183 ERA+ is the highest in the NL, while his 2.07 ERA is the lowest. Although the Braves may have wanted this from their young hurler, they certainly didn't expect his performance to reach these levels.
Jurrjens is a control pitcher—similar to the style of Greg Maddux—but is he really this good?
While his hits against per nine innings remains in par with his career average, Jurrjens' strikeouts and walks are dramatically below where they have been the past few seasons.
Another factor is his very low home run to fly ball ratio, which currently sits at a mere 4.8 percent. His career low to this point is 6.1 percent.
Jurrjens may well prove us all wrong and be just as good as he is currently pitching, but his true level of pitching—metrically and statistically— doesn't quite match up to what we've seen from him so far, and his output will correct itself.
3. Curtis Granderson: New York Yankees
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2011 Midseason Stats: .276/.367/.575, 21 HR, 151 OPS+
I love Curtis Granderson. He may actually be my favorite player in baseball, especially because he has been dominant for my fantasy team this season.
Although his overall batting average is right on par with where it should be, his Isolated Power (ISO) is at .299—much higher than his career-high .250 ISO in 2007.
Granderson is also striking out at a 26.9 percent rate—his highest since 2006.
The question is, how does his 2011 performance make sense? The answer: his performance against left-handed pitching.
Granderson is notorious for being horrible against southpaws, even leading the Yankees to platoon him at times during the 2010 season.
So far in 2011 his average against lefties is .258, while his career average is .220. Even more drastic, his 58 OPS+ against lefties for his career is a very far cry from his 183 OPS+ against southpaws this season.
Granderson has always been good against right-handers, but there is no chance he continues this pace against lefties.
2. Josh Beckett: Boston Red Sox
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2011 Midseason Stats: 98 IP, 2.20 ERA, 0.929 WHIP, 80 K, 183 ERA+
Josh Beckett is a good pitcher despite last year's rough, injury-plagued season in Beantown. Sure, the 2007 season was Beckett's only great one in Boston, but the AL East isn't a friendly place to pitch.
That same year, his ERA+ sat at a sparkling 145—well below the 183 ERA+ he sits at today.
The most glaring factor for his dominance so far this season is the fact that balls are not dropping against him, which is represented by his minuscule 5.5 hits against per nine innings. That would rank him sixth all-time in MLB history over a single season and is well below the 8.2 hits against per nine innings over his career.
Beckett will no doubt have a great season, but Red Sox fans should be ready for some rocky starts.
1. Matt Kemp: Los Angeles Dodgers
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2011 Midseason Stats: .331/.415/.628, 22 HR, 193 OPS+
Matt Kemp has been phenomenal to start the 2011 season and is currently making a run at the NL Triple Crown. If he was on a winning team, he would be a sure-fire MVP candidate after the season's midway point.
Kemp is a great ballplayer—we've been waiting to see this kind of production for three years now. That said, the fact is Kemp will undoubtedly fall back down to earth before season's end.
His 193 OPS+ for a single season would rank in the top 80 in MLB history—among the likes of Ty Cobb in 1918, Lou Gehrig in 1928 and Babe Ruth in 1929.
Kemp is good, but not that good.
Furthermore, Kemp's highest slugging percentage over a full season is .490, while so far this season he stands at .628. He is also a mere six home runs away from his career high.
It is great to see Kemp finally realize his potential, and I hope he remains in Dodger blue well into the future. Unfortunately, we will soon see his production come back to reality.