Getting a Boost: MLB's Overachieving Players
Up until this spring, Ryan Vogelsong was an unfamiliar name to most baseball fans. After all, Vogelsong had a 10-22 career record and had not pitched since 2006. But after Barry Zito was injured in April, Vogelsong was signed by the Giants and given another shot in the majors. He hasn't looked back, posting a 4-1 record and 1.92 ERA, as of June 17. Vogelsong had also allowed just seven runs over his previous eight starts.
Experts predicted Granderson's home run totals would benefit from playing at Yankee Stadium, but in his first year with New York, the outfielder hit homers at nearly the same rate as during his time with the Tigers. This season, though, Granderson was tied for the lead in the majors with 21 home runs as of June 17, on pace to smash his career best of 30.
Last year, Josh Beckett turned 30 years old and struggled with a back injury, going 6-6 with a 5.78 ERA. Now, though, it looks as if Beckett's best days could be still ahead of him: as of June 17 he is 6-2 with a 1.86 ERA that currently leads the majors. Could this be the year that the Red Sox ace wins his first Cy Young award?
In 2009 David Ortiz hit .238, leading many to think that his career all but over. "Big Papi" bounced back in 2010 and now is doing even better with a .314 average as of June 17. His 17 home runs lead the Red Sox and put him on pace for his best hitting season since 2006.
In a rocky career, starter-turned-reliever Hanrahan's best season was as a setup man in 2010, when he posted a 3.62 ERA and was 6-for-10 in save chances. As of June 17, though, he was a perfect 19-for-19 as the closer for the Pirates. Hanrahan had a 1.39 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 32.1 innings.
Even though Asdrubal Cabrera is less than halfway into his fifth season, he has already doubled his previous career-high home run total (6). Hitting .295 as of June 17, Cabrera is a key part of Cleveland's surprising success in 2011.
On August 7, 2010, James Shields allowed six home runs, tying the modern-day record for most dingers given up in one game. It was all part of a 2010 campaign that saw Shields go 13-15 with a 5.18 ERA. But that was last year. This year, Shields is throwing better than ever: he has a 2.60 ERA and has pitched four complete games (three of them shutouts) as of June 17.
After a solid 2010 season, Sanchez has taken his hitting to the next level for the Marlins. His average was up 35 points to .308 as of June 17, and he already has 12 home runs (after 19 last season).
The 25-year-old starter showed flashes of his talent in the past, but he is taking the next step toward becoming Atlanta's ace. Jurrjens was 8-3 and third in the majors with a 2.13 ERA as of June 17. It's a big improvement from his 7-6 record and 4.64 ERA in 2010.
There were questions if the 35-year-old could still play the outfield full-time, which made it surprising that he wasn't signed by an American League team that could make him the designated hitter occasionally. But his rejuvenated bat has been the biggest surprise. Berkman was hitting .310 with 17 home runs as of June 17.
St. Louis pitching coach Dave Duncan is known for the magic he works with struggling veteran pitchers, but for the past two seasons, Lohse didn't look like he'd be a successful reclamation project. But, after going 4-8 with a 6.55 ERA last year, Lohse was 7-3 with a 2.88 ERA as of June 17.
A former first-round pick by the St. Louis Cardinals, Wallace struggled after being called up last July 31, hitting .222 in 51 games. But the left-handed hitting first baseman has come to life in 2011, hitting .316 with 18 doubles as of June 17.