Welsh singer and American heartthrob Tom Jones once said "It's not unusual to be loved by anyone" (music beat) "It's not unusual to have fun with anyone."
Neither of these things where inherently unusual, especially to a player like Jones that once proclaimed that he'd sleep with 250 groupies a year (and he has been married to the same woman since 1957) so of course it wasn't unusual for Jones to find love everywhere from his dressing room to the.... well, he'd never have to go much further than the dressing room. It simply wasn't unusual.
I'm not Tom Jones.
For Ken Arthur, it is unusual to be loved by anyone, necessarily. Maybe by someone, my mother, my sister... did I say "mother" yet? But not by anyone. I would however like to believe that it's not unusual to have fun with anyone. If you want to go have a catch, or play Mario Kart, or let me call you "Dad" for four hours an afternoon, then I'm game. But this would not be so unusual. Would it?
At least it couldn't be as unusual as seeing that Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy is the third-most valuable hitter in baseball over the last 30 days. (How's that for a segue?)
The thing that I like most about baseball isn't the highlight catch, the 500-foot homer, Mune Kawasaki, or the unbelievable ways that players wind up on the DL*. It's the "unusual." It's the one-in-a-million David Eckstein game-winning home run. It's the "this game has been played for 150 years and we still had never seen this" moments. It's the stats that in a vacuum will
suck blow your mind. Because in baseball, on a single pitch, in a single moment, anything can happen.
In 30 days of single moments, strange things can still happen.
Sorting on Fangraphs over the last 30 days and sorting by WAR, I came across some unusual names. After the usual, like Mike Trout at number one with 2.2 WAR in his last 24 games, and Andrew McCutchen putting up 1.8 WAR in his last 26, I started to come across the names that I had never expected to see. Both young, old, and in-betweeny, here are the names that I found rather unusual.
3. Jonathan Lucroy, C, Brewers - 1.7 WAR
It's not un-Brew-sual??
Lucroy appeared on fantasy radars in 2011 when he became a "serviceable" hitting catcher that went .265/.313/.391 with 12 home runs in 136 games. That's just the kind of "sexy" that on my best day I could compare myself to Tom Jones with.
"Oh you think that Tom Jones sultry hips are sexy? Well think of him as Joe Mauer, and I'll be your Jonathan Lucroy."
Except that now I couldn't compare myself to Lucroy unless I hit the gym twice as often and the bar half as much. Lucroy hit .320/.368/.513 in 96 games with Milwaukee last year but missed significant time with a broken hand*.
And so 36 games into the 2013 season, Lucroy was hitting .208/.268/.328 with three home runs. Luckily it would appear that just as they needed him, the ghost of Ryan Braun thrust itself into the body of Lucroy. In his last 61 games, Lucroy is hitting .324/.373/.596 with 13 home runs, 42 RBI, 15 doubles, and even two stolen bases. He's also been nearly impossible to strikeout over the past 30 days.
In the last 30 days, Lucroy is hitting .333/.413/.741 with 8 HR, 16 RBI, 10.9% BB and only 4.3% strikeouts in his 92 plate appearances. By comparison, the even the mighty Trout has struck out in 17.6% of his plate appearances in the same time period. (And another comparison, Andrelton Simmons is striking out in 2.6% of PAs in that time.)
Though you shouldn't expect him to slug .700 over the course of a season, it would appear that Lucroy's success is more than just a lucky 30 days. He's been hitting this well for most of his professional career.
4. Kyle Seager, 3B, Mariners - 1.5 WAR
A Seattle player on a list like this is always unusual.
5. Wil Myers, OF, Rays - 1.5 WAR
Have we officially exorcised the demons?
When the Devil Rays became the Rays, did it truly get rid of the devil that resides in the heart of Tampa Bay baseball? Tampa has gone to the playoffs in three of the five years since dropping the "Devil" but are still waiting for their first championship. The Rays were falling further away from first place in the East earlier in the year, but it seems as though the piece that Tampa acquired from Kansas City so that they could "win now" is actually the one doing all the winning.
The Rays traded James Shields and Wade Davis to the Royals in order to acquire the hitting prospect Myers, but it seems like Myers was actually the one that possessed most of the present day value.
Myers made his debut on June 18 and the Rays were 36-33. They lost those first two games with Myers but have been one of the best teams in baseball since, having gone 27-10 in Myers last 37 games with Tampa. That value shows itself in the Fangraph's results of posting 1.5 WAR in his last 21 games by hitting .390/.461/.636 with 5 HR, 17 RBI and 5 SB.
The Royals traded away a great hitter? That's not unusual.
6. Colby Rasmus, OF, Blue Jays - 1.5 WAR
With 3.9 WAR on the season, Rasmus is now just a hair shy of his best year as a pro and is the most valuable hitter on a team with Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. The Cardinals traded away a great player? Now that is unusual.
7. Jayson Werth, OF, Nationals - 1.4 WAR
So that's what the $100 million was for? Werth is hitting .395/.475/.679 in his last 25 games. He was hitting just .286/.347/.443 before the streak. It's a little unusual to see Werth have only 10 doubles in the middle of one of his best years.
8. Hanley Ramirez, SS, Dodgers - 1.4 WAR
How unusual is it to see the rookie Yasiel Puig hit .302/.391/.438 over the last 30 days and sort of fall out of the spotlight? When has a team ever gotten the kind of midseason boost that the Dodgers got from Puig and Ramirez?
The Dodgers are 33-14 when Ramirez starts, 28-35 when he doesn't, with almost all of those games also overlapping with the arrival of Puig.
9. Torii Hunter, OF, Tigers - 1.4 WAR
So how is it that the 37-year-old outfielder that was largely ignored on the free agent market ended up saving Detroit in the middle of the year? Detroit signed Hunter to a two-year, $26 million contract in the offseason, and if they could recoup that much money you'd consider them grateful.
It wasn't likely that they'd get surplus value from a player of Hunters... "experience" even though he posted 5.2 WAR with the Angels in 2012. Hunter hasn't been below-average in any season since 2000.
He's now hitting .315/.349/.484 on the season with 12 home runs, 55 RBI, 27 doubles (see how unusual 10 doubles looks?) and a couple stolen bases. Hunter doesn't walk, Hunter strikes out, Hunter doesn't have a lot of power, but he's been a boost for Detroit right when they needed it and not for investing $26 million into the local economy or anything.
Miguel Cabrera has missed a few games (but still worth 1.0 WAR in the last 30 days.)
Prince Fielder hasn't missed any games, and that's not a good thing right now. Fielder is hitting .233/.324/.344 over the last 30. Now they'll need them all as much as ever with the news that Jhonny Be Bad.
Hunter is hitting .359/.365/.728 over the last 30 days with 8 home runs. Keeping up that pace won't happen at all, but seeing Hunter perform at the highest level? That's not unusual.
Ending a list at nine?
I guess I am a little... weird.