Votto better than MVP — Some in Cincinnati are concerned that Reds first baseman Joey Votto had only nine RBI heading into the weekend. But there are some statistics that indicate he’s actually been a better hitter than even his 2010 season, when he won the MVP. Looking at his zone swing rate and out-of-zone swing rate, both numbers are trending in the right direction. In 2010, his out-of-zone swing rate was 29.2 percent. This year, it’s down to 18.2 percent. The result is Votto’s league-leading 26 walks in his first 22 games, meaning he has been harder to get out.
Batting leaders at home — They say it’s important to win in your division because of so many games played against the same teams. Pitchers in the American League Central are really hoping the bats they’ll face the most cool down soon. One month into the season, the AL Central has five of the top eight hitters in batting average entering this weekend. The ageless Torii Hunter leads the AL at .373 for the Detroit Tigers. Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers is fourth at .361. Kansas City Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain is fifth with .359. Then two catchers, Carlos Santana at .352 of the Indians and the Minnesota Twins’ Joe Mauer at .351, are the seventh and eighth. The Tigers also have four batters hitting .299 or better — Hunter, Cabrera, Prince Fielder (.311) and Jhonny Peralta (.299).
Steel-plated saves — Considering the Atlanta Braves have 15 wins and Craig Kimbrel is their closer, the National League saves leader might be a bit of a shocker — Pirates closer Jason Grilli, who has nine saves in the team’s 13 wins. The Pirates (13-9), by the way, are in second place in the NL Central entering the weekend by only half a game, behind St. Louis (13-8).
WAR update — It was long thought Justin Upton was a star on the rise, and the trade to the Atlanta Braves seems to have awaken him. Upton has 11 home runs in the Braves’ first 21 games and leads MLB in WAR (Wins Above Replacement) with 2.0, according to FanGraphs.com. In second place is former Indians outfielder Shin-Soo Choo at 1.7. Another former Indians outfielder Coco Crisp slid down to 10th place with 1.2. The leader for the Indians is still Nick Swisher, who’s now at 1.1. Carlos Santana has a 1.0 WAR.
— Ryan Lewis