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In stat-savvy circles, the middle of May is too early to get excited about players off to surprisingly good starts. It's not unusual for mediocre players to be great over a stretch of 120 at bats or seven starts—all they have to do is get a little lucky on things like fly balls leaving the yard or balls in play being caught. But when those stretches of greatness come early on the schedule, and when they're produced by veterans who were thought to be in decline, it's hard not to investigate how those pretty stats are being generated. Here's a look at four fast starters and whether their stat lines are the real thing. (All stats through Sunday.)
VERNON WELLS, Blue Jays
Scoreboard Says! .298 BA, 10 HR, .603 SLG
Behind the Numbers: More than one of every five fly balls Wells hits is going for a home run, nearly double his career rate.
Outlook: That HR/FB rate is certain to come down, but it's not the only thing Wells has going for him. He's being more aggressive, with a career-high pace in pitches swung at (53.4%). He's also squaring up more balls, hitting more line drives than in any year since 2003. Wells, who's on track to set a career high in strikeouts, is trading more contact for harder contact, and it's working. It all adds up to the makings of his best year since '06.
ANDRUW JONES, White Sox
Scoreboard Says! .255 BA, 9 HR, .578 SLG
Behind the Numbers: Jones's HR/FB rate is even more extreme: 25.7% of his balls in the air have cleared the fence, fifth highest in the majors.
Outlook: Jones is the same low-contact hitter (25.5% strikeout rate) with a poor line-drive tendency (11.7%, among the bottom 10 in the majors) he's been for years. He can fill out the right side of a platoon, but he's going to be a drag on the lineup once those fly balls stop clearing the fence so frequently.
BARRY ZITO, Giants