The Month in Review — April

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The baseball season tends to move in months. After a month has passed you don’t know too much for sure, but you can start spotting trends, so it’s a good time to take stock.

I’ll begin with a random observation: I know of two pitchers in the NL who actively switch hit, and the weird thing is their both named Zambrano. Yep, Carlos and Victor each swing from both sides; there could be others, but I’m not aware of them.

AL East

The stories: Brian Roberts and trouble in pinstripes.
Where in the heck did Brian Roberts come from? This is the most unexpected emergence of a player I can remember since, well, maybe another Oriole leadoff hitter, Brady Anderson. As good as he’s been, Miguel Tejada has quietly been as good or better. Here’s their AL rank in some key categories, Roberts then Tejada: OPS — 1,3; SLG — 2,1; RBI — 2,1; HR 3,1. Roberts is also first in runs and stolen bases. What’s more interesting than whether they keep it up is whether the Yankers can get this thing on the track. Their pitching has been injured or ineffective, which has exposed the fact that their farm system is absolutely barren. Also, their lineup looks old, other than A-Rod, whose having a brilliant season. Luckily for them, Boston hasn’t run away with the thing, but if their pitching doesn’t come together, they may have trouble tracking down the O’s or Twins or whoever for the wild card.

AL Central

The stories: Jon Garland and the best team no one saw.
Johann Santana is 4-1. leading the league in strikeouts, and is second in WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched), the stat du jour for pitchers (much like OPS for hitters), and for all that he’s the second best pitcher in his division. Jon Garland’s out of the gate a perfect 5-0, and is leading the league in wins, WHIP, and ERA. His White Sox are the best team in baseball right now, riding incredible starting pitching and timely hitting to a 20-7 start. Too bad no one in Chicago seems to care, as the White Sox are drawing less than 20,000 to a lot of games. Also unfortunate is the fact that their manager, seems to be a classless hothead who revels in running down anyone he can think of, including his own players. That stuff is described as “fiery” when you’re winning, but Guillen may draw some Larry Bowa comparisons if they start to slide.

AL West

The stories: The impaler reigns and the A’s have no O.
The Angels have ridden the hot bat of MVP Vladimir Guerrero and surprisingly good pitching to take the lead out west. The A’s and Mariners have fallen off the pace due to poor offense. The A’s young pitchers have fared well thusfar, particularly Rich Harden and closer Octavio Dotel. However, their on-base focused offense isn’t getting on base and their power source, Eric Chavez, has been dreadful, batting .210 with 7 extra-base hits. Seattle’s new 3B Adrian Beltre has been nearly as bad, batting .229 with 6 extra base hits, but 16 RBI to Chavez’ 9. The Rangers pitching has been predictably poor, and their offense has been solid but not good enough to make up the difference.

Another random observation: until recently the two Texas teams, the Astros and Rangers, both had their starting infield battiing 1-4. Mercifully, the Astros moved shortstop Adam Everett out of the leadoff spot and dropped Morgan Ensberg to 5th, but the Rangers persevere, mostly because their four best hitter happen to play in their infield. I’m not sure how rare this is, but it seemed unusual at the time. I don’t think anyone else is doing it now, but I haven’t done a complete survey, I confess.

NL East

The stories: AL pitchers make good and hardball in the capital
Tim Hudson and Pedro Martinez have fared extremely well in their transition to the national league. Mark Mulder is also doing well in St. Louis, and you can add Roger Clemens from last year to that list. This makes a fair amount of sense, at least that AL pitchers would get off to a hot start in coming over to the National League. It must be nice to face a pitcher at least twice in a game instead of a DH, and it probably takes hitters a while to learn the new guys. I’m not sure if the opposite is necessarily true; Pavano and Clement are also pitching well; maybe pitchers just get the advantage when hitters haven’t seen them before. Meanwhile, the Nationals are selling out games in the nation’s capital and playing a competitive brand of ball to boot. Soon kids all around D.C. will be growing mullets in honor of Vinny Castilla.

NL Central

The stories: Nomar goes down and the Cards look to clinch by the All-Star break
Not only did Cubs fans never get to hear Harry Caray try and pronounce Nomar Garciaparra’s name (how much fun would it have been to hear him call a Garciaparra to Grudzielanek double play last year?), they can’t even watch their star shortstop who’s rapidly turning into the middle infield version of Ken Griffey, Jr. Speaking of Griff, he’s been healthy but is on pace for 12 home runs and 60 RBI. Can you really afford not to play Wily Mo Pena? The Cardinals are just mean; they’re winning easily while getting next to nothing from Scott Rolen. Was that seven run rally against the Reds in the ninth really necessary? Meanwhile, the Astros, who were shutout 3 times all of last year, managed to turn the trick five times in April. Which begs the question, will the Astros be shut out more times than Griff goes yard this year?

NL WestThe stories: The Amazing Brandon Lyon and the slugging Dodgers
I appear to have missed more on the D-Backs than on any of my predictions this year. I figured they’d be closer to the Rockies than the top of the division, but they have the most saves in baseball behind Brandon Lyon, the Brian Roberts of the bullpen. The Dodgers are fourth in baseball in home runs, which is as good as first when you play in Dodgers Stadium. Jeff Kent and Milton Bradley have lead the way, making up for J.D. Drew, who’s largely been missing in action. The Giants are hanging around without Barry Bonds, which is a testament to Felipe Alou, but with Bonds continuing to have setbacks and Armando Benitez out, you wonder how much longer they can tough it out. The Rockies are dreadful, like a bad AAA team that happens to have Todd Helton and Preston Wilson for some reason.
My All-Star Ballot
AL
C Jason Varitek
1B Dmitri Young
2B Brian Roberts
3B Alex Rodriguez
SS Miguel Tejada
OF Vladimir Guerrero
OF Manny Ramirez
OF Ichiro Suzuki
DH Shea Hillenbrand
P Jon Garland

NLC Paul LoDuca
1B Derrek Lee
2B Jeff Kent
3B Chipper Jones
SS Clint Barmes
OF Cliff Floyd
OF Miguel Cabrera
OF Pat Burrell
P Dontrelle Willis
When you throw in his fielding, Mike Piazza’s been about the worst catcher in baseball so far this year. Ooh, I missed the real story in the NL Central, which is Derrek Lee, who’s leading the league in all triple crown categories. Saw him hit a home run at Minute Maid Sunday that took about 1/2 second to get from his plate to the facade in left field. Chipper Jones has missed some time, but is playing at a very high level when he’s in there. Tejada has passed the triplets to become the best shortstop in baseball, and probably one of the top 5 players. The shortstop position in the Nl is incredibly weak, as is first base in the AL. Could have easily chosen Johnny Damon over Ichiro; they’re having very similar years, but Ichiro has a slight edge in steals and runs scored. Shea Hillenbrand may be the most surprising name, but he’s hit for a high average all year, and Ortiz has been a little off so far, average-wise. Lew Ford is also having a nice year at DH; seems to get at least one game-winning RBI a week. Garland and Willis have had the same year essentially; both are 5-0; Garland’s ERA is 1.38; Dontrelle’s is 1.29; Garland’s WHIP is 0.79; Dontrelle’s is 0.83; both have 2 shutouts. The story in the NL east is also, of course, the Marlins pitching staff, which has 6 complete games and 3 shutouts. And they haven’t even played the Astros yet.

4 Responses to “The Month in Review — April”

  1. wedfly Says:

    Barmes has been unbelievable for Colorado. He’s due for a cool down.

    So, given Barmes’ inevitable fall from glory, who would you say is the best shortstop in the NL?

    If Cesar Izturis ever learns to take a walk, he’ll be the man. How’s Jack Wilson doing these days? Jimmy Rollins? Dewey (as in DUI) Furcal?

    There might not be a discussion about this were Nomar healthy, but then we’ve not seen much of Nomar outside Fenway, have we? Who knows if his numbers will hold up?

    Finally: the LA shortstop at the end of last night’s Nats/Dodgers game was Norihiro Nakamura. Which reminds me that I’ve been dying to ask someone, How are things in Nakamura this fine day?

  2. Coolhand Says:

    jack wilson’s a strange story. since he’s coming off an all-star season, the bucs are naturally batting him eight so they can bat Freddy Sanchez (?) second. He’s responded by batting like an eighth hitter, hitting about .180. That organization is hopeless.

    If I could take one NL shortstop to build around, it’d probably be Jose Reyes, but he’s not off to the best start. As far as All-Star purposes, I wouldn’t be surprised if Vizquel gets chosen, but I’d probably go w/ Izturis.

  3. Joe Longhorn Says:

    C’mon… how can you take Dontrelle over the Rocket? It sure ain’t his fault that the Stros don’t give him any run support. No one’s been more dominant on the hill this year!

    Man… I hope getting Berkman back does the trick. Otherwise it’s gonna be a looooooong summer.

  4. Coolhand Says:

    Clemens has been dominant, but wins and losses have to count for something or Randy Johnson would have won the Cy Young last year.

    Yeah, I’m hoping Lance comes back on a tear and everyone can exhale or the wheels could really start to come off this thing. Especially with Bagwell being questionable health-wise, their lineup is really sketchy.

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