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Week Two of the 2009 Season
by Asher B. Chancey, BaseballEvolution.com
April 21, 2009
Week Two of the Major League Baseball season brought several players back to earth, saw several players show their first signs of light, and showed us that the Yankees have built themselves a hitter’s park. Here’s a look at the week that was.
Emilio Bonifacio was almost as cold in week two as he was hot in week one. After starting the season off by hitting .500 for the first week, Bonafacio had only three hits in all of season two and is now sporting a far more realistic line of .321/.345/.434/.779. By the end of the season we should be once again referring to him as an offensive liability.
Unlike Bonifacio, Adam Dunn has continued his torrid pace and now has 17 walks and a .549 OBP after two weeks. At 1-10, however, the Nationals may only have Dunn’s walks totals to keep fans entertained this season.
It is hard to find a team that looks to be in better shape than the Dodgers right now. With four players in the top ten in runs scored, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and Orlando Hudson all hitting like it's 1999, and Manny Ramirez drawing enough walks for three players, the offense looks electric for the first time since J.D. Drew screwed the Dodgers in favor of the Red Sox. What makes this a great time for the Dodgers is the fact that the pitching is making the hitting look boring – the combination of Randy Wolf, Clayton Kershaw, Eric Stultz, and Chad Billingsley are averaging over a strikeout per inning, and the bullpen has been dominant. The Dodgers currently have an ERA+ of 143 and an OPS+ of 122.
It would be hard to find a worse looking team than the Washington Nationals, who won the Detroit Tigers Award for being eliminated from playoff contention seven games into the season by starting 0-7. Better luck next year, guys.
So, you want to be Barry Bonds
How great was Barry Bonds? For the last five full seasons of his career, he very, very rarely saw pitches to hit, and he managed to lay off bad pitches enough to set all the records for walks and on-base percentage. At the same time, when pitchers made mistakes, he usually made them pay. Albert Pujols is getting the Bonds treatment, and is struggling somewhat – his numbers are down across the board. Right now, Pujols is showing how hard it is to do what Bonds did.
Guys I remember from when I was a kid
Last week, two of the oldest players in baseball made runs at no-hitters. 42-year-old Tim Wakefield held the Oakland A’s hitless through seven innings before losing the no-no and the shutout in the eighth inning. Then 45-year-old Randy Johnson held the Arizona Diamondbacks hitless through six innings on Sunday before giving up a leadoff hit in the seventh. Johnson is now four wins shy of 300 and 192 strikeouts shy of 5,000.
Check out my pre-season predictions . . .
Can you beat what Zack Greinke is doing for the Royals? I take nothing away from Randy Johnson, but he held the Diamondbacks hitless in San Francisco – this is not a team that hits well away from home or against a strikeout pitcher. Meanwhile, Greinke is 3-0 with 26 strikeouts and five walks in 20.0 innings pitched. And he has yet to give up an earned run this season, extending a scoreless streak from last season to 34 innings. Oh, and in his last game, he pitched a shutout against the Texas Rangers at the Ballpark in Arlington, a notorious hitter’s park where the Rangers average almost eight runs per game and where they beat the Orioles three days earlier 19-6.
At the opposite end of the spectrum has to be Chien-Ming Wang. Wang’s stats at this point are preposterous: in three starts, he’s pitched six innings. He’s walked six and struck out two. He’s given up 23 earned runs in six innings, which is more than half what the entire Seattle Mariners staff has given up in 116.2 innings. His 23 earned runs are also one less than the other four members of the Yankees rotation. His ERA is 34.50 and his WHIP is 4.833. He has given up the same number of hits as earned runs, and is thus currently giving up 34.5 hits per nine innings.
There are few people who detest the Yankees as much as I do, and few people have been more baffled by Wang’s success than I have. That said, something is clearly wrong with this guy, and neither the Yankees’ defense nor ballpark nor Wang’s get-the-groundball style can be blamed for it.
The Enigmatic Minnesota Twins
Kevin Slowey, one of my favorite new pitchers in baseball, is quickly becoming Exhibit A for people who believe K/BB ratio is unimportant. Slowey has a 6:1 ratio right now, which is fantastic. However, he also leads the American League in homeruns allowed and hits allowed, had a 5.89 ERA, and a 1.636 WHIP. His homeruns allowed have even blown his FIP out of the water, despite his K/BB numbers. So don’t be fooled.
Speaking of Minnesota pitchers, four of their starters have ERAs in the fives. Glen Perkins has a 1.50. Given the performance of those around him, his ERA is pretty amazing right now.
Speaking of the Minnesota Twins, they are currently 7-7 despite an 88 OPS+ and an 82 ERA+. Nick Punto has the third highest OPS+ of any starting regular on the team. His OPS+ is 72. . . . Only Brendan Harris could pull off a .407 batting average to go with a .393 on-base percentage, but no walks and a sacrifice fly will do that to you.
Historic Context Leads to Historic Outcome
Ian Kinsler became the first player since the 19th Century to put together a 6-for-6 game and a cycle in the same game. He currently leads the league in hits, doubles, slugging, OPS, OPS+, and total bases. I won’t bore you with the ridiculous pace he’s on, but it includes numbers like “311 hits” and “176 runs” and “54 homeruns.”
Nevertheless, it is important to remember that his amazing performance came against Mark Hendrickson at the Ballpark in Arlington. If you’d told me before the season that someone was going to hit for the cycle and get six hits in the same game and asked me to guess who allowed it to happen and where, Hendrickson at the Ballpark would likely have been my first guess.
Hendrickson should be congratulated, by the way. In a couple more outings he’ll make Orioles fans wish they still had Daniel Cabrera.
As great of a story as Rick Ankiel was a couple of year’s ago, he appears to be playing his way out of a job in St. Louis. With Chris Duncan and Ryan Ludwick looking dynamite early on, and Colby Rasmus holding his own, Ankiel looks like trade fodder to me.
What’s in a Name?
Here is an interesting observation that may only be important to me: Doesn’t it seem like there are more baseball players with the first name “Ryan” right now than in any other era in history combined? Check out the list of players with first name Ryan: Ryan Howard, two Ryan Brauns, Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Theriot, Ryan Ludwick, Ryan Madson, Ryan Sweeney, Ryan Doumit, Ryan Dempster, Ryan Franklin, Ryan Feierabrand, Ryan Jorgensen, Ryan Raburn, Ryan Perry, Ryan Spilborghs, Ryan Tucker, Ryan Vogelsong, Ryan Wagner, Ryan Shealy, Ryan Rowland-Smith . . . . The list goes on and on. There is also a sizable list of players whose middle name is Ryan: Jeremy Hermida, Aaron Rowand, Noah Lowry, Matt Kemp, Austin Kearns, Dan Johnson, Chad Billingsley, and Chris Young.
You realize what is going on here, right? There is a veritable gaggle of players born in the early to mid-1980s with the first or middle name Ryan currently breaking through in major league baseball. I think we are seeing the Nolan Ryan generation unfold before our very eyes. This is something we all knew was happening at the time. Bill Doran named his kid Ryan. In 1993, the Texas Rangers hosted a special event at Arlington Stadium wherein all fans named either "Nolan" or "Ryan" in honor of the beloved pitcher were invited to participate in a parade around the field prior to an evening game. More than 1,000 fans turned out for the event.
I would love to see interviews with all these players to find out which of them were named in part after Nolan Ryan. Even if they weren’t explicitly named after Nolan Ryan, one must wonder about Nolan Ryan’s impact upon the overall popularity of the name “Ryan”. In the 1960s, Ryan was the 224th most popular boys name in the United States. In the 1970s, it became the 25th most popular name, and in the 1980s and 1990s it was the 14th most popular. The name Nolan also enjoyed a similar assent: from 630th most popular boys name in the 1960s to 248th in the 1990s to 133rd in 2007 (credit the baby name wizard for the stats).
It would almost be hard to believe that “Aaron Nolan Rowand” is not named after baseball players.
Questions? Concerns? Comments? Asher lives in Philadelphia, PA, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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