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Week Three Thoughts After Week Four
by Asher B. Chancey, BaseballEvolution.com
May 4, 2009
How dated can the comments of one Monday morning be just a week later? Here are comments that I jotted down to myself but never put into an article from last Monday. Judge for yourself:
Kinda Hard to Do It Twice
The Tampa Bay Rays are finding out what it means to be the American League Champion - you also become the American League targets. You can bet money that more video of Andy Sonnanstine and Matt Garza has been watched so far this season than all of last season combined. If you think pitchers don't know how to pitch B.J. Upton now, you're crazy. Good news, though, someone must have made sure no cameras were running when Evan Longoria batted last season.
Emilio Bonafacio is the early front runner for the "Karl Tuffy Rhodes Award," given to the player whose early season performance was immediately repudiated by his remainder of the season performance. Bonafacio is also Exhibit A in the "How important is a dynamite leadoff hitter" Program - when he started the season on fire, the Marlins couldn't lose. Now that he has returned to earth, the Marlins can't win. And this just in - Cameron Maybin ain't the answer.
Gettin’ Cooked in Colorado
With five homeruns in 18 innings pitched so far, Aaron Cook is on pace to destroy the major league record of 50 set by Bert Blyleven in 1986. This is a guy who gave up 13 homeruns in 211 innings while leading the National League in hits allowed in 2008, so chances are this is just a bad start. But consider - he is almost a third of the way to his career high of 17 allowed, and we aren't out of April yet. If the Rockies are going to succeed this season, they need things like "Aaron Cook doesn't give up homeruns" to remain true. There is nothing more dreadful than having a long winning streak and then blowing it with a long losing streak. Having it happened at the beginning of the season is even more dreadful. Just ask the Florida Marlins.
Turning it Around
There is nothing more exhilarating than playing crap ball for a week and a half and then going on an extended winning streak. Having it happen at the beginning of the season is even more exhilarating. Just ask the Boston Red Sox.
How you think Mike Aviles feels, knowing that Zack Greinke might still be chasing Orel Hershiser’s scoreless inning record if not for his errant throw in the fifth inning against the Tigers on Thursday. Still, a 0.00 ERA after four starts is pretty amazing. And by the way, if Greinke keeps up what he is doing, more or less, and the 2009 All Star Weekend isn’t a Zack Greinke love fest the way that 2008 All Star Weekend was a Josh Hamilton love fest, it will be a shame.
I told you so . . .
Speaking of Hamilton, how hard is it to watch him right now? He is currently being out performed on the Rangers by not only Ian Kinsler and Michael Young but also Marlon Byrd, Andrew Jones, Omar Vizquel, and Hank Blalock. I cannot believe I even tolerated the argument that this guy is a five tool player last year.
I told you so again . . .
One player who has not out-performed Hamilton so far this season is early Gary Matthews, Jr. Award front runner Milton Bradley. Bradley so far has managed just one hit in 31 plate appearances, and is on the bench nursing a sore hamstring. The Cubs have managed to commit themselves to this guy for three years and thirty million dollars and get to watch Jake Fox hit .450 in Triple-A because there is no where to put him on the big club.
On second thought
Really, with all of the notorious early-season jumps that fizzled as the year went on, a Tuffy Rhodes Award would have to be limited to first game of the season performances. Bonafacio’s performance is more similar to that of 2006 Chris Shelton, 2005 Brian Roberts, or 2001 Deion Sanders.
Not tellin’ us anything so far
The AL West division is the one about which we know the least at this point. Any of the four teams (apparently) could win this thing, and any of the four teams could finish in last place. Other than Kurt Suzuki and Jack Cust, not one single Oakland Athletic is validating his presence in the major leagues right now, and the infield of Giambi-Ellis-Cabrera-Chavez/Crosby is on pace to put together the worst infield production of all time.
A Whole New Bobby
I am recalling stories about NFL players training with Jerry Rice in the off-seasons and getting their butts kicked by his super-duper intense workout regimen, but then reaping the benefits once the season began. There is also talk that Kobe Bryant’s workout regimen made an enormous impression upon LeBron James while they were on the Olympic team together, and it is responsible for the vast improvements LeBron made this season.
One must wonder, then, whether Bobby Abreu spent this past off-season working out with Ichiro Suzuki. Through Monday’s games, Abreu has only four doubles and zero homeruns, but eight stolen bases and a .375 batting average. If he suddenly becomes a valuable defender in right field, we’ll know something is up.
Two teams in baseball, through Tuesday, are tied for the fewest doubles plays grounded into – Arizona and Oakland. These two teams also have the lowest batting averages in their respective leagues, so we can see what is going on here – nobody is getting on base, and nobody is making contact, so there is no one to double off, and no one to hit into the double plays.
Enter the Seattle Mariners. The M’s are currently one of four teams with 20 or more GDIP. The other three – the Dodgers, Red Sox, and Tigers – are amongst the eight highest scoring teams in baseball. So, having a lot of double plays makes sense – lots of guys on base, lots of guys hitting the ball. The Mariners, however, are tied for the eighth worst scoring team in baseball.
A baseball team either wants to be scoring lots of runs to make up for the fact that they hit into lots of double plays, or wants to be avoiding double plays to compensate for the fact that they aren’t scoring lots of runs. Failing to score runs and hitting into lots of double plays is a lethal combination, and this is reason number 507 that the Mariners hot start will not last.
A Phillie for the Phuture
Staying with the theme, want a positive sign that Ryan Howard is maturing as a hitter? Try his five double plays grounded into. His career high is 13, and he only hit 11 last season. Okay, okay, this is not a good trend, but it is part of a larger trend: Howard is off to a hot start for once. He is currently hitting .292 and his strikeouts are way down. Obviously, we’d rather he didn’t join the 30HR/30DP club (a notorious club if ever there was any), but if he is going to make a run at being a more well rounded hitter, bring it on.
(I distinctly smell Keith behind me. I sense that we are about to have a strikeouts vs. double plays debate).
How to Be Bold Without Being Bold
Wanna hear what I said about Geovanny Soto in my Cubs preview this season?
“It is hard to not go getting all excited about Catcher Geovany Soto. By all standards this guy looks like a legitimate star. He had the third lowest catcher’s ERA in baseball last season, and the Cubs team ERA was significantly higher in games he didn’t catch. He hits on the road as well as he does at home – like Soriano, he had 22 of his 35 doubles on the road in 2008, and his OPS was only 20 points lower on the road than at home. He was also amongst the leaders in things like least errors committed and passed balls allowed, and he gave up a low number of stolen bases while finishing middle of the pack in caught stealing percentage.
Now, Geovany, let’s see if you can avoid a sophomore slump.”
What would I say now if I was Steve Stone. It would probably go something like this:
For all you kids out there at home, what you saw at the end of that description of Soto was called “a hedge”. Hedging is something you do when you want to express enthusiasm about a player or team, but you don’t want to be left holding the bill when your enthusiasm is for not. As we see here, I managed to tout Soto and the fact that he is “for real,” but by suggesting the possibility of a sophomore slump, I save myself from looking stupid now that his OPS+ is 9 after three weeks.
If you would have asked me 100 times, 100 times I would have said Adam Jones is not a number two style hitter, and shouldn't be put there by the Baltimore Orioles. But low and behold, he is having a pretty great April batting in the two hole for the Orioles. With a few days left in the month, he is hitting .358 and has scored 21 runs. More importantly, he already has eight walks, which is a quarter of the way to what he had last seasons. Of course, hitting between Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis has its advantages.
Questions? Concerns? Comments? Asher lives in Philadelphia, PA, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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