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Keeping Up With the Pace
by Asher B. Chancey, BaseballEvolution.com






April 14, 2006 - Has Randy Taken a Little Something Off?

As we have already noted, talking about the pace that guys are on in the middle of April is lots of fun but of little practical use. So, in the name of fun . . . .

Through three starts, the Yankees Randy Johnson is looking much more like his old self than he did in 2005. His WHIP is back down under 1.00, his opponents batting average is back to a respectable .213, and his ERA is 2.25.

 
Call me Tewksbury. 
The Unit's most intriguing stat, though, is K/BB ratio, which currently stands at infinity 16 Ks to go with 0 BB. This is interesting for two reasons. First, obviously, he hasn't walked anybody this season, which is always good. But second, Randy's 16 strikeouts have come in 20 innings, which means for the second year in a row it appears that he is headed for less than one strikeout per inning.

In truth, Johnson's strikeouts have been declining for several years, and after his injury year of 2003 Randy acknowledged changing his approach and his arm angle slightly to reduce his risk of injury. Though this changed approach appears to have resulted in decreased strikeouts per inning, it also seems to have lessened the number of walks Randy gives up each year (47 and 44 in 2005 and 2004 compared with 71 in 2002 and 2001). Basically, Randy has traded some power for some control.

But to what end? Two years ago we all marveled as Randy was more dominant than he had ever really been before, but managed a 16-14 record because of a weak D'Backs' offense and porous defense. Last season, his first with the Yankees, Randy was perfectly healthy but his ERA and opponents average went way up.

We all know, of course, that the Yankees have been a notoriously bad defensive team, which I have postulated more than once is responsible for how poorly their pitchers tend to do. But last year, as Randy struggled, we all spoke dismissively of defense being to blame for his problems, because Randy is a power pitcher, and power pitchers need less support from their defenses than Greg Maddux types. See where I am going with this?

As the Big Unit has become less of a power pitcher than he once was (important point Randy is still mostly power, but now he has a little finesse), he has become more reliant on the defense behind him, and for a Yankees pitcher this is not good. Now, with the Yankees having upgraded at one very important position (Damon over Williams in center makes the whole outfield better), Randy can breathe a little easier. Also of note on this train of thought zero unearned runs through three games after seven last year and seventeen the year before.

Randy Johnson no longer has to strikeout every batter he faces, which is good, because he isn't going to. But this season, to the extent that Randy does rely on his defensive support, he appears to be in better shape than in the last two years.

And not walking anybody helps, too!

Randy's Current Pace - 35 Games: 23-12, 2.25 ERA, 233.1 IP, 187/0 K/BB

Reggie and Steve, and Their Milestone But Will Anyone Notice?

If Reggie Sanders were a Yankee, the New York Post would have run biographies on each member of the 300/300 club, and Reggie Sanders would be gracing the backpage everyday. If Steve Finley were an Oriole, he would be getting four to five at-bats per game.

 
Homers now, steals later. 
But Reggie Sanders is a Royal, and Steve Finley is a Giant, and as they near the vaunted 300/300 club, (both Bondses, Mays, and Dawson), little is being made of this rare accomplishment. Indeed, I do believe more has been made of Craig Biggio being "only" 196 hits away from 3,000 than of Sanders being five homeruns and three stolen bases from 300/300, or of Finley being three dingers out.

For the record, Reggie has three dingers and one caught stealing so far this season. His slugging percentage is currently .613, while he has eight strikeouts and one walk. This says to me that he is going to bang out the five remaining homeruns and then worry about the steals.

All you Giants fans out there, don't think we've forgotten about, or Steve Finley for that matter. Finley already has the bases, and needs three bombs to join the fraternity. But with 13 total at-bats in seven games, Finley may actually take longer to get there than Sanders just because of his playing time.

Oddly, Finley currently has two triples amongst his three total hits!

Look for both Reggie and Steve to join the club by June, conservatively speaking.

April 7, 2006 - In four games, Jose Guillen has now been plunked four times while he only has three hits and no walks. Guillen is on pace to (quick, do the math - 4 times in 4 games) be HBPed 162 times this season, which would obliterate the record of 51 set by Hughie Jennings in 1896.

Speaking of torrid paces, Daniel Cabrera pitched last night for the Baltimore Orioles, and he was fantastically terrible. In an inning and a third, Cabrera allowed 7 earned runs on three hits and seven walks. Cabrera walked six in the opening inning and a seventh in the second before getting yanked. Cabrera threw 60 pitched in his 1 and a third inning, only getting a terrifying 22 of them over strikes.

 
Tank You Very Much! 
April 3, 2006 So I'm sitting here watching Barry Zito try to walk every Yankee batter he faces, and I notice that the Cardinals have sent Junior Spivey down to Triple A. This of course intrigues me, because I wrote my Cardinals preview about how Junior Spivey was the Cardinals fifth second baseman in five years. So, naturally I quickly check the Cards box score to see who the second baseman was today. It was Aaron Miles, who went 4 for 5.

Panning up the boxscore, I am reminded that Albert Pujols went 2 for 2 with 2 homers and 2 walks today. This of course means that he is currently 1.000/1.000/4.000, which is represents the highest AVG/OBP/SLG combination one can achieve.

As is always fun, after one game we get to figure out what pace Pujols is on for the season. And a doozy of a season it would be.

We interrupt this broadcast to bring you this update Arod just tanked a Barry Zito pitch for a Grand Slam, and Barry Zito is out after recording only 4 outs and giving up 7 runs.

If he could keep it up, Pujols end of the year line would look something like this:

G AB R H HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG OPS
162 324 486 324 324 648 324 0 1.000 1.000 4.000 5.000


 
He's On Pace 
That would be quite a season. That is one of the things that makes openning day so fun - the perposterous pace that certain players are on after one day. Remember Tuffy?

Nevertheless, it should be noted that Pujols has at least tied the record for highest batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS at any point in a single season. That kid just continues to impress!

In other news, the Big Hurt is currently facing the Big Unit, and he just hit a homerun in his first at-bat as an Oakland Athletic. That old guy just continues to impress!


Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Asher resides in Alexandria, VA, and can be reached at asher@baseballevolution.com.

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