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The Weekly Round-Up
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The Weekly Round-Up
by Asher B. Chancey,
May 2, 2008

It has been an excellent Month of April, and there has been so much to enjoy. The Yankees appear to have fallen from grace, the Tigers are resurgent, the Marlins are defying the odds, the Cubs look to become the first team to ever hit .400, and the Diamondbacks pitching looks so plentiful that they have enough to share. Perhaps the story of the month was the Tampa Bay Rays, who have so far answered their critics and validated their supporters (all three of us) and find themselves in first place in the AL East.

AL East

I may be one of the last people to come aboard, but I am now firmly planted upon the Chien-Ming Wang bandwagon. This guys is now 5-0 with a 3.27 ERA and a 27/11 strikeout to walk ratio on a team for which few other starting pitchers have been able to succeed this season. The bar for success in New York, in my opinion, is set extremely high for starting pitchers, and yet Wang continues to succeed. I have to wonder if he would ever give up a run pitching for San Diego or, for that matter, Colorado.

Speaking of bandwagons, you know what the strange thing was about the Tampa Bay Rays' sweep of the Boston Red Sox last weekend? The Red Sox didn’t necessarily play poorly at all – both teams played well - but the Rays just looked better. Matt Garza, Edwin Jackson, and James Shields looked impressive, both collectively and individually, and the Rays got a splash of legitimacy by handling potentially the best team in baseball.

PosterChild Alert: David Ortiz is threatening to demonstrate the meaninglessness of RBI and runs scored as an indicator of a player's performance once and for all.

Maybe this is more obvious to other people than to me, but the A.J. Burnett-B.J. Ryan-Vernon Wells-Troy Glaus/Scott Rolen-Reed Johnson-Frank Thomas chain of events for the Toronto Blue Jays is either a reflection of incredibly bad luck, or of a front office making snap decisions without thinking things through. Though Rolen is back, and looks good. For now.

AL Central

May 1st Prediction: The Detroit Tigers are still a supremely talented team, and will have no problem winning this division with their pieces back in place. But they will not make it out of the first round of the playoffs with this pitching and defense.

So, after a fifth go-around, the Kansas City Royals have learned that Zack Greinke looks to be for real, and Brian Bannister may not be. Still not a bad tandem to have.

The Carlos Quentin-Chris Carter trade, for now, appears to truly have been win-win. Quentin has absolutely blossomed in Chicago, and if he had stayed in Arizona, he would have been platooned with Justin Upton, which would have stunted both players’ development.

When did the Cleveland Indians offense become so ordinary? Other than Victor Martinez, this once-exciting squad just seems so blah now. I used to think that Grady Sizemore was the cream of the elite class of leadoff hitters that includes Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez, and Curtis Granderson, but now, not so much.

Here’s a question for you: with a .279 on-base percentage and 11 stolen bases, would Carlos Gomez be more effective if the Minnesota Twins let someone else start each game in centerfield, and then when/if that person got on base for the first time in the game, Gomez entered the game as a pinch runner?

AL West

Billy Beane may one day need to write a Bible-style tome to recapture his days as Oakland's General Manager. " . . . and Mark Mulder begat Dan Haren, and Haren begat Greg Smith and Dana Eveland . . . " We'll have to decide whether to have Frank Thomas play the role of the Doubting Thomas or the Returning Prodigal Son.

The injuries to Jon Lackey and Kelvim Escobar could be the best thing that could have happened to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders have stepped up big time, and without those injuries, we may not have found out what these guys are made of.

Should the Seattle Mariners be worried about Ichiro Suzuki’s slow start? Only if they’re idiots. Ichiro's career April batting average as been Ichiro’s is .294, by far his worst. His career May average, .370, is his best.

Imagine having Chris Young of the Padres, Edinson Volquez of the Reds, John Danks of the White Sox, and Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers in one rotation. You can blame Ron Washington for the Texas Rangers' failings all you want, but it would be hard for any team to recover from trading away four bona fide major league starters in infancy.

NL East

Hanley Ramirez is absolutely the key to the Marlins' surprising fast start. Possibly the April MVP (if not for Prince Albert), Ramirez has continued to impress, and looks to me like 24-year old Barry Bonds. I firmly believe that this team is not going to contend until it shores up its middle infield defense, which will necessarily mean Hanley’s transition to centerfield, but on offense, no player is more important to his team than Han-Ram.

I think one day I would very much enjoy watching an exhibition seven-game Ram-Rod Series, in which guys named Ramirez (including Man-Ram, Han-Ram, and A-Ram) take on guys named Rodriguez (including A-Rod, I-Rod, and K-Rod).

Wanna know why the Mets are off to a mediocre start in 2008 after getting off to a terrific start in 2007? Because in 2007, Jose Reyes was playing like Hanley Ramirez, and in 2008 he’s playing like Rafael Ramirez.

At some point, someone will have to explain to me why Mark Teixeira (28) and Tim Hudson (28) are off to slow starts in Atlanta but Chipper Jones (36) and John Smoltz(41) are playing like two of the greatest players of all time. Anyone who says that they would take Sandy Koufax over John Smoltz is either related to Koufax or knows very little about baseball. Of course, Smoltz’s recent visit to Dr. James Andrews is probably a bad sign.

The Washington Nationals currently have 12 players who have played in 15 or more games, of which only Nick Johnson has an OPS+ over 100, and only Lastings Milledge, Cristian Guzman, and Aaron Boone have an OPS+ in the 80s or higher. Eight are hitting .233 or below, and four under .200. Rob Macowiak has gone 1-for-16 in his 17 games. Wily Mo Pena has a slugging percentage of .170 and an OPS+ of 6. Ryan Zimmerman has an on-base percentage of .256. I’m not saying this team has already given up, but if Hanley Ramirez and eight of the Marlins’ pitchers were to take on the Nationals, I think the Marlins would win.

NL Central

I’m starting to get that feeling about the Chicago Cubs this year – whether it’s Carlos Zambrano’s return to consistency, Derrek Lee’s return to hitting, the infield with a collective on-base percentage over .400, the multi-racial and multi-national cast of black, white, latino, and Asian ball players, the dynamic bullpen duo of Carlos Marmol and Kerry Wood, the rebirth of Jon Lieber as a middle reliever, or what – I am starting to get that feeling.

The saddest thing about the Pittsburgh Pirates waiving Matt Morris and having to eat his humongous salary is that he was only one of four or five Pirates playing like he has absolutely nothing left.

What is the key to winning with the Cincinnati Reds? Aaron Harang, Bronson Arroyo, and Johnny Cueto are a combined 3-10, and have given up a combined 18 homeruns in 113.1 innings. Edinson Volquez hasn’t given up a homerun yet this season, but leads the team in bases on balls, and is currently 4-0.

Larry Dobrow at had a funny line about Dusty Baker, in which he commented (and I paraphrase) that Dusty has shown unflinching devotion throughout his career to batting his centerfielder in the lead-off spot no matter ill-equipped that player may be for the role. Thinking about Corey Patterson and Juan Pierre with the Cubs, this made me smile.

PosterChild Alert – Can Kaz Matsui be the last player ever to turn a brief but successful stint with the Rockies into a big money free agent contract? We know everything we need to know, but really that should have already been the case before he signed with the Houston Astros.

How bad is the Philadelphia Phillies' rotation this season? The other day I read an article in which the writer was lamenting having let Kyle Lohse get away. Kyle Lohse. There are 22 teams in baseball for whom Kyle Lohse could not be a starter right now.

Apparently, the entire Milwaukee Brewers lineup has become vegetarian.

NL West

Does any team look dumber than San Francisco Giants right now? Their cup runneth over with good young pitching talent, and the only big contract guy on the entire team is now distantly their worst pitcher.

Signs things are going well: you are the Arizona Diamondbacks. Your fifth starter is a rookie phenom who doesn't seem to be able to give up runs or walk guys; your fourth starter is a 44-year old future Hall of Famer who still strikes out over a batter per inning, and your third starter hits pinch hit homeruns to win games.

The Peavy-Webb matchup this past week probably only spells trouble for the San Diego Padres. The Diamondbacks sent one of their many stars to the mound to face off against San Diego’s only star, and Arizona won.

The Colorado Rockies are showing the rare blend Post-Breakout Year return-to-earth injuries, bad luck, and bad strategy to make me think they should change their name to "the New Orleans Saints."

How bad have things gotten for Andruw Jones? The Los Angeles Dodgers replaced Juan Pierre with a player who has very little power, can't get on base, and creates tons of outs. That is like replacing Nolan Ryan with a guy who throws harder, replacing Babe Ruth with a guy who hits the ball further, or replacing Bill Mazeroski with a better defender. Andruw Jones has out-Juan-Pierred Juan Pierre, and that is difficult to do.

Questions? Concerns? Comments? Asher lives in Philadelphia, PA, and can be reached at