May 31, 2012
The Lineup Card
10 Things We Learned in May
1. Ernesto Frieri is Good
2. Paul Konerko Might Not Be Washed Up After All
3. The Marlins Aren't Horrible
4. Maybe Bobby Valentine Knows What He's Doing After All (Kinda)
But since the calendar turned to May, Valentine has sorted the pen out. Their 2.19 reliever ERA is third in baseball since May 1, with former sinkholes of suck Vicente Padilla, Alfredo Aceves, and Andrew Miller all making positive contributions. Even in the wake of injury, the hitting side has been productive, with Ryan Sweeney (814 OPS and tied for ninth in doubles with 15 despite missing a week with a concussion), Cody Ross (883 OPS), Daniel Nava (.278/.431/.481), and incredibly Scott Podsednik (sure it's a crazy small sample, but who thought Scott Podsednik would ever have an 1.182 OPS ever again in any sample size at any level?) all chipping in.
How much credit the manager deserves for any of the above is debatable. But little things like scrapping Andrew Miller’s windup and moving Rich Hill over to the left side of the rubber can add up. There are also larger things like, oh, for example, the clubhouse not imploding in upon itself, something which after two weeks of the season seemed like a distinct possibility.
Things aren’t perfect. Jon Lester’s strikeouts are MIA, as are Adrian Gonzalez’s homers, and sure, Nick Punto spent a day in the leadoff position [hits self in face with brick]. The specter of Valentine's ridiculous no-win calling out of Kevin Youkilis still lingers as well, but for now at least, it seems that maybe, just maybe, Bobby Valentine knows what he's doing. —Matthew Kory
5. Bryce Harper is Ready
From the moment he arrived, Harper has played like he belonged. In a memorable debut on a Saturday night at Dodger Stadium, he not only pounded a double and a sacrifice fly, but he also made a laser throw from left field that would have nailed Jerry Hairston Jr. at home had he not knocked the ball away. In his eighth major-league game, he showed veteran savvy and a dash of derring-do; after being drilled intentionally by Cole Hamels—part of some misguided "old school" welcome to the big leagues—he went first-to-third on a single to left field, then exacted his revenge by going even older school, scoring on a straight steal of home. Later that game, the Nationals lost Jayson Werth to a broken wrist, virtually ensuring that Harper's stint would be a lengthy one.
The Hamels incident and his hard-nosed play have won over fans predisposed to dislike him based upon the overwhelming hype, but that wouldn't be worth much if Harper didn't hit. Coming into Tuesday's game, he ranked second on the team with a .313 True Average, raking at a .286/.372/.514 clip, with four homers in 121 PA. Over the weekend he homered in back-to-back games to help the Nationals sweep the Braves. Get used to it: Bryce Harper is here to stay. —Jay Jaffe
6. Everyone Loves Streakers—At Least a Little
Let’s face it: Of all the forms of goofballs running on the field, none are more amusing than the streaker. Jeff Passan’s piece on this Walk-Off Hero, likely won’t win a Pulitzer (though it should), but it is a reminder that in some moments we can be amused by an idiot in the wrong place. The streaker mirrors a political scandal: drunkeness, nudity, holier-than-thou announcers denouncing every move, physical violence and, of course, stupidity.
Not just any stupidity, but a level so low that you’re willing to go to the clink and shell out hundreds of dollars from a wallet, (which, of course, you don’t have on you) just so you can prove that what you were born with really isn’t all that impressive to thousands and—if you time it right—potentially millions of people.
What’s not to love about that? I mean, being a streaker, of course takes ba-- well, it takes a lot of nerve—Mike Ferrin
7. Roger Clemens is Not Bright
8. Albert Pujols Won't Hit Zero Homers; Matt Kemp Won't Hit 70 Homers
Maybe you’ve missed all of May. If so, allow me to bring you up to speed. Kemp hurt his hamstring and went on the disabled list, from which he recently returned, only to reaggravate the muscle in his second game back. He hit .216/.348/.324 in May. Pujols has hit .321/.391/.679 over his past 14 games. He now has eight home runs. The two players have alternated months in which they went homerless with months in which they wouldn’t stop hitting them, and after all the sturm and drang, they’ll probably be about as good going forward as we thought they would on Opening Day.
Clichés are boring. But that one about never being as good as you look when you’re going good or as bad as you look when you’re going bad? Yeah, that one’s worth remembering. —Ben Lindbergh
9. Melky Cabrera is Finally Figuring it Out
10. Denard Span Will Look Great in Someone Else's Uniform
Anyway, Mauer and Morneau have proven to be relatively healthy and effective, if not quite the dynamos they have been in the past. But Span has been every bit of his old self, shaking off the concussion symptoms that sidelined him for almost all of the second half of 2011. Span's walk rate is up from the previous two seasons, he's played hard and at full speed, and he's hitting .302/.365/.402. He's a good defensive center fielder and a capable leadoff hitter.
And with the Twins assuredly out of contention, they will (or at least should) be looking to move anything that isn't bolted down. Span is 28 years old, under team control for reasonable rates through 2015, and is productive when healthy, so he represents Minnesota's most tradeable asset, and the one most likely to bring back someone of value. The club has Ben Revere available to fill the void Span leaves behind in the short term. So I'm pretty confident that, whatever uniform Denard Span ends up wearing after July 31, he's going to look great in it. Now I wish I had as much confidence in the Twins to get a fair deal back for him. —Michael Bates