May 8, 2000
NL West Notebook
All Hail The Unit, Fun At Altitude
All Hail The Unit
Early on, the divisional race looks to be between the Diamondbacks (21-10 as this is written) and the Dodgers (17-13, 3 1/2 games back).
If there's a dominant force that created this situation, his name is Randy Johnson, who is 7-0 with an ERA lower than Mickey Mantle's blood alcohol count. Johnson easily occupies the top spot in Michael Wolverton's Support-Neutral Win/Loss metric, and he gets the nod over Pedro Martinez by being every bit as good as Martinez, but pitching even more innings and giving the bullpen a rest every time he takes the mound. Johnson is a different physical specimen than any other pitcher in baseball, and he's shown he can absorb huge pitch counts without a hitch. He is the best pitcher in the National League, the best free-agent signing the division has seen in years and the reason I expect the Diamondbacks to edge the Dodgers at the wire.
As if Johnson needed any more help, the Diamondbacks are scheduled to welcome back third baseman Matt Williams sometime around Memorial Day. His replacements (Lenny Harris, Andy Fox and Danny Klassen) have been decidedly suboptimal. They've posted a composite OPS under 600 with defense best described as "interesting".
Fun At Altitude
Todd Helton is having the season we thought he'd have last year. Think his numbers are the Coors Effect in action? Let's take a look at the first basemen around the division (all stats through May 5, DTs courtesy of Clay Davenport's EQA report):
Name OBP SLG EPEQA EPEQR Erubiel Durazo .456 .616 .345 16.8 Todd Helton .477 .743 .342 22.3 Ryan Klesko .349 .547 .294 16.0 J.T. Snow .321 .365 .236 9.6 Eric Karros .312 .441 .232 9.6
Jeff Cirillo is starting to heat up as well. It would be a mild surprise if Helton and Cirillo don't each end up with a top five batting average this season.
After five horrendous starts, Brian Bohanon has been banished to the bullpen. With Rolando Arrojo back, Bohanon may not start another game for the Rockies.
David Lee went from the closer role to the minor leagues in record time, so less than a year after throwing a no-hitter, Jose Jimenez is getting the saves for the Rockies. Jimenez is certainly as good a bet to crash and burn as Lee was, so who knows who the closer is going to be next month?
And in our Rockies Outfielder Watch (Past and Present):
Name OBP SLG EPEQA EPEQR Bichette .274 .324 .181 5.9 Hammonds .413 .625 .290 6.1