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April 22, 2008
Tuesday's Games to Watch
Matchup: Angels (12-8) at Red Sox (14-7), 7:05 p.m. ET
One outfielder who has endeared himself to the Fenway faithful with his play is Boston's rookie center fielder, Jacoby Ellsbury. Veteran Coco Crisp has not played since last Tuesday due to a minor hamstring injury, and Ellsbury has put up a .467 OBP in 30 plate appearances playing full-time in Crisp's stead. Regarded as the fastest player in the American League (along with Twins center fielder Carlos Gomez), Ellsbury has stolen six bases since Crisp left the lineup. After yesterday's pair of swipes against Texas, Ellsbury has now nabbed eight bases on the season without getting caught. He was also 9-for-9 in 33 games with Boston last year, leaving him a perfect 17-for-17 to start his major league career. That's tied for the third-most steals to begin a career without being caught:
Player SB First in streak Last in streak Tim Raines 27 15-Sep-79 2-May-81 Mitchell Page 26 10-Apr-77 13-Aug-77 Jacoby Ellsbury 17 2-Jul-07 ??? Davey Lopes 17 23-Sep-72 20-May-73 Al Weis 16 23-Sep-62 20-Sep-63 Barry Larkin 15 19-Aug-86 3-Jun-87 Lee Tinsley 15 7-Apr-94 28-Apr-95 Gary Varsho 15 14-Jul-88 4-Jul-91
Thanks to Jason Paré for database research
Matchup: Marlins (12-7) at Pirates (7-12), 7:05 p.m. ET
In contrast, the Pirates have received outstanding production from center fielder Nate McLouth, more than any other team in the majors has gotten from the position so far this season. It looks like McLouth is building upon his excellent second half from last year, when he hit .267/.366/.502 in 256 plate appearances. What's also encouraging is that McLouth's hot start--with a .360 EqA and 14 extra-base hits--is much more substantial than an aberrant batting average-driven spike.
Matchup: Indians (7-12) at Royals (9-10), 7:10 p.m. CT
Pitcher Year Starts IP ERA K/BB Opponent OPS Jack McDowell 1994 8 45.1 7.54 26/18 911 Catfish Hunter 1975 4 25.2 7.36 14/10 809 Early Wynn 1960 5 18.1 7.36 12/15 949 Randy Johnson 2003 4 23.1 6.94 31/5 873 Steve Stone 1981 4 19.1 6.52 8/8 965 Roger Clemens 2002 4 23.2 6.46 26/10 725 Tom Seaver 1974 4 25.0 6.12 21/4 882 Denny McClain 1970 4 23.2 6.08 15/8 873 Randy Jones 1977 6 33.2 5.88 11/4 906 Bartolo Colon 2006 6 34.1 5.77 21/7 965
Data courtesy of Baseball Reference
As you can see, no one has struggled to the extent of Sabathia, who has allowed opponents to post a 1170 OPS so far, but there have been a number of rough beginnings by starters in the year after they collected their hardware. Many of those pitchers recovered to post excellent seasons: McDowell's bad start extended into mid-May, but he put up a 2.45 ERA in his next 17 starts up until the strike. Similarly, after Hunter's rough first four starts, he threw 302 innings the rest of the way at a 2.17 ERA clip, while Early Wynn fired 219 innings of 3.12 ERA ball after his beginning, and Seaver 211 innings with a 2.86.
The names on the list also sound a cautionary note, however, with regards to injury. In 2003, Johnson went on the DL after his first four starts, not to return until late July, and Bartolo Colon in 2006 made just ten starts all year, and has not been fully healthy or effective since. In 1981 Stone lost time to tendonitis (as well as the strike) after making three starts beyond those first four, and Jones also missed time in '77. As Joe Sheehan recently mentioned, Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci has advanced the idea that a 30 inning bump from year to year can be a serious injury risk factor, and Sabathia threw 46 1/3 more innings last year than his previous high of 210 in 2002. The Indians were careful with their ace, however, as Sabathia did not make a single start that rated above Category Three (110-121 pitches).
Matchup: Twins (9-10) at Athletics (12-8), 7:05 p.m. PT
Year Team HR 1981 Padres 47* (actual 32) 1979 Astros 49 1975 Angels 55 1972 Rangers 56 1986 Cardinals 58 1968 Astros 59 1980 Mets 61 1981 Indians 61* (actual 39) 1963 Astros 62 1976 Cardinals 63 1976 Angels 63
The A's were projected by PECOTA to hit 164 homers this season, so things will likely turn around soon. A breakout could even come tonight against Livan Hernandez, who gave up the second most home runs in the majors last season (34), behind only Woody Williams' 35 allowed for Houston. McAfee Coliseum is a good place for fly-ball pitchers such as Hernandez, though; last year it ranked 25th in home run park factor, and in 2006 24th. Contrary to its nickname--the Homerdome--Minnesota's Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome has actually been lower on the list than McAfee Coliseum in both those seasons, and so far this year it ranks last in the AL in HR park factor. That helps to explain why Minnesota is down with Oakland at the bottom of the league in long balls, with nine.
Matchup: Orioles (11-8) at Mariners (10-10), 7:10 p.m. PT
Luckily for the Mariners, the team's bullpen has not had to do much work in the absence of Putz, for Seattle's relief corps has thrown a major league-low 45 innings so far. Part of that is likely due to manager John McLaren riding his starters deeper into games to compensate for his weakened bullpen. Seattle's rotation, however, has been deserving of the game's top workload; as a group the Mariners starters have amassed the highest SNLVAR (2.7) of any AL squad, and rank second in the circuit to only Oakland in RA (3.85). Hernandez has been the chief workhorse, ranking third in the AL in overall innings and second to Roy Halladay in innings/start, at 7 2/3. On account of having thrown back-to-back Category 3 games, with 117 and then 115 pitches, Hernandez also leads the major leagues in total Pitcher Abuse Points (PAP). Hernandez has the frame and the ability to handle a heavy workload, but the increased toll on his arm so far this season is something that bears watching.
Caleb Peiffer is a contributor to Baseball Prospectus. He can be reached here.