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May 6, 2008
Tuesday's Games to Watch
Matchup: Indians (14-17) at Yankees (17-16), 7:05 p.m. ET
Those three heroes from that thrilling victory have all fallen on tough times in 2008. Carmona is tied for the AL lead in walks with 26, and his strikeout rate has fallen all the way down to 3.4 K/9 from 5.7. He has avoided getting shelled thus far because of his still-deadly sinker, which has led to a lone home run and 67.5 ground-ball percentage, the highest of any pitcher in the majors with at least 25 innings. Perez exploded onto the scene last year by allowing less than a baserunner with more than a strikeout per inning, but has been less effective so far. As much as those two young pitchers have struggled, there's even greater concern for Hafner, who has seen his drop-off from 2007 turn into a genuine free-fall, with a .209/.305/.345 line in 128 plate appearances. Manager Eric Wedge has responded by dropping his DH from third in the lineup to sixth for the past three games, in which Cleveland scored just five runs with Hafner going 2-for-10. Hafner isn't the only hitter to blame for the team's offensive anemia; the team has also gotten sub-replacement level production from second and third base and the outfield corners. The Indians attempted to address that last issue yesterday, designating veteran Jason Michaels (-4.5 VORP) for assignment and calling up Ben Francisco, who had an 878 OPS in 425 PA for Triple-A Buffalo last season.
Matchup: Cubs (18-14) at Reds (13-20), 7:10 p.m. ET
The good news is that manager Dusty Baker has committed to playing the kids at the infield corners, and they have hit well enough to end all debates about playing time. Edwin Encarnacion didn't have as much competition at third base as his teammate Joey Votto did at first, but he still needed a strong start, and seven homers and a .518 slugging percentage later, E.E. looks like he's breaking out. Meanwhile, Votto's solid performance while starting 18 of the past 20 games at first has led backup Scott Hatteberg to question his role on the team. There are a limited number of trade destinations that make sense for the lefty-swinging veteran, but one landing spot which could work is Seattle, where incumbent Mariners first-sacker Richie Sexson posted just a 675 OPS versus righties last season, and this year is at .180/.282/.393 in 103 plate appearances against them.
Matchup: Nationals (14-18) at Astros (16-16), 7:05 p.m. CT
Despite his clean ledger, Chacon has surprisingly pitched well, and owns the best SNLVAR mark on the team. The right-hander has thrived thus far despite a sub-par 4/3 K/BB ratio, which calls to mind his 2005 half-season in the Bronx, when he put up a 2.96 RA in 14 appearances for the Yankees (12 starts) with the same 4/3 ratio. Hill has been especially impressive when you consider that he is "pitching through a persistent ache in his right forearm" that has "fundamentally altered the way [he] prepares himself between starts." Hill began this year on the DL, and from the sound of things, and his history--missing three months last year due to injury--he's probably going to end up on the shelf again before 2008 comes to a close. When he has been able to take the mound, Hill has performed admirably, but Washington has never given him much support: from 2006-08, Hill has delivered quality starts in 16 of 25 outings, yet has earned just five wins in that span. By expected wins (E(W)), which measure how frequently a pitcher with a specific game line earned a win or loss throughout history, Hill should have amassed 10 victories during that stretch.
Thanks to Jason Paré for database research.
Matchup: Angels (21-13) at Royals (14-17), 7:10 p.m. CT
On his home mound, Bannister will be looking to return to his early low-BABIP success after getting hit hard the last time out in Texas. This will be Bannister's first career start against the Angels, and it will be fascinating to see how his method of attack--constantly pitching ahead in the count in attempting to induce weak contact--will play against a Los Angeles team that features perhaps the most contact-oriented offense in the majors. One could argue that the Halos' hacking will play right into Bannister's craftiness and allow him to set them up, while another could say that Bannister's strike-throwing will give the Angels plenty of good pitches to smack around the park. Bannister threw a complete-game shutout earlier in the year against Minnesota, the most impatient team in the majors, but the Angels are a much better offensive unit.
Matchup: Phillies (19-14) at Diamondbacks (21-11), 6:40 p.m. MT
For the Phillies, Eaton has amassed the same streak that Chacon has, with six straight no-decisions to start the season. This is the second time in his career that Eaton has put together such a stretch, with the first coming in 2000. If such a triviality speaks to anything, it's mediocrity, which is a standard Eaton has even so failed to live up to in his career, with a lifetime ERA (4.70) that is well above the park-adjusted average over that span (4.12). Eaton has had the benefit of good run support, however, having gone 64-55 in his 119 career decisions; by E(W) and E(L), Eaton's career mark should have been 62-65. Much of that discrepancy can be traced back to last season, when Eaton went 10-10 despite a 6.51 RA. That .500 record was mostly due to luck, as the prolific Phillies offense actually scored well below its 2007 average in Eaton's starts.
Caleb Peiffer is a contributor to Baseball Prospectus. He can be reached here.