May 27, 2008
Tuesday's Games to Watch
Matchup: Dodgers (26-24) at Cubs (30-21), 7:05 p.m. ET
Kuroda is not the only Asian pitcher that Fukudome might see tonight. Besides Japanese closer Takashi Saito, the Los Angeles bullpen features Taiwanese-born Hong-Chih Kuo, as well as Chan Ho Park, the first Korean to ever pitch in the majors. Kuo has been a revelation for the Dodgers since moving to relief, having given up two runs in 20 1/3 innings with a 28/3 K/BB ratio after faring poorly in his three starts. Park has done good work in his return to the organization that signed him way back in 1994, and for which he pitched the first eight seasons of his career. He left LA for Texas on a five-year, $70 million contract after the 2001 season as the owner of a 4.15 career RA in nearly 1200 innings, but from his first season in Texas through last year he put up a 5.95 RA in 567 innings. Park threw just four innings in the majors all of last season, giving up seven runs while with the Mets, and it appeared that his career might be over, but he has been revitalized by his return to the Dodgers, giving up just eight runs in 30 innings, mostly out of the bullpen. For his career, Park now sports a 3.29 RA at Dodger Stadium in 651 2/3 innings; everywhere else, he's at 5.51.
Matchup: Braves (28-23) at Brewers (24-27), 7:05 p.m. CT
Hitter Team Year AVG R Donie Bush DET 1912 .231 107 Max Bishop PHA 1929 .232 102 Donie Bush DET 1911 .232 126 Frankie Crosetti NYA 1939 .233 109 Frankie Crosetti NYA 1937 .234 127 Rickey Henderson OAK 1998 .236 101 Ike Davis CHA 1925 .240 110 Rickey Henderson SDN 1996 .241 110 Jack Graney CLE 1916 .241 106 Jay Buhner SEA 1997 .243 104
Coming out of college as the second overall pick in the 2003 draft, no one would have guessed Weeks might one day top that list. Starring at Southern University, he was a batting average machine, leading the nation in hitting in both 2002 and '03 with mind-boggling averages of .495 and .479. His career collegiate batting average of .473 is the highest in Division I history. Weeks's average dipped to .289 during his minor league tenure, and he now holds a .243 career mark in the majors. His secondary skills are so strong, however, that Weeks can hit .235--as he did last year--and still be a positive contributor. The problem for Weeks this season is that he's hitting the ball on the ground rather than on a line--he has a 51.3 fly-ball percentage, up from 41.6 last year, and is hitting liners on just 11.7 percent of his batted balls, down from 17.1 in 2007.
Matchup: Astros (29-23) at Cardinals (30-22), 7:15 p.m. CT
So far, Astros general manager Ed Wade's off-season strategy of going for broke to try to win the weak NL Central has played out well, as the aging Astros are in the thick of the division race. However, while the team has hit better than expected, the Astros have played above what their component stats would indicate. Their Pythagorean record is just .500, and the Astros fare even worse after adjustment, as Houston's differential between actual wins and third order wins (based on AEqR and AEqRA) of +4.2 is the second largest in the NL. Much of that has to do with the team's pitching staff, which ranks 11th in the league in runs allowed, giving up nearly 4.8 per game. The main problem for the Astros pitchers has been homers, as opponents have hit 73 off of them already, most in the majors. Three Houston starters have allowed double digits in homers--Roy Oswalt with 15, Brandon Backe's 11, and Chacon's 10--but the pitcher who truly stands out is middle reliever Oscar Villarreal, who has had 10 balls leave the yard in 25 1/3 innings on his watch, or more than 3.5 homers per nine innings. Last year, Villarreal surrendered six home runs in 76 1/3 innings while pitching for Atlanta. Entering 2008 his career major league HR/9 was 0.9 in nearly 300 innings, and he had allowed less than 0.6 HR/9 in 444 minor league innings, especially impressive given he pitched in the Diamondbacks' chain of hitters' parks. Villarreal has never been quite the same, however, since undergoing surgery after his excellent rookie season with Arizona, in which he won 10 games in 85 appearances out of the bullpen with a 2.57 ERA.
Matchup: Blue Jays (28-25) at Athletics (28-23), 7:05 p.m. PT
Toronto could use someone producing like Thomas has of late, for the Blue Jays rank fourth from the bottom of the AL in runs scored. Since Thomas left, in fact, the Jays have scored just 3.4 runs per game, with an OPS below 700. It hasn't helped that Vernon Wells has been on the shelf with a wrist injury since May 10, and that the team's other key hitter, Alex Rios, has just three home runs and a sub-.400 slugging percentage. Now the Blue Jays' attack will go up against an Oakland pitching staff that has a 3.27 ERA, which would be the lowest in the AL since the 1981 Yankees. Toronto's staff has been outstanding as well, with a 3.41 ERA. The last time a junior circuit squad had an ERA below 3.50 was 1985, when both the Blue Jays and Royals clocked in under that figure.
Matchup: Nationals (22-30) at Padres (19-33), 7:05 p.m. PT
The Padres have played two 13-inning games this year in addition to their 18-inning plus affairs, and all four of those lengthy battles have come at home in Petco Park. Petco is a threat to produce a double-digit-inning game every night, between of its run suppression and the Padres' weak offense. In fact, with the Nationals (14th in the NL in runs, at 3.8 per game) playing on the road against San Diego (last, at 3.5 per), the ingredients are just about perfect for a low-scoring battle lasting deep into extras. Getting the nod tonight are two injury-prone starters, both of whom missed large chunks of time last season. As could be expected, Wolf has performed much better at home this year, with his RA at Petco (3.00 in 24 innings) nearly half what it is on the road (5.97 in 34 2/3), while Hill also has an extreme split this season, which plays to his career averages (3.81 RA at home, 5.94 on the road).
Caleb Peiffer is a contributor to Baseball Prospectus. He can be reached here.