Josh Beckett looks to be finally over his blister problems, as Jonah Keri checks in with the team he picked to make the World Series.
CF Randy Winn
SS Omar Vizquel
1B J.T. Snow
LF Pedro Feliz
3B Edgardo Alfonzo
RF Todd Linden
2B Deivi Cruz
C Mike Matheny
P Brett Tomko
That lineup won't help much. If the season ended today, a .500 record
would win the NL West. Given Barry Bonds' 2004 VORP was worth more than 14 wins alone, it's fair to say a healthy Bonds all year could be enough for this ugly Giants team to win it
anyway, warts and all. As is, Bonds is out for the year, their second- and
third-best offensive players--Moises Alou and
Durham--have fought injuries all season, and perennial Cy
candidate Jason Schmidt has turned into a pumpkin. And
yet one five- or six-game winning streak--especially with underrated
shortstop Khalil Greene going on the DL for the
first-place Padres--and they'd be right back in the race. So as cruel
Josh Beckett-Deivi Cruz matchup may be to the fine
of San Francisco, the Giants will do as much as a team with the
second-worst offense in the majors possibly can...
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Jonah witnesses the start of something great in Seattle.
Naturally, your intrepid Game of the Week correspondent was there, in you-only-live-once splurge box seats, 30 rows up and just to the third-base side of home plate. Joined by Mariner fan deluxe Derek Zumsteg, we witnessed what could one day be looked back upon as a slice of history.
Jonah checks out two sub-.500 teams, though one has the surprising title of "division leader."
Heading into the game, the Pads owned the worst record in baseball
June 1, 16 games below .500. A loss on this day would hand the Reds
first road sweep in more than a year. Fortunately for San Diego, MLB's
second-worst starting pitcher (31 homers allowed!), Eric
Milton, was toeing the slab for the Reds. Could the Pads break
Jonah catches a game in Chicago with some fellow BP writers, and wonders about the value of Scott Podsednik's season.
Sure, Podsednik was merely responding to a softball
question from Cleveland Plain-Dealer reporter
Dennis Manoloff when he threw down the gauntlet. No
doubt facing deadline on a slow news day, Manoloff
served up the speedy left fielder's player comment
2005, knowing it would elicit a reaction.
We'll save you the trouble of flipping to the page:
"If utilized properly, he could be a nice bench
player, but as the White Sox starting left fielder,
he's going to do quite well in helping Minnesota win
another AL Central crown." With the Sox sporting the
best record in the game, it's fair to say we whiffed,
Jonah checks up on his old favorite team, seeing two recently jettisoned pitchers square off in Milwaukee.
1B Brad Wilkerson
2B Jose Vidro
RF Jose Guillen
CF Preston Wilson
LF Ryan Church
3B Vinny Castilla
C Brian Schneider
SS Cristian Guzman
P Ryan Drese
Other than Cristian Guzman, that's not an awful lineup. The deeper problem lies in the lack of star power, and the unlikely pace set by a few of the Nats' hitters. Jose Guillen leads the Nationals in VORP, yet he ranks just fourth among National League right fielders, let alone the league's overall elite. Meanwhile Vinny Castilla's .336 OBP may not last, given it would be his highest figure since a Coors Field-assisted .362 in 1998; Nick Johnson, the team's best hitter when healthy, isn't; and Ryan Church is a poor bet to keep going at a .316/.372/.532 clip.
Jonah witnesses the Randy Johnson of old turning into the Randy Johnson who's just old.
Time and again during Sunday's tilt between the Indians and Yankees,
Johnson got into trouble. The Indians started each of the first five innings with a runner on base.
Johnson's fastball kept catching the middle of the plate, leading to
hits into the gaps. But just when the Tribe looked ready to blow the
they'd blow it by hacking at fastballs up and out of the zone, the only
could throw by anyone. That impatience, along with Johnson's
some Indians base-running blunders and some Yankee luck, combined to
Bombers in a game they should have lost early on. Here's what
Jonah enlists former BPer Derek Zumsteg to help him find choice seating at Safeco Field. Oh, and the Mariners lost again.
DH David Dellucci
SS Michael Young
1B Mark Teixeira
3B Hank Blalock
2B Alfonso Soriano
LF Kevin Mench
CF Laynce Nix
RF Richard Hidalgo
C Rod Barajas
The Rangers rank third in the majors in runs scored per game, just
behind the Yankees and Red Sox. Yes, Ameriquest Field's batter's park factor of
111 is the most hitter-friendly in the AL, 2nd in MLB. But that fact
can't obscure the great seasons being forged by several Rangers hitters.
According to Baseball Prospectus' new Sortable
Stats feature, six of the top 30 hitters in the AL as ranked by
VORP are Rangers. While you might expect big seasons out of corner infield
stars Hank Blalock and Mark Teixeira, the emergence of Kevin Mench (.309
EqA) and the out-of-nowhere explosion of David
EqA) have supercharged what already looked like a formidable lineup
heading into the '05 season. It's Dellucci that gets the party started
Texas on this night, crushing the second pitch of the game from
Aaron Sele for a near upper-deck homer.
Jonah Keri catches a pitchers' duel between the two Second City teams in this week's Game of the Week.
Sunday's game was different. Even right off the DL Prior is a constant
threat to completely dominate a game. His opponent, Jon
Garland, entered Sunday's game tied with Dontrelle
Willis for the best record in baseball at 12-2. You can
some of Garland's win barrage to luck, no question--his .253 BABIP, for
one, is well below league average, and when more balls in play start to
fall in for hits, that'll hurt him. His strikeout rate of less than one
every other inning also portends regression, as virtually no pitchers
sustain success over the long haul at that level. Still, there's a lot
be said for terrific control, which is just what Garland has shown this
year. At just over a walk and a half a game, Garland's been among the
stingiest in baseball with the free pass. Even with a good but not
HR rate (11 in 108 IP), that's enough to achieve success. Broadcaster
turned World Series-winning manager turned broadcaster Bob Brenly notes
that "Garland has been the best pitcher in baseball up to this point,"
point contradicted by several
Baseball Prospectus metrics--Roy Halladay and a
dozen others can make a better claim. But Garland's still ranked a
respectable 15th in the majors in Expected
Wins according to BP's brand spankin' new Sortable Stats, 8th if
count only pitchers with 15 starts or fewer.
NL East rivals go at one another in a game that featured one very big late-inning rally.
Mets announcers Ted Robinson and Fran Healy note that Mike
Cameron isn't a typical leadoff hitter, given his power and high
strikeout totals. Healy neglects to mention Cameron's .426 OBP heading
into Wednesday night's game, or his annual high walk totals. He's a far
sight better choice for the leadoff spot than Jose Reyes, who
spent most of the season batting there before being moved to #2 for
this game. Reyes was getting on base at a .286 clip heading into the game,
which should make Mets fans wonder why he would ever hit higher than
seventh. By contrast, franchise third baseman David
Wright came into the game hitting .297/.390/.513. Managers'
obsessions with having bigger bats in "RBI positions" rather than getting
them as many times at the plate as possible costs teams handfuls of runs
through the season. It's a common
refrain here at GotW, but one we'll continue to harp on as long as
managers continue to bat stiffs at or near the top of the lineup.
Few things beat a day game at Dodger Stadium narrated by Vin Scully.
He was right. Though my beloved Expos lost to the Dodgers that day, I
immediately fell in love with Dodger Stadium. Having been to the home
ballparks of 29 of MLB's 30 teams--I'll get you some day, Minnesota Twins!--it's
hard to describe exactly what makes a park too old to be a sparkling
palace and too young to be a historic treasure such a special place. Maybe
it's the palm trees up on the hill behind the ballpark. Maybe it's the
view of the mountains you can only get on that rare crystal-clear Los
Angeles afternoon. But sitting at Dodger Stadium, with neither a giant
Coke bottle nor a 37-foot wall to look at, it just feels like baseball.
The Orioles remain atop the AL East, but struggled against one of the AL's middle class over the weekend.
3B Brandon Inge
SS Ramon Martinez
1B Dmitri Young
RF Craig Monroe
DH Ivan Rodriguez
LF Marcus Thames
2B Omar Infante
C Vance Wilson
CF Nook Logan
More and more we're seeing non-traditional leadoff men like
Brandon Inge--hitters whose game revolves more around
on-base ability, and even extra-base power, rather than speed--being slotted
at the top of the order, as teams begin to embrace OBP and more efficient ways of assembling a lineup. So
why, then, do so many teams continue to bat Punch-and-Judy guys in the #2
hole, as if the game still revolves around bunting and playing for one run
at a time? How hard is it to sit down and think to yourself "Who do I want
getting more at-bats over the course of the season--Ramon
Martinez or Ivan Rodriguez?" It's time to take
these non-walking, powerless Mendozers
and move them to the eighth and ninth spots in the order, where they
belong. (Brian O'Neill, the "Stats Geek" for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and
one of the best baseball columnists writing for a daily newspaper, has a
in-depth take on this topic.)
It looked like a prime candidate for a blowout, and that's exactly what happened.
Unlike Jim's twice-weekly oeuvre, in which he previews both top-notch
match-ups and lopsided potential laughers, GotW was meant to pick choice
battles, riveting team match-ups, interesting pitching
battles--something compelling. The other mandate of GotW, however, is that
every team must be covered at least once during the season. Since a
Royals/Devil Rays breakdown could cause narcolepsy among non-members of
the Gotay and Cantu families, a Show-Me State tilt seemed appropriate.