Albert Pujols may be struggling, but there are major-league regulars doing even worse.
Albert Pujols you know about. The $240 million man has yet to get untracked for the Angels and ended the month of April hitting a paltry .217/.265/.304 without a homer. He's hardly the only hitter who has begun 2012 in a funk, though. In fact, 41 other hitters came into Tuesday with True Averages lower than or equal to that of Pujols' .225 in at least 65 plate appearances, i.e., enough to qualify for the batting title. Sure, those are small samples sizes, but we're 14 percent of the way through the season, with one page of the calendar wadded up into a ball, so it's not like we can't at least gawk at the outliers. What follows is a look at a half-dozen AL hitters—none of them as good as Pujols to begin with, admittedly—who are struggling to an even greater degree than the Angels slugger, and where they and their teams might go from here.
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Stick around long enough in the business of covering baseball and you're bound to hear accusations of bias, particularly when you bring a little extra vitriol to an analysis of somebody else's favorite team. Let's face it: Even the homeliest of franchises is somebody's favorite team, and the homelier they are, the higher the chance that its fan base gets a wee bit sensitive when folks come a-piling on. After getting under a few more skins than usual, I started this project a few weeks ago as a way of making light of the grudges, great and small, that I bear against every team—including the ones for whom I cheer when I'm kicking back on the couch or at the ballpark. Welcome back to the Hate List, where I've got something against your team.
Michael Pineda's labrum tear doesn't bode well for his future, but it's not the death sentence it used to be.
On Wednesday, the Yankees revealed that Michael Pineda had suffered a torn labrum, a devastating turn of events both for the 23-year-old righty and for the team that acquired him from the Mariners for top prospect Jesus Montero back in January. Pineda will miss the entire season and part of 2013, thinning the Yankees' surplus of starting pitching—and underscoring the fact that you can never have too much—while raising the question of whether they will ever get much value out of him.
Though recent trends might indicate otherwise, aged pitchers rarely return to form after year-long layoffs.
Sure, it came against an Angels lineup whose centerpiece, Albert Pujols, has yet to get untracked, but it was difficult not to be impressed with Bartolo Colon's eight shutout innings last Wednesday. For one thing, it marked the 38-year-old Oakland righty's second consecutive scoreless start; he had tossed seven scoreless against the Mariners on April 13. For another, he reeled off a streak of 38 consecutive strikes, running from the second pitch of the fifth inning through the seventh pitch of the eighth inning, a span that included balls in play; he allowed only a single and a double during that time. Pitch-by-pitch records only go back to 1988, so there's no definitive account of whether Colon set a record, but via the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser, the next-highest known total was 30 in a row by Tim Wakefield in 1998.
It's the end of a catching era; Pudge Rodriguez is hanging up the spikes.
Ivan Rodriguez is scheduled to announce his retirement on Monday, closing the curtain on a 21-year career in which he set standards for all-around play and longevity among catchers. Rodriguez played just 44 games with the Nationals last year, and while his name surfaced as a potential stopgap for the Royals when Salvador Perez went down with a knee injury in mid-March, the 40-year-old backstop apparently did not receive a formal offer from the club. No matter, his career is as complete as a Cooperstown résumé need be without crouching around waiting for Jonathan Sanchez to find the strike zone.
The Dodgers are off to the best start in the majors, but fast starters don't always finish at the top.
The Dodgers, who bolted out of the gate by winning nine of their first 10 games, are off to the hottest start in the majors. They're not exactly steamrolling opponents; five of those wins were by a single run, including a pair of walk-off wins on Friday and Sunday. The offense, while ranking second in the league in scoring at 5.0 runs per game through Monday, is essentially Matt Kemp (.487/.523/1.026 with six homers), Andre Ethier (.289/.372/.658 with three homers), and the Seven Dwarves, since the rest of the team is hitting a combined .209/.308/.261 with one homer. There's Juan Uribe as Porky, A.J. Ellis as Walky, Dee Gordon as Swipey (as in bases), James Loney as Stealey (as in the Dodgers' money)… and so on.
It's a folly to suggest that the 2012 Tigers--or any other team--will be able to score 1,000 runs.
During the first series of the season, the Tigers rolled up 26 runs while sweeping a three-game series from the Red Sox, after which Boston Globe columnist Nick Cafardo dropped an item in his Sunday notes column about the high-powered offense driven by Miguel Cabrera and newcomer Prince Fielder. "Some baseball people believe the Tigers could score close to 1,000 runs with these two hitting back to back," wrote Cafardo, never elaborating as to who those baseball people might be.
Last month, when the NL West preview I wrote with Geoff Young got under the skin of a few readers who found our jibes directed at the Giants to be unfair, I made a half-in-jest promise on Twitter: "[A]nybody got a favorite team? I promise to hate on them unreasonably tomorrow. I will rain down bias." Persistent problems in locating myself along the space-time continuum have prevented that promise from being fulfilled, until now.
Stephen Strasburg's pitch count sails into uncharted territory during a matchup against the Mets on Wednesday.
In this age of pitch counts and innings caps, every starting pitcher has a limited number of bullets. Even among the hardiest hurlers, nine years have passed since a starter topped 260 innings, and eight since one went past 140 pitches in a game without having either a no-hitter on the line (Edwin Jackson) or simply being Livan Hernandez. These days, it's a rarity for any hurler to come within 10 percent of those marks in a game or a season, and not surprisingly, the more fragile sorts pull up far short. So nobody came out to Citi Field on Wednesday afternoon expecting the matchup between the Nationals' Stephen Strasburg and the Mets' Johan Santana would yield complete game efforts or deep pitch counts, particularly with both pitchers working their way back from 2011 seasons largely lost to injuries. But in their second starts of the season, on a gray day with game-time temperature at a brisk 53 degrees, the two opposing managers tested their aces' limits, and both held up after firing all of their bullets, keeping their opposite offenses to a combined one run through 5 ½ innings before the bullpens took over.
The woe of Boston's bullpen, and debating whether it's important for a closer to have ninth-inning experience.
Andrew Bailey couldn't even wait until Opening Day to get hurt. Before the Red Sox’ most high-profile off-season acquisition could even take the mound during the regular season, the team discovered that he had torn the ulnar collateral ligament of his thumb, requiring surgery that could sideline him until at least the All-Star break. General manager Ben Cherington and manager Bobby Valentine resisted the call to push converted set-up man Daniel Bard back to the bullpen, instead namingAlfredo Aceves—another reliever who spent the spring vying for a rotation spot—the interim closer.
What are some of the nagging questions up and down the West Coast?
Continuing the saga I started last week, I've identified one nagging question about each team coming out of spring training, one loose thread that I can't resist tugging upon. Last Friday began with some East Coast bias, on Monday we got Centralized, and today we run out of real estate on the Western shore.
What are some of the big questions surrounding the AL and NL Central?
Continuing what I started with the two East divisions on Friday, I've identified one nagging question I have about each team coming out of spring training, one loose thread that I can't resist tugging upon as the season nears. Today, it's the two Central divisions.