We’re roughly 20 percent of the way through the 2012 baseball season, and I have to file a column for Wednesday. That means that it’s the perfect time to take a look at this year’s leading out-of-the-gate over- and underachievers!
Bryce Harper may have been the lead story heading into last Saturday's game at Chavez Ravine, but there were plenty of other moments that made the night memorable.
Even though we’ve already had a pair of no-hitters, it could be argued that the most exciting—and certainly the most anticipated—game of the year was Saturday, when the Washington Nationals visited Chavez Ravine and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The most-hyped prospect of all-time, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, was making his debut. Harper’s teammate Stephen Strasburg, who wasn’t far removed from his own otherworldly hype, would be making his fifth start of the year. The advent of MLB.tv enabled fans from all over the country to tune in and hear Vin Scully describe the intricacies of Harper’s debut. Both teams were in first place. And, as the game grew late, Matt Kemp and the Nationals' depleted bullpen were rushing toward each other for an inevitable conclusion.
Dee Gordon hits his first home run, two bench players push the limits of bad batting, Chris Davis keeps hitting, Clay Hensley exposes the unearned run, Derek Jeter hits cleanly in three of his five at-bats (or does he?), and more.
Five things I wanted to write about happened in last night’s games, but none of them was substantial enough on its own for an article. The solution: drop all five unrelated observations (plus a few more for good measure) into the same article draft and call it a column. Trick of the trade.
Derek Jeter goes 3-for-5 and gets accused of steroid use by this one guy I talked to
I live in a baseball discourse bubble.
Bryce Harper's presence and early contributions gives the Nationals a happy glimpse into the future.
The Weekend Takeaway
During a weekend series highlighted by Matt Kemp’s 10th-inning walk-off homer in Saturday’s 4-3 Dodgers victory, the Nationals got a glimpse into their future—a future that likely will not include many more sweeps at the hands of the Dodgers.
Top prospect Bryce Harper arrived with a bang on Saturday, and while Kemp ultimately stole the show, the 19-year-old phenom immediately displayed the tools that will soon make him a superstar. Harper rocketed a high Chad Billingsley fastball over Kemp’s head to straightaway center for a double, fired an 80-grade bullet home from left field, and drove in the go-ahead run with a ninth-inning sacrifice fly that would have won the game if not for a Henry Rodriguez meltdown in the bottom half of the frame.
Umpires shouldn't settle for "close enough" when it comes to perfection.
The Weekend Takeaway
Did he go? That was the question percolating through every baseball fan’s mind after the White Sox’ Philip Humber threw the 21st perfect game in major-league history against the Mariners on Saturday afternoon.
Brendan Ryan, who pinch-hit for Munenori Kawasaki, worked the count full, fouled off Humber’s first payoff pitch, and then either swung or did not swing at a slider that broke well off the plate outside. But did he go?
It's too early to look at statistical leaderboards, but sometimes we have to anyway.
April 19, 2011: "Somehow, someway, Carlos Lee is second with a 53.2 UZR/150. I will literally eat broken glass if he finishes with a positive number this season. (Someone hold me to it.)" —This guy, who is now dead, from eating glass :(
We have such a weird relationship with April stats. I’m trying to think of anything else where we consider a 10-percent sample almost totally useless. On election night, when they show the vote totals, I start to take them seriously once 10 percent of precincts are in. If you could see only 10 percent of a human, you could still probably figure out whether he was tall, fat, into rockabilly, etc. But the first 10 percent of a baseball season is like the first 10 percent of the sausage race in Milwaukee: filled with narrative, almost entirely misleading, and a place where Randall Simon doesn’t belong.
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.