All Hail The Unit
Early on, the divisional race looks to be between the Diamondbacks
(21-10 as this is written) and the Dodgers (17-13, 3 1/2 games
If there’s a dominant force that created this situation, his name
is Randy Johnson, who is 7-0 with an ERA lower than
Mickey Mantle‘s blood alcohol count. Johnson easily
occupies the top spot in Michael Wolverton’s
Support-Neutral Win/Loss metric, and he gets the nod over Pedro
Martinez by being every bit as good as Martinez, but pitching even more
and giving the bullpen a rest every time he takes the mound. Johnson
is a different physical specimen than any other pitcher in baseball, and he’s
shown he can absorb huge pitch counts without a hitch. He is the best
pitcher in the National League, the best free-agent signing the division
has seen in years and the reason I expect the Diamondbacks to edge the
Dodgers at the wire.
As if Johnson needed any more help, the Diamondbacks are scheduled to
welcome back third baseman Matt Williams sometime around Memorial Day.
His replacements (Lenny Harris, Andy Fox and Danny
Klassen) have been decidedly suboptimal. They’ve posted a composite OPS
under 600 with defense best described as "interesting".
Fun At Altitude
Todd Helton is having the season we thought he’d have
last year. Think his numbers are the Coors Effect in action? Let’s take
a look at the first basemen around the division (all stats through May 5,
DTs courtesy of Clay Davenport’s
Name OBP SLG EPEQA EPEQR Erubiel Durazo .456 .616 .345 16.8 Todd Helton .477 .743 .342 22.3 Ryan Klesko .349 .547 .294 16.0 J.T. Snow .321 .365 .236 9.6 Eric Karros .312 .441 .232 9.6
Jeff Cirillo is starting to heat up as well. It would be a mild
surprise if Helton and Cirillo don’t each end up with a top five batting
average this season.
After five horrendous starts, Brian Bohanon has been banished to
the bullpen. With Rolando Arrojo back, Bohanon may not start another
game for the Rockies.
David Lee went from the closer role to the minor leagues in
record time, so less than a year after throwing a no-hitter, Jose
Jimenez is getting the saves for the Rockies. Jimenez is certainly
as good a bet to crash and burn as Lee was, so who knows who the closer
is going to be next month?
And in our Rockies Outfielder Watch (Past and Present):
Name OBP SLG EPEQA EPEQR Bichette .274 .324 .181 5.9 Hammonds .413 .625 .290 6.1
- After their horrific one-year hiatus in 1999, the Dodgers again sport
one of the better pitching staffs in the league. Kevin Brown
has been excellent and shows no sign of his broken pinky troubling him, and
Eric Gagne and Darren Dreifort have been solid. Chan Ho
Park and, in a surprise, Carlos Perez have given the Dodgers a
chance during their starts.
- Meanwhile, though Todd Hundley
is again having well-documented problems with the running game (18-2 SB/CS
through June 5), he’s swatting the ball with the authority he
hasn’t had since his shoulder surgery in 1997. That’s a complete package you
can win with.
- Do the Padres have the worst bullpen in the league? The team could be
at .500 or better with a league-average relief corps. Carlos Almanzar
has been the prime culprit, displaying a penchant for giving up the three-run
homer that Padres fans haven’t seen since Calvin "The Mad Bomber"
Schiraldi left town. The problem? Obviously, lack of depth; Steve
Montgomery‘s stint on the disabled list, Donne Wall‘s short bout
with tendinitis and Dan Miceli (the team’s appearances leader in
1998-99) being traded to Florida left the team depending on Almanzar and
Will Cunnane more heavily than they would have liked. Bruce Bochy’s
insistance on keeping Trevor Hoffman a one-inning closer isn’t helping,
- San Francisco fans are having fun watching the best offense in the
league, but consider this: they aren’t close to hitting on all cylinders.
Barry Bonds, Ellis Burks and Jeff Kent have been
outstanding, but Bobby Estalella hasn’t been able to shake Doug
Mirabelli yet. More importantly, Bill Mueller, Marvin
Benard, Rich Aurilia and J.T. Snow are all off their game.