You have to hand it to the Dodgers; they have coped with the loss of Manny Ramirez well, winning four games in a row and eight of ten. They’re nine games up on second-place San Diego just two months into the season-there are four divisions in baseball with last-place teams that are no further behind than that (sorry Houston and Washington). Though it stings me (and also fellow Padre fanGeoff Young), Juan Pierre has been a big part of that, hitting .412/.444/.588 this week in Manny’s absence, leading the offense along with Casey Blake and James Loney.
Gary Sheffield led the charge with a ridiculous week, hitting .471/.625/1.059 with three homers. Luis Castillo (.389/.542/.444) and Omir Santos (.312/.312/.562) had quiet weeks in comparison, but they were the next-best things for the Mets on offense. The bullpen had a rather good week, with Pedro Feliciano whiffing 3 in 2 2/3 without allowing a single baserunner, K-Rod picking up a pair of saves, and J.J. Putz somehow not giving up a run in spite of more walks than innings pitched. Livan Hernandez threw a one-run complete game, with six whiffs against just one walk. I’m almost too shocked to make a joke at his expense, but it did come against the Nationals.
The Cards are one game up on the Brewers thanks to taking two of three from them in their last series. The offense came from an unexpected trio this week, with Skip Schumaker (.385/.407/.538), Joe Thurston (.333/.467/.583), and Nick Stavinoha (.278/.263/.556) all hitting well. The problem for the Cardinals is that no one else hit at all, but they still managed to go 5-2 on the week. They can thank some fantastic starting pitching for that, as the highest ERA from the week was from Joel Pineiro (3.86). Chris Carpenter looked especially good, with 10 strikeouts over eight innings and no walks or runs; he has yet to give up an earned run on the season in 23 IP.
This week, Detroit sits atop the AL Central in no small part due to Miguel Cabrera (.333/.360/.667) and Gerald Laird (.412/.474/.647). Rick Porcello won both of his starts while tossing 12 innings, whiffing seven and walking three while giving up just three runs. Justin Verlander also continued to remind everyone that he’s awesome, striking out eight over seven without allowing a run or walk, scattering five hits in the process. Edwin Jackson was a tough-luck loser, as he lost despite a quality start that saw him go 6 1/3 with a measly pair of runs allowed. Armando Galarraga lost twice this week, once when he probably deserved to (four runs and two bombs in 5 1/3) and once when he did not (three runs over seven IP, with the Tigers scoring just one for him).
Boston would like to thank Toronto for dropping nine straight games, as it helped them move into first place despite struggles from four-fifths of their rotation as well as closer Jonathan Papelbon (four earned runs in two IP). Daisuke Matsuzaka made his return from the DL, and threw four wild pitches to tie an 80-year-old franchise record against the Twins. Those wild pitches fueled Boston’s run towards setting a record for wild pitches in a game with six, as Justin Masterson and Manny Delcarmen did their part with one apiece.
The Jays hit just .243/.310/.333 as a team this week despite demoting the struggling Travis Snider. The problems were mostly from the middle of the lineup, with the third spot slugging .269, the cleanup spot slugging .360, the fifth hole checking in at .190, and sixth-place hitters scraping together a .211/.375/.368 showing. It’s a shame, given how well Marco Scutaro and Aaron Hill have performed this year in setting the table, but it’s tough to drive in runs when your club hits a single home run over the course of 210 at-bats. The folks in Canada are getting cranky at Cito Gaston due to his lack of lineup movement, but Cito is right, in that those hitters are their best chance to drive in their one-two punch despite the slump.
The Rangers remain in first place despite going .500 over their last 10, and currently sit three games up on the second-place Angels. They slugged a fantastic .527 as a team this past week, hitting 13 homers while pummeling right-handers (.295/.365/.634 as a team in 112 at-bats). That’s over half of the homers that the Giants have accumulated all season, which is both sad and hilarious, depending on what you think of San Francisco. The Rangers’ improved defense continues to make their pitching staff look good enough to win-the Rangers were dead last with a .670 Defensive Efficiency in 2008, but are in eighth place with a .704 mark this year. It’s still a bit early, but we could be looking at this year’s Rays team.
The Yankees also benefited from the Jays’ off week, and sit just a half-game back of the AL East-leading Red Sox. Almost the entire lineup produced this week, with four guys slugging at least .700 and Mark Teixeira continuing his recent torrid pace, hitting .407/.448/.889 with four homers. Just like that, Tex has as good of a line (.275/.382/.596, .309 EqA) as he has had over the past three seasons, and the second half hasn’t even started yet. It turns out that there is no structural damage in reliever Brian Bruney‘s elbow, which is good news for the Yanks considering he’s got 13 punchouts and just a pair of walks in nine innings pitched while they languish in the middle of the pack via WXRL.
The Rays have dropped five straight games and seven of their last 10, putting them six back of Boston before this weekend’s set with the Twins. Their run differential has them with a better record than that; in that regard they’re neck-and-neck with Boston, but they still have some work to do to make up for this week. Akinori Iwamura is out for the year with a knee injury, which is a shame given he was having the finest offensive season he’s had yet stateside. David Price made his first start of the year on Monday, and was both impressive and frustrating, lasting just 3 1/3 innings while striking out six hitters. He hit 100 pitches early due to five walks, and handed out a free pass to every hitter that collected three balls against him.
The Reds tired of Homer Bailey once again, sending him down after he lasted just 4 1/3 innings while giving up six runs and six walks. So much for giving him a shot at the majors, though I question why the Reds brought him up, given he hasn’t conquered Triple-A for an extended period of time yet-1.8 homers per nine and a 4.57 ERA is not the most inspiring minor league performance you’ll find from a 23-year-old pitcher, whatever Bailey’s potential, even if he did give up two or fewer runs in four of his last six starts at Louisville before the promotion. Despite this and Edinson Volquez‘ back spasms, the Reds sit 1½ games out of the NL Central, and ahead of the favored Cubs.
The Brewers relinquished first place to the Cards thanks to a couple of losses at the hands of their competition. Everyone not named Mike Cameron was a massive disappointment at the plate this week, with Mat Gamel (.118/.211/.176), Ryan Braun (.238/.273/.238), Bill Hall (.071 across the board), and Corey Hart (.143/.143/.214) all dragging the team down. Thanks to that display of inadequacy, the Brewers now have a run differential of +16, whereas a week ago it was +38. Giving up 34 runs in a week while scoring just 12 will do that to you.
The Phillies’ already sketchy rotation took a hit this week, with Brett Myers hitting the DL with a hip injury that could take some time to heal. Though they have some internal options, the Red Sox fan in me is hoping they overpay for Brad Penny in a trade (actually, I would be satisfied with just giving him away and ushering in the Clay Buchholz era). In a race that is already as tight as can be-the Phils are a half-game back of the Mets in the NL East, and the Braves just three behind them-losing Myers could be a big deal if the replacement situation is not adequately and quickly addressed. I guess they could always ask Raul Ibanez to try his hand at pitching, since he is completely en fuego at the plate-another two dingers this week puts him at 17 for the year and brings his slugging percentage up to a Bondsian .707.
Joe Mauer has hit .526/.571/1.263 the past seven days, with four homers and a pair of doubles. He also squeezed in five walks during those few plate appearances where he wasn’t bashing the ball all over the yard. Over his first 91 at-bats, Mauer is hitting .407/.496/.824 with 11 homers. Nick Blackburn is not normally known for striking out the opposition with a rate of 4.6 K/9, well below the average, but that didn’t stop him from tearing Boston apart Tuesday with seven Ks in seven innings. He led the charge during a good week for all Twins pitchers not named Francisco Liriano (five runs in four innings on 11 hits).
The Angels were able to run away with the West last year due to a fantastic bullpen and a 31-21 record in one-run games. This year, they rank second to last in the AL with a team WXRL of -0.014, and are just 7-7 in one-run affairs. Their run differential sees them as a .500 team, and without a bullpen capable of helping to squeeze out a few more victories they’re going to have a hard time being much more than that.
Almost every time I have filled in on Hit List for Jay, the Royals have been terrible. They haven’t been that bad this year though, at least, until recently, when they dropped four of 10 and went under .500 while hitting a collective .215/.250/.313 since the last edition of Hit List; I somehow feel like that’s my fault. Trey Hillman unintentionally channelsRoberto Alomar, as spit supposedly hit umpire Paul Emmel in the eye during their argument in a 13-1 loss to the Tigers. Since it was raining, Emmel must have some kind of super slow motion vision that would allow him to see said spit; I wonder if we can check that vision using Pitch-f/x…
Well, that was ugly. The Cubs matched records with the lowly Astros and Nats during the past 10 games, as all three clubs managed just two wins in that time frame. The offense hit just .250/.321/.386 for the week, while the pitching was a little better at .273/.354/.394. Granted, it isn’t great, but it’s not as awful as the hitters. The serious struggles for the offense have been against right-handers, with the club hitting just .237/.309/.341 against them on the week. Joe Sheehan covered this yesterday, but the Cubs are just too reliant on the long ball to be consistent on offense.
The Pirates are a .500 team according to their run differential, which isn’t much of a deviation from their record. Yes, their defense and pitching have improved significantly, but you have to remember how terrible their staff was in the past as well. The improvement was relative, and you still have a bunch of guys that can’t miss bats in the rotation; that can result in weeks like this one, where three of the five guys get pasted because they walk too many hitters or don’t strike out enough of them. If you clicked that last link, you may have also noticed that not a single Pirate starter won a game since the last edition of Hit List; John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny picked up the two wins in relief.
Cleveland has won seven of their last 10 and four in a row-they’re responsible for Tampa Bay’s recent slide-but they still sit 6½ out in the AL Central and own a negative run differential. All but one of the Indians wins in the past week came from a relief pitcher, with Matt Herges, Greg Aquino, Luis Vizcaino, and Jeremy Sowers all picking up wins out of the pen. Carl Pavano was the lone Tribe starter to come away victorious (7 IP, 6 K, 2 BB, 1 R), though Cliff Lee (6 IP, 4 K, 1 BB, 3 R) also pitched well. Fausto Carmona faced off against David Price, but was even more frustrating than Price: 3 K, 5 BB, 5 ER, and 3 H in 1 1/3 innings.
San Francisco has won three games in a row, but did so at the same time Los Angeles was putting together their own win streak, so they have gained nothing from it. Despite solid output from Aaron Rowand (.571 SLG), Travis Ishikawa (.500/.562/.714) and a pair of homers from Fred Lewis, the Giants hit all of .264/.319/.370 as a team, right in line with their season production of .255/.314/.365. Randy Johnson is the brightest news to come out of the bay area, with two starts covering 11 1/3 innings that saw him strike out 12 while giving up three walks and just two runs. His return to form will not only help the Giants stick around in the NL West, but will also help me regain my sanity in my fantasy league.
The Padres are 24-23, but have an expected record of 20-27. Regardless, they are 9-1 in their last 10, and they’re 17-6 at home, where their starting pitchers get the benefit of Petco while their offense-which is not as dreadful as people think it is, though still not that good-helps beat the opposition. Outside of Petco, however, the pitching is a mess, contributing to a road record of 7-17. At least Brian Giles has started to hit (.500/.556/.857, but just .190/.285/.288 on the season), and Adrian Gonzalez hit three more bombs to put him at 18 for the season. Gonzalez is now the proud owner of a .622 slugging percentage and an OPS north of 1000 thanks to a .310/.406/.782 line on the road.
The Rockies are one of the few teams without 20 wins, and they were stopped in their search for that figure due to a three game losing streak. They’re 14½ games back of the team that just beat them three straight, meaning they are further behind first place than any other team, even the Nationals. These things happen when almost no one is hitting; Dexter Fowler (.333/.481/.571) and Seth Smith (.778 SLG) hit very well, while Matt Murton (286/.333/.500) also contributed, but overall it was a lackluster effort, one their pitching staff certainly could not overcome with these kinds of performances.
Let’s be serious for a moment: if you’re not a Diamondbacks fan, what you care about is seeing how awesome Justin Upton is/was. He didn’t disappoint this week, with a .536/.581/.750 line. Better yet, he struck out just four times over 32 plate appearances, which is what you love to see given his past struggles. Upton is now hitting .346/.415/.636-sure, he has a .431 BABIP that’s due to collapse at any moment, but at least he looks to be improving on his strikeouts. While this line is not for real, it looks like he is making legitimate progress towards improving on last year, which given his age, wasn’t as disappointing as it looks.
I would be remiss in my Hit List duties if I didn’t mention George Sherrill‘s fine performance this week: three frames, five whiffs, zero walks, and zero runs, along with a hat trick for saves. Now that we have that over with: MATT WIETERS!!! His Friday debut has been the talk of the team for much of the past week, which is a shame given the O’s have rattled off four straight wins without the guy who will rival Nick Markakis for the title of Most Productive Oriole. Wieters didn’t tear up Triple-A, but he did recover from his early struggles and has hit .368 with five extra-base hits in his last 38 at-bats (10 games) for Norfolk.
Alexei Ramirez was failing to hit for power a little over a week ago, but has since turned things on; he’s hit .333/.421/.576 since then with a pair of homers, as well as five walks. Whatever timing issue he may have had that caused him to pop up on 30 percent of his fly balls might be in the past, as that stat dipped to 17.8 percent. He was at the center of a White Sox attack that hit .288/.347/.459 overall this week. They’ll need more of that if they want to get away from the bottom of the Central, as they are one of three AL teams that have scored fewer than 200 runs on the year; unlike Seattle or Oakland, Chicago plays in a hitter’s park, so they may be the saddest of the group.
Offense went missing for Seattle, with Russell Branyan (.333/.455/.500) and Ichiro (.500/.519/.538) the only real standouts. As a whole, the club hit .261/.316/.377, so it’s no wonder they went just .500 on the week. Branyan continues to be a good story for the M’s, hitting .311/.398/.608, and he’s even managed to hit southpaws (.288/.367/.519 in 52 at-bats). Sure, he’s striking out plenty, but he also has 22 extra-base hits and 23 walks; pretty good for $1.4 million. Branyan, along with Jason Vargas (7 IP, 7 K, 1 BB, 1 R this week) have both been solid under-the-radar moves for the M’s that are paying dividends thus far.
The Marlins week was big on player news, with Chris Coghlan taking out Akinori Iwamura with a slide and Ricky Nolasco getting pounded and then sent down to the minors. Nolasco is either doing something terribly wrong with men on base, or he’s just the unluckiest pitcher in the majors, as he has stranded just 49.4 percent of his baserunners and has an FIP and QERA that are roughly half of his actual ERA. It’s a very strange year for him, and the fact that everything is going right for him except for his ERA is befuddling. Side note: John Baker (.400/.471/.600 on the week, .276/.364/.488 on the year) is pretty good.
Houston has lost seven straight and eight of 10. They’re performing horribly on the road, with a 10-17 record and some odd splits. They have hit just as well at home as on the road, but their pitching has been worse (.292/.368/.463 versus .270/.337/.439). During the losing streak, the Astros have hit about the same as they have all season-not good, but not soul-crushingly bad either. The pitching, on the other hand, took a turn for the worse: they allowed hitters a .307/.355/.558 line this week. The ‘Stros would need a lineup of Lance Berkmans (and not this year’s edition, either) to compensate for that.
Oakland continues to not make any sense for analysts: their best hitters this week were Adam Kennedy (.391/.481/.652) and Bobby Crosby (.357/.438/.571). Trevor Cahill had a good week on the mound, but nothing to show for it: despite 13 1/3 innings with 10 punchouts, a pair of walks, and just five runs allowed, he came away with two losses tacked on his record. That shouldn’t be a huge surprise though, given the A’s have hit all of .247/.320/.380 in May.
Though the Nats are 2-8 in their last 10 and have won just 13 of their first 46 games, let’s try to find positive things to say about them in this space. For example, Adam Dunn slugged .826 this week. Ron Villone worked well in relief, with four appearances, 2 2/3IP, and no runs allowed. Well, he did walk three hitters… how about Daniel Cabrera? He didn’t give up any runs this week (though he sure did try, with three walks in two-thirds of an inning). OK, this is harder to do than I thought. At least they can look forward to 2010 before anyone else, given they are 13 games back already. Suck on that, success!