The Month in Review: April
Every April, year after year, there are the big suprises (teams or players) that get off to hot starts and there are also the disappointments of the month. One thing for sure is that, the MLB season is a lengthy one. Teams are given 162 chances and then the playoffs to prove that they are the best and the best teams will win the divisions and the worst teams will finish last. That’s what makes the game so great, the fact that there are so many chances to prove that you are the best. According to descriptive statistics, Major League Baseball is the sport that gives the best chances at seeing the true best team in the league (descriptive statistics involve the collection of data).
April provides the suprises by underdogs and by the unexpected players. It involves dissapoint from the supposive “good” teams and slow starts by perennial all stars. Here are my thoughts on the month that was.
American League: Mike Lowell
The power behind the big Boston win streak, Lowell is third in the league with 23 RBIs. He is also hitting .310 and has four homeruns in the first month. He seems to have recovered from his injury just fine and do the Red Sox ever need him to be hitting like this or what.
National League: Adrian Gonzalez
He has nine homeruns and twenty RBIs for the 11-11 Padres. A great hitter with a great approach at the plate leads the National League in homers. He’s also slugging .704 with an OBP of .438.
April Cy Youngs
American League: Zack Greinke
Well, I talk about him later here but he is 5-0 with 44 strikeouts and leads the league with a 0.50 ERA.
National League: Johan Santana
Maybe if the Mets bullpen could hold together for him, he would have another win. He is 3-1 with the best ERA in the National League (1.10) and is tied with Greinke for the most strikeouts in the league.
Team that suprised: Toronto Blue Jays
The Jays are the one team in the AL East that I did not expect. I thought their offense was too unproductive (although I do think Adam Lind and Travis Snider are going to be great) and I thought the loss of Burnett killed them. Well, they have had different ideas throught the first month of the season as the offense is the best in the American League thus far and the pitching has certianly stepped up as pitchers with injuries have gone down.
Team that disappointed: New York Mets
This offense was supposed to produce runs and keep them in games as the back end of their rotation is shaky. But they are less than average and have a 9-12 record so far. The Mets with their revamped ‘pen are also 4-5 in one-run affairs which doesn’t give me much confidence that they’ll win close ballgames.
Best story: Zack Greinke
Right now, he poses a threat for the pitching triple crown. The first MLB pitcher to reach the five win mark also leads the league in ERA and is tied for the lead league in strikeouts with Johan Santana. His 0.50 ERA was all zeros going into his fifth start as well. He’s the leader of a great rotation in Kansas City that consists of Gil Meche, Kyle Davies, Sidney Ponson, and Horacio Ramirez. Okay, so maybe Ponson and Ramirez need to work on a few things, but if Davies can keep up what he’s done thus far, those Royals lead by Greinke, will be in the October hunt because pitching wins. Perhaps the best part of this story is that Greinke overcame depression and anxiety disorder to get to where he’s been today.
Best moment: Ellsbury steals home
In the final game of a heck of a series last weekend, Jacoby Ellsbury took off on a straight steal of home against veteran Andy Pettite. In a rivalry series, on primetime television, in a tie game, only making it a walkoff steal would have made it better, but hey, you can’t have everything. As I said in my most recent Monday Ten post, I didn’t even see it live but I had to watch the steal over and over online once I heard about it. The steal of home just capped off a great series for the Sox against the Bombers as they swept them right out of Boston.
Questions to Consider:
Feel free to answer these questions as comments as well, I want to know what you all think.
1. Will the Pittsburgh Pirates continue to lead the entire league in ERA?
No, the ERA has risen over the past week as the Buccos are on a three-game skid. Expect some more of those.
2. Will Wandy Rodriguez keep up his performance thus far?
Well a 1.69 ERA is good, but the 2-2 record basically explains how good the team is. I’ll answer this by saying the Astros need him to keep it up.
3. Over/Under Nats wins: 50
4. Over/Under Mariners ERA after May: 3.50
5. Who will be leading the AL Central at the All Star break?
Still too early to tell, but I’ll say the White Sox.
6. When will the Rays start to turn it around?
Right now, did you see Matt Garza last night.
7. Who/what will give up more homeruns, the Phillies at home or Yankee Stadium?
8. When will the Cubbies listen to Alfonso Soriano and get back to 2008 form?
Mid-May. They’re too good for this.
It is said that April showers bring May flowers. If you consider this past April showers, then these flowers are going to be some good ones.
Team’s true colors may be starting show now, so here’s this weeks power rankings:
1. Toronto Blue Jays (14-6) (3)
They’re scoring the most runs in the league per game and they’re third in the AL in ERA. All with half their rotation on the DL. As long as they keep scoring runs and Roy Halladay is their ace, expect ongoing success.
2. St. Louis Cardinals (13-6) (4)
They’ve played a lot of games at home so far (10-3 at Busch) but their pitching staff has been solid thus far and Albert Pujols continues to be well, be Albert Pujols.
3. Boston Red Sox (12-6) (10)
Jacoby Ellsbury stealing home became an instant classic moment of the 2009 season. I didn’t even see it live, but I watched the replay over and over because it was so great. Terry Francona loved, Boston loved it, I loved it, and I love the way the Red Sox are playing right now.
4. Los Angeles Dodgers (13-6) (1)
Clayton Kershaw got roughed up yesterday and there were some miscues, but teams have those games. The Dodgers still lead the entire league in WHIP and are second in the NL in batting average.
5. Seattle Mariners (12-7) (5)
Pitching, pitching, pitching. Second in the AL in ERA.
6. Detoit Tigers (10-8) (9)
Offense is coming through as Miguel Cabrera continues to tear.
7. Kansas City Royals (9-9) (7)
This staff is doing a real nice job thus far this season. If only they could start scoring some runs. They lead the American League in ERA and WHIP and last time I checked Zack Greinke still hasn’t let up an earned run.
8. Chicago Cubs (9-8) (8)
They’re still striking out batters at an alarming rate but a few key offensive players are struggling and/or hurting.
9. Pittsburgh Pirates (11-7) (NR)
Wow, who would have thought. The Buccos lead the entire league in ERA (2.97) but I’m hesistant to put them any higher.
10. Florida Marlins (11-7) (2)
I’ll put it this way, they haven’t won a game since last week’s Monday Ten. All the team’s suprises have kind of fallen back to earth. Emilio Bonifacio had a rough week and you all saw that bullpen against the Phils.
Speaking of those Phillies–
Pushing the Ten: Philadelphia Phillies (9-8)
San Diego Padres (10-8)
Last night, in what appeared to be another offense-less loss, the Phils came back in the ninth down 3-0 as Matt Lindstrom imploded in South Florida. Shane Victorino and Chase Utley capped the top-ninth comeback with a grand slam and solo shot, respectively.
Then tonight, entering the ninth down 4-3, the Phils manufactured the one run they needed to tie it up. They then scored two in the top of the tenth and Brad Lidge earned the save in the bottom-tenth.
So in two consecutive nights, the Phillies entered the ninth down, and two night in a row, they find a way to pull out the win. Well, we’re not the Fightin’ Phils for nothing.
Random Notes on the first two games of the series:
Emilio Bonifacio has fallen back to earth, in this series, he’s gone 0-for-8 with two walks and five strikeouts. Keeping the leadoff man to a .200 OBP definately has played into keeping the Phils in these games thus far.
Brad Lidge still looks shaky yet still gets it done. He claims to have found what caused the blow-up against San Diego, but tonight he struck out the first two, and then loaded up the bases before getting Cody Ross to strike out. He still is having trouble locating his pitches, and its clear.
Shane Victorino is a winner. He’s clutch and comes up big when you need him to. The grand slam the other night was great and then he singled tonight in the tenth to start up the rally to score him as the go ahead run.
Utley just seems to be having some trouble with the breaking ball. Last night against Josh Johnson and tonight against Chris Volstad, he’s whiffed at some breaking pitches.
Chan Ho ‘Outta The’ Park homered tonight to help himself. He also went a rare Chan Ho seven innings. He’s usually good for five or six, rarely seven, so that was reassuring to see. By the way, he pitched well in the seventh.
Sooner or later, Jorge Cantu will have to be put on the DL. Everytime he swings, he cringes because of his wrist. It’s not going to magically get better.
You know it’s bad when Jimmy Rollins goes 1-for-5 and his average rises. Once he gets going, so will the offense. And he will get going, he just needs to find it again.
In two innings this series, Ryan Madson has struck out five. He’s definately worked out his kinks.
It’s awesome to see fans in Florida (even if 1,500 or so are dogs). I think they’ve come near 30,000 each of the past two nights.
Charlie Manuel was ejected tonight, respect the Charlie.
We’re back to .500 now, let’s go for the sweep tomorrow.
By the way, the Sox/Yanks series has been awesome.
THE PHILADELPHIA EAGLES SELECT…
Jeremy Maclin? Why? We don’t need a Jeremy Maclin. He’s a great wideout but Brandon Pettigrew was still on the board! Why wouldn’t you take the best tight end in the draft?! Oh well, maybe they got something planned, but who knows. I don’t know too much about LeSean McCoy, but I’ve heard good things. I really wanted Knowshon Moreno, but went way early to Denver around pick 12.
Don’t even start with the Flyers.
The MLB scene changes a lot in a week during its beginnings and with it, changes my “Monday Ten.” Here’s this week’s power rankings.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers (10-3) (last week: 4)
Only team with an average over .300, they’ve won eight straight, and now Manny’s hit a few out.
2. Florida Marlins (11-1) (2)
They just win ballgames and the bullpen’s been unreal thus far. But, six of those wins have come against the Nats, who have won just once. That’s the only thing kept them from the one spot.
3. Toronto Blue Jays (10-4) (5)
The starting pitching is doing a great job so far this year, something unexpected. The Jays are also scoring runs too, something else unexpected. They also boast the highest batting average in the AL.
4. St. Louis Cardinals (8-5) (1)
Carpenter going down for a while will certainly hurt this squad. But the offense is doing a great job manufacturing runs.
5. Seattle Mariners (8-5) (3)
Lead the entire league in team ERA. King Felix and Bedard are a nasty combo.
6. San Diego Padres (8-5) (NR)
I didn’t include them last week because I still thought they were terrible but after watching them play hard against the Phillies all weekend, this team can play small ball and win close games. Once teams figure out their young guys, things may start to go downhill. But for now, Heath Bell is a monster.
7. Kansas City Royals (7-5) (Pushing)
Kyle Davies is 1-0 with a 2.89 ERA in three starts with 21 strikeouts in about 18 innings. He’s the x-factor here.
8. Chicago Cubs (7-4) (6)
As a team, they’re striking out more than a batter per inning.
9. Detroit Tigers (7-5) (NR)
Miguel Cabrera is a monster and if Armando Galarraga can pick up this staff and lead it this season, they could turn out alright.
10. Boston Red Sox (6-6) (NR)
A four game winning streak and a dominating start by Jon Lester only leads me to believe that the best is yet to come. This team is on the up.
Pushing the Ten: Cincinnati Reds (6-5)
Colorado Rockies (4-7)
Los Angeles Angels (4-8)
Atlanta Braves (6-6)
New York Yankees (7-6)
Still to early (hence all the teams that dropped out), but I’ll continue to do this.
Season Preview: San Diego Padres
Projected MLB Rank: 26th — NL Rank: 15th — NL West Rank: 5th — Record: (69-93)
Regarding the title of this post–Jake Peavy staying in San Diego does not correlate with them staying at the bottom of the division. He is one of the best righthanded pitchers in the game and once (or if) they trade him, they will certainly recieve some great young prospects in return.
But for this year’s Padres I don’t think anything other than fifth place is an option. In a division where pitching is an absolute strong suit in every team, the Padres don’t have the arms to contend.
So let’s start with their pitching. Beyond Jake Peavy, and I guess Chris Young, the rotation just looks like a mess. The last three spots are up for grabs between Kevin Correia, Cha Seung Baek, Josh Geer, Chad Reineke, and Wade LeBlanc. I assume Baek takes the three spot in the rotation behing Young. Correia can snag a spot in the rotation this year if he has a good spring. Reineke, Geer, and LaBlanc are 26, 25, and 24 years of age, respectively. So they’re unproven for the most part. Basically, the Padres rotation can be summed up as questionable, young, and to put it bluntly-not good.
The bullpen isn’t too much greater. The loss of one of the best closers of all time in Trevor Hoffman doesn’t help their cause. Heath Bell steps into the closer role and should do the job effectively for San Diego. He had 23 holds last season, 71 strikeouts in 78 innings, and a 3.58 ERA. He did have a sour second half last season, but given that the role is his alone, he should have nothing to worry about. The others that highlight their bullpen include Cla Meredith, Chris Britton, Mike Adams, and Justin Hampson. For some reason, when I hear those names, the words “lost leads,” come to mind.
Last year, the lineup produced 3.93 runs per game, enough for worst in the NL and I’m pretty sure most of those runs were produced by Adrian Gonzalez. Kidding Pads fans. It’s okay, they brought in David Eckstein to try to improve the offense. Kidding, again. Kevin Kouzmanoff will probably give you the same numbers he produced last year (.260 / 23 HR / 84 RBI). Scott Hairston will give you some pop but not a good average. Chase Headley should continue to develop into a better hitter. Brian Giles, who is 38 by the way, will hit for .300 every season until further notice.
The lineup can be summed up like the rotation beyond Gonzalez, and I guess Giles. Basically the Padres can be summed up as questionable, young, and bad. I would have liked to see them trade Peavy because by not trading him, they are just taking steps backward. I would expect him to be in a different uniform by the end of the season.
Maybe this season the Padres should be more concerned about revamping their team, changing the name of their ballpark (sorry I think it sounds awful), and finding an alternate uniform that don’t include camo.
The World Baseball Classic rosters are set. The United States roster looks more promising than last time. The US is in Pool C with Canada, Venezula, and Italy and opens up the tournament playing in Toronto.
The tournament runs from March 5th-23rd in anywhere from Tokyo to San Juan and ending in Los Angeles. (http://mlb.mlb.com/wbc/2009/schedule/brackets.jsp) You can find the official WBC bracket there.
The US roster consists of players from 21 different MLB teams and is one of only two rosters that are made up of all MLB players. Here is how I think the lineup should be:
SS Jimmy Rollins
CF Grady Sizemore
LF Ryan Braun
DH Chipper Jones
1B Kevin Youkilis
RF Brad Hawpe
3B David Wright
C Brian McCann
2B Dustin Pedrioa
However, I am not Davey Johnson and I’m almost positive that Derek Jeter will start at shortstop. Curtis Granderson would be the first pinch runner most likely and Mark DeRosa looks like he will be the infield utility guy. Chris Iannetta backs up McCann behind the dish. The starting pitchers featured on the roster are Jeremy Guthrie, Ted Lilly, Roy Oswalt, and Jake Peavy. The rotation may shape up to look something along the lines of Peavy, Oswalt, Lilly, then Guthrie.
The bullpen is probably one of the strongest in the whole classic. The US boasts established closers like Brian Fuentes, Joe Nathan, JJ Putz, and BJ Ryan. The bullpen features emerging closers like Jonathan Broxton, Matt Lindstrom, and Brad Ziegler. It also contains guys like JP Howell, Scot Shields, and Matt Thornton. In the ninth I would hand the ball to Fuentes to face lefthanded hitters and Nathan to face righties.
I am most excited to watch the US play and to see how Brad Hawpe plays among all stars and how Johnson utilizes the extremely talented bullpen he has.
In other notes, how great is it to see mlb.com with the games of the day on the left side bar again? I am so relieved to hear that everyday we are getting closer to the season. The first spring training games start tomorrow with most of them at 1pm or 3pm. However at 7pm the Twins take on the Red Sox as Tim Wakefield takes the mound.
In honor of the first spring training games, I will start to release my projections for this season (as I mentioned in the previous post). I will start from who I think will finish last in the league working my way up to the best record previewing the teams’ seasons along the way. Tomorrow I’ll release who I think will be at the bottom of the barrel and here’s a clue, it’s one of these four teams…