Hello again everybody...
We're another full week into the baseball season and things are as muddled as ever.
The American league is a complete mess. There's no doubt that the Tigers are the biggest disappointment in the league so far in 2008 (though I'd argue the Indians aren't far behind). But it seems nobody else wants to take advantage of the favorites' rough starts.
The Chicago White Sox have the best record in the AL so far at 9-6. The White Sox?! Really? I give them full credit for their good start, but I don't trust them. It still seems like there are lot of question marks with their pitching. And of course, they're just one racial slur-ridden Ozzie Guillen melt-down away from being in 10 different kinds of trouble.
The Red Sox (god I hate them) are leading in the East. But David Ortiz's knee still seems pretty balky. And I don't trust Josh Beckett to not get hurt from being out of shape either. Let's be honest, if it wasn't for a torrid start for Manny Ramirez (.343-5-18), Boston would be scratching their collective heads much the same way most of the rest of the league is.
I'm already regretting my pick in the AL West. I *really* wanted to pick the Angels to win that division, but I got scared out of it by the injuries to their starting rotation. But now with Eric Bedard on the DL for Seattle, those two teams are in the same boat rotation-wise. And if we say their rotations are equal, there's no question that the Angels are the better offensive team. Torii Hunter's off to a solid start (.295-4-8), though it's not quite as spectacular as I thought he might have. If he maintains those numbers over the course of the season though, he'll have earned that big-money contract easily.
The National League is by far more interesting to me at the moment.
Your Florida Marlins are leading the NL East at 9-6. I have no idea how this happened. Okay, so Hanley Ramirez (.373-3-11) is off to a great start, but one man does not a division leader make. I'd love to give the Marlins all the credit, but I think their division leadership is as much of a product of mediocre starts for the Mets and Phillies as it is anything else.
The Mets are still in 2nd place in the division, but are still waiting for Johan Santana to adjust to pitching in the National League. 1-2, 3.05 isn't precisely what they were banking on when they signed him to a record contract. The ERA isn't awful though and it's not like the Mets have been tearing the cover off the ball either. A big series is looming this weekend between the Mets and the Phillies. It'll be interesting to see the impact that has on the division.
In the Central, the St. Louis Cardinals have the 2nd best record in baseball. If this is how Albert Pujols (.365-3-10) is going to play with a bum elbow, then he might want to look into tearing a tendon in the other one as well! Truth is there's not much the Cardinals aren't doing well right now. They lead the NL in Batting Average and On Base Percentage. And their pitching staff has really stepped up. Jason Isringhausen is 6 out of 7 in Save Opportunities. And as many questions as their starters had coming into the season, Braden Looper is 3-0. Kyle Lohse has a 1.48 ERA. And Todd Wellemeyer has 10 K's per 9 IP so far this season. In other words, opposing lineups aren't getting much of a break.
And I'd be remiss if I didn't include a quick paragraph for you Brewer fans. Tied for 2nd in the Central with the Cubs, the Crew is still in pretty good position. Jason Kendall leads the squad with a .341 Batting Average, but he still can't throw anybody out. Ben Sheets (2-0, 1.17) has been outstanding early on in the year. Though apparently the Brewers are slightly concerned about their depth as evidenced by the signing of Jeff Weaver to a minor league contract. Eric Gagne... Jeff Weaver... So is the strategy to sign every head-case, washed-up veteran pitcher on the market? I think Sidney Ponson is available from the Rangers for the right price. Give him a call!
Oh and for you Brewer fans, make sure to check out the game on Saturday. It's your second chance to get a good look at Johnny Cueto for the Reds. If you didn't see him the first time he took the bump against the Brewers, you'll see why I was so impressed by him earlier in the year!
The NL West is headed by the best team in baseball, the Arizona Diamondbacks. More on them later. The disappointment for me in this division is the Dodgers. I knew it'd be something of a transition year for Joe Torre and his charges. And there's certainly a lot of time for him to get it together and headed in the right direction. But so far they've been very mediocre and have slipped behind the Padres to 3rd in the division.
So to summarize, I'm still behind in my picks, but they're certainly in much better shape than they were in my last post!
Now it's time for everybody's favorite segment, Dan's Favorite Teams Update!
Minnesota Twins: The Twins are 7-9 and still hovering around the .500 mark. The bullpen has been scary bad over the last week. Pat Neshek and Jesse Crain blew back-to-back games versus the Tigers. And this was supposed to be the strength of the ballclub! On the plus-side it appears that Joe Mauer (.296-0-9) has finally broken out of his slump. And Justin Morneau (.255-4-13) is steadily improving his power numbers. Michael Cuddyer is still on the DL with his finger injury, but should be back relatively soon.
Livan Hernandez (3-0, 3.00) has been an outstanding addition to the staff and has taken a lot of pressure off of the Boof Bonsers and Scot Bakers of the world. Now if Francisco Liriano can regain some of his past form, the Twins might actually have something with their starters.
A big series this weekend at the Dome versus Cleveland will tell you a lot about where this club is at. Next week it's out west for series against Oakland and Texas.
Arizona Diamondbacks: The D'backs have kept their hot start going en route to a 11-4 record. Where do I start with the superlatives for this club? Brandon Webb (4-0, 1.86) leads the league in wins and is tied for 4th in strikeouts (22). And what's scary is he's gotten better every start. Dan Haren (2-0, 2.50) isn't far behind. And with Randy Johnson rejoining the rotation and Micha Owings taking a step forward, the D'backs are set up nicely in terms of starting pitching. The bullpen's been a little shaky. Brandon Lyon (1-1, 6.00) is only 3 out of 5 in converting Save Opportunities and has made the ones he *has* converted adventurous to say the least. They'll have to shore the back end of that bullpen up to keep this roll going.
On the offensive side, Justin Upton (.351-5-12) has made a quantum leap in his progress early on. I got a chance to see his older brother B.J. play with the Rays in town against the Twins the past couple of nights and honestly? I'd rather have Justin at this point. It's rare to see a guy who's that young, with that much talent be that patient. He's been hitting 6th in a very potent lineup. And while you don't want to mess with success, Justin's got all the makings of a solid #3 hitter. Don't be surprised if he ends up near there before the end of the year.
Mark Reynolds (.269-5-15) still leads the team in RBI and is tied with Upton for the team lead in HRs. He took a nasty looking spill in San Francisco this week, banging his head on a railing which actually turned out to be a blessing, since the other option was face-planting on the concrete. That may have affected his play slightly, but he only missed one game, so apparently it's not too serious.
Update: I just heard a crazy stat. The D'backs lead the Padres 7-0 in the 6th as I write this. And at this point Arizona has officially outscored their opponents 100-53. Almost two times as many runs as the opposition! Wow.
Lots of NL West action for the D'backs coming up. This weekend they kick off a 5-game homestand against the Padres, followed by the Giants. Then they hit the road against the Dodgers and the Padres again.
That's all for today. I'm off to watch the Cubs hosting the Pirates... I mean run the Jack Rice show! Have a fun and safe weekend!