— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game
Sunday, May 04, 2003
Bi-Weekly Review: N.L. West
The N.L. West through May 2nd.
Vs. NL East: 8-12
The National League West has been unusual so far this season. Teams that were expected to struggle have not and teams that were expected to perform have not ? except the Giants. That makes for an interesting race.
San Francisco has been very successful so far this season. Why "successful?" They aren?t pitching particularly well and they aren?t hitting particularly well. They are a bit above average on both sides of the ball. They are presently 3 games over their Pythags.
Jose Cruz has been a world-beater. Simply let go by the Blue Jays because of his projected arbitration salary, his signing has been the biggest reason for the Giants? offensive success to date. Cruz, surprisingly, has as many walks as Bonds and even leads the Giants in runs scored, mostly due to the surprising performance from J.T. Snow.
Giants fans have been tortured by Snow?s bat for years, and this season he has gotten off to a big start, helping the Giants to open April with the best record in the NL. The Cubs found a way to handle Bonds: hit him with pitches or walk him. He ripped two home runs on Wednesday and missed a third by a few feet. Edgardo Alfonzo has started the season slowly, leading the more skeptical fans to question the health of his back.
On the mound, Jason Schmidt is 3-0 with a 1.77 ERA and threw a gem on Wednesday in a 5-0 shutout of the Cubs. Damian Moss has been just as productive (4-0, 2.21) and seems to be on his way to mastering the base on balls, his biggest problem.
The Giants? bullpen hasn?t noticed the loss of Robb Nen so far, with Joe Nathan having gone 17.2 innings without allowing a run. Tim Worrell and Felix Rodriguez have been solid as well.
Colorado has been winning on the strength of some outstanding pitching so far this season from an unexpected source. Shawn Chacon has been the best pitcher in the majors this season, going 4-0 with a 1.04 ERA as a Rockie. He has made four of his five starts at Coors Field too, so it isn?t just being on the road. How is he doing it? He?s inducing a lot of ground balls, which is beneficial in an environment like Coors Field. The rest of the Rockie starters have gotten the expected treatment with ERAs near 6 or much higher.
The offense has its ups and downs ? Jose Hernandez was already a good hitting shortstop and Coors will help him stand out. Preston Wilson has a road OPS of nearly 0.900. Jay Payton is working on his Dante Bichette impression (OPS H: 1.035, R: 0.677), while Ron Belliard has the inverse Coors effect going (OPS H: 0.609, R: 0.818). Todd Helton is still a masher and Larry Walker is saying he?s not producing with his 0.950 OPS, evenly split home and away.
Los Angeles has the best Pythags in the division. They can?t hit but they can pitch, which sounds like the usual LA Dodger mantra.
The starters have been very strong, with Darren Dreifort bringing up the rear with an ERA of 3.77. That?s the worst on the team, outside of Andy Ashby?s 8 IP of 11 ERA work. The bullpen has been dominate (that?s DOMINATE! for you usenet denizens). Not just Eric Gagne, who has been incredible, but Paul Shuey (now on the DL), Tom Martin, Paul Quantrill, Guillermo Mota and Troy Brohawn all have ERAs under 2.00. This pen is looking like the Braves did last season. And there are no mirrors at work ? these guys aren?t allowing baserunners. The starters are pitchers with good seasons under their belts, and could push the team into the playoffs.
The problem is the offense. No one on the team is hitting except Dave Roberts. As the leadoff man, Roberts is getting on base and then being left there. The middle of the order is looking at a serious power outage, with no batter posting an ISO (SLG-BA) over 0.200. Shawn Green, Fred McGriff and Paul LoDuca have all struggled. Brian Jordan is hitting about his average and Adrian Beltre is flirting with the Mendoza Line. If McGriff isn?t done, and that isn?t out of the question, the Dodgers should warm up. The question is, will the pitching cool down at the same time?
Arizona is peering into the abyss. Wow, it is dark and cold in there! I know; I?m a Met fan. Randy Johnson went on the DL with a sore knee on April 22 (retroactive to April 12). He came off the DL, struck out 12 Mets and was the benefactor of 5 Met errors and promptly went back on the DL. I think he did it to spite me. Johnson had knee surgery yesterday and all went well, but he?s out for another 3-6 weeks.
Curt Schilling is also on the DL, but rumored to be back on Saturday. Shockingly, these two have the worst ERAs of the starters. Miguel Batista is pitching very well and BK Kim and Elmer Dessens are pitching about as well as expected ? certainly well enough to win at the bottom of a rotation. The bullpen has been hit-and-miss. Some guys have been good (Koplove, Mantei) and some not (LOOGY Myers, Randolph). Mantei isn?t injured yet.
The bats aren?t surprising anyone. Luis Gonzalez is hitting very well and Tony Womack is not. Lyle Overbay is starting to come around and Matt Williams is not. Some hitters are a little worst than might have been projected, but they are an old team. Looking at their roster/lineup, I don?t see anyone I would expect to improve on what they have done thus far. That?s not a good sign at all.
May 2-4 Braves
To sum up, the Padres don?t hit the ball very far. Their opponents have the same number of ABs and three fewer hits, but seven more doubles, two more triples and ten more home runs.
Ramon Vazquez has been the brightest spot in the lineup so far, sporting an 0.800 OPS at SS. That it?s OBP heavy makes it even better. His walk rate is up substantially so far this season, so I don?t know how real it is.
Ryan Klesko finally woke up and has his OPS rising and Xavier Nady has played pretty well with the job he fell into as a result of Nevin?s injury. Both he and opposing pitchers are still making adjustments. Rondell White has really played well considering what many expected from him after a disastrous 2002 season, hitting more home runs already than I might have expected.
Sean Burroughs continues to struggle - in addition to being hit with a cell phone (which apparently didn?t belong to the assailant), he?s stinking it up at the plate (Sorry, Sean, it?s true).
The pitching staff is having trouble with walks. Adam Eaton, Brian Lawrence, and Jake Peavy all have looked very good, but all are having trouble with hit-clustering. Peavy is having more trouble with the long ball (1 HR/6 IP). These guys are certainly going to make the Padres spoilers, if not contenders. In the bullpen, only Matt Herges is pitching well. Luther Hackman isn?t embarrassing himself, but everyone else is.
May 2-4 Phillies