— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game
Saturday, May 17, 2003
Bi-Weekly Review: N.L. West
The N.L. West through May 15th.
Vs. East: 28-39
The divisional splits really show the Central as the weak sister of the National League. The West has struggled against the East, but all of that is the Rockies and the Padres. With three strong pitcher?s parks (PacBell, Dodger and Jack Murphy) and two strong hitter?s parks (BOB, Coors), these hitters stats probably even out. The Giants appear to be stronger than anyone else, particularly with Randy Johnson?s injury. Two weeks ago, the Giants had a 4.5 game lead. They played poorly the last two weeks and still picked up half a game thanks to the 4-8 performance of the Rockies.
San Francisco has a good grip on the division so far with good offense and strong starting pitching. Damian Moss and Kirk Rueter are still hosing their opponents, posting ERAs under 3.00 and while Jason Schmidt struggled in his start against the Braves, his ERA only increased to 2.53. Joe Nathan?s world came crashing down, pitching pretty much every other day and getting his hat handed to him by the Braves and the Expos, blowing three saves and seeing his ERA go from 0.00 to a still sparkling 2.10. Tim Worrell has been outstanding - since allowing a couple o? taters and 4 unearned runs on May Day, Worrell hasn?t allowed another run, earned or otherwise, this month. Of course, a five-game losing streak keeps the christened closer off the field.
The real source of Giant fans? woes is the sprained ankle of Ray Durham. When Durham went down, the Giants were riding a six-game winning streak and about to go up 2-1 on the Braves, heading into the 7th inning. The slide began with Durham?s ill-fated slide into third base. The Braves scored 5 runs over the next two innings, sending the Giants to their first loss in what would become a string of five. Durham is on the DL, and won?t be back until the end of the month.
I?m sure the Giants don?t plan on losing all their games in that time. What?s worse, it means Neifi Perez, affectionately called in the Game Chats "El Malo," on the field every day. Edgardo Alfonzo is coming alive (May OPS 0.997) and so is Rich Aurilia (0.951), while Jose Cruz (0.745) is slowing down. Barry Bonds? OBP is higher than his slugging this month (0.510/0.500). There are some humourous lines on the team: Marquis Grissom is hitting a robust 0.200/0.200/0.200. J.T. Snow is hitting 0.147/0.231/0.176. All in all, Ray Durham is sorely missed.
Los Angeles has had the best pitching in the league, and that?s after accounting for Dodger Stadium. The bullpen has been outstanding, but wear and tear and luck is starting to catch up with them. Troy Brohawn has joined Paul Shuey on the DL and Eric Gagne has posted a 9.64 ERA the last two weeks. Guillermo Mota and Paul Quantrill are still performing very well. The starters are still strong, with Kevin Brown bringing back fond, or not so fond, memories of 1997. Kaz Ishii and Hideo Nomo are pitching well. When Odalis Perez is struggling the most in a two week period, you?re rotation is in great shape.
As for the offense, if it were me, I?d have to try to move Adrian Beltre (May OPS0.429). His month has been atrocious, and the Dodgers are leaving Mike Kinkade (OPS 1.038) on the bench while Beltre sucks up the most ABs on the team. Okay, in a two-week period, Kinkade?s numbers aren?t, well anything, but he has to outperform Beltre, doesn?t he?
In light of all the Rafael Palmiero talk, Fred McGriff has been tearing the cover off the ball, taking Greg Maddux deep to give the Dodgers a win over the Braves Wednesday. Like a few other NL teams, you have to expect your offense to stink when you intentionally play Alex Cora, Dave Roberts, Adrian Beltre and Cesar Izturis every day. You simply can?t score many runs with that crew. I know he?s 27 and in AAA again, but Bubba Crosby is destroying the PCL. He?s hitting 0.430/0.474/0.777 in 135 PAs with 13 Ks. He can play CF too.
Arizona got a huge lift when Curt Schilling came off the DL on May 3. Schilling has thrown back-to-back shutouts. Miguel Batista has been outstanding. Randy Johnson?s replacement, Brandon Webb, has pitched like Randy might have. Elmer Dessens had problems, allowing 5 HRs in 17 IP. Andrew Good has not been.
Matt Mantei?s yearly injury hasn?t appeared, and should it not, the bullpen will be solid. Mike Myers appeared in 8 games and threw only 3.1 innings. Nicely done.
Craig Counsell went on the DL and sent Dbacks fans into a fretting frenzy. Counsell has started 13 games at SS and 13 at 3B. His absence means all Womack, all the time. Okay, the Dbacks went with Alex Cintron instead ? but it could have been ugly.
Matt Williams has been hitting well this month to alleviate some of the Snakes? stress. After being roundly disrespected two weeks ago, Steve Finley and Junior Spivey began hitting the ball. Finley hit two home runs right after I posted the last re-cap. In the face! In some ESPN fantasy league, Finley?s hot streak landed Johan Santana.
Colorado has been really up and down. The Rockies spent the last two weeks on the road, except for the last three games with the Mets and it shows.
Preston Wilson is destroying the ball, with a 1.244 OPS in May, the only May Rockie performance over .810. He is the only Rockie to hit a home run since April 29.
Jose Hernandez was the worst regular, posting a May OPS of 0.473. Ron Belliard has played well posting the 0.810, while Helton, Walker, and Payton struggled home with May OPS? of 0.733, 0.724, 0.767, respectively. One thing I think helps the Rockies at home, where they are dominant is having two and a half center fielders playing defense.
One might think that with the Rockies on the road all month, their pitching staff would look good. Um, no. Starters Shawn Chacon and Nelson Cruz got cuffed around like Gerry Cooney, en route to ERAs over 10, most of it not at Coors. Jason Jennings and Aaron Cook did take advantage of atmospheres closer to sea-level, where Jennings posted a 2.81 ERA in 3 starts and Cook had a 3.27 ERA in two starts. The bullpen was pretty much a mixed bag, with Todd Jones getting baseballs shoved in his mouth along with his shoes. Closer Jose Jiminez and LOOGY Javier Lopez pitched well. These Jeckyll-and-Hyde Rockies nee to figure the road out in a hurry.
San Diego is not playing very well. The record isn?t good, but the Pads aren?t really that far off. Eight of those twelve games were 2 runs or less. A little better luck and they could have gone 5-3 instead of 3-5 in those close games. The Pads also got hammered a few times, so it isn?t all bad luck.
The biggest problem is far too many PAs going to players who aren?t hitting anything. Shane Victorino is getting a ton of playing time, and while no one appreciates good defense more than I, he?s posting an OPS of 0.374. He?s just not that good. The Padres lineup has three or four guys hitting well, just not at the right times. Xavier Nady and Mark Loretta are both hitting a May OPS over 0.910, and Sean Burroughs is starting to put a lot of wood on the ball too ? 0.905, with a lot of BA.
Victorino, who I saw bat leadoff the other day, Vazquez and Kotsay are just hitting far too little to generate runs. Had Nevin not been injured, the Padres would be a lot better, but even with him, they wouldn?t be contennding ? the young pitchers simply haven?t taken the next step forward.
The Padres pitching staff has an ERA of 6.41 this month. Jake Peavy struggled this month and had, by far, the best ERA of the SD starters at 4.66. Mark Bynum, Roger Deago, Clay Condrey (just sent to the bullpen) and Brian Lawrence has been absolutely wretched. When your starters are allowing 5 and 6 runs, you?re going to have a hard time winning without a top-notch offense, which the Padres don?t have. Two of Lawrence?s starts this month were 6 IP/3 runs or less, but the third start was 2.2 IP, 9 ER allowed.
In the bullpen, Matt Herges continues to pitch well. Wiki Gonzalez pitched a hitless inning the Padre-braining last night against Atlanta. It?s outta hand in PadreLand.
Upcoming games (Team and May dates):