— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game
Saturday, May 31, 2003
Bi-Weekly Review: N.L. West
The N.L. West through May 29th.
Vs. East: 35-48
Vs. Central: 36-33
The Dodgers charged wildly up the division, wiping out a 6-game lead from the Giants and over-taking them, only to go into Coors Field and get slapped silly in three straight games, falling 2.5 games back. Quite odd, those Dodgers.
San Francisco had a good grip on the division with good offense and strong starting pitching. Well, that all went to hell when Ray Durham got injured, and then Bonds got tweaked. That and Jose Cruz woke up. Two weeks ago, Cruz had an OPS of .967. Today it is .853. Evidently, there?ll be no “breakout” season for Cruz. Alou did a great job recognizing the not-hot bat and moved Cruz down in the lineup. At the end of the last update, May 14, Alfonzo looked like he was coming out of it. He had 4 straight 2-hit games, getting his OPS to .720, before dropping back off to .656. Bonds just cruised along at a 1.139 OPS. Aurilia has lost his power. His isolated power (ISO) is down to a weak .130. He just had a nice 0-20 slide. At the beginning of May, Aurilia had some contact lens problems. I don?t know if he is feeling his age and the dings or his eyes are bothering him a little, but his absent bat hurts.
So how did the Giants win seven games the last two weeks? Grissom, Perez and Santiago. Well, and Bonds. Yes, I said Grissom, Perez and Santiago. Santiago has gotten a hit in every game he’s played in since the last re-cap. For the month of May, Benito has posted a 1.054 OPS. Neifi Perez is hitting 0.346 in the last two weeks, with four doubles and a triple. Then Grissom, having moved to the leadoff slot, went nuts and in the last 13 Giants games, Grissom has at least two hits in eleven of them. On May 13, Alou moved Grissom to the leadoff spot. He has hit .442/.476/.662 since the move. With Grissom and Perez getting on base, and heck, Perez driving Grissom in, the Giants managed to stay afloat while the expected leaders sunk like you would expect Grissom, Perez, and Santiago to do.
The pitching has struggled a little as well. Damian Moss got shelled at Coors and took a couple of other losses, but only allowed 3 runs over 6, so they were “quality starts”. He has his BBs mostly under control, but had a horrendous 7 BB outing against the Mets. Kurt Ainsworth has pitched well, and it appers that he is kept on a shorter pitch count ? he?s only thrown 92 in each of his last two starts. He pitched great in Coors. Jason Schmidt won versus the Mets, but the Mets reached him for 5 earned. He has bounced back with two complete games allowing just 4 hits and 3 hits respectively, the first one being a shutout at Arizona. Jesse Foppert is getting the hang of pitching in the majors ? His ERA has dropped a run in May. On May 6, Joe Nathan had a 0.00 ERA. He?s given up runs in 5 of his 9 outings since. Unless things go awry for Tim Worrell Friday or Saturday, he will go the entire month of May without allowing an earned run. That?s at least a dozen appearances, so it?s pretty nice work.
The Los Angeles Dodgers went nuts since the last re-cap. They were 20-20 before they won on May 14, and didn?t lose for 10 games. That?s right ? 10 wins in a row. And it was all about the pitching. The Dodgers gave up 4, 3, and 2 runs once each over the 10 games, allowing just 1 run or less in the other 7 wins. If your opponent doesn?t score, you aren?t going to lose often.
Eric Gagne got saves in six straight games. Kevin Brown was 3-1 with a 2.84 ERA when he woke up May 14. When he gets up today, he?s 6-1 with a 2.24 ERA. He?s on. Bet Kevin Brown. Before going into Colorado, the Dodgers starters, all of them, were completely untouchable. Then they went to Colorado, and the 10-straight wins got tarnished in a hurry. The unhittable pitchers suddenly got hittable. Fortunately, Kevin Brown missed Denver. Ishii, Dreifort and Perez all got touched up. Dreifort and Perez got absolutely bombed. It wasn?t just Coors Field, as the Dodgers offense didn?t pile up the runs.
But Eric Gagne was superb. He struck out 10 batters in a row from May 17 to May 21. That?s only happened twice now, and it?s complete dominance. Gagne did get hit for a pair in yesterday?s bloodbath at Coors, but he was just getting work in after a week layoff. It?ll impact his ERA, but had no effect on the game. Guillermo Mota pitched well, and had to throw twice in Coors, but didn?t pitch poorly given the circling sharks. His ERA is a golden 1.60. Paul Quantrill is pitching well. He worked a scoreless in in Coors and has his ERA at 1.59. That leaves lefty Tom Martin ? also pitching well. The Dodgers pitching is leading the league, and I expect them to continue to do so.
Then there is the Dodger offense. If the Dodgers want to win, they are going to have to cut the cord on Adrian Beltre. He was awful at the start of the month with a 0.666 OPS, and that has dropped 60 points. Get him out of the lineup. Fred McGriff has improved this month, but he?s still a Mo Vaughn-like OPS of .762. That?s a festering wound at first base. Brian Jordan has his OPS over .800. That?s pretty good, but the NL left ?fielders have a pretty high standard. He also had some excitement when a fan ran onto the field to ward Jordan in a game last week before CF Jason Romano tackled him. If any team is primed for a bunch of people on the field, it would be the Dodgers. The walls separating the seats from the field are only about knee high. Shawn Green has an 8-game hitting streak, but don?t get too excited ? his OPS has only risen 30 points in that stretch ? most of it batting average. He is getting better, as his OPS approaches 800. Mike Kinkade should be getting more PAs from first or third. Paul LoDuca has carried much of the load in the last two weeks, jumping his OPS from a catcher-like .723 to a good-catcher-like .823.
If the Dodgers use time away from Coors to pad their leads, they can jump in the wild-card race and be there when the other competitors falter.
The Colorado Rockies should lobby the league to be the “Home Team.” They are simply destroying teams at Coors and getting destroyed on the road. This has always been the case with the Rockies and that?s for a significant player turnover. There?s something in those cool mountain streams. Like the beer, the air is thin, so maybe they are sluggish at normal elevations. Whatever the reason, the Rockies are playing much better at home.
Shawn Chacon had three straight poor outings leading up to the last re-cap. He?s had three good outings since. He?s now 7-2 with a 3.36 ERA, with 7 of his 10 starts at Coors. That?s pretty impressive. In three of his home starts, he?s allowed zero runs. Darren Oliver has been pitching well in his last few outings. He?s keeping his team in the game (3 runs or less) and has a better OPS than Adrian Beltre and half the Mets at .649. He can definitely hit. Scott Elarton missed 2002, and looked good in his first start. He was excellent prospect a few years ago, and hopefully can give the Rockies some good road starts. Aaron Cook dropped his ERA a run in his last three starts, and is really pitching well now, with a 2.94 ERA over his last three starts. He still lost two of those games. Jason Jennings has dropped his ERA a run this month, but still has some issues. He?ll have a good outing, a fair outing and a terrible outing. Not sure what that means.
Charles Johnson?s road OPS is .298. That?s an absolute joke. There is nothing in the team?s batting road OPS to explain their poor record ? the starters hit at or above league average. Well, except Charles Johnson. His OPS epitomizes Vörös? Law ? anyone can hit anything in 60 ABs. Preston Wilson has cooled off some, but still posting a robust .964 OPS. Todd Helton cranked three HRs on May 29, jacking his season OPS to 1.032. He?s hitting a smoking 1.497 over the last week. Nothing wrong with him. Larry Walker?s OPS over the last week is 1.808. He?s not making any outs, even if he isn?t hitting home runs. His seasonal mark is .938, of which he?s ashamed. Jose Hernandez hit better last season, when half his games were at Miller rather than Coors. That?s slowing the Rocks down. Jay Payton is maintaining a good season. His road stats are 200 OPS points below his home stats, but that?s not really a surprise. He?s hitting .730 on the road, about what I would expect a center fielder to hit. I know, he?s playing left. I think the Rockies outfield defense really helps them have such a great home record, but that?s a different research project.
The Arizona Diamondbacks are done. Or so we?ve been told. If Randy Johnson doesn?t come back and win all his starts and Curt Schilling doesn?t get some calls from the umps, the Snakes are in trouble. I think they are going to have to shift their rotation view to catch up. They need to shift to a modified 5-man rotation, where the top two starters go on five days, or four days if there is no game on their fifth day. That would have had Schilling going against the Giants on May 28 instead of John Patterson, which didn?t turn out too well for the Diamondbacks.
Actually, I?m going to read the trading of Kim as the white flag. The same day, Brandon Webb went on the DL with elbow tendinitis (why do “tend_o_ns” have “tend_i_nitis”?). So the Diamondbacks have just lost their third good starter. No Kim, no Webb and no Unit. Okay, Batista and Schilling are both pitching very well, but Good, Dessens and Patterson all have ERAs over 5. Patterson didn?t look terrible against the Giants in his second start, but he didn?t look particularly good either. He should be passable. I haven?t heard the latest on Johnson, and time is slipping away from Arizona. The bullpen is pitching well, but overwork will creep in.
The bats are improving. Junior Spivey is hitting much better. Matt Williams is hitting pretty well for his age ? better than I?d expect. Gonzalez has struggled this month, which has added to the desert drought. David Dellucci has been a huge stick, getting regular playing time has raised his OPS from .666 to .850 in the last two weeks. Hopefully, Danny Bautista will be relegated to platoon activity. Tony Womack should be released from his contract. Alex Cintron is hitting as well for free. I don?t know if Jerry Colangelo is just dumb, but Shea Hillenbrand is not the answer to your first base, nor third base, problems. He sure as hell isn?t worth BK Kim. Lyle Overbay is hitting .791 OPS and that?s on the rise. With Williams hitting, Hillenbrand is a waste. Steve Finley is playing better, mostly because he has been more selective. His OBP is at a respectable .355. That?s helped him not stink up the joint the last two weeks. He?s posting a .795 OPS, which is pretty good in center field, if you don?t look too closely at some of the other NL CFs.
Chad Tracy is hitting well at Tucson (0.340/0.394/0.482), that makes the trade for Hillenbrand more confusing. He?s a 3B, they have Overbay. Does Colangelo think the Diamondbacks can use a DH? And why would he want Hillenbrand for that?
The San Diego Padres are terrible. Since we last left you, the Padres placed Clay Condrey and Brandon Villafuerte on the DL on May 17, and fired pitching coach Greg Booker, placing the blame for pitcher injury problems squarely on his shoulders. The Padres claimed Scott Linebrink off the Astros waivers on May 29. That will at least be an arm that isn?t attached to Charles Nagy.
The Padres are so bad it?s hard to tell where to start. Their 2-12 streak was against the likes of Milwaukee and Arizona, so it isn?t like they just hit a bad stretch of division leaders. Okay, in that 12, they also dropped a 4-game set to the Braves, but still?
Since Booker was fired, Brian Lawrence has been re-born. He did cough up a game last night, taking a shutout into the ninth. In 17.2 IP since May 18, Lawrence has allowed 9 hits and given up 4 runs. Jake Peavy has started twice and given up just 2 earned runs in each. Adam Eaton came off the DL, and has been terrible, giving up 11 runs in 11 innings. The bullpen is ashambles, with Charles Nagy getting work. Matt Herges is still pitching very well, and should make for a good piece of trade bait in another month or so.
The offense has struggled, and now all the starters are fighting injuries. Sean Burroughs is improving and learning on the job. He had a hamstring tweak and missed a few games, but there is definite improvement. Xavier Nady is still playing well, but has a 3-29 streak going, earning him a day off May 29. He?s certainly a bright spot, and a well-hidden ROY candidate. Ryan Klesko has some ankle trouble, but is still hitting okay, but not what one would expect out of him. Mark Kotsay is on the DL with back issues, which hurts in the field a good deal.
All in all, it?s going to be a long season, as the Padres are threatening the Tigers for the worst team in baseball. It?s been brutally injurious since the day Phil Nevin dived for a sinking liner.