— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game
Saturday, July 19, 2003
Bi-Weekly Review: N.L. West
The N.L. West through the All-Star Break.
Vs. East: 35-48
The last two weeks have seen a continued resurgence of the Diamondbacks and an utter collapse by the Dodgers. The Giants proved resilient and kept the Diamondbacks at bay while picking up 6.5 games on Los Angeles. The Padres have shown signs of life. Not a great life, but they appear to be capable of avoiding the dreaded 100-loss season. The Rockies have a strong in-division record, and will probably be spoiling someone?s hopes, be it the Dodgers, Diamondbacks or possibly the Giants. There are two weeks of division play coming up, so the wheat may separate from the sand.
San Francisco took advantage of the Dodgers? woes and fended off the Diamondbacks on the weekend before the All-Star Break to head into the third turn with a five game lead. Barry Bonds has absolutely destroyed the ball the last two weeks, hitting 10 home runs from June 27 to July 13. Bonds raised his batting average a dozen points and his slugging average seventy points. His OBP inched closer to .500 (.496). In July, Bonds is smoking a .412/.543/1.176. Yes, that?s a two-week run of 1.720 OPS. Bonds hasn?t been alone this month; Jose Cruz, after taking two months off, is hitting again. Cruz has opposite Home/Road splits for PacBell Park. This month, he?s been on the road and hitting, with a 1.068 OPS in July.
Marquis Grissom is playing really well. He has the wonderful stat line of .333/.327/.556. I always enjoy an OBP lower than the batting average. That?s 57 PAs without a walk. Nonetheless, he?s hitting the ball and scoring runs. J. T. Snow is hitting this month and Edgardo Alfonzo, relative to the first three months, is beginning to hit, a little. I said a little. The best news for Giant fans is the return of Rich Aurilia and Ray Durham, minimizing Neifi Perez? playing time.
The pitching staff lost its Woody. Kirk Rueter went on the DL after getting shelled in three straight starts (an ERA in the 14 range). He has a “strained shoulder”, but may be back by the end of the month. Jason Schmidt started the All-Star game and is second in the league in ERA with a 2.37 mark. He?s going very deep into games completing three of his last five and going 7 and 8 innings in the last two. That really saves the bullpen and several hairs on Alou?s head ? sort of. Twenty-one year old Jerome Williams has been incredible since the last update. He is 4-0 with a 0.60 ERA. Alou is working him pretty hard, letting him throw a 127-pitch CG against the Cardinals with a 5-1 lead. The Giants bullpen is pretty good, so this type of exercise is pointless - oh, except to make a man (or grocery bagger) out of Williams. His other starts have been in the 90-100 pitch count range, so Alou probably was just letting the kid enjoy himself, but keep an eye on it. With Rueter on the DL, Damian Moss needs to improve his outings. He and the rest of the back end of the rotation clan, Foppert, Powell, Brower, are going to be 5 innings and out while Joe Nathan, Felix Rodriguez, Chad Zerbe and Tim Worrell carry the last innings home. Brower pitched well in the ?pen, but not so much in his starts.
Colorado	July 17-20
Two weeks passed and the Arizona Diamondbacks are right where they were. They matched the Giants game-for-game, but didn?t gain when they had the chance face-to-face. Randy Johnson is expected back soon, and Curt Schilling came back and got roughed up by the Giants. I don?t know if it is going to be necessary. Brandon Webb has been glossed over by the media for the better story(?) of Dontrelle Willis, but Webb?s numbers are better than Willis? (Remember your park factors, kids!). Webb is flying below the radar everywhere but here. He didn?t get a sniff for the All-Star team. Of course, Dusty Baker may think that “no one can be an all-star in three months”, which would explain his ignoring of media-darling Willis. Miguel Batista hasn?t let up, but struggled against the Giants. Andrew Good lowered his ERA considerably during the Diamondbacks win streak, but has since seen it balloon and has been bumped from the rotation. He hasn?t fared well coming out of the bullpen yet. The rest of the bullpen has looked good. Matt Mantei is off the DL, however briefly. Jose Valverde is still performing very well (1.00 ERA).
On May 3, Steve Finley was a washed-up 38-year old centerfielder hitting .231/.304/.385. He has ripped the cover off the ball since then:
Did he start eating Froot Loops for breakfast everyday?
Shea Hillenbrand is posting the “Vörös? Law” stint with the Diamondbacks, hitting .400/.436/.800 in July ? just 55 PAs. Shea had a nasty streak July 6-8, going 10 for 12 with 3 doubles and 3 home runs. His OPS jumped from .779 to 1.127. Luis Gonzalez is pacing himself ? not bad, but not great so far this month.
Tony Womack went down with a sprained knee on June 29, and with Craig Counsell back, and Alex Cintron and Matt Kata playing well, the Diamondbacks might want to send Vito over to pay Tony a visit. Lyle Overbay?s playing time is getting squeezed by Hillenbrand, Cintron, Counsell and Kata. There are just more bats than infield positions.
At San Diego July 17-20
The Los Angeles Dodgers crashed and burned the last two weeks. The team?s offense is terrible and the losses of Fred McGriff and Brian Jordan haven?t helped at all. The Dodgers have had dominant pitching through the first half. That pitching faltered slightly, but with an offense as anemic as the Dodgers, that made for a long losing streak.
Odalis Perez pitched well this month, posting a 2.77 ERA. Kaz Ishii also continues to pitch well (July 3.18 ERA). Andy Ashby has been about as bad as you would expect. He has made a handful of serviceable starts ? 5 innings, two runs allowed, but not enough to get his ERA to a respectable mark. Hideo Nomo had two bad starts, but is still 5th in the league in ERA with a 2.97 mark. Kevin Brown strained an abdominal muscle and has been on the DL since July 4, and it hasn?t been determined when he will return. But at least it got Dontrelle Willis onto the All-Star roster, where he belonged (if you believe 3 months can make you a star, or at least a star enough to want to be seen by the fans in the fans? game and I do). Mota and Quantrill continue to pitch very well, with Mota not allowing a run this month yet. Gagne was having a good month until he coughed up the Giants home-field advantage in the World Series by allowing three runs in the All-Star Game. Just so Giant fans know the Dodger did it on purpose.
The Dodger offense is terrible ? still. So they made a trade and signed a Hall of Famer. The Dodgers traded three minor leaguers to the Mets for Jeromy Burnitz and his 18 home runs. Burnitz has been leaps and bounds above last year, and may help the Dodgers by playing center field. Much of that will depend on Burnitz not reverting to his old batting approach. The Dodgers also signed Rickey Henderson. Yes, that one, not Rickey, Jr. Henderson should replace Dave Roberts, who is on the DL again with a strained hamstring, in the leadoff spot and play left field. The Dodgers play four automatic outs: Izturis, Cora, Beltre and a pitcher. As long as they do that, they will not win very often. What?s worse is the fact that Jim Tracy, who needs to get a clue from Dick, has been hitting Izturis and Cora 1-2 in the batting order. With McGriff out, the Dodgers are playing LoDuca at first and using Dave Ross at catcher.
I don?t know if Henderson and Burnitz can save the Dodgers, but it isn?t likely.
St. Louis		July 17-20
The Colorado Rockies scored a lot in July. What is the record for hits in a month? Todd Helton has 22 (13 XBH) in 13 games and he is hitting the ball hard and far. Helton is slugging 1.000 so far this month. I don?t think he can keep that up. Preston Wilson is having a spectacular season. He had another good two weeks and deserves a little more recognition. Unfortunately for him, Gary Sheffield and Albert Pujols are also having big years. Oh, and Jim Edmonds. And that Bonds guy. Larry Walker isn?t having a big month, but decent. Mark Bellhorn is hitting with more playing time than he got in Chicago ? a trade the Cubs will regret. I even heard Skip Caray lament the Cubs 3B situation today. Gee, too bad they dumped Bellhorn.
The Rockie pitching had rebounded. Shawn Chacon then went on the DL. The Rockies recalled Denny Stark from the 60-day DL, and he pitched well in three starts, although he avoided any decisions. Jason Jennings continues to pitch well. He has actually had more success at home lately than on the road, allowing 0 and 2 runs in his two home starts, and 5 and 6 runs in his two road starts since the last update. Darren Oliver can flat out hit. He?s starting to pitch pretty well too. The bad news is the shellacking that Denny Neagle and Aaron Cook are getting. The Rockies traded catcher Ben Petrick to the Tigers for Adam Bernero. Hopefully, Bernero will get a chance to pitch. With Cook?s struggles, I hope so.
At San Francisco July 27-29
The San Diego Padres are playing better. The pitching has been excellent. Thus far, the team has a 3.18 ERA in 13 games. Only Jake Peavy has struggled this month, and he?s been terrible. He did face the Giants and Diamondbacks, so it wasn?t giving up 10 runs to the Mets or anything. Since my last update where I proffered that he had a tired arm, he also tossed 8 shutout innings at the Mariners, so who knows. Adam Eaton has made three starts and posted a 1.35 ERA. Brian Lawrence and Kevin Jarvis are both below 3.00 ERAs this month. This is more of the pitching the Padres were hoping to get at the season onset. Eaton would have thrown more, but he hit Albert Pujols with a sloppy curveball that wouldn?t have broken a window, and got ejected by an over-zealous umpire. Pujols then started a brawl with Pads catcher Gary Bennett. The bullpen has all been good with the fun re-appearance of Rod “Shooter” Beck. Luther Hackman had to come in after the Pujols brawl and did a good job after Eaton?s ejection. With all the young pitchers, maybe picking the Padres to compete won?t be looked upon as (imagine drinky, drinky motion here).
The bats however are still sluggish. Ryan Klesko is starting to produce, with a nice 1.096 OPS in July. Rondell White?s alarm clock went off and instead of hitting the snooze button, he got up - .544 OPS for him this month. Mark Kotsay is a very good defensive outfielder. That?s about the best thing I can say about his hitting. Sean Burroughs is hitting a little more and so is Mark Loretta. All in all, the offense is matching their opponents OPS-wise, so as long as the pitching keeps a really low ERA, the Pads can stay afloat. I did read that Phil Nevin is in Lake Elsinore starting his rehab. He only has 12 ABs so far, but it looks like he could return later this season.
Arizona July 17-20