— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game
Saturday, August 09, 2003
Bi-Weekly Review: N.L. West
The N.L. West through August 8th.
Vs. East: 42-59
I noted at the All-Star Break: “There are two weeks of division play coming up, so the wheat may separate from the sand.”
And the Giants proceeded to add 6 games to their lead.
San Francisco took advantage of the intra-division play, going 10-1. While much ado is being made about the Braves, the Giants have every bit of the lead the Braves do.
The Giants also went and added one of the season?s best pitchers from the American League, trading Damian Moss and Kurt Ainsworth to the Orioles for Sidney Ponson. Ponson was excellent in his first Giant start, keeping up the performance he had in the AL. In my opinion, the Ponson trade was as much about the NL playoffs as the regular season. Well, that?s not true ? it had to be all about the playoffs. And Schmidt, Ponson, Rueter/Williams are going to be very tough in the playoffs. The loss of Robb Nen as a “problem” has been more than mitigated ? it has been eradicated.
The last three weeks have seen Marquis Grissom begin to show signs of Marquis Grissom. His OPS is down to .800, a level it hasn?t seen since May 21. Edgardo Alfonzo, a huge disappointment this season, posted a .838 OPS in July, so he is showing signs of being the player the Giants wanted. When a player is going as poorly as Alfonzo has been, getting a hit in 12 of 15 games is something. With an 11-game lead and 6 weeks to play, it probably doesn?t matter if Alfonzo gets hot, but it will soothe the Giant faithful.
Barry Bonds is unreal. I really wish people would understand that Barry Bonds is the equivalent of Ted Williams. I mean Ted Freakin? Williams. His hitting is astounding. His OBP is over .500 and his SLG is over .700. All that in a park that severely decreases hitting stats. I watch Giant games just for his PAs.
Rich Aurilia just got back and was hitting pretty well, and then had an emergency appendectomy and is sidelined for three or four weeks. That means another month of Niefi Perez ? maybe 11 games isn?t enough. Jim Brower has been outstanding in his move to the rotation. The bullpen has remained steady, with Nathan and Rodriguez setting Worrell up nicely.
This division is just about wrapped up, and the Giants need to start getting everyone healthy for the post-season. If anyone can score me tickets, let me know.
Philadelphia August 8-10
The Arizona Diamondbacks came back from the dead ? in the sense they are not going to be an embarrassment. They are in the wildcard chase, but really aren?t likely to win that either. They have positioned themselves very well, considering they haven?t had Randy Johnson nor a full season of Curt Schilling. Brandon Webb has been so good, he?s probably the second best “hidden” rookie in the league (Jason Phillips is probably the best ? everyone: “who?” See?).
Johnson has had three excellent outings and one poor outing. Schilling has pitched very well and I expect him to win the ERA title. Webb is just sneaky good. Miguel Batista is having a career year. Oscar Villareal gets some disdain from the only Snakes fan I know, but he has given up just one run since the ASB in 11 outings. Mantei has pitched well too. The Snakes pitching, if Batista doesn?t turn back into a pumpkin, should keep them in the wild card hunt. Someone who hasn?t been good is Mike Myers ? 5.1 IP; 3 home runs.
Luis Gonzalez has great numbers ? a nice .955 OPS. That?s a very good year, and would be one of the leaders at his position, if he played a non-Barry Bonds position, that is. He?s still been an excellent player. Steve Finley got really hot after I bad-mouthed him in May and raised his OPS to .976 the second game after the ASB, but has dropped 70 points in the last two weeks. It?s hard to tell where he will go. Stupid aliens. Shea Hillenbrand has kept up his remarkable season. The trade of Kim hasn?t been as damaging because the pitching has been good and Hillenbrand has been very good. The Dbacks even had the good sense to dump Tony Womack.
NY Mets August 8-10
The Los Angeles Dodgers tried to make a run by trading for Jeromy Burnitz and signing Rickey Henderson. Didn?t help. It stabilized the lineup a little, but really didn?t get the run scoring up. They traded for Robin Ventura. Ventura is going to play first base mostly so they can keep Beltre?s bat in the lineup? Next they fired hitting coach Jack Clark. Evidently Clark?s teachings weren?t cutting it. George Hendrick took over for Clark and the Dodgers promptly won a couple of games. I don?t know if the Dodgers have a plan past this season. It seems they noticed they have pitchers have great seasons and want to capitalize on that by making the playoffs. It just isn?t coming together with the collection of offensive players they have assembled. I mean, Burnitz, Ventura and Henderson were on the Mets recently, and that doesn?t seem to be the path one would want to take. Playing Beltre, Izturis and Cora really suck the “O” out of offense. There isn?t a Dodger with 30 PAs that has an OPS over .800. I know Dodger Stadium is a pitchers? park, but that?s a truckload of suck too. And I apologize for not reporting anything new. It should be noted that Shawn Green has 40 doubles. He has 50 games to get 20 more (pace = 57). One good week, and Green gets 60+ doubles. I happen to think that?s cool. Everyone wonders where his home runs went ? they are falling just short and are two-baggers.
The Dodgers only used 12 pitchers in July and one pitched just 4 innings. Kevin Brown has allowed 4 ER in 26.2 IP since the ASB. That?s a 1.35 ERA. He went 1-1 with two NDs. The Dodger offense scored 9 runs in those four starts. Nice 2.25 runs per game of support. Since the ASG, Eric Gagne has pitched 9.2 innings and allowed 2 hits. He has allowed 3 ER in 10 weeks. Hideo Nomo has baffled hitters. I don?t know who the Dodgers have to get, but were I the Dodgers, I would have worked harder on landing a big bat at the break. Ventura is nice, but how about getting Richie Sexson?
Cubs August 8-10
The Colorado Rockies really aren?t too bad. They need to get settled, but really have a potential star in Mark Bellhorn. The outfield is very, very good if Walker can stay healthy. Sure, Jay Payton doesn?t hit a ton, but he?s an outstanding fielder. That’s a lot of defense in Coors and probably is a big reason for their success at home. I always liked Chris Stynes, ever since watching him play as a Knoxville Smokie at Bill Meyer Stadium. If the Rockies could stabilize the infield with Stynes at second, Bellhorn at third and Juan Uribe at short, the Rockies may start to contend. While Hutcheson is saying the Rocks can?t climb over a handful of teams to get the wild card this season, he?s just wrong. The Rocks could catch the Snakes and Dodgers in abut three days. That really just makes them behind the Phillies/Marlins with any difficulty, and those teams play each other and one will eliminate the other. I?d enjoy it, because Todd Helton can flat out rake. He?s just a sweet swinger, and has a nice glove. Is there a better first baseman?
On the hill, Jason Jennings, Shawn Chacon and Darren Oliver make a nice rotation. Give the Rockies a road win, and they can take a short series from anybody. The Rockies have called up Taiwanese pitcher Chin-hui Tsao to start. He hasn?t pitched poorly, with two good games and one not so good. He allowed just two hits and one run against the Phillies on August 6. He seems to be adjusting nicely to the bigs. He has allowed a leadoff home run in two of his three starts (Eric Young and Marlon Byrd). Adam Bernero, picked up from the Tigers for Ben Petrick, has pitched well, with a 1.74 ERA in 10 IP. Hey, it?s a start and he?s plenty young.
The Rockies should compete next year, and might claw their way back this year.
Pittsburgh August 8-10
The San Diego Padres are not going to contend. Nor next year. Some publications like to pick the Padres, but I just don?t see it without an infusion of talent. It looks to me like Ryan Klesko?s patented hot dog swing has taken its toll on his back, and decreased his effectiveness. After watching Xavier Nady for a bit, I don?t see him as a long-term starter. Phil Nevin coming back will help, but it?s a heavy load to carry. Sean Burroughs hasn?t made much progress, although there is some. He is hitting .280, but with an average (minus) walk rate and very little power. He is just 22, which, now that I look at it, is pretty impressive. He?s probably still two years (or more) away from stardom. There?s lots of talk about getting Brian Giles, who would help every MLB team, so maybe the Pads: 1. are trying, and 2. understand which players are actually valuable. It?s hard to tell.
The last three weeks have seen the Padres play much better than they did before the ASB. Phil Nevin is back, as he said he would be and playing pretty well. It?s just 50 PAs, but he has an .809 OPS and 3 home runs. Ryan Klesko is having a “not very good year,” and is still playing like an average 1B. He is playing as well as Sean Casey ? for what it?s worth.
Mark Kotsay is one of my favorite players ? no, he can?t hit much, but he is an excellent fielder. Technically and statistically.
Rod Beck is back and is pitching really well. He has 15 saves and an ERA of 1.99. Pretty good. With the Tigers duo of Jeremy Bonderman and Mike Maroth getting all the press, Brian Lawrence is quietly sneaking up on Brian Kingman. Lawrence was supposed to break out this year and just hasn?t gotten over the hump. The last three weeks have shown what Lawrence has been all season ? some really good outings, and some really not good outings. Adam Eaton and Jake Peavy have shown the same pattern. Lawrence is 27, while Eaton is 25 and Peavy is 22. Oliver Perez has also shown a good deal of promise the last month. There is a future there, but it probably is 2005-06.
Cincinnati August 8-10