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— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game
Wednesday, May 26, 2004
The N.L. East through May 24th.
Standings through May 19, 2003
While it is more typical for the Atlanta Braves to be 30-14 at this point in the season, it isn’t panic time yet.
Standings through May 19, 2001
The Braves’ personnel is different – they can’t wait for the pitching to kick in – they simply don’t have the same talent they did in 2001 on the hill. Mike Hampton has posted back-to-back good outings, lowering his ERA from 7.41 to 5.64. Still not great, but getting better.
The injury bug has primarily missed the Braves for a decade, and this season seems to have the Braves constantly scrambling to fill slots. Now Marcus Giles is out for six to eight weeks with a broken collarbone. Giles is a fierce hitter and a good defender. The Braves will be hurt on both sides of the ball. With Rafael Furcal, Giles, Chipper Jones and JD Drew all missing time due to injury, the Braves have been forced to play a ton of rookies. With Adam LaRoche (0.636 OPS) and Johnny Estrada (0.875) already in the lineup every day, the Braves have found DeWayne Wise (0.661) and Wilson Betemit (0.412) and Jesse Garcia (0.601) and Nick Green (1.004!) gobbling up plate appearances. It doesn’t help that "veteran" Mark DeRosa is posting a 0.543 OPS.
JD Drew has been very productive. He has been my pick for "break-out player of the year". Andruw Jones has been streaky, but he is hitting the ball well, and has good walk rates.
Jones has slipped considerably defensively:
Regardless of your faith in ZR, that’s a disturbing trend. If Jones were actually old, rather than 27, this might be expected. I expect this year’s ZR to increase as the sample size does, but it’s a pretty poor showing to date.
Horacio Ramirez has the second best ERA in the majors at 2.04. And is 2-3. That’s no fun. He is another Brave starter that is an outstanding fielder. The rest of the Braves rotation has been terrible – everyone well over 4. Cox and Mazzone have cobbled together some truly awful relievers and are generating some good bullpen work. This year it is Kevin "Groundball" Gryboski posting a 1 ERA.
With the injuries, the Braves have already called up most of their AAA team – so they have to hope for health from here on out.
The World Champion Florida Marlins have been solid. The starting pitching has been 60% good, with Brad Penny leading the way (ERA 2.10). The Fish have given 8 starts to Darren Oliver and he has gotten his brains beat in. They may have to pull the plug on him sooner rather than later if they want to stay in the race.
They have gotten fantastic bullpen work from their closer, Armando Benitez. Benitez has thrown 25.1 innings and has a 0.36 ERA, with 16 saves.
The Fish have excelled at the dish.
Juan Pierre is hitting way over his head. Of course, he’s 26, so this could be his peak. Hee Seop Choi is being given a chance to play every day and he has responded with lots of walks and lots of power. Miguel Cabrera is showing everyone he is the real deal, and Mike Lowell is earning his pay. One thing that should help the Marlins over the next few weeks is the absence of Wil Cordero. Now if manager Jack McKeon could find someone to take Jeff Conine’s PAs, he’d be in good shape.
The guy the Marlins have tearing the cover off the ball in the minors, Joe Dillon, is also playing third base. Dillon mashed the ball at Carolina (AA) and got promoted to Albuquerque, the Isotopes, and he’s still mashing the ball. He is 29, so he’s not a prospect or anything, but he can probably hit.
The young players the Marlins have should keep them in the hunt – particularly if Juan Pierre can continue to play as well as he has been.
The Expos are not good. Which is a shame because they have a handful of quality players: Jose Vidro, Brad Wilkerson, Brian Schneider, Carl Everett. The pitching staff is certainly fun – Livan Hernandez, Claudio Vargas, Zach Day, Tomo Ohka and Tony Armas (when he isn’t injured).
Ron Calloway is having a season for the decade – 43 AB, .070/.089/.070.
The best news for the Expos is a permanent home. The Commissioner promises a site selection by "mid-July". It sounds like a good way to distract fans from another tie All-Star Game.
My brother is an Expos fan. Maybe a new home will convince him to move to said town and become the crazy fan every team has.
The front-runner, today, is Dulles, Virginia. They have a big airport, a bunch of hotels and a fancy shopping center. The Washington Post reveals that the investment group is offering "more than a ballpark!"
Regardless of what the season holds for the Expos, a resolution to their drifting and the release from the MLB Owners as owners is going to be a big positive.
The Phillies’ new park is being talked up as a big hitters’ park. Let me help – sample size, kiddies. There’s no practical way to tell how the park impacts hitting after 20 games. No matter which way the park has been playing, the weather and opponents and just player slumps over 20 games means nothing can be defined about the park yet. Of course, the park could be exhibiting its true characteristics right, now, but it may not.
The Phillies are having injury problems. Jim Thome and Billy Wagner are out for a while. Of course, the good news is that Placido Polanco is also out, allowing Chase Utley to continue playing. Utley has homered in three straight games.
The Phillies success to date is largely due to the rebounding Pat Burrell. After stinking up the universe in 2003, Burrell is back to being "Pat the Bat". This week, the Phils get a two-game set with the Mets – who are Burrell’s favorite opponent. Burrell is hitting .286/.391/.628 in 200+ PAs over the last three seasons. Burrell is listd as questionable for the series, but with the way he bludgeons all the Met starters, he may drag himself to the park.
The Phillies’ rotation has been sketchy. Randy Wolf has pitched well, but has had a bout of elbow tendinitis. He expects to make his start after being bumped once. The other starters are hovering around 4.00 ERAs. Eric Milton, who was damaged goods, has gone 5-0, while posting the worst ERA of the Phils starters (4.47).
The Phils have gotten a great performance from rookie Ryan Madson. Madson has made 15 appearances and thus far has an ERA of 1.00. He is 23, 6 foot 6 inches and a very bright spot in the Phillies system. A season in long relief should be just the thing to groom him toward a successful career.
The Philly fan’s hopes have started well. Even with injuries to stars, the Phils have managed to be on top of the division at the first turn. Pat Burrell has rebounded, and when he’s pitched, Billy Wagner has pitched well. That’s a big relief after last season’s late-inning shenanigans. Then again, you can see the 2001 standings at the top of this column…
The Mets could be more mediocre, but I’m not sure how. They have lived with some fantastic starting pitching and a wretched offense. Tom Glavine, Al Leiter and Steve Trachsel have been outstanding, posting a collective ERA near 2.5. Glavine has returned to his old self, and a little more, nearly throwing the Mets first no-hitter. Leiter pitched well until his last outing after which he went on the DL with shoulder problems. Trachsel has been the same "Steady Eddie" since his minor league stint a few years back.
Unfortunately, the fourth and fifth slots haven’t been very kind. Tyler Yates was given the fourth slot after a good Spring Training. Rick Peterson is learning that he shouldn’t make personnel decisions based on 20 IP. Yates hasn’t pitched well, and appears to have some issues with pitch selection. He made a brief trip to the minors, but when Leiter was disabled, Yates came right back up. The Mets don’t have a solution to the problem yet.
Braden Looper has been very good, with a 0.76 ERA in 24 innings. He isn’t getting many saves due to a lack of save opportunities, but he’s pitching very well.
One bit of comedic relief was the two starts by James Baldwin. Baldwin got his head ripped off in two starts and was designated for assignment.
Cliff Floyd got injured. Yes, that’s news. Mike Piazza is not good around first base – even for a team that had Mo Vaughn play there. What’s next? Am I going to tell you Mike Cameron strikes out a lot? Oh, he does. But he’s silky smooth in centerfield.
The Mets have had a few surprises. Danny Garcia, the rookie replacement for Jose Reyes, has played well, both offensively (.750) and defensively. The role players, Shane Spencer, Eric Valent, Karim Garcia, and Todd Zeile have filled in and played well.
Kazuo Matsui has been solid offensively. He already has 16 doubles, 5 home runs (all leading off a game), and 21 walks. He is destroying LHP. Okay, the NL shortstops don’t hit very much, but Matsui is third in OPS (0.772), behind perennial league-leader Jack Wilson. Matsui seems to be adjusting with the bat.
Matsui’s fielding is another story. The propaganda was that he was a "gold glove shortstop". Well, he’s not good on this side of the big pond. He has limited range in either direction, and he likes to circle the ball. His arm is average, or worse. He already has nine errors, although some of those are due to throwing at an inept first baseman.
Oh, and he isn’t nearly as fast as Ichiro.
The Mets sit at .500. The pitching has bounced back. Jose Reyes’ hamstring is nearly healed. Floyd and Piazza are hitting. Jason Phillips has regained his stroke. Are three starters enough? Without something happening, the Mets are where they can hope to end up - .500.
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