— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game
Friday, June 06, 2003
Bi-Weekly Review: A.L. East
The A.L. East through June 4th.
vs AL Central: 44-37 (.543)
vs AL West: 38-34 (.528)
vs National League: 3-7 (.300)
The 3rd and 4th place teams gained ground on the two front runners, creating a 3 team race with the Orioles on the fringe.
Here?s a look at division happenings, dealing with clubs in reverse order in the standings.
Tampa Bay Devil Rays (4-7, 35-50 R-RA)
5/23-5/25 @Ana 3-1; 2-7; 1-6 (Lost 2 of 3);
5/27-5/28 Tex 2-4; 6-4 (Split 2-game series);
5/29-6/01 Ana 1-2; 8-6; 1-6; 4-9 (Lost 3 of 4);
6/03-6/05 @ChC 2-3; 5-2 (Won 1 of 2)
The D-Rays? bullpen has been the best in the A.L. East to this point ? hands up those who thought that would happen.
Tampa Bay 3.59, New York 4.40, Baltimore 4.55, Toronto 5.12, Boston 5.55
New York 3.87, Baltimore 4.84, Toronto 4.94, Boston 5.16, Tampa Bay 6.48
Staff ace Joe Kennedy experienced shoulder tightness in the 1st inning of his May 31stt start and had to leave the game. An MRI revealed inflammation and he has been placed on the DL. The injury is not regarded as serious and Kennedy is likely to return as soon as he?s eligible. Meanwhile, Nick Bierbrodt returns to the worst starting rotation in the league.
Punchless Jason Tyner has been an OBP machine since being recalled on May 9th. 4 of his hits have been doubles and he?s posted a .419 OBP/.517 SLG (11 for 29, with 2 walks). Lou wisely hasn?t given him regular work: Tyner?s productivity won?t last ? he hasn?t hit a homerun in the majors in over 700 AB and 87% of his career hits have been singles.
But a big bat is on the way, though it may take 2 or 3 years to arrive. Tampa Bay chose high-schooler Delmon Young, brother of Tigers "star" Dmitri Young 1st overall in the draft. Already listed at 6?3" 205, Young the younger is destined for a LF/RF/1B/DH type career. His ability to make contact might be the difference between a Greg Vaughn and Manny Ramirez-type career ? ball fans in Rayland will be watching with interest. Baldelli, Young and Crawford could be a decent outfield someday.
Baltimore Orioles (7-4, 78-45 R-RA)
Facing the soft underbelly of the A.L. West, The O?s more than held their own.
5/23-5/35 @Tex 3-5; 10-3; 13-10 (Won 2 of 3);
5/27-5/28 Ana 12-4; 6-2 (Swept 2-game series);
5/29-6/01 Tex 4-8; 8-1; 7-1; 5-4 (Won 3 of 4);
6/03-6/05 @Hou 6-11; 4-6 (Lost 2)
Although beginning the season as the 4th outfielder/backup shortstop, Melvin Mora has been the team?s best player this year. He put up a March/April of .294/.438/627 in just over 60 PA and .379/.458/.563 in about 120 PA in May. His numbers will come down, but he?ll be in the running for team MVP honors (22 extra-base hits in 162 AB so far), Mora?s performance meant an abrupt departure for one of the top Oriole performers of 2002, Gary Matthews Jr. Little Sarge has washed up on Padre shores.
Jerry Hairston Jr. has finally become the leadoff-type hitter everyone had been predicting for years. On May 20th, he broke his right foot on an awkward swing. Surgery was required, which involved placing a titanium screw in his foot. Hairston is aiming for a mid-August return to the lineup. The Orioles vaunted minor league system came to the rescue in the form of Brian Roberts. Roberts, prematurely given the shortstop job in 2001, arrived with a bang ? he made a big splash with 2 slams after his recall to fill in for the injured Hairston. This was all the more surprising because Roberts had hit only 3 previous big league homeruns, and didn?t hit a dinger in 178 AB in AAA this year (though he posted a useful .315/.399/.401). The middle infielder has 2.5 months to show he deserves to play everyday.
Rob Deer clone Jack Cust?s career is in neutral. He had major league coffee for three days, during which the Orioles didn?t actually allow him onto the field. Stat-heads must be concerned about his lack of production in his third season at AAA (.260/.367/.422, only 3 homeruns in 169 AB, 51 K/48W).
The Orioles went the distance with 2002 first rounder Adam Loewen before the young lefty from Surrey, British Columbia agreed to terms. The dealmaker was a spot on the 40-man roster. Loewen hasn?t compared himself to any established pitcher, but said he idolizes 25-year-old "veteran" Mark Mulder. The start of his pro career will be delayed because of visa requirements (a visa will be granted after he officially signs a contract, which is conditional upon the results of a physical).
Toronto Blue Jays (8-4, 78-60 R-RA)
With the Blue Jays sweeping division rivals home and away, some over-exuberant fans proclaimed a genuine three-way (http://www.battersbox.ca/archives/00000602.shtml#comments_8) pennant race. Those passions have been doused by the St. Louis Cardinals demolition of the visiting Jays.
5/23-5/25 @NYY 6-2; 5-2; 5-3 (Completed 4 game sweep);
5/26-5/29 CWS 11-5; 5-1; 0-8; 2-3 (Split 4-game series);
5/30-6/01 Bos 13-2; 10-7; 11-8 (Swept 3-game series);
6/03-6/05 @StL 5-11; 5-8 (Lost 2 games)
When the #2 offense (Red Sox) visited the #1 offense in the league (Blue Jays) over the weekend, G.M. J.P. Ricciardi likened it to "Arena baseball". That Sunday, Toronto and Boston hit 8 doubles?each.
Quick now, what is the single season major league record for team doubles? If you said 373 you?d be correct: the 1997 Beantowners and the 1930 St. Louis Cardinals share the record, and hold the A.L. and N.L. record respectively (wow ? that many doubles in 154 games with a pitcher in the lineup!). Toronto has notched 166 doubles in 59 games (2.81 per game) and Boston has tallied 150 doubles in 55 games (2.73 per game). For those without calculators, that?s a 456 doubles and 442 doubles pace respectively. One of them is going to own the record after this year.
Frank Catalanotto has excelled in the #2 slot, but recently made a grave error. Not in the field, but with the bat, in the first inning ? he bunted, moving a leadoff double up to third. Catalanotto bunted again the next day, this time in the 8th inning with Toronto up 4-1. That has been it for sacrifice hits to date. If their pitchers can limit their sac hits in inter-league play, the Blue Jays have a great shot at setting the bar for lowest sac hits in a season. The current record is 16, shared by 3 American League clubs (of course): 1994 Orioles (short season), 1998 Tigers and 2000 Yankees. The low for a non-DH league is 29, established by the 2001 Padres.
The Blue Jays offense leads the majors in runs scored with 362 (averaging 6.1 per game). That probably won?t last, since the performance of Frankencatcher (Greg Myers .347/.417/.568, 132 PA and Tom Wilson .309/.379/.491, 124 PA) is very likely to decline and the productive bench players are bound to slump at some point (Berg .304/.341/.481, 85 PA, Bordick .266/,324/.415, 102 PA, Reed Johnson .319/.407/.468, 54 PA).
Leftfielder Shannon Stewart has missed most of the last 10 games with hamstring trouble and now has been DL?ed. A superb leadoff hitter, he has only played 150+ games once in his now 6-plus year big league career. Reed Johnson has filled in capably, playing RF with Catalanotto shifting to left.
The big news around the league was the announcement that the Jays would adopt a 4-man rotation, with Doug Davis playing the swingman role. Word is that some of the pitchers didn?t like the idea of pitching on 3-days? rest semi-regularly (Cory Lidle was certainly among those who put the kibosh on the plan). Ricciardi, Tosca and company quickly scrapped the idea, in favour of a 5-day rotation, with Davis? turn occasionally skipped. Chalk another one up to humankind?s reactionary nature.
New York Yankees (4-7, 51-55 R-RA)
After a blistering start, the Yankees have been losing some close games against tough teams. I don?t think this down cycle will last too long, especially since Jason Giambi?s bat is starting to heat up.
5/23-5/25 Tor 2-6; 2-5; 3-5 (Lost last 3 games of 4 game series)
5/26-5/28 Bos 4-8; 11-3; 6-5 (Won 2 of 3)
5/30-6/01 Det 6-0; 2-4; 10-9 (Won 2 of 3)
6/03-6/05 @Cin 3-4; 2-6; (Lost 2)
Controversy is never gone long from Yankeeland. Mr. Steinbrenner would like to see one of his prize acquisitions, Jose Contreras, get a chance to start on a regular basis. Joe Torre favors Jeff Weaver. But when Weaver continued to struggle and Contreras shut down the Tigers, Torre seemed to have little choice but to send Weaver to the pen. Score another one for Boss George.
Roger Clemens had two shots at win #300, the first against his former team and the other against the worst team in the league. His composite line for the two tries for #300: 11.2 IP 17 hits, 14 runs, 12 earned, 1 HR, 3 Walks, and 15 strikeouts. Torre left him in far too long against Boston: Clemens threw 133 pitches, the most since his 135 pitches on May 20th, 2001.
Derek Jeter was named team captain, the first since Don Mattingly retired after 1995. However, the Yankees didn?t snap out of their funk ? losing their first two in Cincinnati.
Boss George complained that the Red Sox? inter-league schedule is easier than his clubs. The Sox play the Pirates and Brewers, but the Yankees get the Piazza-less Mets for 2 series. Advantage Red Sox, but nothing that a 40 million-dollar edge in payroll can?t overcome.
Boston Red Sox (5-6, 77-73 R-RA):
Red Sox Nation had a horrible time on the field. Losses piled up (including 5 of 6 to A.L. East rivals), Pedro is out indefinitely, starters Burkett and Fossum are struggling and the bullpen continued its pyrotechnic ways.
5/23-5/25 Cle 9-2; 12-3; 4-6 (Won 2 out of 3)
5/26-5/28 @NYY 8-4; 3-11; 5-6 (Lost 2 of 3)
5/30-6/01 @Tor 2-13; 7-10; 8-11 (Were Swept in 3-game series)
6/04-6/05 @Pit 11-4; 8-3 (Won 2)
*** Warm bodies needed: regular work provided. Join a winning team! A rich tradition and unique setting await you ***
Rule 5?er Matt White heeded the call, but after 3 shellackings (10 hits, 3 walks, 11 runs in 3.7 innings) the Sox decided he was not the answer and designated him for assignment. He followed Steve Woodard, Bob Howry, Steve Woodard, Jason Shiell and Bruce Chen on the road out of Boston. Next up is Dominican Hector Almonte - 28 IP, 28K/6 W with a 1.73 ERA in 21 relief appearances with the Pawsox this year.
The good news was the trade that brought in a quality young arm in exchange for a third baseman whose production will hardly be missed (if at all). Byung-Hyun Kim was to make his first start in game #1 of a double-header on Wednesday against the Pirates.