I've missed a bunch of days, so this could be a long entry. I'm doing this more for me than for you (to keep up on the baseball activity), so feel free to not read it.
Of course, you've been free to not read all along, but whatever. I feel like a benevolent pope or something when I tell people to do things that could be good for them.
Pedro Martinez struck out eight Indians to lead Boston to victory, as he overcame a first-inning homer to Matt Lawton and was able to wait for the Sox offense to come around on CC Sabathia, who pitched five shutout innings before giving up two runs in the sixth and seventh innings. Sabathia's line looks odd: eight hits, four runs, no walks ... and no strikeouts. Granted, Sabathia's strikeout rate has declined since his rookie year, in 2001, but he still struck out about six and half hitters per nine last year, and it's not like the Red Sox lineup is full of a bunch of high-average slap hitters or anything. Mark Bellhorn and the other guys tend to not be afraid to strike out, but Sabathia couldn't really miss the bats on Thursday.
Atlanta made three more errors on Thursday to help lose to the Padres. Mark DeRosa made his sixth of the year, though he was at short, with Mike Hessman (who also made an error) at third and Jesse Garcia (who also made an error) at second. That infield is a far cry from the Chipper Jones, Rafael Furcal, Marcus Giles offensive terror a lot of us thought we'd be seeing for a number of years. Jones wasn't in the game, either, much less at third base, and Damon Hollins (thank goodness - for a second I thought it was Dave, still hanging on) played in left. Hollins is getting his first big-league action since 1998, when he was with the Dodgers and Braves.
Both starters in the St. Louis-Philadelphia tilt lasted six innings despite giving up a combined eight runs in the first inning. Philadelphia couldn't climb out of the early 5-3 hole, and the Cardinals won a LaRussa special, using five relievers, with only the final one, Jason Isringhausen, pitching for an inning or more. This despite Jeff Suppan lasting six innings. Isringhausen threw 18 pitches, and no one else threw more than nine, so they were probably all available on Friday, too, so LaRussa could pull the same thing if he wanted.
Matt Mantei can't even pitch well in mopup at this point, as he gave up three runs in the eight inning of an 8-3 loss to the Cubs. Five runs would have been a lot for the Cubs to score in the ninth, but eight is obviously much harder. Mopup innings aren't meaningless, and as much time and money as the D'Backs have invested in Mantei, they also need to know when to cut bait. It's time to let him wander the independent league paths.
Livan Hernandez's nine-inning, one-run performance against Colorado lowered his ERA to 2.94. That's pretty good. His opponent, Scott Elarton, gave up two runs in five innings, lowering his ERA all the way to 8.91. That's pretty bad. There's a good reason for Elarton's 0-5 record in this case.
Meanwhile, Vinny Castilla popped his thirteenth double of the year. Castilla is murdering the ball, with a 1200+ OPS at home, and a .509 slugging percentage on the road (I'll be generous to him and not mention his road on-base percentage). He won't maintain that home hitting, mile-high environment or not.
It's a good thing Milton Bradley hit a home run in the fifth inning of the Dodgers's win over the Fish, because he struck out in his four other at-bats. That's funny, because Florida's pitchers only got six whiffs all day. The real offensive star was Shawn Green, who popped his fifth and six round-trippers, turning a decent Kaz Ishii start (6.2 innings, two runs, despite five walks) into his fifth win. Eric Gagne got one out (alas, not a strikeout) for his ninth save.
The homers doomed Dontrelle Willis to a loss for Florida, which is notable, because it was his first of the year. Meaningful or not, getting to May before losing is pretty neat.
Scott Podsednik had two hits and two walks, so I was hopeful, but he disappointed me: no steals. One of the hits was a double, so that reduced one opportunity. Cincinnati ran off a five-run seventh inning to win the game, helped along by some Milwaukee errors. Brooks Kieschnick pitched the last of the seventh and the eighth, giving up a hit and a walk, lowering his ERA to 1.26. Pretty good for an outfielder.
Danny Graves is carrying my fantasy team, as he picked up his twelfth save of the year and got two strikeouts in the process. Graves's twelve saves becomes cooler when you realize the Reds had only won fifteen games at that point.
Al Leiter dropped his ERA to 1.53 with a one-run, eight-inning start against the Giants. Leiter's got no business pitching this well at this age. He debuted (for the Yankees, of course) ten days before I turned six. Leiter had a decent year as a starter in 1988, though he only pitched 14 games, but then didn't have another one until 1995. Since then, though, Leiter's highest ERA was his 4.34 for the Marlins in 1997, which I'm sure he's not too upset about, because he got a ring in the bargain. Florida and Shea Stadium are nice places to pitch, but he's earned his ERAs. He doesn't have a Hall of Fame chance, but whenever he retires (and that could be years from now) he should be remembered as a guy who was among the best at his profession for quite a long period.
It was all the rage last year to jump all over Freddy Garcia, proclaim him to be a disappointment, that he needed to just be considered a decent third starter, and so on. And now he's off to the start of his life. He had a seven-inning, one-run, eight-whiff game against Minnesota, leading Seattle to a 2-1 win, indicative of his overall season: 2.11 ERA, 33 K's and 10 walks in 42.2 innings, 1.8 Support-Neutral Wins Above Replacement (tops in the baseball), 19.9 VORP (tops in baseball for pitchers, and eighth overall). In other words, don't count Garcia out yet.
Speaking of not counting guys out, how about Jose Guillen? He hit his fifth homer of the year, a three-run shot that hightlighted a five-run fifth, leading Anaheim to its sixth straight win. He's hit .328/.398/.529 on the year, good for 12.1 VORP, which is second among AL left-fielders, behind only Manny Ramirez. When you consider the NL, he drops, though, because of that freak group of superhuman left-fielders in the Senior Circuit: Barry Bonds, Adam Dunn, Lance Berkman, Luis Gonzalez. It's a good thing for Guillen that Albert Pujols is a first baseman now.
Moving to Friday, Carlos Zambrano continued to go nuts on the league, throwing a two-hitter against the Rockies in Chicago. He did exactly what he needs to do to succeed: get 18 ground ball outs vs. just 4 fly ball outs. He struck out five batters as well, which is a respectable number. More importantly, though, he didn't walk anybody. That apparent lack of wildness (or perhaps the Colorado propensity to swing early in the count) helped keep Zambrano's pitch count down, so he was able to complete the game with just 97 pitches. You can't underestimate the importance of that last number for a guy who's still just 22.
Zambrano ranks 9th in the majors in pitcher VORP, with 16.7, and fourth in SNWAR, with 1.8 (or perhaps tied for first, with the aforementioned Freddy Garcia).
Mike MacDougal, who's since been sent to the minors, got blasted by the Red Sox, costing the Royals a game as the Sox scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth to take their third straight victory. You can't like Jeremy Affeldt throwing 122 pitches in the game, either, especially since it's not like he pitched especially well: 11 hits and four runs allowed in seven and a third. The runs arne't terrible, but the hits indicate that he was getting knocked around a little. Why you leave a guy who's only marginally effective in the game for so long, especially a 24-year old, is beyond me.
The fact that Wilson Alvarez has continued last year's ridiculous pace is ... well, it's ridiculous. It's astounding. He spun a one-hit, seven inning performance against Pittsburgh, giving up just a single to Chris Stynes (and I mean just; no walks, either), before making way for Guillermo Mota, who pitched a perfect two innings to finish the win in just 2:08. Alvarez threw only 85 pitches, so there's no obvious reason why he came out. It was his first start of the year, so I guess he was just shaking off the rust.
At this point, it's been forgotten that Alvarez was supposed to be a pretty good pitcher back in the day, with a nice minor league track record leading to a 2.95 ERA in his first full season in the majors before he turned semi-mediocre, then started getting hurt. Anyway, he's now a neat story, but even more importantly for the Dodgers, he's a guy who just might give them some brilliant innings this year to push them toward the playoffs in Paul DePodesta's first year as general manager.
Scott Podsednik got on base two more times on Friday with a couple of singles, and with Mike Piazza behind the plate, you know he's running. He did, in fact, steal his 16th base of the year in the seventh inning (you can tell from the box score since he stole it off of Orber Moreno, who threw just 0.1 innings, which came immediately after Tom Glavine's six innings). Podsednik's teammate Lyle Overbay hit two doubles in the game, giving him 15 for the year, which is a pretty nice number. He's OPF 81 for the season, which would break Earl Webb's 1931 record by 14. I think it's safe to say he'll fall off.
Larry Bigbie had a good game on Friday for the Orioles, hitting the game-winning homer in the tenth inning and throwing out an Indian baserunner at third base from his spot in left. Melving Mora made another error, his tenth of the year. He's OPF about 55 of those, which is a pretty astounding number. Also, Brian Roberts stole his 14th base of the year.
Carl Pavano pitched a gem for the Marlins, giving up one run on four hits in eight innings. For a few teams, the Marlins being one of them, it seems like every other day, you look in the paper and a new one of their pitchers has thrown a game like that one. I'm just happy that one of those teams is the one I chose to be a fan of all those years ago.
Anyway, Armando Benitez finished things out for his twelfth save of the year, lowering his ERA to 0.46 in the process. Benitez is pitching very well, but it's a measure of how important pitching really well over a number of innings really adds up to value that he's 37th in VORP for pitchers.
On the offensive side for the Marlins, Hee Seop Choi hit his first triple of the year and, in fact, his first major league triple. Mike Lowell, meanwhile, popped two homers, both on Jake Peavy, who's otherwise having a very nice year, giving him nine on the year. Lowell's thirty, and he's not really a superstar, so he's probably nearing the end of a nice little run of good play that started in 2000, a year after he was liberated from the Yankee organization. In other words, that four-year contract he signed this past December was probably a bad idea for the Marlins.
In a happy turn of events for lots of baseball fans, the Yankees couldn't manage an extra-base hit off of the always-infuriating Ryan Franklin or his bullpen mates, falling 6-2, as Jon Lieber had himself a bit of an ugly little game, giving up six runs in six innings. It's always nice when the Yankees struggle, but it's especially nice when two of my least favorite Bombers, Jason Giambi and Jorge Posada, each go 0-4.
A theme of this blog is getting to be ridiculous old guys. Steve Finley is a prime example. I went on at length about him the other day, but he popped his ninth bomb of the year for the only D'Back run in a loss to the Phillies. Four of Arizona's six hits went for extra bases, but a combination of just one walk and not many singles conspired to keep Arizona off the scoreboard. Randy Johnson struck out ten in six and a third, but gave up a couple of runs, one on a Jim Thome's 10th homer, and thus took the loss, more due to Vicente Padilla than anything he did wrong.
John Lackey and Mark Hendrickson duelled in SoCal, but Lackey was a little better, giving up just three hits and a walk in nine innings for no runs, earning his third win of the year. Pitch conservation is another theme of the blog, and it took Lackey 107 pitches to complete his game, which is a perfectly good number for a guy on his game, not throwing too many high stress, runners-on-base pitches.
That carries me through Friday, which means that I'll only be five days behind tomorrow. Rather than catch up all in one post (dumb), I'll post this now, then keep posting whatever I have as I catch up to it. Maybe it'll be less coherent, but I want to keep doing this, and I don't want to have 25,000 word posts, so this seems like a good compromise.
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