Major League Roundup

Poof, April is already in the rear-view mirror. And what a strange month it was; the Rangers are in first place, Scott Podsednik has more stolen bases (14) than the entire Mariners team and nobody can get 2B Ron Belliard out. Ain't baseball great! As we head into May, InsidethePark.com's Ian Levin keeps you updated with his weekly Major League Roundup.

Anaheim Angels: (Record: 15-10, Week: 4-2)
After exploding onto the scene during the Angels' World Series run, Francisco Rodriguez hasn't received as much publicity but he is still dominating the competition. In 13.2 innings he has yet to allow an earned run and has allowed just 11 runners. His 20 strikeouts give him a 13.17 K/9 ratio and a 20/3 K/BB. When he's needed, he will be one of the best closers in baseball. Until then, he's one of the best overall relievers.

Baltimore Orioles: (Record: 12-10, Week: 2-3)
One of the few bright spots for the Orioles this week was Melvin Mora. On the heels of his break-out 2003 campaign, Mora continues to hit. This week was his best week yet in 2004, as he hit .450 with three extra-base hits. He is hitting .360 on the season and if the O's are to make a push for the playoffs, they'll need everything they can get from him.

Boston Red Sox: (Record: 15-9, Week: 3-3)
As all the attention circles around Pedro Martinez and his contract, the other ace on the Red Sox just continues to dominate. On April 28 against the Devil Rays, Curt Schilling posted his best outing of the season. He lasted 7.1 innings and allowed just five hits while striking out eight. Schilling is now 3-1 with a 3.33 ERA on the year, but he is just getting started.

Chicago White Sox: (Record: 15-9, Week: 4-2)
After a slow start, Joe Crede is beginning to show why he has been given every opportunity to succeed. The 26-year old third baseman is hitting just .235 on the season but in this last week he hit .429. He hit two home runs and drove in six while striking out just four times. He got off to a very slow start last year as well, so expect the improved hitting to keep up. He may be on the way to his best season of his career.

Cleveland Indians: (Record: 7-12, Week: 2-4)
In the last seven days, Omar Vizquel has added to his season totals in certain categories and has brought them up to a more respectable level. His home run and two stolen bases are his only ones of the season. He doubled his RBI total from seven to 14. He brought his runs scored total from seven to 12 and he raised his average to .286 with a .389 clip this week. His offensive totals now look as if they belong in the major leagues.

Detroit Tigers: (Record: 13-12, Week: 2-4)
After combining for 40 losses in 2003, Mike Maroth and Jeremy Bonderman are now 6-2 and were 2-0 this week. The two went a combined 14.2 innings and allowed four runs. They allowed 13 hits but only struck out six. The Tigers could not be any more pleased with the improvement of the two, as well as the team as a whole.

Kansas City Royals: (Record: 8-16, Week: 2-5)
In a poor week for the Royals, one of their best offensive performers hit just .238. Ken Harvey managed that line but he also hit two home runs, one coming in a KC win. For the season, Harvey's average is much better at .366 and he has driven in 11. If Mike Sweeney has any more injury problems, Harvey will need to step in and produce.

Minnesota Twins: (Record: 15-9, Week: 3-3)
After battling some injury problems that caused a slow start, Johan Santana appears to be back. He started two games this week and was strong in both. He did not receive a decision in either but he allowed just four runs in 14 innings. Minnesota will need everything they can get from Santana; he is their ace now and down the road.

New York Yankees: (Record: 14-11, Week: 6-0)
When you go 6-0, your closer is sure to be a busy man. Mariano Rivera saved four of the six wins this week, two in each series. He is now up to nine saves and has allowed just one run. If there are any doubters out there, see Yankee-haters, you should know that Rivera is just as good as ever. He will remain one of the elite closers through this season and more.

Oakland Athletics: (Record: 12-13, Week: 2-4)
It took nearly a month, but Erubiel Durazo has shown that he can do more than take a walk. In six games this week he hit .360 with three home runs and nine RBI. Ironically, after seven walks in 15 games, Durazo did not reach via the walk this week. Sure, Billy Beane and company want their players taking walks, but I'm sure they'll accept home runs as well.

Seattle Mariners: (Record: 9-16, Week: 3-3)
It isn't a good week, but it's an improvement. He may not have gotten a win for his performance on April 30, but Freddy Garcia was outstanding yet again. On that day he went eight innings and allowed just one run on four hits. For the season, he has a 2.27 ERA with a 1.150 WHIP. He's had five starts so he should have at least three wins, right? No, his record is 0-1. It's just another example of how dependent wins are on run-support.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays: (Record: 8-15, Week: 1-5)
Sometimes, things don't go the way you expect them. After being swept by the Red Sox and losing the first two to the A's, the D-Rays had to face Tim Hudson. They scored 10 runs in the previous five games, they can't beat Hudson. Well, they went out and scored eight runs to win 8-2. Even on a bad week there is always something that provides a glimmer of hope.

Texas Rangers: (Record: 16-9, Week: 5-1)
For the second straight week, the Rangers won five games and are alone at the top of the AL West. Part of the success can be attributed to the outstanding pitching of R.A. Dickey. Dickey was 2-0 on the week with a 1.80 ERA. On the season he is now 4-1 with a 3.48 ERA. What he is currently doing is impressive, even if it most likely won't last.

Toronto Blue Jays: (Record: 8-17, Week: 2-5)
One pitcher recorded both wins for the Blue Jays this week. That pitcher wasn't Roy Halladay, it was Ted Lilly. In Lilly's first start of the week he was outstanding. He allowed just one run on two hits and two walks in a complete game victory over the Twins. In his second outing however, he allowed five runs in 5.2 innings. Thanks to some run-support (there's that phrase again) he won that game as well. It will take a few more strong outings from Lilly and other members of the Jays' rotation if they are to get back above .500.

Arizona Diamondbacks: (Record: 10-14, Week: 3-3)
Randy Johnson is back. He's not as good as he once was but he is still as intimidating as ever and can dominate the game like no other. He won both of his starts this week while allowing just one run in 12 innings. In those 12 innings he allowed just seven runners and struck out 19. Watch out all opposing batters and birds that just get in the way, the Big Unit is looking strong.

Atlanta Braves: (Record: 12-12, Week: 2-4)
With Javy Lopez leaving Atlanta via free agency, the Braves needed to find a way to fill his offensive shoes and they turned to Johnny Estrada. Estrada never has and never will show the power of Lopez but as he is proving, he can certainly hit for average. On the season he is hitting .319 and this week he posted a .438 clip. One of his strongest assets is his ability to put the bat on the ball. He has struck out just five times on the season, none coming during the last two weeks. If you need a sacrifice fly or need to move a run over, Johnny Estrada will get the job done.

Chicago Cubs: (Record: 14-10, Week: 2-4)
Every week there is a new ace of the Cubs' rotation. That's a testament to how strong, yet inconsistent each pitcher has been. Matt Clement claims the title this week on the heels of allowing one run in eight innings against the Cardinals. Clement allowed just five hits in the game and struck out five. He is now 4-1 on the season with a 1.95 ERA and has allowed 32 runners in 32.1 innings. Can anyone hang on to the ace title for consecutive weeks before Mark Prior returns?

Cincinnati Reds: (Record: 12-12, Week: 1-5)
After a great start, things have not gone so well in Cincy. Just Adam Dunn and Sean Casey have been consistently good. They have struggled with injuries and bad performances. While Danny Graves has saved 10 games, he has also blown three. Ken Griffey Jr. has been relatively healthy but he is hitting just .233 with three home runs. Austin Kearns has another injury and will miss more time. Just when they thought their luck may have been better this year, it took a turn for the worse.

Colorado Rockies: (Record: 11-13, Week: 3-3)
The Rockies played six games this week, all were in Coors Field. Take a guess how many runs were scored. If you guess 85, you're right! The Rockies outscored their opponents 43-42. Jeromy Burnitz, Todd Helton, and Vinny Castilla were solid offensive contributors. Scott Elarton, Jason Jennings, and Shawn Estes got bombed. That's why they're the Rockies.

Florida Marlins: (Record: 15-10, Week: 3-4)
On April 30 in San Francisco, Hee Seop Choi became the sixth visiting player to take a trip into McCovey Cove but that wasn't Choi's only impressive accomplishment of the week. In just 17 at-bats, Choi hit four home runs and posted a 1.000 slugging percentage. His nine home runs on the season are one more than he hit in 202 at-bats in 2003. If he keeps this up, he may just win my "Not technically a rookie but we'll call him a Rookie of the Year" award.

Houston Astros: (Record: 15-9, Week: 4-1)
In his first start since coming off the DL with elbow soreness, Andy Pettitte looked as if he'd never had a problem. Pettitte needed just 74 pitches to throw 6.0 shutout innings against the Pirates. He allowed just two runners and struck out three in the win. If he struggles in his next outing, maybe he should take a trip to the DL before every start, it seems to have worked.

Los Angeles Dodgers: (Record: 15-9, Week: 3-3)
The Dodgers are currently on pace to score 797 runs this season after managing just 574 last season. However, they are also set to allow 736 against 556 last season. Sure, hindsight is 20/20, but what if they didn't trade Kevin Brown? We could be looking at the clear-cut elite team in the National League but instead they're just one of many that can challenge for the title. Not a bad place to be, but it could be much, much better.

Milwaukee Brewers: (Record: 12-13, Week: 2-3)
If someone told you that a catcher hit for the cycle, who would you think it was? I'd guess Jason Kendall because he's one of the few that would be able to leg out a triple. It wasn't Kendall, it was Chad Moeller. Yes, the Chad Moeller that has two career stolen bases and four career triples. Wednesday night against the Reds it all came together and he did the impossible. He was the first Brewer to hit for the cycle since Paul Molitor did so in 1991. I checked with Las Vegas and the over/under on the next cycle from Chad Moeller is 23 years, I'll take the over.

Montreal Expos: (Record: 6-20, Week: 1-6)
Let the battle begin! Even though Rocky Biddle has yet to blow a save in his five opportunities, his job security may be going out the window. Biddle was used in two non-save situations and did not throw very well. In two innings he allowed eight runners and seven runs for an ERA of 31.50. His ERA on the season is now 7.36. His competition for the job has been much stronger. Rookie Chad Cordero has posted a 2.19 ERA and if Biddle continues to struggle, he could take over the role.

New York Mets: (Record: 10-15, Week: 3-3)
When he's not too busy getting into fights with groundskeepers, Karim Garcia plays a solid right field for the New York Mets. Quietly, Garcia is putting up good numbers with a .289 average and four home runs on the season. He has been playing every day since Cliff Floyd went down with a hamstring injury. If he can keep up this solid play, he may remain an everyday player even after Floyd returns.

Philadelphia Phillies: (Record: 11-12, Week: 4-2)
Another position battle may be developing, this time in Philly. Brett Myers has not had a strong start to the season. He has a 7.36 ERA and has allowed nearly two runners per inning. In middle relief, Ryan Madson has been the complete opposite. He has yet to allow a run on the season in 15.2 innings. If Myers continues to struggle, Madson could step right in as the fifth starter.

Pittsburgh Pirates: (Record: 12-11, Week: 4-2)
Jose Mesa, yes that Jose Mesa, has been one of the best closers in baseball thus far. He is a perfect 9-for-9 in save opportunities and has allowed just one run and eight runners in 11.1 innings. If the Pirates were told that he would post a season similar to his 1999 season in which he had a 4.98 ERA and saved 33 games, they would have taken it. Right now he is looking like the 1995 version though, 1.13 ERA and 46 saves. My best guess for the rest of the season, closer to the 1999 version.

San Diego Padres: (Record: 16-10, Week: 6-1)
Brian Giles was hitting .179 for the season before this week began. He started the week by going 0-4, lowering his average to .169..Then he remembered how to hit. During the next six games he had 12 hits in 22 at-bats. Half of those hits went for extra-bases, three being home runs. Thanks to this week in which he hit .545, Giles is now batting a more respectable .258 on the season. That will continue to go up during the course of the season and Giles will repeat as one of the most destructive offensive forces in the National League.

San Francisco Giants: (Record: 12-14, Week: 5-2)
Brian Dallimore made his Major League debut on Thursday but he looked like a veteran at the plate. In his first 14 Major League at-bats, he hit .429 with one grand slam home run and six total RBI. Dallimore has been so impressive that some fans have dropped their "Don't walk Bonds" campaign to take up a new cause; "Pitch to Dallimore."

St. Louis Cardinals: (Record: 13-12, Week: 3-3)
On May 2, Matt Morris knocked heads with Carlos Zambrano. The two dueled for seven scoreless innings when Zambrano left the game and the Chicago bullpen took over. Morris continued on through the ninth but neither team was able to put a run on the board. In the 10th inning, the Cardinals were finally able to score to win the game. Matt Morris threw nine shutout innings, allowing just four hits and a walk. Jason Isringhausen threw one scoreless inning, allowing a hit. Isringhausen got the win. Makes perfect sense, doesn't it?

Stat of the week:

Hee Seop Choi:
.277/.405/.692, 18 hits, 9 HR, 9 singles

That's right, all of Choi's hits are singles or home runs. The player with the second-most home runs without a double is Todd Hollandsworth at four. At least he has just six hits though, four being home runs.

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