Major League Roundup

Summer is upon us and baseball is in full swing. Ian Levin catches you up on the latest news around the bigs, as he does every week here at, in another edition of the Major League Roundup.

Anaheim Angels: (Record: 35-27, Week: 2-4)
It has taken a little while for him to adjust to his new home, but after two months, Kelvim Escobar is showing to be the pitcher the Angels had hoped they were getting when they signed him during the winter. Escobar has pitched better each month, sealing it off with two excellent starts this past week. Even though he did not get a decision in either one, he allowed just two runs on nine hits and two walks in 15 innings. He now has a 3.27 ERA on the season and is pitching like the team ace.

Baltimore Orioles: (Record: 27-31, Week: 2-4)
Sometimes being in the right place at the right time is all you need, just ask John Parrish. Overall, he is posting a respectable season, but this week was his best, or luckiest, yet. In just 3.2 innings over three games, Parrish won two games! Entering this season, he had won just three times in 38 career games. This is more proof that wins, especially for a reliever, are completely random and not an accurate judge of talent and performance.

Boston Red Sox: (Record: 37-25, Week: 4-2)
Pedro Martinez has not pitched as well this year as we have seen from him in the past but this week he showed us that he still has it. In two starts covering 15 innings, Martinez allowed just one run on nine hits and three walks. Even though the Red Sox put up just five runs between the two games, they won both and Martinez got the decision in both. When he is throwing well, he is still among the best pitchers in the game.

Chicago White Sox: (Record: 33-26, Week: 3-2)
Over the past week, as he has been doing throughout the season, Frank Thomas has been crushing opposing pitchers. In 21 at-bats, "The Big Hurt" had seven hits, including four home runs. He scored six times and drove in seven while walking three times. In typical Frank Thomas style, he also had three walks and struck out four times. After a few down years, he is definitely back.

Cleveland Indians: (Record: 29-31, Week: 4-2)
The owner of one of the best names in baseball, Coco Crisp is also the owner of one of the best all-around weeks these last seven days. In 19 at-bats, Crisp managed to double his season home run total and nearly double his RBI total while hitting .421 and stealing two bases. Maybe this is the start he needed to get more playing time so that we can hear the name Coco Crisp more often.

Detroit Tigers: (Record: 29-33, Week: 4-2)
Carlos Guillen just keeps on going and still can't get any recognition. Virtually unknown outside of Seattle and Detroit, Guillen has been one of the best shortstops in baseball all season and no one knows it. Guillen's .320 average and two home runs on the week give him 10 homers, 40 RBI, 47 runs, and a .325 average on the year. Those look like All-Star numbers but sadly he might not make it.

Kansas City Royals: (Record: 23-37, Week: 3-3)
Zack Greinke is just 20 years old but he has been pitching as if he were a 20-year veteran. Greinke is often compared to Greg Maddux in terms of stuff and preparation and he has been living up to the hype thus far. He is just 1-2 on the season in his five starts but sports a 2.73 ERA and has walked just six in 33 innings. As he gets more experienced he will be able to go deeper into games and improve the rate that he picks up decisions. He has some competition but he truly may be the next great pitcher in the American League.

Minnesota Twins: (Record: 34-28, Week: 4-2)
The Twins were expecting great things from Johan Santana this season but his inconsistency has been the only thing he has maintained. Santana has rarely had solid back-to-back outings but this week he may have a chance. In his start last week, he lasted seven innings and allowed just one run on six hits while striking out 10. He goes against the struggling Expos next and with a strong start, he may be ready to go on a nice hot streak.

New York Yankees: (Record: 40-21, Week: 5-1)
Although few would complain about the performance of Javier Vazquez this season, it is not exactly what many expected. His 3.43 ERA is solid but not quite the sub-3.00 that the Yankees wanted. At least it isn't there yet… Vazquez has been outstanding in June with a 2.05 ERA and a 1.80 ERA over his last two starts. His strikeout numbers are looking stronger and his command is improving. If he is finding his groove, he is easily one of the best pitchers in the American League.

Oakland Athletics: (Record: 37-24, Week: 6-0)
Erubiel Durazo falls into the Carlos Guillen category of very solid players that don't get the recognition they deserve. Durazo has been especially quiet this year yet his production is up to his usual level. Durazo hit .526 last week with two home runs, seven RBI, and nine runs scored and has pushed his season average to .320 with 10 homers. The A's don't necessarily need another bat; their bats need some recognition.

Seattle Mariners: (Record: 25-36, Week: 4-2)
Joel Pineiro has been one of the more common names appearing in this column but with the strange season he has had, it is hard to not talk about him. Over his last two starts, Pineiro has allowed two runs in 16 innings for a 1.13 ERA yet lost one of the two games. He is now 1-2 in June with a 2.70 ERA and a shocking 2-8 overall. He has averaged 15 wins per season during the last two years but he will need a miracle to reach that level this year.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays: (Record: 26-34, Week: 5-1)
Victor Zambrano was responsible for one of the most amazing performances of the week. It wasn't that he dominated the opposition; he shut them down while walking six batters! In 6.1 innings, Zambrano allowed just two hits and struck out six but even with the six walks, only allowed one unearned run. Zambrano has been striking out batters at a higher rate than usual, but his walks are up as well and he hasn't been able to succeed in that way.

Texas Rangers: (Record: 34-26, Week: 4-2)
Brad Fullmer has been a solid performer for the Rangers but his .231 average is not quite up to par. However, since June began he has hit .294 and he hit .333 for the last seven days. His two home runs last week brought his total up to eight with 25 RBI but he will need to have his average come back up in order to be considered a success.

Toronto Blue Jays: (Record: 28-35, Week: 3-3)
Miguel Batista is another pitcher new to a team who has not yet completely adjusted to his new surroundings. Coming over from the Diamondbacks, Batista had a very rough start but has gotten better each month. His improved performance was capped off with his recent start in which he threw a complete-game four-hit shutout. In the game he struck out eight and walked just two. He appears to be back on track as the Jays' number two pitcher.

Arizona Diamondbacks: (Record: 26-37, Week: 4-2)
Even if he didn't have the perfect game under his belt, Randy Johnson would still be having an outstanding year. Following an injury-plagued 2003, Johnson needed to reestablish himself and has done so as only "The Big Unit" can. Johnson is 9-4 with a 2.77 ERA and is striking out over 10 batters per nine innings. He may be 40 years old, but as long as he remains healthy, that doesn't mean a thing.

Atlanta Braves: (Record: 30-32, Week: 2-4)
It's not complete yet, but it appears that Leo Mazzone has turned Jaret Wright around. Wright hasn't thrown as many innings (68.2) as he has this year since 1999 and he has never had a better ERA for a full season. The first number of his ERA has improved every month and in his most recent start he went seven shutout innings and allowed just two hits. Wright is not a great pitcher and he may never be, but he appears to be on the path to being a solid option in the rotation.

Chicago Cubs: (Record: 33-29, Week: 4-3)
Derrek Lee hasn't had an outstanding season but he hasn't been nearly as bad as it may seem. Lee has eight home runs and 39 RBI to go along with his .285 average. He has reached base safely in his last nine plate appearances and is batting .467 with two home runs for the week. Combine that with his Gold Glove defense at first base and you have a great, and much underrated player.

Cincinnati Reds: (Record: 34-28, Week: 0-6)
Speaking of underrated first basemen, Sean Casey may top the list. He's not flashy and doesn't have a ton of power but he hits… and hits and hits and hits. Casey is currently hitting .370 with 13 home runs 47 RBI and 50 runs scored. On a Reds team that is surprising a lot of people, Casey may be the glue holding it all together. He won't end the season hitting .370, but .340 is very probable.

Colorado Rockies: (Record: 21-41, Week: 0-7)
Todd Helton is about to go on a tear. Sure, he's hitting .345 with 11 home runs but he has just 35 RBI. With Larry Walker and Preston Wilson both on the DL, Helton doesn't see many pitches and doesn't have many chances to drive in runners. Both Walker and Wilson are expected back soon and they will provide Helton with protection in the lineup and more opportunities. I wouldn't want to face the Rockies during the next month.

Florida Marlins: (Record: 35-28, Week: 3-3)
Dontrelle Willis is another pitcher who has a lot of talent but has been very inconsistent this season. Willis posted an outstanding April but followed that with a disappointing May. Thus far in June he is looking unhittable again and has a 3.33 ERA on the season. Willis has averaged just six innings per start and if he wants to take his game to the next level, he will need to improve that number. Until then, the Marlins won't get all they need from him as the bullpen will certainly cost them a few games.

Houston Astros: (Record: 32-29, Week: 2-4)
The job of a closer has to be one of the easiest jobs out there. The only difficulty that comes with the job is the pressure that you are the one on the mound when the game is over. If you can overcome that, you can be a successful and profitable pitcher; just ask Octavio Dotel. Dotel pitched four innings this week and allowed two runs for a sub-par ERA of 4.50. However, since he was three for three in save opportunities, all is forgiven. Dotel is credited with a successful week and will get paid for that imaginary stat that is the save.

Los Angeles Dodgers: (Record: 32-28, Week: 2-4)
Speaking of completely fabricated and random stats; how is Kazuhisa Ishii 8-3? Like saves, wins are totally a measure of run support and the situation and luck of the pitcher. No offense to Ishii or Dotel, but we need to look past the wins and the saves and get to the true pitcher evaluators such as strikeouts and ERA. Ishii's ERA is solid at 3.36 but he has an amazingly bad 36-to-49 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Expect the ERA to rise steadily over the course of the season.

Milwaukee Brewers: (Record: 31-29, Week: 4-2)
Following his 18-strikeout game, Ben Sheets hasn't gotten as much recognition as he has deserved. He is still pitching as well as ever, including his 2.40 ERA this past week. In 15 innings, Sheets allowed just 10 runners and struck out 12 but he was 0-1. On the season, Sheets is 5-4 with a 2.66 ERA and is striking out more than one batter per inning. At 25, Sheets is ready to break out, if he hasn't already.

Montreal Expos: (Record: 20-41, Week: 2-4)
Zach Day has quietly been one of the most consistent pitchers in the National League this season and this week he posted his best start yet. He threw his first complete game of the year, this one a shutout, and allowed just six runners. Thankfully, he got the win and improved to 5-6 with a 3.12 ERA on the season.

New York Mets: (Record: 29-33, Week: 1-5)
Where did this come from? Tom Glavine just won't stop. In his two most recent starts, he allowed just one run in 15.2 innings and has a win to show for it. Surprisingly, he walked five batters and struck out just seven in those two starts yet still had the success he did. For the season, his K/BB rate is just about 2/1, which is solid, but his batting average against is very low. It is unlikely that he will be able to maintain the average against so expect a jump in his ERA soon.

Philadelphia Phillies: (Record: 32-28, Week: 3-2)
Placido Polanco is back and the Phillies want to know just where he's been. Prior to being placed on the DL, Polanco was hitting .223 with one home run, one RBI, and one stolen base. Since returning from the DL, he has hit .435 with a home run and seven RBI. With Jimmy Rollins now hitting and Polanco looking strong, the Phillies keep looking more dangerous and appear ready to take control in the NL East.

Pittsburgh Pirates: (Record: 24-35, Week: 0-6)
Yes, Jack Wilson is still batting over .300, and still batting over .340. He dropped below .340 for a few games but his .476 clip this past week quickly brought him back up. He even hit third during the week and homered in the game. Wilson's Gold Glove defense and surprisingly strong overall offensive performance puts him on track to make his first All-Star appearance of his career.

San Diego Padres: (Record: 33-29, Week: 2-4)
Another shortstop having a very solid season is 24-year-old rookie Khalil Greene. Greene combines a solid bat with some pop and his flashy defense to give the Padres a strong middle-infield option for years to come. He is hitting .275/.357/.391 on the season and has hit three home runs. He doesn't do anything with the bat that will blow you away, but he does a little of everything and the Padres will gladly take it.

San Francisco Giants: (Record: 32-31, Week: 4-3)
Jerome Williams is another pitcher that has been solid but does not get much recognition. Williams hasn't been able to match his solid rookie season, but he has been good enough to get the job done and has shown signs of improving his numbers. This past week he won both games that he started and posted a 2.51 ERA. His command has been solid all season so it is likely that he improves his 4.30 ERA and gets it into the mid-3.00s.

St. Louis Cardinals: (Record: 36-27, Week: 4-3)
John Mabry just had what may be the week of his career. Given a few starts, he took full advantage of them and made his overall season numbers look much better. Mabry belted three home runs and drove in 10 while hitting .364. He has played every corner position this season and if Albert Pujols' hamstring problems are recurring, he could be a very valuable asset for the Cards if he can keep this performance level up.

Stat of the week:
Derek Lee on June 13 against the Angels:
5-5, 2 BB, HR, 2 RBI, 2 runs scored, SB
One game raised his average by 24 points and his OPS by 48 points. That's some day.

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