Major League Roundup
Anaheim Angels: (Record: 65-53, Week: 4-3)
With the season coming to a close, more of the talk around baseball has shifted to the awards such as the MVP. In the American League, Vladimir Guerrero is a leading candidate but he may not even be the MVP of his own team. While his numbers don't blow you away, he has done everything imaginable for the Angels. Chone Figgins is hitting .298/.357/.431 with four homeruns, 16 doubles, 14 triples, and 24 stolen bases. He has done this while playing every defensive position other than first base and catcher. Without him stepping in for Troy Glaus and virtually every other player, would this team be in the running for a playoff spot?
Baltimore Orioles: (Record: 57-59, Week: 5-2)
One of the unsung heroes in the league is Melvin Mora. He's had a great season and has been putting up great numbers week after week. Over the last seven days, Mora has hit .310/.382/.724 with three homers, 11 RBI, and a stolen base. He has his average up to .345 for the season, good enough for second in the league, and he's already set career highs in homeruns (21), RBI (75), and is two off in runs (84). He and Miguel Tejada will form a nice left side of the infield for their 2005 push.
Boston Red Sox: (Record: 64-52, Week: 4-3)
While he has been good, Pedro Martinez has not quite been himself this season. His 3.72 ERA is the highest ERA of his career and his 1.14 WHIP is the highest since 1990. However, recently he has been much more dominating. In his last two starts he has allowed just one run in 16 innings. He struck out 21 and just walked two while allowing 11 hits. He is now 13-4 on the season and has lost just one game since mid-May.
Chicago White Sox: (Record: 59-56, Week: 4-3)
After his outstanding months of April and May which earned him a great deal of recognition, Juan Uribe has been very disappointing. Uribe hit .393 in April and .303 in May but that average plummeted to .222 in June and .123 in July. He stole seven bases in the first two months and hasn't stolen one since. The only number he has been able to maintain is his homerun level. Uribe is a good, young player but it will take him some time before he can perform at his best for a full season.
Cleveland Indians: (Record: 63-56, Week: 6-1)
With the acquisition of Josh Phelps, Ben Broussard must have felt threatened. No player wants to lose playing time and Broussard made his case this week why he should play. Broussard hit three homeruns this week, two of which were grand slams, and had 11 RBI. Unless the Indians decide to run a straight-up platoon, it will be interesting to see how the playing time is divided in the future.
Detroit Tigers: (Record: 54-63, Week: 3-3)
Whenever he has been healthy, he has hit. Rondell White has managed to stay on the field this year, compliling 390 at-bats and he has put up numbers to match the playing time. For the season he is hitting .274/.341/.477 with 18 homers and 66 RBI. During the past week he has put up a .348 average with three homeruns. White is on pace to put up his best season since 1999 and possibly the best of his career.
Kansas City Royals: (Record: 42-74, Week: 3-4)
After his career year in 2003, the Royals expected more than this from Darrell May. May is just 9-12 with a 4.91 ERA and 1.45 WHIP this season after posting a 3.77 ERA and 1.19 WHIP last year. May does deserve some credit, however. He was 2-8 with a 6.14 ERA on June 7 and has posted ERAs of 3.50 and 3.15 in July and August. With his improved second half, May might luck into a job next year even if he might not deserve it.
Minnesota Twins: (Record: 64-53, Week: 2-5)
Johan Santana: best pitcher in the American League. The 25-year-old left is 12-6 with a 3.25 ERA and 1.01 WHIP on the season but that isn't what is most impressive. His 190 strikeouts are the second most in baseball behind Randy Johnson but that isn't it either. It isn't even his 4.32 K/BB ratio or .205 opponents' average. His 1.66 ERA since June 9 is most impressive. He has allowed just 18 runs since then and has 129 strikeouts in 97.1 innings. His two losses came in games in which he went eight innings and allowed two runs and has allowed more than two runs in a game just once. He has done it all for the Twins and will lead them deep into October.
New York Yankees: (Record: 75-42, Week: 4-3)
Where exactly did this come from? After not pitching at all in 2003, Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez is back and hasn't missed a beat. In seven starts, he has a 2.08 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. After never averaging more than one strikeout per inning in his career, he has 47 in 39 innings so far this year. He has five wins and has yet to lose a start and didn't allow a run in either game in which he did not get a decision. When he was signed, he wasn't expected to be a factor in the playoffs but he is certainly forcing his way in.
Oakland Athletics: (Record: 65-52, Week: 3-4)
It is taking some time as expected, but Rich Harden is gradually becoming the pitcher many expected of him. His 3.84 ERA is solid but his 1.39 WHIP could use some improvement. However, both numbers are better than last season and his other peripherals have improved as well. His strikeout rate has remained constant and his walks have decreased significantly. He is throwing less pitches per inning and more innings per game. With Barry Zito on the verge of losing his spot in "The Big Three," Harden may be on the verge of stepping in.
Seattle Mariners: (Record: 44-73, Week: 3-3)
Now this is the Gil Meche that the Mariners expected to see entering the season. Since being recalled from Tacoma, Meche has a 3.33 ERA and 1.07 WHIP. He has walked just three while striking out 23. He is still plagued a bit by the longball, giving up five since being recalled. However, he has apparently figured something out while in Tacoma and if he can keep down the homerun total, look out.
Tampa Bay Devil Rays: (Record: 54-64, Week: 1-6)
As expected, it took some time for B.J. Upton to adjust to the league and begin to show his potential. 14 at-bats into his career he was hitting .143 with five strikeouts and a walk. Apparently, that was enough time for him. Since then he is 11 for 23 giving him a batting average of .478. He is now hitting .351 for his career with three extra-base hits and six runs scored. The only thing he is now missing is his first of many homeruns.
Texas Rangers: (Record: 64-52, Week: 4-3)
Given his track record and his sub-par peripherals, how Ryan Drese is still maintaining a 3.33 ERA is beyond me. His 1.26 WHIP is solid but it should not support his ERA. He is striking out just 3.8 batters per nine innings and has a K/BB rate of under two. The only number that can support his ERA is his 2.35 groundball/flyball ratio. In this crazy season for the Rangers anything is possible, but it is still unlikely that Drese can finish the year with an ERA even close to 3.33.
Toronto Blue Jays: (Record: 49-69, Week: 2-5)
Not even in the preseason picture when determining who might close in Toronto, Jason Frasor has emerged as clearly the best option. In 52.1 innings, Frasor has a 2.92 ERA and is 15 for 16 in save opportunities. At 27, he is entering his prime and the Blue Jays have found a cheap closer for a few years into the future. As any stat-head will tell you, that's a dream scenario.
Arizona Diamondbacks: (Record: 36-83, Week: 1-5)
No one has been better than Randy Johnson this past week or all season. For the week he has a 1.88 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 14.1 innings. Johnson is just 12-10 on the season but has pitched for the team with the worst record in baseball. He has a 2.87 ERA and 0.91 WHIP. He has struck out a league leading 202 batters and has walked just 34. He appears to be completely over his 2003 problems and back to his previous form.
Atlanta Braves: (Record: 66-50, Week: 3-3)
Put another notch in Leo Mazzone's belt as he has done it again, this time with Jaret Wright. Even early in his career when Wright was at his best, he never posted an ERA better than 4.38. This season he has an ERA of 2.95. His previous career best in strikeouts per nine was 6.45 and it is 7.47 this season. His K/BB rate has hit 2.00 for the first time in his career and his HR/9 rate is at its best as well. With Horacio Ramirez injured for most of the year and Wright stepping up, the Braves haven't skipped a beat.
Chicago Cubs: (Record: 63-54, Week: 2-4)
After spending much of the season batting second or seventh and not putting up the numbers expected of him, the Cubs decided to give Corey Patterson a chance in the leadoff spot and he has responded. In 55 at-bats at the top of the order, Patterson is hitting .364/.435/.655 with four homeruns, six stolen bases, eight RBI, and eight runs scored. In two times as many at-bats in the seventh spot he hit just five homers and just four in over three times the at-bats batting second. He is projected to be a 30/30 player down the road but he appears to have found a niche at the top of the order for now.
Cincinnati Reds: (Record: 56-61, Week: 2-4)
Whatever happened to Ryan Wagner earlier in the year, inflating his ERA and causing him to be sent to Triple-A appears to be gone. In his last nine appearances, Wagner has pitched 10.1 innings and struck out eight. He has an ERA of 2.61 with a WHIP of 1.26. While even that line isn't nearly as good as the numbers he posted in 2003, it is an improvement. He still has one of the four best sliders in the game and immense long-term potential. With a little more time he should fulfill his talent level and emerge as one of the top closers.
Colorado Rockies: (Record: 53-65, Week: 4-3)
Prior to being sidelined with a shoulder injury, Joe Kennedy had been the surprise of the year. After never posting an ERA better than 4.44 in a season, Kennedy had an ERA of 3.95 in his first year in Colorado. His strikeouts are up and his hits allowed are down from his established levels. In his first innings since returning from the disabled list, he allowed three runs in 8.2 innings, giving him and ERA of 3.12 and lowering his season ERA to 3.88.
Florida Marlins: (Record: 58-58, Week: 3-3)
Juan Encarnacion has not lived up to expectations since joining the Marlins at the trading deadline. In August, Encarnacion is hitting just .211 with just two extra-base hits. He has just one RBI and five runs scored and has more strikeouts, seven, than anything. He has had a rough season overall as well. He is hitting .231/.291/.399 with 13 homeruns and 44 RBI. He appears to be on the way to posting his worst offensive season since he became a regular in 1999 with Detroit.
Houston Astros: (Record: 57-60 Week: 2-4)
When they traded Octavio Dotel, many believed that the Astros would pay a price and Brad Lidge wouldn't be able to get the job done. However, since assuming the role he hasn't lost a step. Since recording his first save as the full-time closer, Lidge has an ERA of 1.38 and 43 strikeouts in 26 innings pitched. He leads all relievers with 110 strikeouts and his 1.98 ERA is among the leaders as well. If he can avoid breaking down due to a high innings total, he will remain on of the best closers around.
Los Angeles Dodgers: (Record: 69-47, Week: 4-2)
On July 5, Eric Gagne blew his first save since August 26, 2002 and it appeared that his aura of invincibility had diminished. Since then, however, the aura has only gotten stronger. Since July 6 he has a 0.82 ERA with a 0.73 WHIP. He has recorded 32 strikeouts in 22 innings and allowed just four walks. The only two runs he allowed came in the same game and he went as many as three innings in one appearance. The new consecutive saves streak for Gagne is at 13 and he's not stopping until he can hit triple-digits.
Milwaukee Brewers: (Record: 54-62, Week: 2-4)
Since his great start to the season in which he hit .307 in April and .351 in May with 40 total RBI, Lyle Overbay has not gotten as much recognition even though his numbers have been as good. Overbay hit .333 and .314 in the next two months with 27 RBI and five homers. Even though he is in the middle of a rough month of August, he is still hitting .319/.399/.510 with 13 homers, 39 doubles, and 72 RBI on the season. Maybe now this is expected of him so he won't get praised for his performance, but he deserves it.
Montreal Expos: (Record: 49-67, Week: 5-1)
Since the Expos are still in Montreal, it is understandable that no one has noticed Tony Batista since July 1. Batista has hit just .270, which is high according to his standards, but has nine homers and 40 RBI in a month and a half. For the season, Batista is batting an expected .239 with 20 homers, 75 RBI, and 11 stolen bases. Given the poor offense the Expos have shown all season, those are very solid numbers.
New York Mets: (Record: 56-60, Week: 4-2)
A few weeks ago I gave you a warning that Rick Peterson might be able to do something special with Victor Zambrano. I know that it was just one start but it may have been his best start of the year. Zambrano allowed just two hits and two walks through seven innings. One unearned run was all he allowed while striking out five. He needed just 94 pitches to last the seven innings and may have gone deeper in the game had a pinch hitter not been required. Scott Kazmir was still a steep price to pay but it may turn out to be worth it.
Philadelphia Phillies: (Record: 59-59, Week: 1-5)
After having some of his playing time taken away by Chase Utley, Placido Polanco got a second chance when David Bell went down with an injury. Since moving to third base, Polanco is hitting .480 and has yet to commit an error.. He has four homers and nine RBI in the last two weeks and has also stolen a base. With David Bell due back Tuesday, Polanco might see his time decrease again but his strong showing will bode well for him in the future.
Pittsburgh Pirates: (Record: 55-60, Week: 4-2)
After spending about nine weeks on the disabled list, Daryle Ward is ready to return to action. Ward was once a highly-touted prospect in the Astros' organization, but had many mediocre seasons until this year. In just 163 at-bats, Ward hit 10 homers while putting up a line of .276/.309/.521. The 29-year-old lefty is at his peak and if he can stay healthy, can be an asset for the Pirates as they attempt to make a run in the NL Central next year.
San Diego Padres: (Record: 63-54, Week: 4-2)
In an up-and-down season for Adam Eaton, the time has come for another "up." Eaton got off to a solid start with a 3.80 ERA in April. That was followed with a bad month of May with a 8.16 ERA and a great 1.68 ERA in June. As the calendar turned to July, the ERA took another turn for the worse. He posted a 5.57 ERA in July and a 6.19 ERA in August. With two important months coming up, the Padres hope that his improving 1.26 WHIP means that two good months are in the forecast.
San Francisco Giants: (Record: 64-55, Week: 4-2)
Michael Tucker is one of the most consistent players in the game. Every year he can be penciled in for an average around .260, 12-15 homeruns, and 60 RBI and runs scored. So far this year, he is set to put up his ninth straight season like that. His .287 average is above normal but his 12 homers, 51 RBI, and 66 runs scored are dead on. He's not spectacular and perhaps easily replaceable but wherever he goes, he performs.
St. Louis Cardinals: (Record: 76-40, Week: 4-2)
If there was any better time than now for Woody Williams to shape up, we'd be in the playoffs. After struggling through April and May, posting ERAs of 6.00 and 4.50 respectively, Williams began to figure it out in June. After an average July, he has everything clicking this month. As the Cards are beginning to seal the deal in the NL Central, Williams has given them three starts this month with a 1.34 ERA. He walked two in each start and allowed one run in each. Williams has now won his last six decisions and the Cardinals hope the rest of the rotation can do the same.
Stat of the week:
Ichiro Suzuki on August 11: 2-4
Well, that in itself is nothing special. However, the two hits gave him 841 for his career, breaking the old record held by Hall of Famer Paul "Big Poison" Waner for the most hits in the first four years of a career. Ichiro is also on pace to tie the record for hits in a season at 257 held by George Sisler.
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