Friday, April 30, 2010

MLB Notes for April

Here are some observations about the happenings in MLB in the first month of the 2010 season.

1. Tampa Bay Rays

At 17-6, the Rays have the best record in MLB. They appear to have regained the form that earned them an AL championship in 2008 especially their starting rotation. Matt Garza, James Shields and David Price have a combined record of 10-2 with an ERA of 2.68.

The downside with the Rays is their attendance. Despite their early success they have not drawn well at Tropicana Field. Fewer than 11,000 fans showed up to see the Rays two nights ago as they downed the Oakland Athletics 10-3.

2. Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles are already 12 games back of the Rays in the AL East with a MLB worst 5-18 record (although they have won three of their last five games).

They weren't expected to be a contender but they weren't expected to be this bad either. Rookie southpaw Brian Matusz is the only member of the starting rotation to record a win accounting for half the team's victories this season. The bullpen (outside of Will Ohman and Jason Berken) have been even worse.

But their offense has been the most disappointing aspect of their game. The O's miss Brian Roberts at the top of their order and the team has been slumping at the plate. Only Ty Wigginton (who is filling for Roberts at 2B) and the reacquired Miguel Tejada have been hitting with any consistency.

Needless to say manager Dave Trembley is living on borrowed time.

3. New York Mets

A couple of weeks ago, Mets skipper Jerry Manuel found himself on the hot seat as well. But that was before the Mets played a 20-inning game with the St. Louis Cardinals in which they prevailed 2-1. Since the 20-inning game, the Mets have gone 10-2 and are currently on an eight game winning streak. They now occupy first place in the NL East with a 1½ game lead over the defending NL champion Philadelphia Phillies.

Move over Johan Santana. Mike Pelfrey wants to be the ace of the staff. David Wright has the right stuff again while rookie first baseman Ike Davis might give Justin Heyward of the Atlanta Braves a run for his money in the NL Rookie of the Year balloting.

4. Atlanta Braves

The Braves, on the other hand, have gone in entirely the opposite direction. On April 20th, the Braves were 8-5. They tend embarked on a 9 game losing streak which ended this evening with a 4-2 victory over the Houston Astros. What a difference ten days can make. Although they are now in last place in the NL East they are still only five games back of the Mets. It can't be much fun for Bobby Cox no matter how much he watches Justin Heyward play.

5. A Topsy Turvy NL West (San Diego Padres & Los Angeles Dodgers)

If you asked most people to predict the NL West before the beginning of the season the Dodgers would have likely been picked to finish first while the Padres likely would have been picked to finish last. Yet at 15-8, the Padres own the best record in the NL at one point winning eight games in a row. The Dodgers snapped a five game losing streak tonight against the Pirates but remain six games back of the Padres.

While the Padres have no pressure on them the Dodgers are under constant scrutiny. Despite Dodgers centerfielder Matt Kemp leading the team in home runs and RBIs it didn't prevent Dodgers GM Ned Coletti from publicly ripping him earlier this week for his defensive play.

6. Kelly Johnson, Arizona Diamondbacks

Who would have picked the former Braves castoff to be leading the NL in home runs with 9? The D'Backs second baseman hit 8 home runs in slightly over 300 at bats with the Braves last season. The Braves could sure use him about now.

7. Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox

Meanwhile, the veteran Chisox first baseman is leading MLB with 11 home runs.

8. Matt Capps, Washington Nationals

After being made to walk the plank by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the offseason, all Capps has done in first month of the 2010 season is to save 10 games which gives him the lead in the NL. Capps has been the crucial figure in the Nationals' strong April showing. The Pirates meanwhile signed Octavio Dotel, a closer nearly a decade older than Capps. Dotel has saved only three games for the Bucs this season.

9. Trevor Hoffman, Milwaukee Brewers

The all-time MLB leader in saves needs only six more to reach 600 for his career. But it's not going well for him. Apparently, NL hitters can't distinguish between his fastball and his changeup. As of this writing, Hoffman is 1-2 with an astronomical 13.00 ERA with only three saves to show for his troubles. He has given up 13 runs in only nine innings pitched. The ninth inning used to be "Trevor Time." Well, now time appears to be closing on the game's greatest relief pitcher.

10. Colby Lewis, Texas Rangers

The Rangers starter is the very definition of a reclamation project. Originally a supplemental first round draft pick by the Rangers in the 1999 MLB Draft (teammate Josh Hamilton was top pick in that draft) Lewis never lived up to expectations. He did win 10 games for the Rangers in 2003 but recorded an ERA of 7.30. Lewis would hurt his shoulder the following year and spent the next three seasons with four different organizations (Detroit Tigers, Washington Nationals, Oakland Athletics and Kansas City Royals) before going to Japan prior to the 2008 season.

It was in Japan that Lewis modifiied his pitching style. After spending two seasons in Japan, Lewis returned to the Rangers this off-season. As of this writing, Lewis is 3-0 with a 2.76 ERA. Tonight, he may have pitched his greatest game of his big league career against the Seattle Mariners. Lewis pitched nine shutout innings striking out ten batters. He surrendered only three hits while walking one batter. Unfortunately, the game was still scoreless into extra innings so Lewis did not figure in the decision but the Rangers would win 2-0 in 12 innings. Lewis is an early candidate to be 2010 AL Comeback Player of the Year.

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