Friday, May 25, 2007

30 Teams In 30 Days: Detroit Tigers

The Detroit Tigers have had every reason to fail this season. They tailed off last year after a blistering start, eventually coughing up a double digit games lead to the Twins and settling for a wild card, then reaching the World Series only to go down meekly to a vastly inferior Cardinals team. In 2007, they've had to do without the anchor of last year's rotation, Kenny Rogers, their best relief pitcher, Joel Zumaya, and a DL stint for another rotation member, Jeremy Bonderman. Yet, here they stand as we head into Memorial Day weekend, near the top of the AL Central and comfortably ensconced as the would-be AL wildcard. How have they managed to overcome all this adversity? Let's take a look:


The Tigers have survived an injury-riddled first part of the season because they've managed to beat up on their own division. They've been able to beat up on their own division because they've had a lot of games against its two weakest teams, and none against the second place Indians (the two meet for the first time in 07 this weekend). Not to piss on the Tigers parade, but they've had what might be the easiest schedule in MLB so far this year. To wit:

- 5 games against the 21-25 Blue Jays
- 6 against the 21-26 Orioles
- 6 with the 22-24 Twins
- 3 at home against a Cardinals team off to a disastrous 19-25 start
- and the coup de gras...NINE games against the 19-29 Royals

So by my count, that's 29 of 46 games so far against some of the dregs of baseball. In April the Tigers played a total of six games against teams that are over .500 right now, dropping 2 of 4 against a White Sox team whom we all know has not exactly been running roughshod over MLB this year, and splitting a 2 game series with the Angels. May hasn't been much toughe. Their only meetings with winning teams came when they dropped 3 of 4 in Boston last week, a series win against the Angels, and a damaging 3 game sweep at home to the Indians last weekend.

We'll soon find out how good this team really is or isn't. More on that in the 30 day outlook section.


Magglio Ordonez has been the best hitter in baseball so far this year. That might sound strange, but it's true. Maggs has THIRTY FIVE extra base hits already this year, including an insane 23 doubles. He has an OPS of 1.151, which is 30 points higher than the next highest (Barry Bonds), is on pace to drive in over 160 runs, and is hitting .361. Shortstop Carlos Guillen is showing his 120 point improvement in OPS last year wasn't a fluke, he's performing at the same level this year. The most valuable center fielder in the AL Central so far this year hasn't been the one that was on the cover of SI earlier this month, Grady Sizemore, it's been the Tigers' Curtis Granderson. Granderson strikes out a lot, perhaps too much for a leadoff man, but you won't find too many combinations of power and speed like him. He has a .930 OPS, and 30 extra base hits.

Ordonez' heroics are even more valuable to the Tigers given the fact that there are a lot of positions on this team that aren't producing. Gary Sheffield has heated up recently, but he hit .200 with a .675 OPS in the month of April. Catcher Ivan Rodriguez is 150 points below his career OPS at .674, first baseman Sean Casey has been horrid, as has the left field platoon of Marcus Thames and Craig Monroe. Third baseman Brandon Inge's 8 home runs have given him a respectable .727 OPS, but he's also batting .224. I see some problematic stuff here, as it's no guarantee any of these guys will snap out of it, as they are all either old (I-Rod and Sheffield) or generally mediocre (Thames, Monroe, Casey, Inge).


#1 Justin Verlander
After tiring at the end of last season, Verlander is back to the form that he displayed before the all-star break last year. He's 5-1 with a 2.71 ERA and 1.16 WHIP.

#2 Jeremy Bonderman
Has had a DL stint this year, a victim of the epidemic of finger injuries on the Tigers' staff, which makes you wonder what goes on in their clubhouse. When healthy, he's been very good, attested to by his 3-0 record and 1.21 WHIP.

#3 Nate Robertson
Has been getting lit up of late after a strong start. Hasn't completed 6 innings in any of his last 4 outings, and still managed to give up 10 or more hits in 3 of them.

#4 Mike Maroth
The Tigers thought he'd be an asset this year after missing most of last year with an injury, but he's been terrible so far in 07, with opposing hitters knocking him around for a .315 average.

#5 Chad Durbin
His surprising competency has been the difference between the Tigers jockeying with the Indians for first place in the AL Central, and them tussling with the Twins and White Sox to stay out of fourth place. Given Maroth's struggles, he may stay in the rotation even after Kenny Rogers returns.

It's of unending annoyance to me that the Tigers have been able to have Todd Jones as their closer and still thrive. His success leads me to believe that this job isn't as hard as everyone says it is. He has 15 saves despite an ERA over 4 and only 7 strikeouts so far this season. Seven. I've seen 16 inch softball pitchers strike out more guys.

Injuries and ineffectiveness have made the Tigers bullpen suck so badly they could move to Chicago and still have the worst bullpen in town. The pen has had 11 losses pinned on it already this year. With Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney injured, the Tigers are relying on Jason Grilli and his 7.59 ERA, Wilfredo Ledezma and Bobby Seay who are both in the 5's, and Jose Mesa whose clocking in with an ERA over 10.

The Tigers don't rely very heavily on their bench, which might have contributed to their second half swoon last year. Marcus Thames gives the Tigers some power but he's hitting .200, Omar Infante is hitting .327, but he hasn't drawn a single walk so far this year, which means he's not actually getting on base all that often.

Lefty Andrew Miller is one of the top 10 prospects in baseball according to Baseball America. He pitched 6 shutout innings in his one start in the bigs this year. OF Cameron Maybin is 19 years old and is also one of BA's top 10. He's hitting .307 with an .890 OPS at Class A Lakeland.


2 at TB (13-14 at home)
4 at CLE (17-4)
3 at TEX (11-15)
3 vs. NYM (18-7)
3 vs. MIL (11-15)
3 at PHI (13-11)
3 at WSH (11-13)
3 at ATL (15-11)
4 vs. TEX (7-18)

Opponents Combined Record: 116-108
Expected Record Next 30 Days: 15-13
Expected Record After 30 Days: 44-34

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Meet the Mets

A'S 4, SOX 0
The Sox turned back the hands of time to the magical days of last week, when the offense couldn't score to save its life, leading to a frustrating loss.

That's now the 3rd time this year the Sox have lost the final game of a series they've won the first 2 games of. Which brings me to one of my baseball pet peeves, the statement of "We're just trying to win every series".

Well, you'd obviously rather win a series than lose one, I agree. But, somewhere along the line you have to start sweeping series instead of just taking 2 out of 3. The Sox have yet to record a 3 game sweep this year, and as a result are only 3 games over .500. Detroit is now 11 games over .500 and the Indians are 10 games over.

So, by "just winning every series", the White Sox would have to win 8 series in a row while the Tigers and Indians both play .500 ball for the next 24 games for the Sox to move into a tie for first. It's damn near impossible to sustain such a high level of play that you take two out of 3 over 8 consecutive series. A much easier route would be to rip off a sweep of the Devil Rays this weekend, then win a couple series in a row, and then you're right there.

Winning every series is a good aim if you are leading a division. If you're chasing like the Sox are, you need to do more, and that's why last night's loss pisses me off.

So anyway, that's it for the Sox today. Now we continue our survey of all 30 MLB teams in 30 days. Today, we visit the NY Mets.


The Mets have taken kind of an odd path to their impressive record. They are only 14-10 at home, and only 12-10 against their own division. However, they are 15-6 on the road and 17-6 against teams outside of the NL East. One source of concern is that the Mets have dropped both of their series against the Braves this year, and could be 0 for 3 pending today's rubber match against the Bravos.


I pretty much draw the line in the sand for a good major league hitter as somebody who has an OPS of .800 or better. As a team the Mets are just under that, at .793, which is really impressive. While they don't have anybody who is putting up insane numbers so far this year, they have a lot of guys who are having very solid starts. Chief among them is Carlos Beltran, who has an .898 OPS and is on pace for 30 homers and 120 RBI.

They also have probably the most unique offensive weapon in the game right now in shortstop Jose Reyes. Reyes has an amazing 7 triples already this year amongst his 22 extra base hits, and leads MLB in stolen bases by a mile with 26 (Juan Pierre is in second with 17). Offensively, Reyes is truly a throwback to the 70s and 80s when speed ruled the game.

The Mets are also getting good contributions from veteran Shawn Green, who is batting 60 points over his 06 average at .317, and Pee Pee Hands Alou, who is hitting .318 with an .819 OPS. 3B David Wright isn't putting up the kind of numbers he has the last 2 seasons, but an .843 OPS still helps the team.

1B Carlos Delgado has been in a season long funk. He has only 3 home runs and is hitting .216 with a .610 OPS. Other than that though, the Mets don't really have any other regulars who have been struggling.


#1 Tom Glavine
He's a Hall of Famer, and at 41 he's still got the goods to be the anchor of a contender's staff. His ERA of 3.23 and WHIP of 1.28 are proof of that.

#2 John Maine
Was quite unexpectedly one of the best pitchers in MLB in April, with the Mets winning in his first seven starts. His May has been not so good though.

#3 Oliver Perez
Great stuff if he can get it over the plate. So far, he has, with a 53/18 K/BB ratio, and an ace-like 1.06 WHIP.

#4 Jorge Sosa
Has been a swingman virtually his whole career, shuttling between the rotation and the bullpen of the D-Rays and Braves. He's been really good in 4 starts for the Mets, but his lack of command and high number of walks is going to catch up with him like it always does.

#5 Orlando Hernandez/Jason Vargas/Mike Pelfrey
El Duque is taking his mandatory annual 2 month DL sojuourn, so in the meantime the Mets are holding auditions to try and fill the fifth starter spot. Pelfrey was the 9th overall pick in the 05 draft out of Wichita State, and had an ERA under 3 at 3 minor league levels last year, but an ERA over 6 at the major league level this year. He's back in the minors now. He's been replaced by Jason Vargas, a lefthander who was a second round pick for the Marlins in 04 and who pitched pretty well for them in 05 before a disastrous year last year. Vargas has made one start and wasn't impressive, so it looks like the door will keep revolving in this spot until El Duque returns.

Billy Wagner
Rock solid here, Wagner is one of the best in the game every single year. This year he has 11 saves and a 0.90 WHIP.

Being that the Mets' rotation is a little shaky, it's important that they have a good bullpen, and so far they have. Righthander Joe Smith was a 3rd round draftee last year, and this year is showing closer type stuff after struggling in Double A ball last year, sporting a 1.02 WHIP and 23/7 KWR. Pedro Feliciano has a .167 BAA and is the lefthanded setup man, while Aaron Heilman and Ambiorix Burgos have also been solid from the righthanded side.

Damion Easley inexplicably has 7 home runs and a .903 OPS right now. He seems to be coming into his own at 37 years old. Endy Chavez has also been a productive sub, he's batting .354 and has 7 extra base hits in 65 at bats.

Expect former Padre Brian Lawrence to get a whirl as the 5th starter sometime soon. The Mets signed him and he's now getting some starts at AAA New Orleans. OF Carlos Gomez has 17 stolen bases for NOLA. 24 year old righty Phillip Humber is probably the best pitching prospect in the org right now outside of Pelfrey. He's got a nifty 15/40 KWR in AAA, but a not-so-nifty 4.59 ERA.

3 at FLA (11-12 at home)
3 vs. SF (10-12)
3 vs. ARI (12-12)
3 vs. PHI (10-13)
3 at DET (14-8)
3 at LAD (15-9)
3 at NYY (12-10)
3 vs. MIN (12-11)
3 vs. OAK (12-11)

Combined Opp Record Next 30 Days: 108-98
Predicted Record Next 30 Days: 13-11
Predicted Record Next Checkup: 42-27

TOMORROW: The Detroit Tigers

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

30 Teams In 30 Days

Despite dropping a weekend series to the hated Cubby, things are going pretty well for the White Sox. They've won 4 out of their last 5 series, can get their first 3 game sweep of the season with a win over Oakland tonight, are finally scoring some runs, and are only 3 1/2 games out of first as we come up on Memorial Day.

So, the Sox are OK right now, and I'm going to take the focus off of them for a little while. Instead, for the next 30 days I aspire to check in with all 30 major league teams. We're a quarter of the way thru the season, enough time to have some meaningful stats to dig into, so this seems like an opportune time.

We'll start with the team for whom everything has been seashells and balloons so far in 2007, the 31-14 Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox have rebounded nicely from last year's injury plagued third place suckfest, and now find themselves an unconscionable 10 1/2 games ahead of a Yankees team whose fans are ready to burn down the observatory.

So, how did they achieve such a dizzying level of achievement? Let's break it down.


The Red Sox have played almost half (21 of 45) of their games this year against teams in their own division. That division also happens to be probably the 2nd worst division in baseball, and definitely the worst in the AL. So that's worked out nice for them. Most importantly, they've stomped all over the Yankees this year, winning 6 out of 8 from their arch enemies.

Good Guys
David Ortiz has been even better than he usually is, he's got a 1.047 OPS. That's not a surprise. 2 other everyday players have been huge surprises though. First baseman Kevin Youkilis is hitting .343 with a .957 OPS, while 3B Mike Lowell has been neck and neck with Big Papi for the team lead in homers and RBI. Nobody expects Lowell and Youkilis to continue mashing at this clip, but they've already built a double digit lead in the division, so their work is done.

Bad Guys
CF Coco Crisp is off to wretched start, reaching base in only a little over 29% of his plate appearances. Shortstop Julio Lugo has scuffled at the plate, but has brought some speed to this team as he is a perfect 12 for 12 in stolen base attempts. Boy Genius Theo Epstein is not getting his 5 years at $14M per out of JD Drew either. Drew has a .679 OPS and has only 8 extra base hits this season, the same number as light hitting second sacker Dustin Pedroia. And then, there's Manny, who is hitting only .244 with a .727 OPS. If the Red Sox were struggling, that would be an issue, but they're not, so they have it in their back pocket that they've done all this with Manny Ramirez struggling. He should be able to pick up the slack when Lowell and Youkilis come back to reality.


#1- Josh Beckett
At 7-0 with a 2.66 ERA, he's probably the AL Cy Young if it was handed out today. He's on the DL now though with an injured middle finger, which is exactly what you get for doing the middle finger elephant walk with Joel Zumaya.

#2- Daisuke Matsuzaka
He hasn't changed the way we think about getting hit with pies in the face like everyone said he would, but he has been a solid #2. His 4.06 ERA isn't anything to yell banzai about, but he's 6-2 and has a 1.18 WHIP, and a 58/18 K/BB ratio, and those are all ace-type numbers.

#3- Curt Schilling
He's given up more hits than he has innings pitched, but he's been solid and keeping his team in the game every time out.

#4- Tim Wakefield
A 3.14 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP means that Wakefield's been on so far this year. You could translate that by saying he won't continue to pitch this well, and that could be a problem for the Red Sox, but the Red Sox are only 4-5 in games he's pitched, so he hasn't really been a factor in their fast start anyway.

#5- Julian Tavarez
Has kept his ERA under 6, and is averaging over 5 innings a start, which is really all he needs to do to hold onto the 5th starter spot as long as the team is winning.

Jonathan Papelbon has 11 saves, and 1.04 WHIP. He's lights out.

The Red Sox have had the added bonus of having Hideki Okajima emerge as one of the premier setup men in baseball. He's given up only 2 runs in 22 innings pitched, and has a 0.79 WHIP. Between him and Papelbon, it's a seven inning game for the Red Sox every time out. The starters have usually been good enough to get the ball to those 2 guys, which is a good thing, because the rest of the pen has been mediocre at best. If Mike Timlin can come off the DL and be effective, that would help. Until then, Brandon Donnelly and JC Romero will continue to be the guys should a reliever be needed for the 7th inning.

Wily Mo Pena and Alex Cora have both been useful part-timers. Cora is hitting .333 with a .923 OPS in 69 AB's, while Pena has supplied some pop in his 48 at bats.

The top prospect in the system looks to be AA pitcher Clay Buchholz. The 22 year old righty has a 1.82 ERA and 0.81 WHIP in 7 starts for the Portland Sea Dogs. He has an eye popping K/BB ratio of 53/7. OF Brandon Moss is tearing it up for the PawSox, slugging at a .526 clip with 31 RBI.

3 at TEX (Rangers 11-11 at home)
3 vs. CLE (10-12)
3 vs. NYY (9-14)
4 at OAK (11-12)
3 at ARI (13-10)
3 vs. COL (9-14)
3 vs. SF (10-12)
3 at ATL (14-7)
3 at SD (13-8)

Total Combined Record Opp: 100-100 .500
Predicted Record Next 30 Days: 17-11
Predicted Record After Next 30 Days: 48-25

Tomorrow: The NY Mets

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Everyday Is Like Sunday

Following last weekend's pair of victories over the Royals, the Sox have now won 3 straight series. That's good news, and given the way they are hitting it's somewhat unbelievable.

2 out of 3 is nice, but a home series against the Royals calls for a sweep. On Sunday, the Sox fielded a lineup whose bottom 3 all either started the season in Charlotte (Ryan Sweeney and Luis Terrerro), or don't have a hit yet this year (Gustavo Molina). You can't really expect to win a major league game with a lineup like that, and the Sox seem to concede games like this way too often. They've won ONE game on Sunday this year, and not coincidentally have a penchant for rolling out the C-team on Sundays as well. That's gotta stop, because the Sox have enough problems scoring runs as it is, and we need every win we can get if we hope to sniff the playoffs this year.

How great would it be if Jon Garland just stepped it up to the next level this year, and became the kind of pitcher who you know your team has an 80% chance of winning every time he takes the mound? I mean, he's won 18 games in back to back seasons, but it doesn't seem like it because you really never know how effective he's going to be in any given game. In this game, he was great, and as hard as the Sox tried to blow the game in the ninth after he gave them 8 shutout innings, a potentially game tying 2 out line drive found it's way to Joe Crede to end the game and give the Sox and Garland the win.

Game Scores- KC- Perez 60, SOX- Garland 73

I don't want to alarm anyone..but Mark Buehrle hasn't been very good since the no-hitter. In his last 3 starts he has posted a game score under 50 in each outing. Still, the Sox are 6-1 when he pitches this year, so how can you argue with that? The Sox floundered and flailed for the first 8 innings of this one, until they tied it in the 9th on a 2 out Juan Uribe double, then won it in the 10th on a rare base hit by Jermaine Dye.

Game Scores- KC- Elarton 44, SOX- Buehrle 46

Just a miserable, miserable game. This is either a throwaway clunker, or the beginning of the end of any realistic hopes in the AL Central. We'll see how they come out this week.

Game Scores- KC- de la Rosa 68, SOX- Vazquez 42


V. NY YANKEES (17-19)

TUE- Mike Mussina v. John Danks
WED- Jose Contreras v. Chien Ming Wang
THU- Jon Garland v. Matt DeSalvo

In past years, the Sox have smacked around Mussina pretty good. He is 15-15 with a 4.63 ERA and .279 batting average against lifetime. He also hasn't lasted longer than 6 innings in any of his 4 starts this year. Of course, all that goes out the window when you consider the Sox can't hit anybody this year, so we'll see how that works out.

Game 2 should be a favorable matchup for the Sox. Contreras was great in his last start, a complete game shutout win over the Twins, while Wang was torched for 7 runs on 11 hits in his last outing. Again though, the White Sox Can't Hit caveat applies.

As for the finale, well, a Jon Garland needs to be able to beat a Matt DeSalvo (even though DeSalvo has been pretty good in his 2 Yankee starts this year). I think this series could go well for the Sox, as Danks, Contreras, and Garland have been the Sox 3 best pitchers of late, and the Yankees are not throwing any lefties in this series (the Sox are hitting .198 against left handed pitching this year).


TIGERS 23-14 1st PLACE
LAST WEEKEND: 2-1 at Twins (7-3, 8-2, 4-16)

I don't think anyone, including the Tigers, is going to run away with this division this year. They're 9-3 in May, but they've lost their last 2 games by a combined score of 23-5, and I'll remind everyone that they've already played the Royals nine times this year.

UP NEXT: 4 at BOS (Lost Mon 1-7)

INDIANS 21-14 2nd PLACE -1
LAST WEEKEND: 1-2 at A's (2-8, 6-3, 7-10)

Not surprising that this team went 2-4 on its California adventure. There are big-time pitching problems here, and I bid them good luck with that. They did have Grady Sizemore on the cover of SI last week though, so that's an accomplishment, the Sox didn't even get the cover when they won the World Series.


TWINS 18-19 4th PLACE -5
LAST WEEKEND: 1-2 v. Tigers (3-7, 2-8, 16-4)

The Twins are starting this season pretty much the way they started the last one. So help me God if they end the season like they ended the last one, I'm friggin done with baseball. I feel validated by the fact that the bullshit starting rotation they trotted out to start the season is disintegrating before our very eyes. Sidney Ponson was released yesterday, and the Twins should consider themselves blessed they somehow managed to get 2 major league wins out of him. I really don't know what they were thinking with that one.


So let's take a look at our top 10 MLB pitchers by average Game Score thru 5/14/07. This is based on a minimum of 6 starts.

1. Jake Peavy SD 68.1
2. Dan Haren OAK 63.2
3. James Shields TB 63.1
4. John Maine NYM 63.0
5. Rich Hill CUBS 62.7
6. Brad Penny LAD 62.4
7. Ted Lilly CUBS 62.3
8. Tim Hudson ATL 61.1
9. Tim Wakefield BOS 60.7
10. Jason Marquis CUBS 60.4

Leave it to the Cub to have 3 of the top 10 starting pitchers in the game, yet still find a way to be 7 games out of first and under .500.

Here's the top 10 in the AL:

1. Dan Haren OAK 63.2
2. James Shields TB 63.1
3. Tim Wakefield BOS 60.7
4. Kelvim Escobar LAA 60.3
5. Josh Beckett BOS 60.1
6. Gil Meche KC 59.4
7. Jarrod Washburn SEA 58.7
8. Johan Santana MIN 58.0
9. John Lackey LAA 57.4
10. Mark Buehrle SOX 56.7

I'll take this moment to point out that, yes, the Sox bats have been awful this year, but by my count they've faced 5 of these guys already this year (Escobar, Meche, Washburn, Santana, Lackey), and one of them (Escobar) twice. Of course, that could also be an explanation for why these guys are on the list in the first place.

Meanwhile, how about this James Shields of the Devil Ray? He was an unknown headed into the season, but this 25 year old former 16th round draft pick has an unreal 0.90 WHIP ratio and a .199 batting average against. He's also been the 3rd best pitcher in baseball so far this year, and he does all this without (according to these photos) even looking where he is throwing the ball.

Unfortunately, I see this feel-good story ending prematurely thanks to a hyperextended neck injury that forces his head to stay in that position permanently.

And finally, here are the top 10 game scores of the year:

1. 94 Mark Buehrle SOX v. Rangers 4/18
2. 89 Felix Hernandez SEA at Red Sox 4/11
3. 86 Felix Hernandez SEA v. A's 4/2
Cole Hamels PHI at Reds 4/21
Jake Peavy SD at D-backs 4/25
Jason Marquis CUBS v. Pirates 5/9
7. 85 Kyle Lohse CIN at Cubs 4/15
Chad Durbin DET at Sox 4/25
9. 84 Paul Maholm PIT v. Astros 4/24
James Shields TB at Orioles 5/9

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Contreras, Sox, Poison Piranhas

When the Sox embarked on an 8 game, 3 city road trip, it looked as if they could be headed for big trouble. The offense was terrible, their best hitter was on the DL, and they were facing 3 teams with winning records.

The trip is now in the books, and after losing the first 3, the Sox rode the time-honored combination of timely hitting and excellent pitching to victories in 4 of the last 5 games. The Sox finish the trip a game over .500, and 4 games out of first place in the AL Central.


The Sox have games that can shave a good 2 or 3 hours off of my night's sleep. The 2-1 loss in Oakland early in the season, where Bobby Jenks gave up a 2 out, 2 strike game tying single the reprehensible Todd Walker, was one of them, and this one was certainly another. The Sox took a 4-1 lead into the eighth inning thanks to a Joe Crede solo homer and a big sixth inning. Javier Vazquez was cruising, but was pulled before the start of the inning as his pitch count was near 100, and the bullpen should be able to hold a lead like that. Should being the operative word, the bullpen didn't hold as all 3 of the batters Mike MacDougal faced ended up coming around to score, tying the game at 4. Then, in the 10th inning, with 2 outs runners on first and second, Ozzie decided he'd rather have Nick Masset face AL MVP Justin Morneau than Jeff Cirillo, and Morneau rewarded this brain fart with a no-doubt about it 3 run homer to give the Sox a painful loss.

Game Scores- Vazquez SOX 71, Bonser MIN 57


Evidently, Tuesday's loss stuck in the Sox' craw as much as it stuck in mine, because they came out like a house of fire on Wednesday. They roughed up Ramon Ortiz for four runs in the first inning, capped off by a big 2 run single by Ryan Sweeney. John Danks shut the Twins down over 6 2/3 to pick up his first win of his major league career, despite another shaky effort from MacDougal, who has surrendered 5 runs in his last inning pitched covering 2 outings, inflating his ERA to an unsightly 5.68. Things got hairy in the ninth inning when Bobby Jenks walked the first two batters he faced despite having a 3 run lead to protect, but he recovered to retire the next three in order and pick up his 11th save.

Game Scores- Danks SOX 65, Ortiz MIN 38


Jose Contreras evidently has a lot more left than people think he does. Since an awful Opening Day outing, he has been very good, and Thursday afternoon in Minnesota he was great, throwing a complete game 5 hit shutout to give the Sox their second straight series win. The Sox now boast road series victories over both the Tigers and Twins already this season, and are showing they should not be discounted in the AL Central race.

Game Scores- Contreras SOX 80, Silva MIN 47


V. KC ROYALS (11-24)

FRI- Odalis Perez v. Jon Garland

SAT- Scott Elarton v. Mark Buehrle

SUN- Jorge de la Rosa v. Javier Vazquez

I absolutely hate when the Sox play the Royals. Nothing stings my psyche more than when the Sox disappoint me, and anything short of a sweep against this team is a disappointment, yet sweeping any Major League team isn't an easy thing to do.

The Sox won the opener of this series, but didn't look very impressive in doing so. The Royals had given up 38 runs in their last 4 games headed into this one, so it seemed like a good opportunity for the Sox to work on those embarrassing batting averages they've been toting around. Seems like, but on Friday that wasn't the case. The blue hitting funk returned, and the Sox sweated out a 2-1 victory thanks to a run-scoring error by KC shortstop Tony Pena Jr., a great pitching performance by Jon Garland, and fortuitous placement of what could have been a game-tying line drive off the bat of Mike Sweeney in the ninth that instead found the glove of Joe Crede to end the game.

Saturday the Sox face Scott Elarton, who is making his first start of the 07 season. Elarton's a former Cleveland Indian, and the Sox have hit only .226 against him in his 10 career starts against the Sox. On Sunday they'll face Jorge de la Rosa, who has been pretty good this year, except when he pitches on the road, where he has a 6.50 ERA in 3 starts.



THIS WEEK- 2-1 v. Mariners (9-7, 2-9, 7-3)

The Tigers have been rolling lately, but yet, they look vulnerable. They are scoring a lot of runs, and giving up a lot of runs as well. Giving up a lot of runs is always and everywhere a troubling sign, and so are injuries to your pitching staff. The Tigers got word that Joel Zumaya is going to be out for months with his finger injury, and now Jeremy Bonderman is going to miss a start because of an injury to his finger. Maybe they should do away with the pre-game bullpen elephant walk in the wake of all these finger injuries.

NEXT- 3 at MIN (Won Friday 7-3)

INDIANS 20-13, 2ND PLACE -1.5

THIS WEEK- 1-2 at Angels (5-1, 2-3, 0-8)

Geez, it's amazing how much less impressive a team can look when it's not always playing the Orioles and the Devil Rays. As expected, the Indians have pissed all over themselves on their West Coast trip, dropping the final 2 games of their series in Anaheim, and getting clubbered in Sabathia's start in the series opener in Oakland. Rookie starter Jeremy Sowers is now 0-3 with a 6.56 ERA on the season, and has posted game scores below 30 in 3 of his last 5 starts.

NEXT- 3 at OAK (Lost Friday 2-8)

I'll have a new Game Score Corner on Monday, as in the last week we've had a few new entries in the top 10, and the guy who was number 1 at the end of April in average game score, Matt Cain, isn't even in the top 10 anymore after a couple of rough outings.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Sox Grind It Out

The Sox advertise grinder ball, and I guess this past weekend they gave us exactly that. It wasn't pretty, and I'm not quite sure how they managed to do it, but the Sox, who have not yet snapped out of the offensive funk they've been in all season, somehow managed to go into Anaheim and win a series against a very good Angels team.

This was as bad a game as you'll ever want to see the Sox play. I've never seen exhumed corpses play baseball, but if I did, I would imagine it would look something like the way the Sox played in this game. The routine fly ball plopping 10 feet behind Darin Erstad ranks right up there with Torii Hunter's plowing over of Jamie Burke, and Jose Paniagua's infamous stint in 2003 as one of the low points in White Sox baseball this decade.
Game Scores- Conteras SOX 53; Escobar LAA 63

The Sox jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead, but by the fifth inning the Angels had tied it at 3, and it merely looked like the Sox had found a new way to suck. But a clutch 2 out RBI gork shot by Crede, and some effective work by a bullpen that was finally given a lead to protect gave the Sox a much-needed end to their 5 game losing jag.
Game Scores- Garland SOX 49; Lackey LAA 56

The offense looked as flaccid as ever for the first seven innings of this game. Bartolo Colon was devouring the Sox like he would a grande carnitas burrito. But then, trailing 3-0 in the 8th inning, a little bit of baseball magic happened. With the Sox down 3-1, AJ Pierzynski launched a 2 run bomb off of reliever Scot Shields to tie the game at 3. Matt Thornton pitched the Sox out of Mike MacDougal's jam in the bottom of the ninth to send the game to extras, where K-Rod broke down in his second inning of work and the Sox took the lead. Bobby Jenks was shaky in the ninth, but managed to nail down his 10th save and give the Sox an unlikely series win.
Game Scores- Buehrle SOX 46; Colon LAA 61


TUE- Vazquez (2-1, 4.02, 54.2 Avg GS, 54 Last GS) v. Bonser (0-1, 4.55, 49.8 Avg, 54 Last)
WED- Danks (0-4, 5.02, 47.6 Avg, 52 Last) v. Ortiz (3-2, 3.23, 55.0 Avg, 33 Last)
THU- Contreras (2-3, 4.88, 45.8 Avg, 53 Last) v. Silva (2-2, 2.75, 52.2 Avg, 62 Last)

Hard as it is to believe, there is a team that has been struggling even more to score runs than the White Sox have lately, and that team is the Minnesota Twins. In dropping 2 of 3 at home to the Red Sox last weekend, the Twins managed a grand total of only 5 runs. Add to this the fact that Joe Mauer, his .353 batting average, his cute little sideburns, and his all-American smile on the DL, and the Twins have just as many if not more reasons for concern than the Sox do right now.

The Sox, as it's been noted in the local media pretty diligently, will not face bane of their existence Johan Santana in this series, and they won't face any other lefthanders either. That's good news because they have only a .580 team OPS against lefties this year vs. .705 against righties. This should be a week for the Sox to make up some of the ground they've lost in the division since taking 2 of 3 in Detroit a couple of weeks ago. If not, I may buy one of those ceremonial US Cellular Field bricks they keep advertising during the games, and throw it through my TV screen.


LAST WEEKEND- 2-2 at Orioles (2-3, 2-8, 9-6, 10-1)

The Indians have been doing things the Oriole Way a lot so far this year, and dancing with the Devil Ray pretty regularly. Things get a lot more difficult starting now, as they are going on the road to Anaheim and Oakland this week, and they just put a starting pitcher (Jake Westbrook) on the DL. By the end of this month, we'll have a better picture of how good this team is or isn't. You also have to wonder about how much longer they can get away with having a closer with an ERA of well over 7. I hate it when the baseball karma police let stuff like that go unpunished.

TIGERS 19-11, 2ND PLACE -1/2
LAST WEEKEND- 3-0 at Royals (6-3, 7-5, 13-4)

Joel Zumaya and his injured swear finger are going away for a long, long time, and the Tigers now have major, major bullpen problems. They'll be counting on Todd Jones, Fernando Rodney, Jose Mesa, and Jason Grilli to hold down the fort in the late innings for a while. They've also got what probably is the toughest schedule in the division this month. They'll finish a cushy stretch by hosting the Mariners for 3 this week, but then they go on the road to Minnesota and Boston, face the Cardinals in a World Series rematch, then host the Angels and Indians. That almost makes up for the fact that they've somehow managed to play the Royale NINE TIMES already this year?!?!?

ROYALS 10-22, 5TH PLACE -10 1/2
LAST WEEKEND- 0-3 v. Tigers (3-6, 5-7, 4-13)

I guess you can forget what I wrote last week about the Sox looking into acquiring Reggie Sanders. He TORE his hamstring shortly after that and is now on the DL for the forseeable future. Meanwhile, we can only hope the Royals still have their suck on when they come to the Cell this weekend.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Sucko de Mayo

Things aren't looking very good right now. The Sox have yet to win in the 4 games since Jim Thome went on the DL. The offense is sucking to the point where they are going to have to start shooting off the fireworks at US Cellular Field every time the Sox get a guy on base. After a 2 game sweep at the hands of the Mariners, in which the Sox scored a combined 4 runs, they find themselves 5 games back of the first place Indians, and facing down 6 more really tough road games in a row at the Angels and Twins. We're in trouble.

The first four spots in the lineup go a combined 0 for 13. Throw in Joe Crede in the 5 spot and you've got 1 for 17. Granted, this came against Jarrod Washburn, who has been one of the best pitchers in the AL so far this year, but as Wednesday's game would show, the Sox make every opposing pitcher look good.
Game Scores- Sox- Vazquez 54; Mariners- Washburn 64

Miguel Batista held the Sox to 2 runs over 7 1/3 innings, and STILL has an ERA over 6. If I never see Rob Mackowiak swing a bat again in my life I think I'd be OK with that. Meanwhile, John Danks continues his march towards 30 losses. He is now 0-4 with a 5.02 ERA, and is considered a "hard luck" pitcher. I dunno, with a 5.02 ERA I think it's a lot more likely that you'd be 0-4 than 4-0. He's tiptoeing very close to Felix Diaz territory in my world.
Game Scores- Sox- Danks 52; Mariners- Batista 61


AT LA ANGELS (16-13)
FRI- Contreras (44.4 Avg/45 Last)v. Escobar (54.3 Avg/65 Last)
SAT- Garland (54.6 Avg/54 Last) v. Lackey (56.0 Avg/59 Last)
SUN- Buehrle (61.0 Avg/49 Last) v. Colon (54.7 Avg/33 Last)

Seriously, this looks bad. This could be where the wheels really come off. A team that isn't hitting, at all, against anyone, is facing 3 quality pitchers on the road this weekend. The Sox could very, very possibly be at least 7 games out by Monday morning, and with the contract status of this team it's probably not even worth making deals to try and overcome that, which means we'll be thinking in seller mode, which means the Sox won't contend in this division again until 2010. I know, it all sounds very dire, but the prognosis for this team as we stand on here on May 4, 2007 is not a rosy one.

To step back from the ledge for a moment, the Angels offense has sucked just as bad as the Sox has this week. The Angels have dropped their last 2, scoring a combined 3 runs in their last 19 innings against the Royale.

INDIANS (17-8)
THIS WEEK- 3-0 V. Blue Jays (12-4, 7-6, 6-5)
The Indians are off to a really nice start. They can score runs, and that makes up for a lot of shortcomings in other areas, which the Indians certainly have. Everything about this team screams 2000-2004 White Sox to me though, so I'm not sold on them. Still, at this point I'd much rather have the 2000-2004 White Sox than the 2007 White Sox.

I just don't see how the Indians can keep winning with a rotation as weak as what they have. Westbrook is hurt, Cliff Lee didn't look good in his first start back, Byrd is inconsistent, and Sowers is just OK. Sabathia is untouchable against the White Sox but he's been touchable against everyone else. They're flawed, but it's becoming apparent that the Tigers, Twins, and White Sox all are too, so we'll see.
THIS WEEKEND- 4 AT Orioles (Fri-Mon)

TIGERS (16-11)
THIS WEEK- 3-0 V. Orioles (8-4, 5-4, 3-2)
I know the Sox have not been playing well, but can someone please explain to me why they are always playing the Angels while all the other AL Central heavyweights are seemingly locked in an endless battle for time immortal with the Royale, Oriole and Devil Ray? When does this bullshit end?

TWINS (15-13)
THIS WEEK- 1-2 AT Devil Rays (9-1, 3-4, 4-6)
Jesus, you mean a team in this division besides the White Sox actually LOST a game? I no believe. Ramon Ortiz finally pitched like Ramon Ortiz in Thursday night's loss, and the bullpen coughed one up on Wednesday night while the Twins were shut down by the surprisingly unhittable James Shields. This team isn't underperforming though. All the stars are hitting reasonably well, and the rotation has been better than it should be given who is in it. Last weekend the Twins took 2 of 3 from the Tigers, and that's fine with me. I think the only way the Sox have a chance this year is if it is a 4 team race, with the Twins keeping the Tigers and Indians from running away from the rest of the division.

ROYALS (10-19)
THIS WEEK- 2-2 V. Angels (1-3, 5-7, 3-1, 5-2)
Ross Gload was 4 for 4 with a triple, 2 RBI, and 3 runs scored in Thursday's win over the Angels. Meanwhile, the Sox DH'd the .050 hitting Alex Cintron in one of last weekend's losses to the Angels. Discuss amongst yourselves.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Thome on DL, Nobody Hitting, Long Road Trip On Tap, Puppies Dying Everywhere

Not a good weekend for the Sox. They continued to fumble and bumble in front of the home fans, dropping 2 out of 3 to the Angels of Anaheim and scoring a combined 2 runs in those losses. Add to that the fact that Jim Thome is on the 15 day DL with a rib cage ailment, and that the Sox are going to the West Coast (for the second time already this season), this week, followed by a 3 game set in the Metrodome, and there is a chance that the S.S. White Sock could begin taking on water this week.

The Sox scored in each of the final 5 times they came to bat in this game, obviously getting it all out of their system before they would score in one of the next 18 times they came to bat the rest of the weekend. If it wasn't for the bullpen, the Sox would be slugging it out with the Royals for last place now, but the bullpen is good and that definitely counts, so let's credit them in this game. They pitched 3 scoreless innings after Jose Contreras coughed up a 3-0 lead in the sixth inning on a 2 out, 2 run homer by Casey Kotchman.
Game Scores- Angels- E. Santana 40, Sox- Contreras 45

Here begins the suck. Jon Garland gave up 3 runs in the first two innings, which was 3 more than the Sox would plate the whole night. Jered Weaver befuddled the Sox by throwing everything 6 inches off the plate, and the Sox refused to stop swinging at them or move any closer to the plate to make the pitches hittable. Meanwhile, Hawk and DJ engaged in a three hour treatise on how unhittable Jered Weaver was. I will counter that by saying many pitchers appear unhittable when your team is hitting a major league worst .225.
Game Scores- Angels- Weaver 62, Sox- Garland 54

Were it not for a 2 run Darrin Erstad home run this would have been 2 shutouts in a row in front of the home fans. It's like the 2005 ALCS in reverse.
Game Scores- Angels- Escobar 65, Sox- Buehrle 49

The Sox go on the road to face these same Angels this weekend. It'll take a 180 degree turn from the way they played last weekend to avoid having that series be a cannonball to the hull of the ship that is their 07 season.

In keeping with our nautical theme, the Sox begin a short two game series in Seattle tonight.

(12-11) SOX (Vazquez 2-0, 3.75, 54.3 Avg GS, 42 Last)
at (10-10) MARINERS (Washburn 1-2, 2.96, 57.3 Avg, 81 Last)

Washburn was great in his last start, posting an 81 in a win over Oakland. In his 4 starts the AL is batting .216 against him, which is even worse than the Sox league-worst .225. So, by that logic, the Sox should hit even worse than they usually do tonight. That should rule.

INDIANS (14-8, 1ST PLACE, .752 OPS, 4.21 ERA)
The Indians are taking advantage of a soft early schedule, and are atop the AL Central at 14-8. Last weekend, they hosted the Oriole, and won 2 out of 3. Their May schedule is pretty murderous though. They start with 3 at home against Toronto, then go on the road for 10 games against the O's, Angels, and A's, then they are home for 6 against the Reds and Twins, before another 9 game road trip which includes stops in Detroit and Boston. If they get out of this month still in first place, I will be ready to crown their ass. Not yet though.

TWINS (14-11, 2ND PLACE -1.5, .731 OPS, 3.98 ERA)
God bless 'em, if Ramon Ortiz and Carlos Silva can continue to win 5 out of every 7 decisions with an ERA hovering around 3.00, they'll be golden (Silva has a near mathematical impossibility of a 3.10 ERA despite having a .308 batting average against) . And they're the Twins after all so why shouldn't they?

TIGERS (14-11, 2ND PLACE -1.5, .727 OPS, 4.16 ERA)
The Tigers are a better team than they were last year, but after one month of play it's obvious the magic pixie dust from 2006 is not there in 2007. We saw this last year with the White Sox, and we know how that movie ends. Their bullpen has been a disaster area so far this year, and in this division that's not going to get it done.

ROYALS (8-18, 5TH PLACE -8, .700 0PS, 4.32 ERA)
KC is worst in the division in OPS, and worst in ERA, so conversely, if you are the worst at scoring runs, and the worst at giving up runs, that should mean you are out of the race after a month, which the Royals are. KW likes to trade with the Royale, and Reggie Sanders is a guy the Sox really could use so they no longer have to DH Alex Cintron should anything happen to Jim Thome. Please Kenny, look into that.

INDIANS- 3 v. TOR, 3 at BAL
TWINS-3 at TB, 3 v. BOS
TIGERS- 3 v. BAL, 3 at KC
ROYALS- 4 v. LAA, 3 v. DET

Game Score Corner
So who've been the best in the biz thru one month of the season? The answers may surprise you:

Top 10 MLB Average Game Scores (Minimum 4 Starts)

1. Matt Cain SF 68.6
2. Tim Hudson ATL 68.5
3. Rich Hill CUBS 67.4
4. John Maine NYM 66.2
5. Roy Halladay TOR 65.7
6. Ted Lilly CUBS 65.4
7. Ian Snell PIT 65.0
8. Jake Peavy SD 64.2
9. Braden Looper STL 61.8
10. Mark Buehrle SOX 61.0

Actually, that list is really NL-heavy (8 NL, 2 AL), so let's give the top 10 AL hurlers recognition, since their league is better and they face lineups with 9 major league caliber hitters every time out.

1. Roy Halladay TOR 65.7
2. Mark Buehrle SOX 61.0
3. James Shields TB 60.8
4. Dan Haren OAK 60.5
5. Josh Beckett BOS 60.2
6. Ramon Ortiz MIN 59.4
7. Johan Santana MIN 59.3
8. Nate Robertson DET 57.8
9. Chad Gaudin OAK 57.6
10. Jarrod Washburn SEA 57.3

And, here's how the teams rank thru April:

1. A's 57.8
2. Red Sox 54.6
3. Mets 54.4
4. Cubs 54.0
5. Reds 53.9
6. Giants 53.3
7. D-backs 52.6
8. Angels 52.6
9. Sox 52.3
10. Brewers 51.7
11. Blue Jays 51.4
12. Tigers 51.1
13. Twins 51.0
14. Phillies 50.1
15. Astros 50.0
16. Braves 49.9
17. Dodgers 49.7
18. Royals 48.9
19. Padres 48.8
20. Orioles 48.5
21. Pirates 48.1
22. Cardinals 47.9
23. Indians 47.8
24. Nationals 47.5
25. Rockies 46.7
26. Mariners 44.8
27. Devil Rays 43.9
28. Marlins 43.0
29. Rangers 42.6
30. Yankees 41.6

And finally, here's Average Game Score Against, which might give you an idea of what kind of pitching a team's been facing, or may tell you how good or bad their offense is. It's in reverse order, because you want this score to be low for your team.

1. Marlins 43.0
2. Devil Rays 43.8
3. Yankees 44.0
4. Blue Jays 46.6
5. Cubs 46.8
6. Dodgers 47.0
7. Indians 47.0
8. Angels 47.5
9. Brewers 47.5
10. Phillies 47.6
11. Orioles 48.0
12. Mets 48.3
13. Twins 48.4
14. Red Sox 49.3
15. Tigers 49.4
16. Giants 49.5
17. Braves 49.9
18. D-Backs 50.0
19. Reds 50.4
20. Padres 51.1
21. Pirates 51.2
22. Rockies 51.6
23. Royals 51.9
24. Rangers 52.4
25. Mariners 53.0
26. A's 53.9
27. Astros 54.0
28. Sox 54.5
29. Nationals 55.5
30. Cardinals 58.3

I'll leave you with another fun table, which summarizes how a team ranks offensively and defensively by average GS:

AL East
Red Sox 16-8 (14th offense, 2nd pitching)
Blue Jays 13-12 (4, 11)
Orioles 12-14 (11, 20)
Devil Rays 11-14 (2, 27)
Yankees 9-14 (3, 30)

AL Central
Indians 14-8 (7, 23)
Twins 14-11 (13, 13)
Tigers 14-11 (15, 12)
Sox 12-11 (28, 9)
Royals 8-18 (23, 18)

AL West
Angels 15-11 (8, 8)
Mariners 10-10 (25, 26)
A's 12-13 (26, 1)
Rangers 10-15 (24, 29)

NL East
Braves 16-9 (17, 16)
Mets 15-9 (12, 3)
Marlins 12-13 (1, 28)
Phillies 11-14 (10, 14)
Nationals 9-17 (29, 24)

NL Central
Brewers 16-9 (9, 10)
Pirates 12-12 (21, 21)
Reds 12-13 (19, 5)
Cubs 10-14 (5, 4)
Astros 10-14 (27, 15)
Cardinals 10-14 (30, 22)

NL West
D-Backs 16-11 (18, 7)
Dodgers 15-11 (6, 17)
Giants 13-11 (16, 6)
Padres 13-13 (20, 19)
Rockies 10-16 (22, 25)

So, by looking at these rankings, it would look like the Cubs were by far the best team in baseball in April, and yet here they sit 5 1/2 games out of first and tied for last in their division. They can't continue to pitch and hit as well as they have without it beginning to translate into wins and losses, but if they don't continue to pitch and hit as well as they have, geez imagine how bad they'll be then.