Sunday, May 2, 2010

What to believe

We are a month into the 2010 Major League Baseball season. This is not nearly enough time to make proper judgments and predictions. Usually Memorial Day (roughly two months into the season) is used as the first day to 'see where you are' as a team, a player, whatever. One month in, some crazy stuff happens. In years past, April stars such as Chris Shelton and Emilio Bonafacio have graced the leader-boards of some of baseball's major stat categories, only to disappear by year's end (and in Shelton's case, to be demoted to the minor leagues.)

What of this year's crazy stuff is real, which statistics can we believe and which are bound to plummet? Let's examine and find out.

The most important stat in any sport is wins. Taking a quick look at the current standings we see that the Tampa Bay Rays have the best record in baseball. This is nothing mind blowing, however many of the other current division leaders left my mind blown. The Oakland A's, New York Mets, and San Diego Padres all currently lead their respective divisions. This is not going out on too thin a limb, but I still think all three will miss the playoffs. They just aren't good. I mean the Padres have allowed the third fewest runs in all of baseball. That will not continue for much longer with a staff anchored by the immortal Jon Garland. Their young pitchers (Correia, Latos, and LeBlanc) are good but not 'guys I would trust to win a playoff series' good.

On the other side of things, Baltimore, Kansas City, and Houston are in the basement of their respective divisions....Well, actually, this checks out. But so are the Braves, Dodgers, and Mariners. All three of those teams were picked by many to make the playoffs before the season started. However, as the famous saying goes, you can not win your division in April, but you sure can lose it. And I think only the Braves out of these bottom dwellers will come back to even make the playoffs. Sorry Seattle, your city's woes continue.

Individual April player stats are even more questionable than the current standings. Carlos Lee, a career .290 hitter, is batting a putrid .176 right now. That will get turned around. Ben Zobrist has hit zero home runs in 91 at-bats, even though he had been hitting them at a pace of every 18 at-bats the previous two seasons. Matt Kemp has already been caught stealing 5 times. Perhaps that doesn't sound too bad out of any context, but last year, in 159 games, he stole 34 bases and was only caught 8 times. And what about 2009's Cy Young award winner in the american league, Zack Greinke? He is off to a nice start in 2010, with peripherals of a 2.56 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP and a 27/7 strikeout to walk ratio. All rather sparkling numbers. The only problem is he hasn't won a single game yet.

But enough with the bad starts. Who is off to a great start in 2010? (and is bound to come plummeting back to Earth soon.) Well the NL home run leader is none other than previously released Kelly Johnson. No one wanted him during spring training until the Diamondbacks finally signed him right before the season began. He decided to thank them by hitting 9 home runs in his first 23 games played. The only problem is he might not hit 9 more the entire rest of the season. He has never had a season in the majors where he hit 18 home runs. His career high is 16. Austin Jackson, the Tigers rookie who was acquired in the Curtis Granderson trade, is currently batting .356 with 37 hits and 21 runs scored on the year. April was his first month ever playing in the majors. Something tells me he won't continue on this torrid pace. And how about the resurgence of $100 million man Vernon Wells. He has a 1.069 OPS right now. He hasn't ended a season with an OPS even over .900 since 2003. To put it in some more perspective, 1.069 would be the 4th highest career OPS in the history of baseball, right behind Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, and Lou Gehrig. I would have to say Vernon might be in for a bit of a decline before the month of May is out. The aforementioned Kevin Correia is off to a very nice start as well. He has already notched 4 wins on the year. However, he has zero quality starts because he hasn't completed at least six innings in any of them.

As you can see, the stats and standings are fun to examine any time of the year. However, they pretty much don't mean a thing. Yet.

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