Saturday, June 5, 2010

The boys of summer

With Memorial Day having come and gone, and all-star balloting in full swing, it is time again to take stock in the baseball season. We have some surprising trends and interesting leaders after two months gone by. We have also witnessed some history for good measure.

I already wrote a post about removing the human element from sports, so I'm not going to get into the bad call in the most recent perfect game attempt. But what is even more interesting, in my mind, is the fact that this would have made for three perfect games in the first two months of the season. Unreal. There have only been 20 perfect games thrown ever. Ever. If you count Galarraga's, that makes 21 and three in 2010 alone, and we haven't hit the second week of June yet. Now this is most certainly just sheer coincidence. But one-hitters are up from the pace of the past decade. Two-hitters and three-hitters are as well. Essentially, more good/great games are being pitched. The talent of the starting pitchers in baseball right now is immense. Perhaps the lack of steroids being taken by hitters is more immense. Either way, I'm loving it. I know most fans would rather watch a 9-8 game, but I always enjoy that masterpiece thrown by an ace. Also, I have Ubaldo Jimenez on my fantasy team, so there's that.

In other historic news, the great George Kenneth Griffey Junior announced his retirement mid-season. Griffey was and is my favorite baseball player. I remember him leaping walls and jacking bombs in Seattle very fondly. I also remember him scoring the winning run against the Yankees in the '95 playoffs. That memory is not as fond though. I won't go through all the stats here, because it's unnecessary and just as easy to look up. He's a hall-of-famer, as we all know. He is the 6th greatest center fielder of all time, which a'int too shabby considering the competition there. (The other five, inarguably, are: Mays, Cobb, Mantle, DiMaggio, and Speaker.) So without getting too nostalgic, and having everyone wear their baseball caps backwards in memoriam, I am just sad that he'll never play again, even though he stopped playing as The Kid about nine years ago. At least he passed Sammy Sosa in career home runs.

As for the 2010 season, the Rays still have the league's best record. The Yankees still have the second best record. The Orioles still have the worst record. (And you wonder why there's an east coast bias. Maybe it is because that's where all the news happens.) Speaking of, the Toronto Blue Jays remain one of the biggest surprises through two months of the season. Picked by many to finish last in the division, with good reason, this team is crushing the ball. They have 94 home runs; 17 more than any other team. And their best player in 2009, Adam Lind, is struggling in '10, to say the least. Part of their success should be contributed to one Jose Bautista. If you've never heard of him, join the club. The only reason I remember him as a bit player from years past, is because I have problems. His career high in home runs is 18. That's from this year. He has 18 home runs right now, in less than 200 at bats. His previous career high was just 16 homers in 400 at bats back in '06. Needless to say, a pace of 9 jacks a month might not continue through August if I had to guess. I don't see Jose Bautista joining the 50 home run club, but maybe that's just me. Other news out of the east has the Braves moving from last place to first place in under a month, and the mighty Phillies being in the bottom ten in the majors in runs scored.

The best record in the NL belongs to the San Diego Padres. Go ahead and read that again. Not surprisingly, they can't score any runs. But, thanks in part to that giant monstrosity of an outfield at Petco Park, they have the best pitching in the league. Jon Garland's ERA stands at 2.15 right now. That's a run and a half lower than any other year of his career where he's thrown more than 6 starts. Let's just say I would consider him a 'sell high' candidate in fantasy circles.

In other standings surprises, the Cincinnati Reds are 31-24. They haven't finished a season with a winning percentage that good since 1999. Hell, they haven't even finished with a winning record since 2000. The Oakland A's are also off to a nice start, two games over .500 currently. Throw in the Nationals hovering around .500 and many of the perceived bottom-dwellers are holding their own with a little more than 100 games remaining in the season.

As for the fun stuff, the individual player stats that just cannot be explained, we have a number of examples. Ubaldo Jimenez, mentioned earlier, may have already locked up the NL Cy Young Award after only 11 starts. His season ERA is under 1. So is his WHIP. He has a 10-1 record. In his only loss, he pitched 7 innings, giving up 1 run on 2 hits. He has not allowed more than 4 runs in any MONTH yet this season. Saying Ubaldo is this year's Zack Greinke might even be understating it.

In the yearly triple crown chase, both Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera are top 3 in their league in each category. However, further cementing the old 'the NL sucks compared to the AL' argument, the top NINE hitters in the majors all come from the american league, led by Justin Morneau at a clip of .372. In fact, the top five in OPS are also all from the AL. The aforementioned Jose Bautista ranks fifth on that list, ahead of Albert Pujols. How fun.

Wrapping up the always entertaining stats watch is Stephen Drew. Counting 2010, this would be the fourth season of his five year career in which Drew has had more triples than stolen bases. Only one time has he ended a season with more stolen bases than triples. I find this extraordinary, and the only conclusion I can draw is that Stephen Drew is awful at reading a pitcher's delivery.

As for what can be expected the rest of the way in the 2010 MLB season, I'm not one for predictions per se, but Jose Bautista will not lead the league in home runs, Justin Morneau will not lead the league in batting, and the Padres will not finish with the NL's best record. How's that?

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