Major League Roundup

Astros Killer-B, Lance Berkman (Getty Images)

InsidethePark.com's Ian Levin moves from starting pitching to the offensive minded sluggers in this week's edition of the Major League Roundup. Find out who's hot, who's not, and who might buck the trends and turn their season around. Mr. Levin knows. Why don't you?

American League

Anaheim Angels: (Record: 33-23, Week: 3-3)
When Troy Glaus went down, many thought that would put a big hole in the Anaheim lineup and would hurt their chances of remaining successful. To the surprise of many, Chone Figgins has stepped in and the team hasn't lost a step. While Figgins doesn't possess nearly the power of Glaus, he makes up for that with his 16 stolen bases. He is hitting .312 with two home runs and playing solid defense at the hot corner for the contending Angels.

Baltimore Orioles: (Record: 25-27, Week: 2-4)
Even after his breakout 2003 season, there were many Melvin Mora doubters prior to the season. Instead of caving in under the pressure, Mora has outperformed even the most optimistic projections. He is hitting an amazing .370 with a .455 OBP and .597 SLG. He has already smacked 11 homers and 15 doubles while stealing seven bases. I guess they were right; he's not as good as last year. He's better.

Boston Red Sox: (Record: 33-23, Week: 2-4)
Like Melvin Mora, David Ortiz had a breakout 2003 season and many doubted that he'd be able to repeat the success. Instead, Ortiz has quieted his critics with 12 home runs and an outstanding 24 doubles. His ability to maintain this level of hitting has helped the Red Sox survive while Nomar Garciaparra and Trot Nixon heal their injuries. As the two return, the Sox will become even more dangerous.

Chicago White Sox: (Record: 30-24, Week: 1-4)
Even at the age of 36, "The Big Hurt" Frank Thomas continues to put a hurt on opposing pitchers. Thomas is currently hitting .295, his highest since 2000, and has an OPS of over 1.000. His 12 home runs and 33 RBI put him right on pace to post yet another season of 30 home runs and 100 RBI. If he can reach the milestone, it will be the ninth time he has done so.

Cleveland Indians: (Record: 25-29, Week: 3-3)
It often takes young catchers a few years of major league service before their hitting develops and they begin to reach their potential. I guess age 25 and 61 major league games are enough for Victor Martinez. The young catcher is showing the skills that make him one of the best offensive catchers in baseball. He is hitting .295 and has smacked nine home runs while driving in 45 runners. He may hit a bump in the road, but the next great offensive catcher is here.

Detroit Tigers: (Record: 25-31, Week: 3-4)
Speaking of offensive catchers, Pudge Rodriguez just won't stop hitting. His .349 average and .388 OBP are currently the best of his career and he has already driven in 42 to go along with his seven home runs. He has also stolen four bases without being caught and is his usual self behind the plate. The time at DH is certainly helping him stay strong and healthy.

Kansas City Royals: (Record: 20-34, Week: 3-4)
Carlos Beltran is putting up solid numbers in his final season before becoming a free agent, but those numbers are not as great as it would seem with the publicity he has been getting. Beltran is hitting just .275/.358/.526 with 11 home runs. His 11 stolen bases and 41 RBI have helped overshadow his sub-par average.

Minnesota Twins: (Record: 30-26, Week: 3-4)
At the start of the season, Lew Ford wasn't even a starting option for the Twins. He was given a chance to play thanks to a few injuries and he has taken the job and run with it. Ford is hitting for a team-high .328 average and .920 OPS. He has seven home runs and 19 total extra-base hits to go along with five stolen bases. He has cooled off a bit recently but he has proven that he can hit and has given the Twins more options for the rest of the season.

New York Yankees: (Record: 35-20, Week: 5-1)
Some things just can't be explained. Derek Jeter is a great hitter and a great overall player. He has not had any significant injuries this year and he is just 29-years-old, yet his offensive numbers are down. His contact rate is down and he is not taking the walk as frequently as his career trends insist. His power rate however, is up. Perhaps with the more powerful Yankee lineup he wanted to join in and began swinging for the fences. His average was as low as .161 at one point and it is now up to .233. Maybe the $189 million dollar man is on the way back to a more Jeter-like level.

Oakland Athletics: (Record: 31-24, Week: 5-1)
Bobby Kielty was brought in to compete, and likely take over Eric Byrnes' starting job. Instead, Byrnes has been a threat at the plate as well as on the base paths and Kielty has been struggling to find his stroke. Byrnes has the highest average on the team at .305 and has twice as many stolen bases as anyone else with eight. Both Byrnes and Kielty have five home runs but Byrnes has seven more extra-base hits. Byrnes has his own way of doing things but he is certainly getting the job done.

Seattle Mariners: (Record: 21-34, Week: 3-3)
The Mariners wanted to pick up a left-handed power bat during the winter and although the move was questioned, Raul Ibanez has seemed to be a good choice. Even though he is hitting just .268, he has 11 home runs and 23 total extra-base hits. The 31-year-old is leading the team in runs scored with 34 and ranks second to Edgar Martinez in RBI with 28. If he can maintain this level of performance after he returns from the DL, he will prove to be well worth the contract he signed.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays: (Record: 21-33, Week: 4-2)
Although his offensive line could be worse, Aubrey Huff's season thus far has to be considered a disappointment. His past two seasons, especially 2003, have been so outstanding that the bar he has set for himself is hard to achieve. He is sure to turn it around soon but he is hitting just .267/.391/.427 with eight home runs. Compare that to his line of .311/.367/.555 with 34 home runs last season and you'll see that he needs to do a lot more to give the Devil Rays the quality bat that they thought they had. He has flipped the switch of late. Let's see if he can keep up the hot streak.

Texas Rangers: (Record: 30-24, Week: 3-2)
A-Rod who? With Alfonso Soriano coming over in the Alex Rodriguez deal, the Rangers had two second basemen and no shortstops, so Michael Young took one for the team and shifted to his right 35 feet. He may not have the power of Rodriguez, but he has been spectacular at the plate. Young is hitting.328 and has 23 extra-base hits including four triples. He has scored 37 runs and driven in 35 and has stolen five bases. The Rangers' star infielder has done a little, well, a lot of everything for the surprising Texas club.

Toronto Blue Jays: (Record: 25-32, Week: 3-4)
Carlos Delgado has been one of the best hitters in the game and he still has that talent to be a star offensive force. His body, however, has not cooperated this year. He has fought through numerous ailments and is hitting just .227 with eight home runs. Delgado is not the only disappointment on the Jays, as Josh Phelps is hitting just .236 with five homers and Eric Hinske is hitting .223 with five big flies.


National League

Arizona Diamondbacks: (Record: 22-35, Week: 4-3)
You've heard of the calm before the storm, but this is the storm before the calm. Steve Finley over the past four seasons had been a solid player but did not show the power that he is flashing this year. One-third of the way through the season, Finley has 16 home runs and appears well on his way to challenging his career high of 35. At the age of 39, this offensive storm might soon be taken over by a cold front.

Atlanta Braves: (Record: 28-28, Week: 4-3)
Johnny Estrada doesn't have a ton of power and doesn't take a lot of walks. What he will do is just about everything else there is on the field. He has shown that he can get the job done when he is called upon with runners in scoring position. The first-year catcher is hitting .355 overall with 38 RBI to go along with his four home runs included in his 23 extra-base hits. If the Braves can get healthy, they still have what it takes to compete in the National League.

Chicago Cubs: (Record: 29-26, Week: 3-3)
In yet another case of an older player having a huge offensive season, Moises Alou looks to be on the way to posting the best year of his career. He is hitting .321 with 14 home runs and 29 total extra-base hits. He has driven in and scored 36 runs and has helped keep the Cubs in contention in the tough NL Central. With all of the injuries that the Cubs have suffered, it's amazing that they are where they are. Thank you, Moises Alou.

Cincinnati Reds: (Record: 34-22, Week: 5-1)
If you're a Cincinnati Red, you've either been a disappointment or a nice surprise. Sean Casey, Ken Griffey Jr., Adam Dunn, and Barry Larkin all have outperformed what many expected from them, combining for 48 home runs with a .295 average. Everyone else in the lineup has underachieved thus far. It is difficult to determine which way they will go for the rest of the year. Will the overachievers come back to earth or will the underperformers get it going? Hmmmmm.

Colorado Rockies: (Record: 21-34, Week: 3-3)
It has been said before and it will be said again; Coors Field can turn the average player into a superstar. Vinny Castilla and Jeromy Burnitz both have talent, especially power. However, they are not .300 hitters... outside of Coors. The two have combined to hit 31 home runs and 94 RBI while hitting .292. The average is likely to take a hit as the season goes along but they are both legitimate 40-home run threats in the thin air of Colorado.

Florida Marlins: (Record: 32-25, Week: 2-5)
Mike Lowell always was a solid player in 2002, but he showed a sign of his future. That year his power spiked and since then it has remained at a high level. This season he is even adding more power as well as average to his already impressive stat-line. He is currently hitting .336/.422/.635 with 14 home runs and 34 total extra-base hits. His walks are up, strikeouts are down, and he is driving in runners. The Marlins will go as far as Mike Lowell can carry them.

Houston Astros: (Record: 30-25, Week: 3-3)
Lance Berkman doesn't get much recognition considering the numbers he is able to put up. Since he entered the league full-time in 2000 he has done nothing but knock the cover off the baseball. This season he is posting the career-bests in average (.333), OBP (.481), and SLG (.650), and with 14 home runs, he has a chance to set a career-high there as well. The switch-hitter is a free agent after this season and if he hits the market, will surely be the best NL player available considering his likely lower price tag.

Los Angeles Dodgers: (Record: 30-24, Week: 4-2)
Shawn Green looked to be on the way back from a down 2003 season but he seems to have lost his groove again. Maybe he ought to ask Stella how she got hers back eh? After hitting .280 with virtually no power last year, he is now hitting .228 with even less power. He has seven home runs and just 11 doubles and has driven in 25 as the team best run producer. Green is just 31 so age is not a factor in his recent decline in production. If Green was a stock, he'd be a very good buy-low candidate right now. He has to have something left. Doesn't he?

Milwaukee Brewers: (Record: 27-27, Week: 2-4)
Lyle Overbay, the doubles machine, has 24 doubles and currently ranks atop the NL in that area and he has six home runs and a triple to go along with them. He is hitting .333 with an OPS of .945 and has driven in 41 runs (thank you Scott Podsednik). As Overbay matures, he may be able to turn these doubles in home runs and could out-perform his long-term power projections.

Montreal Expos: (Record: 18-37, Week: 2-4)
When looking for a disappointing offensive performer on the Expos, no need to look any further than their lead off hitter. And their No. 2 hitter. And their No. 3 hitter, and so on. They are hitting just .232 as a team and are being outscored 226 to 163. The 'Spos are not walking (.289 OBP), hitting home runs (43), or doing anything else to jumpstart the offense, and considering that they have played a few games in Hiram Bithron Stadium, AKA Coors Field South, those numbers are very poor.

New York Mets: (Record: 28-28, Week: 5-2)
Mike Cameron was brought in for his defense, but he was still expected to hit better than his current showing. Cameron is hitting below the Mendoza Line at .198 and has just seven home runs and 17 total extra-base hits. He has tried to take advantage of the few times he has gotten on base with nine steals but is striking out as much as ever and not doing much else. He has already been dropped to the eight spot in the order and will need to get going to warrant time as a regular.

Philadelphia Phillies: (Record: 29-26, Week: 2-5)
While many of the Phillies have struggled, especially early in April, Pat Burrell has completely returned from his abysmal 2003 season. He is hitting .295/.405/.508 with 10 home runs and has driven in 43. He already has half as many hits as he had in almost three times as many at-bats last year. Last year appears to be the anomaly. He is back and will keep getting better.

Pittsburgh Pirates: (Record: 24-29, Week: 1-6)
It is hard to say who has been a bigger surprise this season; Jack or Craig Wilson. Jack Wilson is hitting nearly 75 points over his career average at .332 and already has four home runs, four triples, and five steals. Craig Wilson has always shown monster power potential and is being given a chance to play this year. He is well on his way to setting a career high in basically every offensive category and has already eclipsed some.

San Diego Padres: (Record: 31-25, Week: 3-3)
After a slow start, Brian Giles has picked up his performance but is not quite at his established level. He is hitting .282 with his usual high OBP of .385 but has just nine home runs and 20 total extra-base hits. He has driven in 35 and scored 36 runs while stealing 5 bases so he is still an asset to the offense. He will likely continue to improve as the season moves along and approach his expected offensive stats.

San Francisco Giants: (Record: 28-28, Week: 3-4)
Entering the season, did you really think that Barry Bonds would lead the Giants in home runs? OK, you did of course. But did you think that Pedro Feliz would be in a clear second with 11? Feliz has been given a chance to play in four different positions but may be ready to settle in at shortstop. He is 29 years old so his time is now, but he may be able to maintain a performance level similar to his current rate.

St. Louis Cardinals: (Record: 32-24, Week: 6-1)
Scott Rolen had been pegged as the next Mike Schmidt with the bat as well as the glove and while he has met expectations in the field, his bat has been great but not Schmidt-like. That is, until this year. The 29-year old is the clear favorite for the MVP trophy with his league leading 60 RBI, 14 home runs, .353 average, and gold glove defense. Rolen started out strong, hasn't looked back, and there is no reason to believe he will slow down. I expect him to finish what he started and post over 140 and possibly 150 RBI.

Stat of the week:
Dustan Mohr, June 4 at Colorado:
4-4, BB, HR, 3 RBI, 2 runs
OK, not very impressive but consider that this one game raised his average to .203 from .145. It's June and a player raised his average almost 60 points in one game.

Ian Levin resides in a fantasy world where the Duke Blue Devils never lose, the M's still have Ken Griffey Jr., and his favorite number is always the lotto winner. Feedback is always welcome at IanLevin@InsidethePark.com

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