Anaheim Angels: (Record: 42-39, Week: 1-5)
Sometimes things just don’t work out the way they should. In his latest start, Aaron Sele lasted seven innings and allowed just three hits and a walk. With those peripherals, you would think that Sele didn’t allow a run, or perhaps one. However, two of the three hits were home runs and Sele allowed three runs on the game. He managed to get the win but provided a good example of how luck and specific situations play a role in overall output.
Baltimore Orioles: (Record: 36-44, Week: 4-3)
Erik Bedard has had a season on the other end of the spectrum. His 1.55 WHIP would suggest that he is struggling to post an acceptable ERA but his luck has allowed his ERA to sit at 3.84. In his last four starts he posted a 1.37 WHIP and his ERA sat at an excellent 2.31. Bedard has been able to maximize his luck by minimizing his home runs allowed to just six. The luck is unlikely to continue but even when the law of averages catches up to him, his ERA will still be better than his pitching would suggest.
Boston Red Sox: (Record: 43-37, Week: 1-5)
Even though the Red Sox haven’t had as good of a season as they would have hoped, Johnny Damon can’t be blamed for that. Their catalyst and leadoff hitter has been doing his job all season long and has even posted the best on-base percentage of his career at .388. His eight stolen bases are slightly below his normal output hit his home run total of seven is slightly up. He has already scored 59 runs and has even driven in 38 from the leadoff spot. He has done his job but those surrounding him just have not cooperated.
Chicago White Sox: (Record: 42-36, Week: 3-3)
When the White Sox acquired Freddy Garcia they thought that they were picking up their new ace. However, if it was up Mark Buehrle, the ace has been in town all along. Buehrle has posted a decent ERA this season but has stepped up his performance in his last two starts. Even though he has just one win to show for it, Buehrle allowed just three runs while striking out 15 in those two starts. If a little friendly competition develops between the lefty and Garcia it will be nothing but good news for the Sox.
Cleveland Indians: (Record: 39-42, Week: 2-5)
Kazuhito Tadano had been a reliever throughout much of his minor league career yet the Indians decided to give him a start. Good choice. In the first start of his big league career, Tadano lasted seven innings and allowed just two runs on four hits while striking out 10. Most pitchers typically post better numbers in a relief role but Tadano showed much more promise from his start. His future may be out of the pen but the Indians will ride him in the rotation while he’s hot.
Detroit Tigers: (Record: 37-44, Week: 2-5)
Eric Munson was always projected to be a big time hitter in the major leagues but he has yet to reach his potential. That has not stopped him from putting up big numbers over short periods of time. This week, Munson hit .350 with two home runs and even recorded a cycle for the week. As with last season, he is showing good power numbers but is unable to raise his average to solid major league standards. It may click one day but that day is unlikely to come this year.
Kansas City Royals: (Record: 29-51, Week: 1-6)
It has been a rough stint for the Royals. Since dealing Carlos Beltran they have won just one game and the team is slumping in every way. John Buck, who was acquired from the Astros in the trade, has just three hits in 16 at-bats since the deal. Mike Wood has an ERA of 4.91 and a WHIP of 1.64 over the same period of time. After being such a surprise last season, the Royals have been the exact opposite this year.
Minnesota Twins: (Record: 44-37, Week: 3-4)
Everyone knows that Joe Mauer has good power potential and one day down the road may have a huge spike in home runs but who knew that the day has come. For the week, Mauer hit three home runs, three doubles, and a triple. He hit .545/.560/1.182 with six RBI and runs scored, and a stolen base. Mauer now has six home runs on the year in 85 at-bats. He’s already reached his expected output level for the whole season in one-sixth of the at-bats.
New York Yankees: (Record: 51-29, Week: 4-3)
Jason Giambi has been suffering from internal parasites and no one is quite sure how it started. I have a suggestion. Tony Clark thought he was about to get hot and wanted playing time. In Giambi’s absence, Clark hit four home runs and drove in eight in 30 at-bats. He doubled his season home run total in 86 less at-bats than it took for him to put up the first four. Clark is no longer a full-time player but he still has the ability to hit the long-ball and the Yankees should ride him while he’s hot.
Oakland Athletics: (Record: 46-34, Week: 5-1)
If anyone deserves an apology, it’s Eric Byrnes. Even after his 2003 campaign in which he showed that he can easily handle the rigors of being an everyday player, many doubted Byrnes. They said he only deserved a bench role and no one expected much from him. Instead of giving in, Byrnes is improving on his 2003 numbers. He has already hit 10 home runs and stole 10 bases and has a .287 average. By the end of the season he may end up doubling his output from last year and silencing his doubters in the mean time.
Seattle Mariners: (Record: 32-48, Week: 2-5)
As the youth movement continues, another rookie has been given a chance in Seattle. Travis Blackley’s numbers in his first major league start may not look that good but reading through the lines we see how good the outing was. Blackley had a no-hitter through three innings and had allowed just one run until he got tired in the sixth. As he gets used to going deeper into games, the lefty from the Outback will be able to maintain his good numbers and show the potential that he has.
Tampa Bay Devil Rays: (Record: 40-41, Week: 4-3)
Victor Zambrano is breaking every rule this season. His 1.54 WHIP in no way supports his ERA, even though it is just 4.30. His 77 walks in 106.2 innings pitched should be giving him an ERA over 6.00. Strangest of all though is his past few starts. In his last 28 innings pitched he struck out just 16 and walked 16 yet his ERA is 1.93. In his last 21 IP, nine K’s to 12 walks with an ERA of 0.86. And in his last start, four K’s and four walks, zero runs. I’m at a loss.
Texas Rangers: (Record: 46-34, Week: 4-4)
When you are having a great season, you need a few players to have career years. Kevin Mench is one for the Rangers. His .275 average and 11 home runs are not great numbers but they are better than expected from Mench. One thing Mench has not been doing is walking at his established rate. His 10 walks are about half as many as he should have. With his plate discipline seemingly down it is strange to see the improved production.
Toronto Blue Jays: (Record: 36-46, Week: 3-4)
When you think of the Blue Jays, the first thing that comes to mind is their offensive potential. One big thing often forgotten is Roy Halladay and the top of the Blue Jay rotation. It may not be the best in the league but it is certainly one of the better ones with Miguel Batista and Ted Lilly backing up Halladay. Over the past week, the three have combined to throw 25 innings and have allowed just two runs. The season is virtually over for the Jays but whatever potential the pitchers show now is a bonus for next year.
Arizona Diamondbacks: (Record: 30-53, Week: 3-5)
They were not perfect games, but Randy Johnson’s last two starts were nearly as good. Johnson struck out 18 over 17 innings and allowed just nine baserunners, all on hits. His 1.59 ERA and 0.53 WHIP improve his season numbers to 2.90 and 0.86 respectively. Johnson has only posted one season with a WHIP under 1.00 and that year it was at just 0.98. If “The Big Unit” is able to maintain a WHIP close to this level it will be quite an amazing feat.
Atlanta Braves: (Record: 41-41, Week: 6-2)
He has always had the potential but his body hasn’t cooperated until this year. J.D. Drew has missed just a handful of games and has finally had a chance to pile up the stats. His 19 home runs is already the second-highest total of his career and his 52 RBI and 61 runs are both near the same plateau. If Drew can play as many games in the second half of the season as he did in the first, he will certainly post the best year of his career.
Chicago Cubs: (Record: 46-36, Week: 5-2)
Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano, Matt Clement, Greg Maddux… and Glendon Rusch? Rusch has actually out-pitched Maddux thus far with his 3.84 ERA. He has only walked 15 batters in 70.1 innings and has more than three times as many strikeouts with 47. He is showing no signs of slowing down with a 2.57 ERA and 1.00 WHIP over his last two starts. Once Wood returns from the DL, Rusch almost certainly will go back to the bullpen but the Cubs have him to thank for helping them hang in there while Wood has been out.
Cincinnati Reds: (Record: 44-38, Week: 3-4)
Most players struggle while approaching a milestone and once they achieve it they go back to their normal ways. Ken Griffey Jr. however, since hitting his 500th home run, has not been able to do anything. In his last 16 games, Griffey hit the big home run but has no others. He hit .190/.258/.259 with just six RBI and five runs scored. Of his 11 hits, one was the big home run and one was a double, the other nine were all singles. Like J.D. Drew, Griffey is proving he is healthy and will perform, this is just a slump.
Colorado Rockies: (Record: 32-49, Week: 4-3)
It is time yet again for the Todd Helton RBI update. Since Preston Wilson returned to the lineup, Helton has 16 RBI in as many games. He has 14 runs scored, three home runs, and his average is well over .400. His season numbers are now starting to return to a more Helton-like level. Given a few more weeks, it will look like nothing was ever missing.
Florida Marlins: (Record: 42-41, Week: 2-6)
After starting out on fire, Miguel Cabrera has returned to Earth some but has stepped it up again recently. This past week he hit .333/.467/.792 with three home runs. He is now hitting .292 with an OPS over .900 and 20 home runs on the season. The 21-year old outfielder is just beginning to blossom and could be on the verge of a monster season in 2005.
Houston Astros: (Record: 42-40, Week: 3-4)
Morgan Ensberg was one of the great mysteries of the 2003 season. He was playing so well yet he was never given the full-time job at third base. The same thing happened this season and Ensberg suffered, likely psychologically. He hadn’t hit a home run all year until this week, when he hit three in three days. His production is still far down from last year which is certainly not helping him take a hold of the starting job.
Los Angeles Dodgers: (Record: 43-37, Week: 5-2)
This week’s right place at the right time candidate is Guillermo Mota. Mota is an excellent pitcher and will surely be a top-flight closer soon but that, as we have learned, has nothing to do with wins. Mota pitched in five games this week and won three of them. He has six wins on the season, more wins than any pitcher in a few ML rotations. I’d say he’s on pace for 12 wins but that’s just not true the way wins go. He could just as easily win 20 as he could stay at six. No one knows.
Milwaukee Brewers: (Record: 42-38, Week: 4-4)
Danny “Statistical anomaly” Kolb is having one of the strangest seasons ever. His ERA is almost lower than his WHIP, 0.84 to 0.81. He has 25 saves and just one blown save. He hasn’t allowed a home run and has let up just 21 hits in 32 innings. Strangest of all is hit K/BB rate of 11/5. No, that isn’t simplified; he has struck out just eleven batters. If you are a fan of DIPS you’d probably guess that given his K-rate, his hit-rate is virtually impossible to maintain. He deserves a lot of credit for what he’s done but there is no way that he can keep this up.
Montreal Expos: (Record: 28-53, Week: 3-5)
When a player has a well-established performance level, it is extremely unlikely that he just loses it out of nowhere for no reason. Until recently, it looked like that was happening to Jose Vidro. He had just four home runs, 21 RBI, 14 runs scored, and was hitting .241. Then it all came together. Since then, Vidro has hit .421 with 6 HR, 18 RBI, and 19 runs scored. He has basically doubled what he did in 58 games in just 20 games.
New York Mets: (Record: 41-40, Week: 5-2)
Kazuo Matsui had no chance from the start. He was so hyped coming into the season that there was no way he would be able to match the expectations. While he has posted a decent season, his numbers were sub-par until recently. Perhaps something clicked for Matsui this week. He hit .345/.406/.655 with two home runs, 11 runs scored, and a stolen base. If he is able to raise his .259 average to .280 and get the home runs near 20 by the end of the season, the year has to be considered a success.
Philadelphia Phillies: (Record: 44-37, Week: 6-2)
Bobby Abreu is one of the quiet superstars of the game. Every year he hits .300 with 20 or 30 home runs and 20 or 30 steals. I don’t know why he doesn’t get more attention but he certainly deserves it. This year is no different. He is hitting .305/.445/.573 with 17 home runs and 17 steals. He has 57 RBI and is second in the league with 68 runs scored. If he starts to get some attention, perhaps people will begin to realize how good he really is.
Pittsburgh Pirates: (Record: 37-43, Week: 7-0)
Jack Wilson’s .341 average is impressive, his defense is very impressive, but most impressive of all is his .516 slugging percentage. Wilson is 25th in the league in slugging and he is leading all shortstops in that category as well as average and OPS. His seven triples leads the league by three and his 21 doubles is good for third in the league. Where did this all come from?
San Diego Padres: (Record: 45-37, Week: 6-2)
When Ramon Hernandez went down with an injury, Humberto Quntero was called up, causing him to be removed from the Futures Game roster. I don’t think Quintero minds. The rookie catcher has hit .400 with two home runs and six RBI since getting the call. He has been playing every day and has proven that he can handle the job. If he can maintain a high level of production, he could even take over for the struggling Hernandez down the road.
San Francisco Giants: (Record: 45-38, Week: 2-5)
Ray Durham has quietly been posting a solid rebound season from his disappointing 2003 campaign. He hasn’t been stealing bases at his established level but his average and OBP are up to normal at .297 and .372 respectively. He has also shown his usual decent pop with six home runs and 18 total extra-base hits. With Bonds going strong, the Giants need Durham to do everything he can to maximize Bonds’ output.
St. Louis Cardinals: (Record: 50-32, Week: 4-3)
Since Jack Wilson has taken over the title of best shortstop in the NL this season, Edgar Renteria wants it back. He had a rough first half, hitting around .270 for most of the year. Recently he has turned it around. He has had a few weeks over .300 and has his average up to .283. By the end of the season, he’ll likely get the average over .300 and might go on a hot streak and end up with more home runs than Jack Wilson. Even if he doesn’t pass him, he will certainly make it an interesting race.
Stat of the week:
Jason Bay on July 2 against Milwaukee:
4 for 5, 1 R, 8 RBI, 1 HR, 3 2B
Each of his four hits drove in two runs. This is the second eight-RBI game of his career joining only Nomar Garciaparra as active major leaguers to do it twice in their career.