Tagged: Atlanta Braves

Statistical proof that Andruw Jones has stopped hitting

Mendozajones_1 A while back, we made note of Andruw Jones’ decreasing effectiveness at the plate after he struck out 5 times against the Red Sox. Well, at that point, Andruw’s average was a comparatively stellar .212. He is now batting .199. Now, I know we have all moved on from using batting average as the sole statistical judge of a player’s ability, but in this case it’s really all we need. He isn’t hitting the ball, he isn’t getting on base, and when he does make contact, it’s not very good – his slugging percentage is .383. To show just how bad this is, consider this. Since his last multi-hit game on June 9th – just his tenth this whole year, all but one of which have been 2-hitters – Jones has gone a depressing 2-39. So that’s a .051 average. However, his season average has dropped only 26 points, from .225 to .199. And, as I will always point out, A. Jones has not exactly dropped in
the batting order. Inexcusably, he has been batting 4th or 5th in
almost every game. Cox dropped him to sixth on the
18th and 19th, only to
throw him back in the 4-hole on the 22nd. Is it
that he just can’t help himself? Is Cox going senile? It’s one thing to stick with
your player when he slumps, but this guy has no business within sight
of the 5-hole, as we will demonstrate.

 

Take a larger sample size; consider the entire month of June. Jones has exactly 10 hits in 79 AB’s, for a .127 average. I’m sure many of you are thinking, ‘but the walks count too – he’s getting on base.’ Ok. Fine. He has just four walks. Lets give him four more singles in four more at bats. He is now batting .169. He has not reached base on error or a fielders’ choice once, and therefore his OBP is also .169. Meanwhile, he has 18 strikeouts. In other words, his strikeout average for June is .217. Jones is more likely to strike out than he is to reach base by any means. Let’s go further. He has 3 homers, and has scored 5 runs and has 6 RBI. He has 21 total bases. So his basic runs created (TB x OBP), is at 3.549, for you sabermetricians out there. 20 games in June; that gives him .177 runs created per game. Fellow outfielder Jeff Francoeur, who is also struggling – a .262 OBP through June – has 6.288 runs created this month in just one more AB. Catcher Brian McCann, playing hurt (.238 OBP) and with just 3/4 as many AB’s, has produced 4.522 runs. Therefore, even by his struggling teammates’ standards, Andruw Jones is a curse at the dish this month. Edgar Renteria, who is not struggling, and making $4 million less, has created 15.17 runs.

So now we know – not only is Andruw struggling at the plate, but he is hurting his team as well. We’re not just blindly throwing his average out there and saying he’s a crummy player. The truth is, the guy is really hurting the team. And he either doesn’t realize it, or he doesn’t care. I don’t think he’s pouring over his splits with a calculator, but he has to have some self-awareness. But Jones just brushes aside these criticisms. "I’ve never been an average hitter. Average isn’t a big deal to me." Alright. But is scoring a big deal to you? Is getting "market value" next year a big deal to you? "I just go out and play the game. Everybody struggles. I’m just getting pitched good." Andruw, you’re not just getting pitched good. I don’t think we should be looking for a tell in Jones’ stance anytime soon. You’ve been in the bigs for 11 years. People aren’t just now figuring you out. But let’s be real. You can’t take anything this guy says to mean anything. He knows he’s hitting .199. He doesn’t need guys from the papers asking him why. He doesn’t know why, and they know it. So he gives them something to print, they print it, etc.

And another interesting note. Chipper Jones is playing hurt. And he’s peeved. He’s the short story.

Reporter: Chipper, do you feel you are rushing to return from your most recent injury, which was to your… groin?
Chipper: "Probably. But I feel backed into a corner. Let’s just say there are people who don’t believe me. Let’s just say that and leave it at that."

You know what? I understand that these guys have to be in peak shape to go to work every day. I get that if they aren’t at least 90%, they’re not effective at work. But can you imagine this conversation happening?

Reporter: Weekend Athlete, do you feel you are rushing to return from your most recent injury?
WA: You know, I didn’t want to come out today. But the boys said I had to. I told them I was hurt, they didn’t believe me.

Most of us get paid to do things with our heads, not our bodies. If your brain is at 90%, do you call in sick? No. So Chipper, maybe you don’t want to play. Maybe you feel hurt. But you’re getting paid to play baseball. So when Bobby Cox tells you to play baseball, you play. Once you take that paycheck, it’s up to Bobby. If you’re really hurt, he won’t play you. If he decides that he wants you to play, he know that he’s risking a re-injury. He’s judged that risk to be less substantial than the risk of playing without you. So go out there and do your job.

"Andruw Jones tells us about the bad days" – May 21, 2007.

Sorry about the downtime. I lost a friend of mine this week in a skateboarding accident. Parents, kids, please – wear your helmets. Just because it hasn’t happened to anyone you know doesn’t mean it can’t.

Advertisements

Andruw Jones tells us about bad days

Andruw22homers_1 Andruw Jones, as you are probably aware, is one of the better fielding center fielders of his day. As you may also be aware, he swings a pretty big stick. In fact, in 2005 he hit 51 HR, followed by 41 in 2006. He is also from the Netherlands. Doesn’t that make him a Euro?

But Andruw is having a problem lately. He’s beginning to enter the Adam Dunn K-Zone. On Sunday night, Andruw went 0-5 against the Red Sox. Generally what you might consider to be a "bad day" at the plate. What made it worse was that Andruw struck out all 5 times. By comparison, the entire Red Sox team struck out 3 times. Basically, his day was a disaster.  Hindenburg-type disaster. Throughout his 5 K’s, he took a grand total of 5 balls, and swung at at least one ball clearly out of the zone, (one in the dirt,) in three of those five at bats. Andruw has always had a propensity towards the windmill. But right now he has 51 K’s in 156 AB’s. Which is, really, not acceptable.

Tomorrow night, Jones will trot out his shiny .212 batting average. That means he’s just a couple bad games away from the Mendoza Line. Is he upset about all this? Not in the slightest. "I swing the bat the way I want to swing, the way I swing it all the time. So some days you’re going to have bad days, and some days you’re going to have good days." That’s denial. Andruw knows he needs to step it up a bit, and so do the reporters. There’s no use acting like a defiant 2nd grader about it. You’re not fooling anybody. And, quite frankly, five strikeouts isn’t a ‘bad day’. Especially when the last one comes as the last out of the game, when you represent the tying run for your team.

Continuing on that note of the Braves, Tim Hudson had an equally awful day at Fenway. Huddy went just 4.2 innings, giving up 8 hits, 2 walks, and 6 earned runs. Three of those runs were the result of a 2-out, 2-strikes, bases loaded triple by, who else, but Jason Varitek. It was Jason’s 11th triple in 10 major league seasons. Varitek then scored for a 4-run 1st inning. In the 2nd, a runner reached base on a fielder’s choice, better known as botched double play by Martin Prado, who had just come up from AAA. The 2nd would have ended there; unfortunately, it didn’t, and ‘unturned double plays’ can’t be counted as errors. That runner then scored. That’s 5 runs through the first 2 innings. Finally, Hudson gave up a ‘blast’ to Kevin Youkilis – a 303ft blast, which wouldn’t have been a HR had the game been played in my backyard. So, had Huddy’s cutter actually cut on Varitek, Prado turned that double play, and if not for the World’s Shortest Porch in Right Field, Huddy continues on without giving up a single run. Revisionist history, yes. But proof that Hudson didn’t just turn bad suddenly. I’m pretty confident that he’s still in for a good season.

Finally, an interesting story. One of my friends broke her foot jumping up in down in celebration after the end of the semester. Which reminded me of a good story from a few years back. You know how, when you’re a little leaguer, you have that dream of hitting a game-winning grand slam? I mean, what could be better, right? Well, AAA 1B Tagg Bozied was living the dream. Game winning grand slam, and ferocious victory trot around the bases. Maybe a little too ferocious, in fact. As Tagg jumped up to stomp on home plate, "I saw my kneecap pushed up into my quads," and suddenly the dream became the nightmare. The pain was so tremendous that he blacked out in midair and woke up in a hospital bed, out for the season with a ruptured patella tendon. This basically causes the patella to move up towards the thigh, as its lost its anchoring to the tibia. Yup. Pretty painful. The question is, how can you achieve one the most athletically difficult feats in all of baseball, but still be enough of a spaz to shred your knee in celebration?

Alright guys. Time to step it up in the comments. In the last 6 posts we have 2 comments. I know the writing hasn’t been spectacular, but c’mon. All you need is a quick flip. "Hey man, you don’t know what you’re talking about." That works. See you guys soon.

Some more pitching updates

Only time for a quick post tonight. Finals are over Wednesday so then we’ll be back.

Lately we’ve been keeping track of the number of times Bobby Cox has pulled Tim Hudson too early. Well, he did it again. It’s the bottom of the 8th, and the Dodgers are up 3-1. Braves are up to bat and Hudson, who has only 87 pitches and had been doing quite well, is leading off. But no – he’s pulled for pinch hitter Chris Woodward, who ends up making an out. Now it’s the top of the 9th, and 3 Braves relievers allowed 3 runs before they were saved by a double play. Hudson did give up a solo shot to none other than Wilson Betemit and his .125 average in the top of the 8th, so maybe Cox did make the right call. But I don’t really like it. Wouldn’t have been the biggest deal, but for two things. First, I get 10 points in my fantasy league if Hudson gets the win, and I’m fighting to go 5-0 this year. But, more importantly for the Braves, they loaded the bases in the bottom of the 9th, when Kelly Johnson singled to bring home two runs. That made the score 6-3. Edger Renteria then grounded out to end the game. Had your stinky relievers not given up those three runs, you’re looking at a tie game. For some reason, Bobby Cox is just way too freaking quick on the hook for Hudson. Hudson early yank count this year: 3.

And a weird day in Texas. First, Kevin Millwood went on the DL, leaving Texas with the Padilla Flotilla as their Ace. You know, that guy with the 5.66 ERA this season? The rest of the rotation consists of McCarthy (7.96 ERA), Robinson Tejeda (3.89), Kameron Loe (7.04), and Mike Wood (5.45 last season). That’s really, really concerning. The bullpen isn’t doing too bad, but you have to ask yourself if that even matters. Anyway, Texas played the Blue Jays today, and Roy Halladay, all-time favorite, started. Usually this means you score 2 runs. Today, not so much. Halladay gave up 9 runs, real out of character for my Cy Young pick. 

Somebody needs to pull Roy Oswalt off the Reds. After his latest win against the Reds, Roy is 19-1 against them in his career. Man is invincible.

Alright guys. Might not be back for awhile now. Finals until Wednesday, and then summer school starts Thursday. So it’ll be busy for awhile and we might get a little slow here. But stick around.

However many wins Tim Hudson finishes this year with, feel free to add one

Well here’s what happened. Huddy, (who, as you may remember, we discussed recently,) had a real gem going. Whole sha-bang. 8 innings, 12 K’s (12!), 6 hits. Now we are entering the 9th and dude has a pitch count the wrong side of 100. The Braves are up 3-0 against the Marlins. On the one hand, it is the Marlins, and you’ve got Huddy on the mound and, after all, your closer is Bob Wickman. On the other hand, it’s only a 3 run lead, and Huddy is north of 100 chucks on the night. So if you’re Bobby Cox, do you keep Huddy in and let him go for the complete game shutout, or do you pull him for Big Bobby? Well Cox chose to keep Huddy in, who promptly gave up three consecutive singles. Now, with the bags juiced and no outs, he reverts to Plan B, and pulls Huddy for the Wickman. Well that was a smart idea. Miguel Olivo then doubled, scoring two runs. Wickman intentionally walks Borchard, re-loading the bases. Now it’s 3-2, Braves. Wickman then throws in three consecutive balls to Josh Willingham, all three of which looked, from the Game Day, to be in the dirt. He somehow pulled back to strike out Josh.  Just when you thought the fire might be dying down, Amezega singles, bringing in the tying run. Dan Uggla’s up, and Wickman throws a wild one in the dirt to bring home the winning run. Fantastic.

Hudson’s line before the 9th:
8 IP – 12 K – 6 H – 0 ER
Hudson’s line after the 9th:
8 IP – 12 K – 9 H – 3 ER

Now, I could really go on a tear about this… except that Bob Wickman is a great guy – from personal experience (you’re going to want to go near the bottom of that post for this story) – and Bobby Cox is probably one of the greatest managers this century. So, I guess you could chalk it up to that simple point-counterpoint argument we had at the top of the post. Cox just figured it was worth the gamble to leave Huddy in. However, when Hudson allowed that first single, he should have been pulled. You don’t throw a guy like Bob Wickman in the mix when you’ve got the bags loaded, no outs, and a meager 3-run lead. If you’ve got Francisco Cordero , (8 saves, 17 K’s, 0 ER, 9.1 IP), then you make that move. But not with Bobby Wickman. The L goes to Wickman, thank goodness, but the W stays away from Huddy. And, the three runs Wickman let score stay with Huddy as well. Just not right.

Braves v. Mets, Yankees v. Sox

Wow. Watching the new Yankee battery of Karstens and Nieves is just not doing it for me. But more on that in a few minutes.

Anyone see last night’s (Friday) Braves v. Mets? I was excited about this for a long time, for many reasons. First, the fantasy implications. I’ve got Jose Reyes, Brian McCann, and Tim Hudson. Reyes and Hudson are, of course, on fire. They’re both playing out of their skulls. So that was the second reason. The third reason was that, since TBS, ESPN, and FOX are the only channels I get that actually televise baseball, I would be able to watch this game. Now, back to my boys. Reyes is leading MLB with 4 triples, (remember when Steve Phillips predicted Reyes would hit 30 triples, and Corey Patterson would hit 40HR with 140RBI?) Reyes has 2 HR, is 9 for 11 in SB attempts, and has an OBP of .456. Yikes. And Hudson is an even better story. After he left Oakland prior to the 2005 season, he cooled down some. Especially in 2006. Which was disappointing, because he is one of my favorite guys. But this year he is insane – you just have to see the whole line for yourself. The point is, he is 3-0, with an ERA of .62, and 19 K’s in 29 IP. And of course, he was looking even better in person last night. All his off speed stuff was working perfectly. Guy had a perfect game going for 3.2 innings, (almost meaningless, of course,) and a no hitter going till the bottom of the 5th. He left before the 9th inning, (?) with a shutout, having thrown 107 pitches. Personally, I think they could’ve sent him out for one more, seeing as he had a 7 run lead and all. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that Beltran, Delgado, and Wright were due up. Yeah, that was probably it. Now, I know that was only his fourth start of the season. And just like A-Rod won’t hit 120 HR this season, Huddy won’t finish with an ERA of 0.62. But a good start doesn’t hurt, and while I’m not going to say that the old Huddy is back, I’m certainly hoping. Anyway, for the 9th inning, the Braves sent out the arsonist Rafael Soriano and his 7.36 ERA. Needless to say, he poured the gasoline, lit the match, and fanned the flames. Braves still come out ahead, 7-3.

Interesting event here. Home Plate ump Bob Davidson, (we’re back to the Yankees v. Red Sox,) who I’m sure we are all familiar with, was miked for today’s game. Davidson went to give this little Bostonian Child a ball, but not before making him raise his hand and take an oath to never yell at an umpire. One fan at a time, eh Bob?

Now, I’ve asked before, but I have yet to receive an answer. When did Mark Teixeira become so bad? He started out last season pretty crappy, but he (almost) made up for it in the 2nd half. Dude is just 27 years old. That’s prime time. Finished last year with 33HR and 110 RBI, which isn’t half bad. Down 10 HR, 30 RBI, and .20 Avg points from 2005, but not a terrible year. Before the All-Star Break he had just 9 HR in 353 AB. After the game, which he did not participate in, he had 24 HR in 275 AB. So far this year, he has 2 RBI and just 1 extra base hit – a double – in 16 games. Dude is batting .214… but his OBP is .343, with 10 walks. Maybe he’ll step it up after the All-Star game again? Who knows… he’s on my fantasy team as well, so any thoughts on this would be welcome.

Back again to the Yankee game. The FOX TV crew is promoting Ortiz’s new book, written with Tony Massarotti, and they claim that the most interesting part of the book are the stats. He hit something like 58 HR in 6 years with the Twins, and was released because of his lack of power production. And then, he comes to Boston and hits 31, 41, 47, 54 HR the following years. Really? You guys think that’s interesting? So do I. Just a little PS – Tony wrote another book with John Harper, called "A Tale of Two Cities – The 2004 Yankees-Red Sox Rivalry and the War for The Pennant." Excellent book, and strongly, strongly recommended. Well, after the FOX crew stopped talking about this, Ortiz went and jerked another out of the yard. This puts the Sox up 7-4. Well, after this Rocky and I took a nice trip to the range to decompress. So that was the last part of the game that I saw. But after looking at the box score it looks like that was pretty much the entire game. Ugh. This is what I meant when I said that we’d have trouble with this rotation.

Leave your thoughts. And another thing. BHGM logged it’s 50,000th hit a few days ago. That’s in about 13 months. And BHGM itself turns 2 on April 28th. So that’s that.

Tigers, Braves, and Sox

We’re going to do things in reverse order today, starting with comments first. Kevin actually came in and surprised me by leaving some legitimate baseball opinions. Regular readers know that Kevin is Part II of this whole baseball thing I have. He’s the guy I go to the ballpark with, and occasionally he’ll pipe in with his own comments. They’re usually something like, "Roy Halladay is not that good," or, "You know you didn’t think the Tigers would do as good as they are." And at least once a week he’ll send me an IM that goes something like this:

Kevin: Dude
Reid: What’s up man?
Kevin: I was on this message board, and some dude just said that (insert stupid comment here, "the Yankees are the worst team in the league," or, "Barry Bonds is the best player ever," or, "Kenny Rogers will win us the World Series,") and I tore him up. He kept saying these stupid things like, "dude no you’re wrong."
Reid
: Stupid idiots.
Kevin: Haha yeah.

I think that was an accurate representation. In any case, he also has his own blog when he wants to, and he does other stuff like that. According to him, the Tigers will deal for Bobby Abreu, just because Leyland says it won’t happen. Like I said, he is strong in his beliefs. Tell him that the Tigers won’t be getting Abreu, and you’re wrong. Why do we want Abreu now? The Tigers have been building up one of the best farm systems in the league for the past few years. Eventually, it will be time to trade away some of those prospects for a championship run. I don’t think that now is that time. Maybe, come July, the Tigers are 5 games up of the White Sox – then, maybe, you make a deal. But if the Tigers are 5 games back of the Sox, that move doesn’t happen. But to deviate for a second to what Yuhsing said, the Tigers do have some hidden problems this year. What he says is that we strike out a lot, don’t walk a bunch, and have an experienced rotation. However, the team is winning. But the Tiger’s weak schedule has also helped them to their record. However – and this is important – like I’ve always said, bad teams don’t beat average teams. What I mean by this is that, oftentimes, someone will say, "Hey, Roy Halladay (or take your pick,) had a 2-hitter against the Angels. But they have a terrible offense, so it doesn’t count." My point is that, while it may be easier to 2-hit the Angels than the Yankees, that doesn’t make it and easy thing to do. You still need to be a good pitcher to do it. Same thing goes with the Tigers – they have to be good to do as well as they’re doing. So maybe the Tigers are a little worse than their record shows us, but they’re not bad. Maybe they should have 45 wins instead of 52, for example. Next, Brandon Inge. He’s not  the All-Star that some people think he is, (I keep hearing that people think this. Why?) But he just broke up Clemen’s potential perfect game in the bottom of the 3rd. Not a big deal for most, except that Kevin invited me to tonight’s game (2 hours before gametime,) and I declined. If Clemens had thrown a perfect game or even no-hitter, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. In any case, I was happily watching this game, but then someone at MLB found out and the feed stopped. Of course, when I tried to start it up again, I received the black out message. Alright, I accept that I can’t watch any Tigers games… but please, don’t tease me about it, alright?

So now we’re going to shift gears to the Yankees – Braves game. As I mentioned in last night’s post, the Braves have gone, in the month that I’ve been in Chicago and Cincinnati, from 5 games back of the Mets to 16 games back. Uh, alright. Why? Perhaps it’s because the Mets can’t be counted on to choke two seasons in a row. They’re not drastically different from last year, yet they have 10 more wins now than they did exactly one year ago – and the Braves have 10 fewer wins. Last year, at this time, Atlanta had 42 wins and New York had 37. This year, New York has 47 and Atlanta has 32. In other words, Atlanta is worse, and New York is better. So maybe the previous theory is incorrect – the Mets are better, but that’s not why the Braves are in last, (however, if the Mets had the same record this year as they had last year, the Braves would only be 6 games back, not 16.) Maybe it was the not-so-good start they got off to this year, which they never really recovered from. Throw in a losing streak like this, and look where you end up. But, remember this. The Braves are baseball’s version of a vampire. Remember that. Just when you start to throw some dirt on them, they come back and take the division again. All the evidence points to this not happening this year, but you never know with these guys. And they just showed a ‘highlight’ clip of Jaret Wright getting hit by comebackers. Are you kidding me? I think they showed four, and once he was even hit with a bat. And, I also believe he was wearing a Yankee uniform each time. Considering he’s only pitched about three games as a Yankee, I can’t imagine how many times the guy has been drilled in his career.

Well, it looked like Buehrle was kicking around the Pirates, surprise. So I jumped to that game, because I like Mark Buehrle. From the moment I turned the game on, here is what happened: Craig Wilson got an infield single, Jose Castillo hit a double, advancing Wilson to third, and then Ronny Paulino walked on four pitches. Then Joe Randa comes to the plate and came about two feet away from the Grand Slam. Mark Buehrle is on my pay league Fantasy Team, and suffice it to say that there must have been some sort of black magic at work there. You know it’s time for one of our favorite BHGM references… Black Magic in Baseball? And they just showed a very distraught-looking Jim Tracy explain why Oliver Perez has been moved out to the bullpen. He said that you never know which Perez is going to show up every fifth day. You just never know, he continued, and that’s just really hard to deal with. You know what else is hard to deal with? A guy that, in the last four years, has only had an ERA below 5.38 one time. Once. That one time was his unforgettable – at least for the Pirates – 2004, when he had his breakout year. He went 12-10, with a 2.98 ERA, and 239 K’s in 198 innings. Remarkable. That was the good Oliver Perez. Now, let me make things simple for you, Jim. In 2004, the Good Oliver Perez showed up. In 2003, 2005, and 2006, the Bad Oliver Perez showed up. This isn’t a matter of specific games, it’s a matter of being good, and that’s something Perez hasn’t been since 2004. Here’s something else that’s hard to deal with. You’re team has lost 11 games in a row. They have three games with the Defending World Champs, and then they have three games with the team that has the best record in baseball. That’s what’s really hard to deal with. Which brings us to something that BPS has asked repeatedly… "Do these games with the NL still count?"

It’s like a turkey-shoot here. I wrote, much earlier, about some possible reasons why the AL is so much better than the NL. The crux of my theory was that a player needs to field in the NL, but not in the AL. Therefore, when a good bat rises through an AL organization, he can continue even if he can only hit, and not field. In the NL, this player would be dealt for another guy. You could say that this makes for a more potent 8-man lineup than the AL, but that’s obviously not the case for two reasons. If it was true, the NL would be evenly matched when they played at home. The second reason, which is more likely the ultimate cause, is that the game is so balanced right now that’s its impossible to have 8 men that are more potent than 9 men.

That may be all for tonight. I’ve got more work to do, (I still have to unpack from school, which I ended on May 10th,) but I’ll be back later if something comes up in one of these games.

Jumping back into the routine – Division Overviews

Finally back from Chicago – this time for good. It was arough three weeks, really. I haven’t been able to follow much of baseball at
all, so it’s gonna be tough getting back into the swing of things. Luckily, I
have four days off* – in a row! – so that should make it a little easier. I
haven’t had that much vacation time from work and school for more than a year. Anyway, hopefully we’ll look at getting the website and podcast started up in the next week, both of which are obviously long overdue. As for today’s post – and we will be back to the normal daily post routines (except for weekends, which are always a little touch and go,) I’m going to talk about a few things that are less-than-current, since, well… as I said before, I haven’t been following the game as intently as I should be the last three weeks. But I’m going to try to hit on each division. Well, let’s go.

*- Not true. Got called in to work on Sunday for 5 hours.

AL Central
How about the Tigers? Are they actually
for real? The White Sox have won nine in a row, and are still in second place
in the AL Central. And the Tigers have 51 wins in late June. That’s a September
number, not a June number. It’s looking like, barring a major collapse, the
Tigers may be going to the playoffs this year. Shh, it’s still early. See, the BPS will tell you that the Tigers aren’t going to the playoffs this year because they’ve had an easy schedule. Here’s the thing.  In any
case, the AL Central is already a race for third. Minnesota has won nine of
their last 10 games – and are still 11 games back. Cleveland is 17 back with a
record of 33-41 – hardly what I expected from a club I
said
could make a legitimate run at a playoff spot this season. And the
Royals… oh the Royals. They’re 23-50, good for 26 games back. However, the
standings reveal that they’ve won seven of their last 10. Are you kidding? When
I left for Chicago three weeks ago, I don’t think the Royals even had seven
wins total. What
a bad team…
Finally, it looks as though – for now – we might actually see an AL Central team take the wild card. This is special only because, for the last several years, the Wild Card has been the Red Sox’s ticket to the post season. The fact that that this may not happen is, to me, remarkable. Then again, there’s a lot of that going around this year, (see NL East.)

AL East
Things look pretty much the same as they did when I left. We’re 2.5 games back,
with a bunch of guys still on the DL. The Sox are on an 8-game win streak, and
as soon as they drop that and get cold, they can sit back and watch the crowd
go by. Meaning, we’ll fly right into first place. Toronto is just four games
back, which is impressive – considering they have been without one of their
biggest free-agent signees, A.J. Burnett. Is he still afraid of throwing the
ball, or what’s going on with him? Halladay – your 2006 Cy Young Winner, I
maintain – has been on his usual tear throughout the League. He’s 9-2 and has
won eight of his last nine decisions. Because I’ve been away from my computer for so long, I can’t offer much insight on  the Yankees and Red Sox – like I said earlier, it looks much the same as it did to me three weeks ago. The Sox have won 8 straight and they’re only 2.5 games up. That’s a 3-day lead. Nothing too special, and it is only June – lest we forget. I hear that Gary and Matsui both received promising news, (whatever that may be,) and as soon as they get back we should start running away with the division  – again.

AL/NL West
Apparently the clubs in the NL West had a talk with those in the AL West. ‘Look, if you play bad, we’ll play bad, and no one will look bad.’ All 9 teams in the two West divisions have records below .550, (about 41 wins.) The A’s (SI’s 2nd best team going into the year,) are 41-34, for first place in the AL/NL West. The Angels are last, with a 34-41 (.453) record. In other words, there are no great teams, but there are no immensely terrible teams either. Now, there are a few ways to look at this. One is to say that all the teams are slightly above-average, and so they’re just beating up on each other. This is not true. Rather, all 9 teams are extremely mediocre and while there is no runaway, (such as the Tigers or White Sox,) there are no terrible teams either, such as the Royals or Pirates. See, this is pure luck. All the teams happen to be average teams. Great, what’s that get you? Average attendance, and below-average performance against the other teams in the league. Spectacular.

But to get into some detail; the Angels have totally collapsed this year. Their offense, which used to be great, (think about two or three years ago,) is now in a complete state of disarray. They’ve scored 339 runs, 2nd to last in the league – behind, who else, but the KC Royals, with 313. And you can’t point to Vlad and say that his numbers have declined, he’s aged, he can’t carry the team anymore. No one has said it yet, but I’m sure they will before the end of the year. Well, here are the facts – Vlad, who recently turned 30, is seeing some decline in his numbers. So we’re halfway through the year, and he has 10 doubles. In 2004, he hit 40. In 2005, when he only played 141 games due to a shoulder injury he suffered while making a stupid slide at home, he hit 30. And now he’s on pace to hit 20. But that’s all pointless. The truly interesting stats, for him, are his OBP and AVG. Vlad’s career OBP is .387, yet it is just .326 so far this year. His average is at .290, down from his typical .322. His slugging is at .490, a significant drop from his career.581. But, back to the original question – is Vlad aging, or is something else happening? I think it’s a little bit of both. His numbers – which aren’t really that much lower – are probably the result of playing on a poor team as much as they are of being older. And now you say, ‘but the Angels aren’t that bad.’ Maybe not, but they’re terrible if you look at their expectations. People are asking questions and attendance is (probably) down. Either way, that makes for a bad vibe in the clubhouse, if you will. And that, I believe, only makes matters worse – it makes it harder to perform when everyone is asking you why you aren’t. A bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy, if you will.

Meanwhile, in the NL West, we have… today it is… the Dodgers, on top with a 40-35 record. As has been previously stated on numerous occasions at BHGM, they can pretty much start printing playoff tickets now. 5 Games above .500? That’s a mountain the rest of the division really can’t climb.

NL East
Well, I’m not sure what’s going on here. I know that when I left three weeks ago, the Braves were about 5 games back of the Mets. Maybe, I really don’t know. The Marlins were the second-worst team in MLB, behind the Royals. Now, and follow me closely here, they’re 8 games back of .500 and in 3rd place. Now, forget for a moment that the Mets are so far out in front that third place (13.5 games back,) second place (11.5 games back,) and fifth place, (15.5 games back,) are all the same. Try to forget about that. Now, the Marlins are in third, and they’re 32-40. Seriously, they must have won every game they played since I left for Cincinnati (and then for Chicago,) four weeks ago. In fact, on June 1st – the date I left – the Marlins were 17-34. So, in 25 days, they’ve won 15 games and lost 6. What a clip! Meanwhile, the Braves went from 28-26 and 5 games back to 32-44. That means they’ve gone 4-18. How far away is Atlanta from Kansas City, exactly?

NL Central
Well here’s another interesting story that I would’ve liked to include closer to the NL West, but it just didn’t work out that way. Regular readers already know what I’m about to bring up, but here goes. Name one of two players the Pirates received when they traded away a fellow named "Jason Schmidt" in 2001. Answer: Ryan Vogelsong. The other player was Armando Rios, who started 55 games for the Pirates. Anyway, back to Ryan Vogelsong. He was never a good pitcher, but he has remained on the Pirates roster. And now, CBS Sportsline has the following to say about him in their nifty fantasy notes:

News: Pittsburgh
RHP Ryan Vogelsong, who has allowed at least one baserunner in each of
his 20 relief appearances, did not pitch in the weekend series at Los
Angeles.
Analysis: Vogelsong should only be active in
leagues that reward negative play. Even there, the fact that he is not
being used makes him obsolete.

Could you be any tougher on the guy? He’s a stud on the negative play team. Great. Then again, his career ERA is 5.86, and you gave up Jason Schmidt to get him. Surprisingly enough, Dave Littlefield, who made the deal to acquire Ryan, is still the GM in Pittsburg. Now, is there any stronger way for the Pirates to tell their fans they have no desire to win than by keeping Littlefield around? During his 5-year reign, the Pirates have consistently been one of the worst teams in the league. In 2001, they rang in the brand new PNC Park by losing 100 games. In 2002, it was 89 games. 2003 was 87, and 2004 was 89. in 2005, in was 95 games. They’ve gone nowhere, and are currently riding an 11-game losing streak as they head in to play the White Sox and Tigers. At least the Pittsburg fans have the All Star game to look forward to… that game counts for more than possibly any other game ever played at PNC Park. That is, the AL will be taking home field advantage again.

And how about the Cardinals – they’ve quietly, (since no one ever wants to gang up on the Cardinals, and for good reason – how would you feel if you lived in Missouri?) gone on a 6-game losing streak. That puts them at 42-32, and only two games up of the Reds. It’s interesting that when Derrek Lee went down, everyone talked about how silly the Cubs were for centering their offense around one guy. No one seemed to notice that the Cardinals were centered on the same philosophy. Oh, that’s right. The Cardinals have a strong supporting staff for Albert on the bench, and they also have pitching. Unless the Cubs define Kerry Wood and Mark Prior as ‘pitching,’ there is a difference. Both Pujols and Lee are now back, by the way. However, that doesn’t mean that the Cubs’ season isn’t over, because it still is. The latest news on Kerry Wood – and this is an accurate quote, I didn’t make this up – an MRI on Wood’s shoulder revealed "no significant concerns or any kind of significant issue or injury or anything like that… the MRI, in Dr. Kremchek’s terms, stated it was pristine, that the labia repair looked as if it was completely intact, looked like it had healed nicely and perfectly," said Cubs trainer Mark O’Neal. Yet, ‘there is still no timetable for his return.’ So let me get this straight; Wood went to the doctor, and the doctor told him he was perfectly healthy, and that everything was in order. In fact, it was perfect and pristine. Yet, no one has any idea how much longer it will be before he pitches again. Is this some sort of joke?

Anyway, that’s the wrap up for the divisions. It took me Friday night, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday to write this, so some of it may be out of date – but I did my best. In any case, I’m going to try to get back into the groove. I’ve got a lot of catching up to do, and I’m mostly running around all day. But we should be completely back to normal in about a week I think. Anyway, that’s it for now. It’d be nice to see some comments but I can understand if we don’t have the readers back yet. See you tomorrow, I hope!