Hardball Weekly 5/11/09


Signs Of Things To Come?

The big story in baseball last week was the Manny Ramirez-suspension of course.  You’ve already read, heard, and seen all the angles of this one, but what we’re left with are questions about how the Dodgers will fare for the next two months without Manny.  On paper, they’re still the most talented team in the division and should be fine, but on paper the Mets have won the last three National League crowns.

Interestingly, the Dodgers’ hits-per-game, runs-per-game, and batting average have improved in Manny’s absence, with three of the four games played against one of the best pitching staffs in baseball (San Francisco).  But the Giants are also a pretty bad team over all and the Dodgers went 1-3 without Manny, all at home, and against the Giants and Nationals (fewest wins in baseball).

Can Juan Pierre keep hitting .426?  Can Andre Ethier keep his average from tanking more (32 points in four games so far).  Can the Dodgers keep hitting?  Can the young guys really just forget that their protection is gone from the lineup?  Which is the anomaly: the good hitting or the bad record?  Stay tuned as the Boys in Blue head to Philadelphia and Florida this week.

Reinforcements Are On The Way

The best that can be said of the Angels thus far this season is that they have survived.  They’ve survived personal tragedy, a plague of injuries, and inconsistent play from top to bottom.  Perhaps last week the Halos turned the corner, going 6-1 against two AL division leaders and a cellar-dweller, and crawling back above .500.

Torii Hunter put a perfect cap on the successful week, making a spectacular home run-robbing catch to preserve the win and the series sweep over the upstart Royals.  The offense still scuffled, scoring just 21 runs all week, but the pitching mostly shined, allowing just 10 runs in the six wins (and 13 in the loss).

Hosting the Red Sox and then heading to Arlington later this week, the Angels will welcome the first of their many injured compatriots back to the lineup.  2008 All Star pitcher Ervin Santana could possibly join the team as they head to Texas for the weekend series against the Rangers.  Ace starter John Lackey appears to be close on Santana’s heels with his rehab going well.  And Kelvim Escobar, who is ineligible to return from shoulder surgery for another month, is throwing well as well.

The Wheels Are Off

After quickly rolling out to 9-3 start, including series wins in New York and Philadelphia and a sweep of the Giants, the Padres have slammed back to earth, going just 4-16 since.  They are getting nice seasons from Scott Hairston (.333, 16 RBI in 25 games) and Adrian Gonzalez (.294, 10 HR, 22 runs, 22 RBI in 32 games), but overall the team is 2nd to last in the NL in batting average and third to last in runs scored.

Coupled with this dismal offensive production, they are third to last in the league in ERA as well, allowing 4.69 runs per game.  They’ve also blown 8 saves (out of 16), further crippling their chances.  Even Jake Peavy hasn’t been able to keep his head above water, going 2-4 with a 4.27 ERA thus far.

The Padres can start turning things back around this week as they head to Chicago and then host the Reds, but it already looks like they won’t be one of the clubs putting a scare into the Manny-less Dodgers.

Around The League

The Royals’ AL Central lead evaporated in the SoCal heat as the Angels swept them into second place (by percentage points) over the weekend.  Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Washington are in quite a battle for the worst record in the league, currently combining for a 13-game losing streak.  The Mets have taken a hold of the NL East and this time it may stick.  The Phillies seem to be the only other true contender and can’t get out of their own way (3rd to last in the Bigs in ERA), and the Mets have surged to a 7-game win streak thanks to one of the best pitching staffs (yes, you read that right) and one of the most potent lineups in the game.  It appears that St. Louis will not be running away and hiding.  Like the Marlins, Dodgers, Royals, Padres and Blue Jays, their hot start has ended and the field is catching up.  Alex Rodriguez is back, but the Yankees still stink, so there is some justice in the world.

The Lineup – 9 Thing To Watch This Week

Angels – Red Sox at the Big A (Tuesday – Thursday)

Manny-Less Dodgers at Philadelphia and Florida

Santana (Mets) vs. Lowe (Braves) at Citi Field (Monday)

Zack Greinke (6-1, 0.51 ERA) vs. Baltimore (Friday)

Hanley Ramirez (.533, 11 runs, 4 homers, 7 RBI, 3 SB last week) vs. Milwaukee and L.A.

Ryan Zimmerman (.346, 6 HR, 22 RBI) has a 28-game hitting streak.

A.J. Burnett (Yankees) vs. Roy Halladay (Blue Jays) at Rogers Centre (Tuesday)

Florida (Most K’s in NL) vs. Milwaukee (2nd most) at Miller Park (Tuesday-Thursday)

Streaks: The Mets have won 7 and the Pirates have lost 8