Hardball Weekly 6/1/09


Wanted: Season-Saving Rally Monkey

Ervin Santana’s much anticipated return to the Angels has not gone as the team hoped.  He is 0-2 with a 9.50 ERA (31 runs allowed in four games), but he isn’t much worse than the rest of the Angels right now.  Hovering just one game over .500, the injury-riddled Angels just stumbled through a 2-4 home stand that left them 4.5 games behind the red-hot Rangers, and staring a 9-game road trip in the face.

But if there is such a thing as a turning point, the Angels may have had one Sunday when they overcame a seven-run deficit in the 6th inning, capped off with a 3-run ninth for the walk-off.  Torii Hunter continues to lead the Halos in nearly every offensive category, hitting .313 with 12 homers and nearly an RBI per game.  If the Angels can keep riding Hunter until Vlad Guerrero, John Lackey, and Santana get back to form, they are still the favorites in the AL West despite the Rangers’ start.

Odd Man Out

With just 32 calendar days left, the Dodgers are nearly halfway through Manny Ramirez’ steroid-suspension.  A few weeks ago, it seemed that the Dodgers might be in deep trouble when their saw they Division lead dwindle and their hitting stop.  Now it seems the biggest problem they will deal with in the West is where to put Manny when he is eligible.

Andre Ethier’s batting average has fallen 60-points in Manny’s absence, and Juan Pierre has hit over .400 for most of that span (.374 on the season), but Pierre cannot be played in right field because of his weak throwing arm.  Matt Kemp would be tough to move from center field with his solid defense and impressive hitting.  But you can’t take Manny’s bat out of the lineup either.  So Pierre will likely be relegated to the bench again despite his torrid hitting.

Maybe They Should Threaten To Trade Other Guys Too

The Padres completed a trade with the White Sox to send ace Jake Peavy to Chicago, but Peavy vetoed the deal.  Since then, Peavy is 3-0 and the Padres have done what they needed to do to get back into the race in the NL West, going 12-3 (including a 10-game win streak).  Unfortunately, the Dodgers regained their form just before that stretch and have surrendered only 1.5 games during that span, and the Padres still sit in third place, 9-games back.

Adrian Gonzalez continues to put up MVP numbers, even though he is a long shot for the All-Star game.  Gonzalez leads baseball with 20 homers, and has 40 RBI through 50 games.  But Scott Hairston and Gonzalez are the only two Padre regulars hitting over .250, and despite Peavy’s renewed success, they simply cannot compete with the Dodgers over the long haul.  The clock is ticking louder and louder on the Padres’ stars careers at Petco.

The Lineup (9 Things To Watch This Week)

Dodgers vs. Phillies in battle of Division Leaders (Thursday-Sunday at Dodger Stadium)

Angels start 9-game road trip (Toronto, Detroit, Tampa Bay)

Jake Peavy vs. Phillies Offense (2nd in NL in runs scored) (Wednesday at Petco Park)

Juan Pierre: 1-13 in last three games (Dodgers went 1-2), 12-24 in previous five (Dodgers were 4-1)

Rangers take West division lead to New York and Boston

Baltimore’s Luke Scott hit .533 with six homers and 14 RBI over a four-game stretch last week

Carlos Zambrano returns to the mound after suspension (Thursday at Atlanta)

Washington (on pace for 43 wins) has lost 6 straight (host San Francisco and New York Mets)

Mets (7-2) and Phillies (12-4) red hot and separated by .5

Phillies (5.02) and Yankees (4.94) have the 4th and 5th worst ERAs in baseball despite leading their divisions