Sunday, May 08, 2005

Quick hits

I keep misunderestimating the amount of free time that I'll have to adequately address every team in baseball...let me first start out by congratulating Mike Hampton, who made me sound like an idiot today. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to watch much baseball this weekend, but I did catch some of what could be the start of Jon Garland's unraveling on Saturday. It counts as a win for him, but most days the White Sox won't be able to score 10 runs to support him. Of course, the Sox have kept their improbable streak alive. I imagine they'll start playing worse at some point, but they're off to such a big start, that it almost guarantees a pennant race between them and Minnesota. And thanks to the mediocrity of the AL West and the collapse of the Yankee empire (they've allowed the second-most runs in the majors...yep, even more than Colorado), it's more likely that either the Twins or the White Sox will grab the wild card.

The NL West looks to be just as weak as the AL West, if not more so. Frankly, the Padres have been disappointing--I expected their pitching staff to be better than this. Arizona has surprised people so far, but they look more like a 78-82 win team that has gotten lucky enough to have a winning record so far. San Francisco is old, brittle, without a closer, and their staff ace is not living up to his reputation. I don't think it'll get much better than this for the Giants, especially if Bonds is out until July.

I think most people thought Houston would regress in 2005, but nothing like this. Lance Berkman is about their only hope. His presence in that lineup should make a big impact, but you never know how a player is going to perform coming off an injury. The Cubs have also been a disappointment, although their record probably should be better than what it is. Defense and bullpen are their main weaknesses, but then again, they've had those weaknesses for the past 5 years. The Cubs need to string together 6 or 7 wins, or else the Cardinals are going to run away with the division, just like last year. However, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Cubs trade for a bat in July, and then go on a run like the Astros did in 2004 to capture the wild card. Milwaukee has clearly improved, but I don't think they're a deep enough squad to keep this up for the whole season. I expect them to hang around until July, by which time injuries and slumps will catch up with them.

It will be interesting to see how the Yankees play in May. Kevin Brown's defense neutral ERA was around 3.50 over first few starts, meaning the Yankees horrible defense was responsible for well over half of his bloated ERA, and that if he had playing in front of even an average defense, no one would be calling for his head. Brown pitched very well today, confirming that he hasn't completely lost it, but I wonder how all these older pitchers are going to keep it up against the Yankees defense, which is on pace to be historically bad. Only Randy Johnson is equipped with the strikeout stuff necessary to cope with such a bad D--Pavano especially relies on his defense to make plays for him. The Yanks have to deal for a solid defensive center fielder, because Matsui won't cut it. They'd also help themselves immnesely by moving A-Rod to short and Jeter to third, but politics won't allow that to happen. Can the Yanks turn it around? Maybe, but they have to leap over a lot of teams to get into a playoff spot. They should be capable, but unless their defense gets new personnel, I don't think it'll happen.

I think the Orioles are for real. Their offense will be good all season, and all the stats indicate that Erik Bedard and Bruce Chen are legitimately earning their stripes. They should create an exciting 4-team race between themselves, the Red Sox, White Sox, and Twins for the divison/wild card.

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