Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Troubled Waters

There was good news and there was bad news for the San Diego Padres on Tuesday night.

The good news was that recent call-up Justin Hampson pitched very well over 3.2 innings, shutting down the Rockies. The bad news was, that the Padres needed Hampson for 3.2 innings.

After starter and MLB ERA leader Chris Young went down after 2 innings pitched with a strained abdominal muscle, Hampson came in and threw nearly four innings of shutout ball and was an integral part of the Padres 5-3 win over the Colorado Rockies. After the game manager Bud Black said that Young would likely miss his next start, previously scheduled for Sunday.

Victory and everything that goes with it aside, if Chris Young is down for any significant amount of time this ball club is in some serious trouble. For a team last in all of baseball in runs scored, they need their starting pitching to be lights out and with Young, Jake Peavy, Justin Germano, Greg Maddux and David Wells, it has been for most of the year. However now, with Young down for at least a week, if not more, this team will need a little boost from the bats in the lineup to keep pace with the Dodgers, Rockies and Diamondbacks.

On to the win, the Padres were able to put 3 runs up on the board against rookie Ubaldo Jimenez in his 7 innings pitched and then added two more against reliever Ramon Ramirez to get the win.

Jimenez was making only his second start of the season and the third start of his Big League career. He did all he could, keeping the Rockies in it for seven innings and giving them a chance to gain some ground on the 2nd place Padres who are 4.5 games up on Colorado. If Jimenez can keep this up, he may become an invaluable piece of the puzzle for the Rockies who are searching desperately for some quality starting pitching to help them keep up in the intense arms race that is the NL West.

The Rockies now need to focus on getting All-Star slugger Matt Holliday back to form as his offensive numbers have dropped off the radar. After being one of the hottest batters in all of baseball before the All-Star Break, Holliday has cooled off dramatically since going a pitiful 8 for 45 in his past 13 games for an average of .167. Holliday has added 2 homers and 8 RBI in that span but Colorado needs him at his 1st half form in order to even think about contending in the very treacherous NL West.

We should find out fairly early tomorrow whether or not Young will be hitting the disabled list, and if indeed he does, be sure to monitor the situation in San Diego. Long thought to be in the market for one more arm, it might become necessary rather than optional for Padres GM Kevin Towers.

Calling Carlos Beltran.....

It was obvious right from the start that one of these teams was going to play in the postseason and one of them would not be.

The New York Mets looked ready and primed for the postseason during their win over the dilapidated Pittsburgh Pirates. They received a strong start from John Maine, who has been dominant all year, they received quality defensive play from their outfielders and an especially nice snag by 1st baseman Carlos Delgado and last but not least, they received some significant offense from some unsuspected sources.

With both Carlos’s, Beltran and Delgado, struggling to produce the way they have, the offense has been reliant upon secondary contributions and on Tuesday night, it was young, brash outfielder Lastings Milledge and starter John Maine who brought the pop.

Milledge hit an RBI single to precede his 2 run home run that sealed the game for the Mets while John Maine hit his first career home run, a 2 run job of his own. Infielder Ruben Gotay also had an RBI as did declining outfielder Shawn Green, while the middle of the lineup, the superstars failed to hold their own, especially Beltran who struck out three times and is really falling apart at the seams.

The next week of games favors the Mets in their playoff run as well as they still have two games hosting the lowly Pirates and then play host to the unsightly Washington Nationals for 4 games. If the Mets can hit a nice hot streak here and put some distance between them and their nearest competitors without having to give up the farm for some last-minute help, that would certainly be the ideal.

Their opponent tonight was the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates don’t have much to look forward to come postseason time, other than an extended vacation.

With tonight’s loss Pittsburgh is now 41-57 and is a seller to be sure over the next week. Unlike previous years though, the Pirates have been trying to add some quality help now but were quickly turned down by the Blue Jays when they requested Troy Glaus for Jack Wilson and a packaged deal. Shocking.

The Pirates will likely move some relievers and perhaps some offensive power all to make room for players even younger than those currently starring for the disappointing club. Pittsburgh did have one bright spot on Tuesday though, and it wasn’t the poor pitching of highly acclaimed starter Ian Snell, it was the reappearance of struggling slugger Jason Bay who had a huge night with 2 home runs and 3 RBI.

Perhaps Bay enjoyed the 6th slot in the batting lineup where Manager Jim Tracy put him to hide him a little bit from the glare of the clean-up role. If these are going to be standard results, I say keep him 6th. If only Bay could get some help to come and help revitalize this team for this winner-starved town.

Houston, We Have a Problem

The potential National League Rookie of the Year hit a major obstacle yesterday.

Hunter Pence was placed on the disabled list on Monday after hurting his wrist in game action on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Pence was sliding into second when he jammed his wrist, knocking him out of action for the next four to six weeks.

This is a huge blow to Pence’s rookie of the year chances as the National League race is heating up with Ryan Braun slugging his way through his rookie year and both Chad Billingsley and Tim Lincecum have been phenomenal in their starting rolls this season. Pence’s injury is a also a blow to the Astros.

It has been a very disappointing season in Houston this year and for the Astros management and their fans, Pence was one of the bright spots. Now Houston will likely become a seller in an aggressive market right away and try and get some fair market value for some of their veterans so that they have some young pieces to put around Pence in years to come.

Jason Lane was called up to take the star rookie’s spot from the teams Triple-A affiliate in Round Rock.

Monday, July 23, 2007


Its hard to envision any player other than Alex Rodriguez taking home the AL MVP this season. A-Rod picked up his 100TH RBI of the season on Monday for the Yankees as they beat the Kansas City Royals 9-2.

He hit magical number 100 in under 100 games, becoming the first player to do so since Manny Ramirez with Boston in 1999. Yet another little notch to add to the Rodriguez belt. Hard to believe this guy was being vociferously and lustily booed by the Yankees faithful last year for underperforming.

Rodriguez has been having one of those seasons that will live on in history. He is approaching 40 home runs on the season and 500 for a career, perhaps on his way to break Bonds’s eventual home run mark. He is just 2 home runs away from 500 and will likely break that barrier in the very near future pushing him into very elite company.

A-Rod, by breaking 100 RBI’s has now done it for 10 straight years and 11 total in his storied and still young career. He will likely hit 1500 RBI this season, moving him from 53rd on the all-time RBI list up to about 47th. He has the potential to move into the top 10 in the next five years with his swing and his power and if he can find a quality team this offseason when he inevitably explores his free agency.

A few days shy of his 32nd birthday, Alex Rodriguez is entering the stage of his career that could be him acquire the largest contract in North American sports history and the numbers that he is putting up this season are doing nothing to dissuade potential suitors. Rodriguez, when he opts out, will be able to field offers from whichever club finds the money to do so as his production and star power are worth their weight in gold.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Tim Lincecum is Now

This just in, Tim Lincecum is really good.

One of Baseball America’s most heralded prospects coming into the season has just started to show his stuff in his past five starts and more importantly, show some consistency.

He dismantled the powerful Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday with an 8-0 shutout performance to push his record to 5-2. Lincecum has been fantastic for the Giants, giving them a chance to win every time he has pitched recently.

On June 19th, Lincecum’s ERA was an unpleasant and disappointing 5.88. The Giants are glad they didn’t send him back down to Triple-A. Since that time, Lincecum has steadily lowered his ERA with each start, posting a remarkable 1.05 ERA over the five starts and have come since.

His ERA is now at a respectable 3.96 level and he is developing into the Giants ace of the future and the bedrock of a brilliant pitching staff along with Matt Cain and Noah Lowry. Another impressive stat line has been his strikeout to walk ratio. Over his five start coming out party, Lincecum has k’d 41 opposing batters and only walked 13 in his 34.1 innings. That is very impressive for a rookie pitcher.

With Ryan Braun and Hunter Pence battling for the NL Rookie of the Year award thus far, Tim Lincecum is giving notice that he should be in the discussion as well. With another month or two like he has just had, it would be hard not to include him in the debate.

Quality Pitching

Joe Mauer hit an inside-the-park home run in the bottom of the 8th inning, knocking in three runs and sealing the victory and the series for the Minnesota Twins. Angles centerfielder Gary Matthews slammed into the fence trying to make a play on the Mauer drive but missed and Mauer ended up back at home where he started and the three runs that came in gave Joe Nathan enough of a cushion as he finished the Angels off in the 9th.

The game was 0-0 until the bottom of the 6th when Jason Bartlett took Jered Weaver deep to make it 1-0. Torii Hunter did the same one inning later, making it 2-0. It was only one inning later when Mauer had his monumental achievement and that was all the run support that the Twins needed on Saturday.

The 5-2 final is not very indicative of what you saw if you only watched the first 6 innings of this ball game. Both pitchers, Weaver, and his counterpart Boof Bonser pitched extraordinarily well and dominated the game for the first 6 innings allowing only a handful of hits given up all tolled.

Weaver gave up the first 2 runs to make it a 2-0 shutout for Bonser, who had never pitched the 8th inning in the Major League’s before this game. Bonser had a career game but lost his shutout when Maicer Izturis singled and Chone Figgins hit a triple to send him home. Pat Neshek than came in and gave up a game-tying RBI single to Orlando Cabrera to give Boof Bonser yet another No Decision.

Jered Weaver was the main reason for me to check out this game and he didn’t disappoint. Aside from two solo homeruns to Bartlett and Hunter, he was fantastic and allowed only 5 hits through his seven innings. He has been lighting it up lately and yesterday was no different.

Since June 4th, a span of seven starts, Weaver has been pitching to his potential and showing signs of the dominant arm he was last year. He has thrown 41.1 innings and allowed only 10 runs for a blistering ERA of 2.18. With John Lackey struggling a little bit with inconsistency lately and Ervin Santana being sent down to fine tune his mechanics, Weaver has been a god-send for the Angels and Mike Scioscia.

The Angels, with their loss Saturday, have now lost 5 of 6 to teams like Tampa Bay and Texas and now 2 in a row to Minnesota. They could use a win and a solid outing from the freshly recalled Joe Saunders on Sunday. Saunders pitched well in his previous stints with the club and will be looking to assure himself a spot on the roster long-term with another quality start. The only problem? He’s facing Twins prospect Matt Garza who has been phenomenal since being called up this season. Garza has started two games and has not allowed an earned run in either.

The Angels will be looking to break that streak early if they can get some run production going.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


This is the Chuck James that the Atlanta Braves expected to see this season.

The Braves young star opened the year wildly inconsistent and rarely pitching into the 7th or beyond. Now, in his four most recent starts, James has been the Braves best pitcher and with Smoltz coming back from an injury and dominating this past week and Tim Hudson continuing to be a steadying hand, the Braves are now loaded with a very dangerous starting trio.

Back on June 24th, Chuck James had a mediocre 4.29 ERA. Since that time, he has pitched 24.2 innings over four starts and allowed only 3 runs in those four starts. James has given up only 16 hits as well, making him one of the most dominant pitchers in the past month. His ERA has dropped from 4.29 to a nice 3.58 and it shows no signs of slowing.

Coming into the season, there were some big expectations placed on James as he was thought to be the staff ace of the future. Early on, his consistency and control issues plagued him and limited his effectiveness. Now, he is giving the Braves everything they hoped for and more.

With the Braves in the middle of a division race, they need James to keep throwing the way he is and the young lineup to keep hitting the way they are. Add in Smoltz and Hudson and a solid bullpen staff, well, the Braves look to have all the pieces in place to make a real run at the Mets and their NL East lead.