Sunday, April 11, 2010

Baseball's First Week - Anything Learned?

It's a long season and one week doesn't tell too much concerning the long range outcomes of things. But some trends developed this week that are worth observing. The trick is to determine which of those trends is a mirage and which show the promise of things to come. Let's take a look around the majors and see if we can tell the difference:

National League East

The Phillies already have a +24 run differential after one week. They could very easily run away with this division. The Marlins are in second place, but have a minus run differential, which if that keeps up means they are a mirage, especially with their relief pitching. The Mets and Braves both have positive run differentials (the Braves are higher) so their positive spin for the season looks excellent. Still think the division finishes with the Phillies on top with the Braves in second and contending for a wildcard. Heyward will have great days and bad days but will finish with a .900 OPS or higher.

National League Central

Does it tell us anything that after the first week of the season, the Cardinals are the only team in this division with a positive run differential (+14). Yes. They are the only team in this division that can pitch enough and hit enough consistently to win. The Pirates are much improved, but their 3-2 start is a mirage. The Cardinals' one weakness is relief pitching and though that may not help them in this division, it may hurt them in the long run of things. Braun and Fielder are doing what they do for the Brewers, but the Brewers aren't doing much else well. Hoffman picked up two saves, blew another, but doesn't look solid at the end of the game. Gallardo is 0-2 despite his new contract.

National League West

None of these teams look great so far. The Giants have started 4-1 but are only +8 in run differential. The Rockies relief corp looks shaky. The Dodgers' starters look messy. This pack is going to be tightly bunched all year from the looks of things. The only team that looks capable of a big run is the Rockies with their offense, but we'll see. The Padres are better, but still don't hit enough.

American League East

The Yankees and Bay Rays have showed resilience against tough competition. But the Bay Rays are already on the minus side in run differential and could struggle, especially with their pitching. The Red Sox are only at +2 in run differential and had a rough week out of the bullpen. But that should be a mirage. The bigger question is the offense and how long they stick with Ortiz. He sat yesterday and the team won. We'll see. The Blue Jays have shown they will be better and will feast against weaker competition. But they are still fourth best in this division.

American League Central

This is going to be a two team race with the Twins and Tigers. The Twins look awesome and their bullpen hasn't missed a beat without Nathan. They have four saves already without him. Gardenshire's one weakness is his continued man-crush on Punto, who has been playing regularly at third. Why? The Tigers have a good line up and Damon hasn't started hitting yet. He will. Jackson looks like the real deal which sets them up nicely. The White Sox are as bad as the Fan thought they would be. It's no real comfort being right, but they just don't seem to have the horses they need to win consistently. Cleveland shows promise, but ultimately, their pitching will do them in. The Royals? Sigh.

American League West

Are the Athletics a mirage? Their pitching seems to say no. They have great young pitching, that's for sure. The bullpen looks okay. They are hitting better than expected. Barton has been a real pleasant surprise. It's hard to predict they will continue to hit this well though. So, they are good enough to contend, but not as good as the first week promises. The Rangers are pitching very well, but aren't hitting. Now that's a switch, no? They will hit more and should be contenders. The Mariners aren't hitting and have questions in their rotation behind King Felix. Lee is out until May now. Not good. Unlike the Rangers, the Mariners offense won't get much better. The Angels look bad right now. Matsui is doing really well, but they have the worst pitching in the American League so far. That shouldn't stay the same, but their offense looks really weak. The Fan really doesn't think they will be in the picture.

Some individual player thoughts:

  • Greinke doesn't look as sharp as last year. He'll be good, but not as good as last year.
  • A 40 year old Mo still looks like the best closer in the game. Unbelievable.
  • Chipper Jones has to stay healthy. The Braves are a different team with him in the line up. He's already missed games with dings.
  • Denard Span is a really good and unappreciated player.
  • Vernon Wells cooled off the last two days, but this will be a comeback year from him.
  • The Red Sox really should move Mike Lowell. It's a festering situation if you ask this Fan.
  • Vlad Guerrero is awesome so far. He's looked better than at any time last year. If Hamilton starts hitting, the 1-2-3 punch of Hamilton, Cruz and Guerrero should be a wonder to behold.
  • Is this the year that Evan Longoria becomes the best player in the American League? Yes.

1 comment:

Matt said...

Run differential over five or six games doesn't tell you much more than straight records. The Rays are for real (and thanks for not calling them the Tampa Rays!)