Biggest Winners and Losers of MLB Week 3
As the calendar slowly inches toward May, we are starting to piece together some storylines for the Major League Baseball season that will be worth paying attention to as the summer approaches.
Even though September can be the best month of the season—you have playoff pushes, award races and drama every single night—April might be the most fun time to watch baseball because everyone still has a chance and optimism is at its highest.
There is still one more full week to go in April, but with three weeks of games in the books, we can start piecing together little bits of information that will help us make sense of what will happen in May, June, etc.
So to put one final bow on last week's crop of games, here are the biggest winners and losers.
Winner: Anyone Who Saw Detroit vs. Seattle on April 17
Max Scherzer: 8.0 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 12 K
Felix Hernandez: 8.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R (0 ER), 0 BB, 12 K
It is so rare that a sporting event actually lives up to the hype surrounding it, but Max Scherzer and Felix Hernandez brought their very best on Wednesday night at Safeco Field, and it was everything we could have asked for.
Scherzer and Hernandez played their own little game of one-upmanship for eight innings before their managers dictated that the bullpens take over. Even after those two hurlers exited, the bullpens combined to throw 12 innings of three-hit, one-run ball with 16 strikeouts.
All told, there were 415 pitches thrown, 276 for strikes, and 40 strikeouts between these two teams. Scherzer and Hernandez provided the fireworks and the bullpen finished things off, with the only run coming on a Brayan Pena groundout in the top of the 14th.
So much great pitching—some might say bad offense—in a game that featured two of the best starting pitchers in baseball doing exactly what you would expect them to do.
Loser: Teams in Chicago, Minnesota, Colorado and Pittsburgh
Scheduling baseball games isn't an easy task, but it becomes even more difficult when you are trying to work against the fickle beast that is Mother Nature.
Last week, wet, cold and snowy conditions forced the postponement of games in Chicago, Colorado, Minnesota and Pittsburgh.
The scene was especially ugly in Denver, as the city was covered in snow thanks to that April storm we should be accustomed to seeing but still can't get used to.
As a result, those teams were forced to play a doubleheader the next day or schedule a twin bill for later in the season.
We often say that MLB should just avoid games in places like Colorado and Minnesota for the first few weeks of the season due to weather, but it is so hard to stack that many road games right out of the gate.
Winner: Arizona Diamondbacks
A lot of people, myself included, had fun at the expense of the Diamondbacks for the moves they made during the offseason—like trading Chris Young, Justin Upton and Trevor Bauer for 50 cents on the dollar—but things aren't really that bad.
Sure, Upton has been arguably the best player in baseball through the first three weeks of the season now that he is healthy.
But the Diamondbacks did have talent around Upton, and so far, the grit and determination of this little team that could seems to be working out well, to the tune of a 10-8 start.
Manager Kirk Gibson wanted players who could put the ball in play, rather than strike out 150 times a year, and that strategy is producing results.
Of course, most of the success early in the season is thanks in large part to the pitching staff. Arizona ranks fifth in bullpen ERA (2.09) and tied for seventh in team ERA (3.44).
Pitching and defense will have to carry the load, with the offense scoring enough runs to keep them in games.
So far, so good.
Loser: Derek Jeter
Even though the Yankees have yet to completely fall apart like a lot of people were expecting, one thing that does sting is the news that came last week about Derek Jeter.
Jeter will be out until the All-Star break with a cracked bone, the same ankle he broke in last year's ALCS vs. Detroit.
This means that Jeter and Alex Rodriguez could be returning at the same time for the Yankees, but this was certainly not what the team or Jeter had in mind after he was carried off the field last October.
Jeter is seen as a superhuman player because everything he does seems to defy logic. We thought he was done as a premier hitter; then he goes out last year and collects a league-leading 216 hits (the second-most hits he has had in a single season).
But you have to wonder if the soon-to-be 39-year-old will be able to come back and be the same player he was before. Eventually, time is going to catch up to him. Perhaps the fact that Jeter's body responded negatively to the way he pushed himself during recovery, hoping to be ready for Opening Day, is the first sign that things won't be the the same.
Then again, if Jeter returns and hits .330 in the second half, would you really be that surprised?
Winner: Clayton Kershaw
We already knew that Clayton Kershaw was really good. But just in case you needed a reminder, the 25-year-old recorded his 1,000th career strikeout on Wednesday against the San Diego Padres.
Sure, he did it in a losing effort as he gave up three home runs, five runs (three earned) and seven hits in five innings. But sometimes a milestone trumps the performance on the field.
To put Kershaw's milestone in perspective, he is just the 16th pitcher in baseball history to record 1,000 strikeouts at age 25 or younger. Felix Hernandez was the last pitcher to accomplish the feat in 2010.
Prior to Hernandez joining the club, Dwight Gooden was the last pitcher to amass that many strikeouts at such a young age when he recorded his 1,000th in 1988.
Kershaw has been a special pitcher for a long time, but you wonder just how high he can climb if he stays on his current pace for the next decade.
Loser: David Price
There are few pitchers in baseball more entertaining to watch than David Price. That is what makes the reigning American League Cy Young winner's start to the 2013 season so frustrating.
Following Price's no-decision against Baltimore on Thursday, in which he gave up five earned runs on eight hits in six innings, his season numbers look like this:
Price's strikeout-to-walk ratio is still very good, but the five home runs and 29 hits allowed in just 23 innings are a little alarming. It can take time for a good pitcher to find his command at the start of the season, so there should be little doubt that he will put it all together.
But this is hardly the kind of start Price wanted after having such a great 2012.
Winner: Matt Harvey
The pitching matchup of the weekend happened on Friday night in Queens, N.Y., between Stephen Strasburg and Matt Harvey.
Both young phenoms can bring the heat with their fastball.
Strasburg ranks first with an average-fastball velocity of 95.7 mph, while Harvey sits tied for second at 94.8 (per Fangraphs). They are also two of the best strikeout artists in baseball, averaging more than 10 strikeouts per nine innings pitched for their careers.
On this particular night, though, it was Harvey who got the better of Strasburg in front of a raucous, partisan crowd of 26,675 very impartial observers.
Harvey allowed just one run in seven innings of work with three walks and seven strikeouts. Strasburg's command issues continued to plague him in this game, as he worked all over the zone and gave up four runs (two earned), two home runs, five hits and two walks in six innings.
To put the cherry on top of this particular sundae, Mets fans were chanting "Harvey's better" at Strasburg in the sixth inning after he gave up homers to Ike Davis and Lucas Duda.
Hopefully, we will see these two match up a lot more this season, because it made for thrilling television, even in a 7-1 Mets win.
Loser: Ryan Zimmerman
Ryan Zimmerman is going to be one of those players where you will just wonder what his career could have been had he not spent so much time battling injuries on the disabled list.
That's saying something, too, because his career up to this point has been pretty good, and occasionally great. But because of the fragile nature of his body, Zimmerman's throwing arm at third base is a shell of its former self.
Now, just three weeks into the season, Zimmerman, 28, finds himself relegated to the DL once again due to a strained left hamstring.
The news was not all bad for the Nationals, as they called up top-prospect Anthony Rendon to man third base. Of course, Rendon, the team's top pick in the 2011 draft, has had injury problems of his own.
But Zimmerman's latest setback does bring to mind the huge six-year contract extension he signed prior to the start of last season. It didn't make a lot of sense at the time, given his injury history and the fact there were still two years left on a deal he signed in 2009.
The Nationals have proved they aren't afraid to take risks with players or contracts, but you have to wonder how soon before Zimmerman's deal looks like an albatross they can't get out of.
Winner: Colorado Rockies
Yes,12 of the Rockies' first 18 games have come against San Diego, Milwaukee and the New York Mets.
Okay, they are actually starting pitchers like Jeff Francis and Jon Garland.
But, come on! For a team that was supposed to be terrible, Colorado has actually looked very good out of the gate. In no way should anyone expect this hot start to last, because the schedule will get tougher, and Francis and Garland are still in the rotation.
Yet we should try to focus on some of the positive signs.
Dexter Fowler appears to have found the power stroke that everyone saw in him for a long time when he was developing. The 27-year-old center fielder has seven home runs, just six shy of his career high of 13, set last year.
Troy Tulowitzki is healthy and hitting .328/.400/.690 with six home runs, eight walks and just seven strikeouts. Carlos Gonzalez is slugging .667 with an 1.108 OPS.
It isn't too hard to predict things will come crashing back down to earth, but it is still good to recognize a surprise when it happens.
Best Non-Baseball Baseball Moment: Boston Red sox
When the Boston Red Sox returned to Fenway Park for a weekend series with the Kansas City Royals after the tragic events during the Boston Marathon last Monday, no one knew what exactly to expect.
Being able to look at everything that happened on one Saturday afternoon, we can safely say that Fenway Park provided the perfect release for a city—and a nation—desperately in need of something to be happy about.
No one is going to forget what happened when those explosions went off, nor will the city be magically healed because of a baseball game. But for a few hours, everyone in Boston was able to join together as one, to enjoy the simple things in life.
The Red Sox and the Fenway faithful did everything they could to make Saturday a day no one will ever forget.
It started with a pregame video tribute to the heroes and images that defined the entire week leading up to Saturday, followed by David Ortiz's passionate (and colorful) speech, and ended with fireworks courtesy of Daniel Nava's three-run home run.
Sports are a way to bring people together for a good, fun time for a few hours.
The Red Sox gave their city something to smile about after having so much happen the previous five days that everyone wants to forget.