25 Thoughts and Observations on May
1. To call this season "'68 redux" may be doing it a disservice. After all, only one perfect game was thrown that year; we saw two this past month. I suppose A-Rod can't question Dallas Braden's credentials any more. As for Halladay, nothing he does surprises me. Every time he takes the mound, we're truly witnessing greatness.
2. His first name could be Bob or Tom, and America would still know Ubaldo Jimenez's name after the month he just had. He started May with an ERA of 0.79, and ends it at 0.78.
3. 2009's equivalent of Jimenez, Zack Greinke, continues to be let down by his offense. Despite 5 quality starts in 6 May outings, he lost four of those games while only winning one.
5. Halladay's perfecto aside, what a forgettable last 10 days its been for the 2nd place Phillies. That they have been shut out in 5 of their last 9 games, never scoring more than 3 runs in any of those games, is nothing short of astonishing.
6. R.I.P. Ernie Harwell, Robin Roberts, and Jose Lima.
7. Starlin Castro knows how to make an entrance.
8. Whether he was giving it all or not, Hanley Ramirez lost all credibility when he essentially said that Fredi Gonzalez doesn't know what hustle is because he never played in the majors. That said, the situation could've been a lot worse so props to everyone with the Marlins for not fanning the flames.
9. Part of me wants to say that the Kendry Morales injury is the dumbest thing I've ever seen. On the other hand, it's really not surprising given how extravagant end-of-game celebrations have become.
10. How Charlie Morton (1-9, 9.35 ERA) was in the majors up until he was placed on the DL a few days ago is beyond me.
11. It seems the Blue Jays knew what they were doing when they brought back Cito Gaston and Gene Tenace. Under their watch, Aaron Hill has blossomed, Vernon Wells has risen from the dead, and Jose Bautista and Alex Gonzalez are having career years.
12. Andre Ethier is a beast. Enough said.
13. It was only a matter of time before the Royals let go of Trey Hillman. They've played better baseball under Ned Yost but as Dayton Moore said (and due in large part to his own incompetence), that organization is years away from being relevant again.
14. Very quietly, Justin Morneau is leading the AL in BA, OPS, OBP, and SLG.
16. Daric Barton's .825 OPS leads all A's, and Adam Rosales is their home run leader with 4. Nonetheless, they find themselves atop the AL West through May.
18. The Chinese Zodiac says 2010 is the year of the Tiger; that Tiger is Miguel Cabrera. Having rededicated himself to baseball, he is demanding the attention of the baseball world after years of obscurity. He is almost single-handedly keeping the Tigers afloat.
19. The Dodgers and Rangers sound like the most logical Roy Oswalt landing spots to me.
20. The Mariners thought they were getting Milton Bradley so he could help them win the AL West; instead, they're helping him get his life together. As the Griffey napping incident showed, the situation in Seattle is a straight-up debacle. You really can't blame Cliff Lee for already talking about leaving.
21. It is laughable that Mark Teixeira (with his whopping .725 OPS) is ahead of Miguel Cabrera and Justin Morneau in the AL 1B vote, and that Jimmy Rollins is leading NL shortstops despite playing just 12 games. Needless to say, the time has come to abolish fan-voting for All-Star game starters. Make it happen Mr. Selig; the integrity of the mid-Summer classic depends on it.
22. Despite not spending a day in the minors, Mike Leake is making a difference in the Reds' rotation.
23. Each member of the Rays' rotation is in the top 30 in the AL in ERA, and they all have at least 5 wins. The only question is who is the Cy Young frontrunner; Niemann or Price?
24. Vladimir Guerrero was the best signing of the off season.
25. Congratulations Esmerling Vasquez; you and the D-Backs take the cake for dumbest loss of the year so far. http://losangeles.dodgers.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=8559549&c_id=la&topic_id=8878826
Report Cards Through May
A-: A's, Blue Jays, Braves, Cardinals
B+: Dodgers, Red Sox
B: Rangers, Rockies, Tigers
B-: Mets, Nationals
C+: Giants, Phillies
C: Angels, Marlins
Sizing Up The Races
Through May, the division is home to four of the top five teams in the American League.
The Rays are not going away; they are doing this year what I predicted they'd do in 2009. They're hitting, playing solid defense, and most importantly, they're pitching better than anyone in the AL. The Yankees started and ended May well, compensating for playing quite mediocrely in the middle of the month. These are the two AL East teams I expect to make the postseason.
The Blue Jays still haven't faded but I'm not buying into them. They only have two more wins than they did at this point last season (they finished 4th), and I don't think they have enough in their rotation behind Romero and Marcum. As fine a month as they had, all the Red Sox have to show for it is a 4th place standing. However, their pitching has really gotten it together recently; Buccholz and Lester have been fantastic.
In Baltimore, I suppose there's always 2011... or 2012... or 2020.
Not only would I not be surprised if the teams finished in this order, I'm expecting them to.
Note to self; never pick against the Twins again. It truly is them and then the rest of the division. To put it simply, they don't beat themselves; they don't commit errors and they don't walk batters. Mauer and Morneau continue to get it done and I expected nothing less; what does surprise me is that their rotation, top to bottom, has been so remarkably steady.
The Tigers are an average team with a few excellent players. After a slow start, their pitching is coming together rather nicely. However, their offense is really starting to hamstring them as I feared it would. They just have way too many holes for an American League lineup. Early signs are that they still don't know how to beat the Twins; they got swept at Target Field earlier in the month.
After Detroit, it's a sizable drop-off. Few teams have been as disappointing as the White Sox this year. Outside of Danks, their much vaunted starting rotation has been horrible. Rios and Konerko are having nice years, but few of their other hitters are. As I expected preseason, the Royals and Indians have been two of the AL's worst teams, and I can't see things improving for either team.
This division race was hard to make sense of after April. A month later, that's hardly the case.
The A's are in first because of their pitching, as Anderson, Braden, and Gonzalez have all blossomed this year. Their offense has been quite sub-par, but they haven't needed much run support lately. Despite Nelson Cruz's nagging injuries, the Rangers offense has been fine thanks to Vlad Guerrero. Rich Harden and Scott Feldman's struggles have been minimized thanks to the continued success of Colby Lewis and C.J. Wilson. I still think that overall, the Rangers are the best team in this division.
The Angels are down but not out. Their pitching has been nothing short of atrocious, the bullpen in particular. Either they'll be crippled by the loss of Morales, or a few of their struggling hitters (Aybar, Rivera, Matsui) will get it together and their offense will get by. For all their struggles, they're just 2.5 games out.
As for the Mariners, they're done. They just do not score runs; the attempt at bringing back Whiteyball was valiant but ultimately ill-advised. They really had no business getting the hype they did preseason.
Wild, Wild East? Thus far, no one has fallen out of this race.
After ending April in last, the Braves find themselves atop the division 31 days later. This was largely due to their offense, which scored almost twice as many runs in May as they did in April. Clearly, Bobby Cox has no intentions of going out quietly. The Phillies ended May on a horrific note, as their offense went AWOL. They've got issues but they've also got talent, and it's not time to panic yet.
After the top two, it's a cluster of mediocrity, as the Marlins, Mets, and Nationals all find themselves at .500 and tied for 3rd place. The Marlins, having survived the HanRam fiasco, pose the biggest threat of the three. Their pitching has been solid if unspectacular, but they continue to shoot themselves in the foot by playing porous defense.
The Mets had a May to forget, going 12-17 and getting outscored by 16 in the process. Their offense continues to fail them, and they have struggled to get quality innings from the starters behind Santana and Pelfrey. Despite a 13-16 month, the Nationals never lacked a buzz, as the baseball world anticipates the debut of Stephen Strasburg next week.
You fans of bold predictions are in luck, as I'm about to make my first one of the season.
The Cincinnati Reds are going to win the NL Central. After years of unfulfilled promise, they have arrived. The only NL team that scored more runs last month were the Braves, and after a slow start, their pitching has come together nicely (without Edinson Volquez and Aroldis Chapman). Make no mistake though, the Cardinals are still a force to be reckoned with. Even with Penny and Lohse injured, the rest of the rotation has been phenomenal. This looks it will be quite the two team race.
The Cubs and Brewers have disappointed tremendously. It's not that the Cubs have been awful; they've merely been thoroughly mediocre in every aspect of the game. They certainly have the talent to turn it around, but they've got to start making their move now. Just as the Mariners just don't hit, the Brewers just don't pitch. Gallardo has been fine, but contributions from the rest of the rotation have been few and far between; they are last in the NL in quality starts.
Aside from the intensifying Roy Oswalt sweepstakes, nothing new to report on the Astros and Pirates. They're both hapless teams, just battling to stay out of the basement.
Things are starting to make more sense in this division, though it remains a shock to see who's on top.
Simply put, the Padres are pitching their hearts out; that's been their saving grace because only two teams scored fewer runs in May than they did. As I said, they're a great story but I think it's only a matter of time before their luck runs out. No matter what, there certainly are a lot of positive things going on in San Diego.
It took them a month, but the Dodgers finally got the memo the 2010 season was under way, closing to within 2 of the Padres. Even more impressive is that they did this with Andre Ethier missing half the month. Their rotation has really turned it around, as Kershaw and Billingsley are being the aces Joe Torre needed them to be. Ultimately, I think it's only a matter of time before the Dodgers overtake the Padres for good.
It's been a struggle at times for San Francisco and Colorado, but both have stayed afloat because of their pitching (the Giants because of their whole rotation, the Rockies because of the brilliant Ubaldo Jimenez). Both teams have the talent to keep the NL West a four team race the rest of the way.
D-Backs' fans are being straight up tortured this year; their bullpen is that bad. Josh Byrnes really misjudged how far away this team was from contending.