For those of you in fantasy leagues, if for some reason Jay Bruce is still available, pick him up ASAP. If he's not available, trade for him. He looks like the real deal and, remember, the Reds were willing to part with Josh Hamilton (currently leading the world in RBIs), knowing Jay Bruce was waiting in the wings.
With several public mistakes by umpires made in the past week regarding home runs, the "instant replay" debate has heated up again. Who better to discuss instant replay than TCO's own Bunker and Dewey. Not heard from since 2006, the cranky duo have plenty to say about the most widely discussed topic in baseball today. Read the latest Bunker & Dewey column for the entire debate!
The past couple days have yielded a couple gruesome plays in the field. On Tuesday, while trying to break up a double play, Ryan Church didn't get low enough on his slide and took a knee from Atlanta's Yunel Escobar to the head. The game ended on that play, causing for a very awkward celebration by Atlanta (the Braves won), then concern because Church was still lying with his face in the ground just past second base. The video can be seen here. Last night, San Diego pitcher Chris Young caught a line drive from Albert Pujols right between the eyes. Remarkably, Young sat up immediately and seemed "with it" most of the time. The video can be seen here.
Hopefully tonight will yield exciting plays, close games, but a little less bludgeoning.
Jon Lester threw a no-hitter last night in dominant fashion, striking out nine and only allowing two baserunners. Lester threw 130 pitches and the no-hitter was Lester's FIRST complete game, so it will be interesting to see how he rebounds in the next couple starts. It's amazing how the "babying" of young arms in baseball has made them so fragile.
Coincidentally, my son and I were looking at the back of a Roger Clemens baseball card last night, and the sudden absence of the complete game is staggering. As recently as 1991 and 1992, Clemens had a combined 24 complete games, finishing over 35% of the games he started, but didn't even lead the league in complete games either year. Less than two decades later, Brandon Webb led the National League in 2007 with a measly count of four complete games. In fact, no one this century has eclipsed 10 complete games in a season.
Is the "pitch count" approach working? I'm sure some trainers and coaches out there have some stats that suggest the average arm tires after "x" amount of pitches, but I'd prefer to examine reality. Here is a list of pitchers who have led their respective league in complete games at least once from 1990 to 2002 with their age in their final year in parentheses (a "+" indicates still active): Ramon Martinez (33), Jack Morris (39), Dave Stewart (38), Dennis Martinez (43), Tom Glavine (42+), Jack McDowell (33), Greg Maddux (42+), Chuck Finley (39), Randy Johnson (44+), Curt Schilling (40+), Pat Hentgen (35), Pedro Martinez (36+), Roger Clemens (44), Scott Erickson (38), David Wells (44), Steve Sparks (38), Paul Byrd (37+), and Livan Hernandez (33+).
While this list is skewed because you have to be healthy AND good to lead a league, it bears noting that the average age of these pitchers, even with some of them still pitching, is 38.8 years! In addition, just looking at Livan Hernandez, there is NO way that guy is just 33.
The two opposing trains of thought about pitching are: each arm only has so many throws in it, so ease up and spread it over the life of a career, and the only way to strengthen an arm is to use it. I lean more toward the latter because if a pitcher has a genetically "weak" arm, it's going to blow out whether he is throwing 90 pitches, 130 pitches, every fourth day, or every fifth day. Pitching is an unnatural motion and the best way to protect yourself is by strengthening the legs, shoulder, and other muscles involved. You can't do that by sitting on the bench.
There have been a few impressive feats already accomplished in the early stages of this baseball season. I already discussed what Tampa Bay and Florida are doing with limited payrolls, but the pitching staff from Cleveland just completed a scoreless stretch of 44 1/3 consecutive innings. That's impressive at any level, but even more so now with the diluted 5-man rotations. Just as impressive is Brandon Webb's perfect 9-0 record. Luck plays a part in a pitcher's W-L record at times, but when you are 9-0 and still have a shot a 3 more starts in May, that means you are clicking on all cylinders. In today's game of relying on the bullpen nearly every day, 30 wins is almost unrealistic. 25 wins, on the other hand, is becoming a very real possibility and would be quite a feat in this day and age.
It's mid-May and the Tampa Bay Rays are in first place, ahead of the "mighty" Red Sox and Yankees. In my Season Preview, I mentioned that the Rays might have a shot at 80 wins thanks to Shields and Kazmir. I still feel the same way and I'm not quite sure how they are performing at this above-average standard with the lack of pitching depth. Perhaps it will come to call in the long run, but for now, Tampa Bay is doing what very good teams do - play around .500 ball on the road (8-9) and dominate at home (15-7). If the Rays and Florida (also 23-16 and in first place) can keep it up, it will be an exciting year for diehard baseball fans and an incredibly costly year for the networks if the Marlins and Rays are playing playoff baseball.
Jayson Stark of ESPN.com posted a very informative story on the two-way successes of several trades in recent history, including ones with Dan Haren, Johan Santana, and others. It's worth a look.
The idea that the MLB players union is even looking into the POSSIBILITY of suggesting collusion as the reason Barry Bonds has yet to receive a single offer is ludicrous. Here are the facts: Bonds is a 43-year-old superstar who is pretty much unable to play the field and carries more baggage than just about anyone. With his fielding woes, bad legs, and inability to play in many back-to-back games, you can eliminate all 16 National League teams.
That only leaves 14 teams, all of whom would likely use him only in a DH role. Unfortunately for Bonds, there are quite a few full time DHs (Thome, Pronk, Thomas, Ortiz, etc.) already employed, so the number of possibly interested teams dwindles to a handful. Then, you can throw out any small market teams like the Twins or Royals because paying a premium for a part time DH simply doesn't fit into their plans. You can also throw out teams not in the running because the negative press in signing Bonds wouldn't be worth any potential gains with his bat in the lineup on occasion.
Suddenly, Bonds is left with only a few teams, maybe the Yankees, Mariners - maybe even the Rays or Orioles. In each case, however, you can make plenty of arguments for not even needing to pursue him. The Yankees are already paying Giambi a ton of cash and can't play him at first every day, the Mariners already have a tough time finding PT for guys like Jose Vidro, the Rays are fairly happy with the current clubhouse chemistry, and the Orioles have overspent on more than enough players this past decade already and probably don't want to get burned again. Plus, Baltimore, with or without Bonds, isn't winning the AL East.
In the end, Bonds is left with no one, no specifically because of any steroids issue but because of a combination of deteriorating skills and baggage he brings with. It's not collusion, it's just the end of the line for a once great ballplayer.
May has begun with several teams on streaks, some good and some bad. Toronto and Minnesota are currently riding 5-game winning streaks, the Dodgers have won 9 of their last 10 and even Washington has won 8 of their last 10 games.
Detroit has stumbled once again, losing 4 straight and counting while the White Sox have fared even worse in May, losers of 6 straight, having scored only 9 total runs in those 6 games. In the National League, San Diego still hasn't figured out how to hit, but Colorado is keeping pace with the Padres for the cellar thanks to 8 losses in their last 10 games.
With six teams (Texas, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, San Fran, San Diego, Colorado) in baseball behind in their division by 7 or more games already, it's going to take quite a few winning streaks of their own just to get back in the race.
For you fantasy baseball players out there, this is a crucial time to assess your roster. It's up to you to decide if guys like Travis Hafner are just going through an extended slump and are worth pursuing or if something is perhaps really wrong and he will never regain his form. On the flipside, you need to decide if guys like Carlos Quentin can continue their success. If not, maybe it's time to deal the overachieving players, even if you don't feel you are getting fair market value.
Remember, you already receive the past stats, so all that matters is assessing the FUTURE success of players involved in trades. Most people forget that and focus and what a player has done rather than what a player WILL DO. Remember that piece of advice and you will be easier to deal with and will likely make your team better in the long run.
If you have a hard time getting into baseball until May rolls around, don't worry - The Commish will get you caught up fast! The latest Hot Corner runs down each division with a brief desciption about what team is overachieving (Oakland), what team is underachieving (Cincy), and who figures to be there at the end. It's a quick rundown by division and a must read to get you caught up in no time. Think of it as TCO's version of Cliff's Notes for those of you still watching playoff basketball and hockey! Check it out now.