Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Daily Check-up: Baseball nearing 65…Games

Despite my foray recently into pop-culture and infotainment-related materials, I’m clearly capable of cold-hard sport’s analysis.

At least, I think I am.

Despite baseball season taking a rather taxing toll on even its most avid fans, 162 games spanning from early April until the last few days of October, plenty can be learned as we approach the middle of June.

At least, I think there is.

Standings, statistics, and surprises.

Three rock solid categories to briefly delve into, as most teams march closer to their sixty-fifth game this upcoming weekend.

Your division leaders in the AL should come as no surprise.
-Boston has dominated the majority of the American League behind effective starting pitching and absolutely phenomenal bullpen work. Just wait until that Ramirez-guy catches up with the rest of the lineup. With a lead over 10 games, they seem to be more than ready to finally break the Yankee-stronghold on the AL East the last decade.
Cleveland has stormed out to an early lead over Detroit behind ace-CC Sabathia’s torrid 9-1 start. Despite losing 2 of 3 in Cincy, the Indians 37-24 mark leaves them a ½ game ahead of the Tigers.
Los Angeles, sporting the most wins in the American League (w/ Boston at 40), has quietly dominated at home (24-9) and rode the red-hot bat of none of than Vlad Guerrero to seize early control out West. What may be most surprising is who only trails them by 4 ½ games [Mariners].

Your divisions leaders in the NL should come as no surprise either. Well, except for the NL Central, of course.
-The New York Mets have seen steadier pitching, despite a recent hiccup in their bullpen against the Phils, than expected and maintained a 3-game cushion over Atlanta for the majority of the past month.
-The Brew-Crew (yes, from Milwaukee) rode the major’s best start, and despite recent .500 play, lead the slumping, yet potentially recovering, defending World Series-champion Cardinals, as well as the chronically underachieving Cubbies, by 5 games.
-The Padres, located in San Diego of course, apparently not missing the departure of manager Bruce Bochy as much as expected, are a strong 10-games over .500…leaving them a half game ahead of the upstart and dangerously youthful Arizona Diamondbacks. Never fear Dodger fans, as LA’s real team is only a game back in an extremely tight division race, thus far.

In the AL, everyone else has dissected A-Rod’s April enough already. What may come as more interesting are some of these facts, as of the first week of June:
-Leading the Red Sox in homers and runs batted in…Mike Lowell.
-Second in the
AL in hitting…Jorge Posada (10 points behind Maglio Ordonez)..
-Likely to see an All-Star game at 1st base…Kevin Youklis (batting .342 with 73 hits).
Detroit’s most productive outfielder not named Ordonez…Curtis Granderson (18 doubles and an AL-leading 9 triples).
-Slamming once again with 12 home runs and 43 runs batted in…Sammy Sosa.
-1.000 winning percentage for…Josh Beckett (8-0).
-16 combined wins for Angels starters…John Lackey (9 with a 2.37 ERA) and Kelvim Escobar (8).
-Foreign import 7-game winner…Dice-K.
-Seconds in the
AL with 17-saves…Joe Borowksi.
AL-leader in strikeouts, even over that Johan Santana-guy…Erik Bedard.
-Okay, leading the majors with 27 homers and 58 runs batted in is that A-Rod guy.

In the NL, it mainly seems to be all about Bonds (12 home runs, 9 behind tying Aaron’s 755-mark) stalking Hammerin’ Hank’s record. However, that isn’t the case when you dive head-first into the numbers.
-Two Rockies trail Cub D-Lee for the NL batting lead…Matt Holliday & Todd Helton.
-Cecil’s little boy is leading the NL with 22 homeruns…Prince Fielder.
-Right behind him, at 16, is none other than fellow Brewer…JJ Hardy.
-One Philly has 47 RBIs and 24 doubles…Chase Utley.
-Another Philly has the victories lead in the NL…Cole Hammels (8-2).
-Somebody doesn’t miss the fallout from the WBC…Jake Peavy (7-1, 1.68 ERA, and 11 quality starts).
-A Brewer has a major-league best 22 saves named…Francisco Cordero.
-Nearing 500 career saves and still going strong with 17 this season…Trevor Hoffman.

-The jam-packed AL Central, which appears to be the biggest dogfight in the majors as of late, has
Cleveland and Detroit keeping their heads both well above water. Despite a recent losing streak, Minnesota has remained near the .500 mark for the past few weeks. Yet, it’s the ChiSox, especially after dropping the ball at home versus the Yanks (losing 3 of 4), that are struggling to keep up with the frontrunner’s pace. As for the Royals. Well, they don’t like to talk about it.
-While Toronto and Baltimore have failed to make an effective push for 2nd-place after the white-hot Red Sox, it’s the Yankees, or perhaps better suited as the Tankees, who have seen cold-pitching in April (beset mainly by injury after injury) and ice-cold hitting in May (A-Rod has returned to orbit after an incredible April) to see themselves staring 10 games behind Boston and as many as eight games under .500 earlier in the week. A weekend sweep of the Pirates, with a successful debut performance for the Rocket on Saturday, has the Yanks 30-31 and finally out of the AL East basement.
Seattle, 33-26 after sweeping the Padres in interleague play, has to be one of the brighter spots out West. While a game ahead in the W column and two more in the loss column, Oakland has been playing their timeless tune of being unable to support solid pitching with any type of consistent offensive production. Texas has wilted under the “heat” to stumble out to an AL-worst .371 winning percentage. It’s going to be a long summer in Arlington for Ken Washington and company.

Atlanta, not Philadelphia, has proven to be the NL East’s second best team. Currently #2 in the wild-card race, the Braves have been sparked by a return to form by born-again ace Tim Hudson.
-Chicago, as referenced perfectly throughout Pay’s article (below), have been downright terrible late in games and have stumbled, right alongside their fiery manager, to an underwhelming 27-33 start (especially after a spending spree equaling $300-million this off-season).
-San Francisco, perhaps more due to Zito than Bonds, have hovered a game or two below .500, at least before an embarrassing sweep against the A’s this past weekend, as Bond’s Chase for History has stalled in recent weeks.
Houston (26-36) seems to have fallen and can’t get back up, to the disappointment of their fans. Fortunately for Philly and Florida supporters, their teams (32-21 and 31-33 respectively), have remained in the wild-card race thus far, despite two talented teams ahead of them in the standings.

And there you have it. Enough analysis to fill a page of USA Today. Or maybe even two!

The real questions remain: who will continue and who will see a change (whether for better or the worse)?

Only time tells those stories.

Until next time…

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