Sunday, April 16

6 Bigger Things: 4/16/06

This is more or less ripping off of my previous post. I don't think it counts as plagarism if you use yourself as a template, right? I hope not.

1. Old Man's Revival - New York Mets / Chicago Cubs

This is the tale of two former Braves who - at least for now - are enjoying a pretty thorough revival of their former selves. Tom Glavine struck out 11 against the Brewers on Friday, April 14, and while that sounds pretty impressive, remember that the Brewers lineup is mostly comprised of youngsters. Not saying that it's not an impressive accomplishment - moreso for Glavine, given his age and his "I might be washed-up"-ness, but Glavine hasn't seen those kind of K numbers since he was getting those pitches 6 inches off the outside corner called as strikes. Factor this recent showing with a surprisingly strong second half of 2005 and a new outlook on how he pitches, and this could get really interesting really quickly for Glavine. Hasn't hurt his cause that the Mets have opened up red-hot, either.

On the other hand, Greg Maddux has been lights-out for the Cubs simply because he has to be. Nobody else on the staff has produced anything of consequence (see my previous post) other than headaches. It's still debateable at this point - much like Glavine - how long Maddux can keep this up. My guess is he's performing at a higher level simply because nobody else on his team is doing so, and once they start picking it up, Maddux will back off some.

2. Ryan Klesko Pulls a Wally Pipp - San Diego Padres

If the Padres hadn't tried to move Adam Eaton, we would never have seen this. As it stands, Adrian Gonzalez took over at first (coming over from the Rangers in the Eaton deal) when Ryan Klesko got injured, and Adrian shows no sign of slowing down. Those that have followed him don't find this terribly surprising - he was blocked by Mark Teixiera, so it's not really that bad to say you can't break camp as the starter when he's in front of you. As of now, he's a high average, decent power kind of guy with a plus glove. This year - even with this showing - will be more than likely a growing year for him; expect the occasional slump as he adjusts to major league pitching. On the whole, though, the Padres have found a long-term answer at first.

3. Turnabout - Washington Nationals

Someone forgot to tell these guys they needed to pitch. They were supposed to have problems hitting. However, utter ineffectiveness all across the board on the pitching staff has placed an undue burden on the hitters. The ironic thing about this is that so far, the offense has stepped up; they've performed significantly better so far than they did last year. If the pitching held up their end of the bargain, the Nats would probably already have 2 more wins.

The only good news on the pitching side of things is that the loss of Luis Ayala isn't being felt that bad yet. Jon Rauch looks like he's stepped into that superman reliever role - which he can do, given that could be a starter as well. Matter of fact, with Ryan Drese's recent injury, he might be that, too.

4. When Everything Fails - Texas Rangers

The anti-Washington Nationals were supposed to be able to crush everyone offensively. Two weeks in and their offense has sputtered, relatively speaking. Brad Wilkerson is certainly one of the main culprits, although production is down across the board.

However, unlike the Nationals, the pitching has not risen to the occasion. New ace Kevin Millwood has been rocked whenever he's taken the mound, and the main acquisition from the Chris Young / Adrian Gonzalez deal - Adam Eaton - is already on the DL. The good news here is that while the team is bad now, the offense is too good not to rise to the occasion and Millwood won't remain as bad as he's been so far.

5. Dogfight - AL Central (except the Royals)

What will probably be a hotly contested division all year has begun that way as well. Detroit has fallen back to the pack after a blistering start, and as of now (4/15), the Indians and the White Sox are tied at the top, while the Tigers are tied with the Twins. Look for this trend to continue.

Honestly, look for these groupings to continue throughout the year. Figure that the Indians will spend most of the season in close contention with the White Sox, and the Tigers will fight with the Twins for third. The AL Central is probably the most obviously tiered division in baseball; it's odd that it seems to have already reached its natural balance so soon.

6. Unbalanced Closers - Baltimore / Boston / Tampa Bay

Closer problems?

Baltimore - So far, Chris Ray has performed well. There were questions going into the season about his performance, but so far, so good.

Boston - Foulke's gone. In his place, Papelbon is in. He's done well in the role, although it is early in the year. While most people don't doubt his ability to perform under pressure (I don't doubt it myself), it'll remain to be seen how well he'll do later.

Tampa Bay - This, not surprisingly, is a mess. Life after Miceli is debatable until Chad Orvella finally makes it back to the big leagues. At this point, he's unquestionably (barring trades) the closer of the future. Right now, it's anybody's guess as to who the closer of the present is. If you know, could you tell Joe Maddon, please?