Around the Diamond – 5.26.09

Transcript from Tuesday’s show:

Podcast can be found here: http://sporer.podbean.com/
or in iTunes under Baseball by Paul*

* – there are two Baseball by Paul listings because I used to have the podcast at MyPodcast.com, but they blew up so I had to move it and start anew.

Note – I said “best well run” re: the Red Sox organization… sounds weird to hear it now. Not sure it’s proper grammar.

FIRST BASE
First base is well known as a power position in the lineup. Many teams have one of their best hitters manning first base and it isn’t necessarily important that they man it well on the field so long as they swing a sweet stick in the middle of the lineup. The Major League average SLG at 1B is .490 so far this season (it was .463, .464 and .488 the past three seasons), yet 14 teams are below that mark. Worse yet is that 9 teams are below .450 including four below .410. San Francisco is getting a .290 SLG from their 1B—nice work there by Travis Ishikawa and Rich Aurilia. Even Emilio Bonifacio has a .304 SLG.

SECOND BASE
Jayson Nix
banged his 3rd and 4th home runs of the night, but even more notable is that his brother also hit his 4th of the year. Cincinnati’s Laynce upped his average to .287 with a 2-for-4 effort that included that 4th home run. I’m sure the DiMaggios-Joe, Dom and Vince-pulled off the feat a few times in their career. As I’m sure Cal and Billy Ripken did SEVERAL times! OK maybe not. Billy had 20 home runs in 3015 ABs spanning 12 seasons.

SHORTSTOP
Jason Bartlett
is headed to the disabled list along with his double play partner Akinori Iwamura, who will actually miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL. The Rays are M*A*S*H unit right now with a quarter of their 25-man roster disabled. Bartlett is probably the most damaging loss at this point. He has been amazing at the dish including a 1.127 OPS in May, which is best among all shortstops and 9th in the majors.

THIRD BASE
Garrett Atkins
was rumored in potential trade talks this offseason, but now it will be next to impossible to get much in return thanks to his awful start to the 2009 season. His disgustingly bad May in which he has a .399 OPS have sunk his season totals to .190/.273/.293. How does such a potent run producer just fall off at age 29, especially playing half of his games in such a favorable home park? His 2B, HR, RBI, BB, AVG, OBP and SLG totals are all in a three-year decline. He’s relatively young so he might not be toast, but a slide like this in this era can only lead to one question: did he have “help” during the 2006-2007 heydays? Who knows, but something is seriously wrong with Garrett Atkins.

CATCHER
Joe Mauer
has the May Triple Crown right now with a .444 batting average, 11 HR and 31 RBIs. He has done so with fewer AB than any of the other HR leaders in the top 10 except ARod (7 in 58 AB). In fact, he’s actually got a Quadruple Crown when you factor in his 25 runs scored. He has been just brilliant. And he’s not the only one. According to Noah Coslov of MLB.com’s Twitter, the Twins have homered in 9 straight games. The last time they accomplished such a feat was a 12-game streak all the way back in July of 2002. During yesterday’s broadcast, Detroit Tigers announcer Dan Dickerson said “The Royals are Detroit’s closest competition in terms of games back, but any Tigers fan knows it’s the Twins you always worry about.”

OUTFIELD

I won’t complain too much because the Detroit Tigers are off to a great start, but remind me again why THEY are paying Gary Sheffield to hit .291 with a .430 OBP and .535 SLG for the Mets? He hit his 5th home run tonight and he appears to be in quite a groove. I realize he was bringing very little to the table in Detroit except for a logjam for ABs and I don’t really object to getting rid of him, just wondering if there wasn’t a better way available to where Detroit doesn’t eat the ENTIRE $14 million while he plays and plays well for another team.

According to Ken Rosenthal, the Kansas City Royals might be the top suitor for Jeff Francoeur if the Braves shop him. Question 1: why WOULDN’T the Braves shop him? Question 2: why would the Royals be their top suitor? I know the answer is because Dayton Moore, their GM, is a former Braves guy, but c’mon—Francouer just isn’t that good. And I actually like Frenchie, I’m just being honest. Question 3: Rosenthal mentions that the Red Sox are known to have an eye on Francoeur. The question once again is WHY? I thought the Red Sox liked to acquire good players. They are one of the better run teams so this one perplexes me unless Theo & Co. are seeing something beyond his awful numbers.

PITCHER
Jason Berken
made his major league debut for the Baltimore Orioles tonight and fared alright. He went five allowing two runs on seven hits and three walks while striking out three. He picked up the win as his offense supported him well with 3 HR off of Ricky Romero en route to a 7-2 thrashing. Berken is one eight starting pitchers to rate in the top 15 for the Orioles organization according to the Minor League Analyst put out by the guys over at BaseballHQ.com and the second one up to the majors this year. Brad Bergesen was the first and he has been beat up in seven starts so far with a 5.49 ERA and 1.60 WHIP. The three best are still in the minors and they are all off to very strong starts. Chris Tillman is the closest at AAA-Norfolk and he is 5-0 in eight starts with a 2.13 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 10.4 K/9. Jake Arrieta is at AA-Bowie and he has a 4-2 record in eight starts with a 2.97 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 11.8 K/9. And Brian Matusz (I think it’s pronounced: Muh-twos, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong) is 3-2 in nine starts with a 2.68 ERA, 0.78 WHIP and 10.8 K/9.

If these arms pan out for the O’s, the future will be very bright with three of their lineup centerpieces already established in veteran Brian Roberts and youngsters Adam Jones and Nick Markakis. Prospect Nolan Reimold has impressed early on with three home runs, the latest of which came tonight. And their top prospect overall, Matt Wieters, is set to debut Friday. That said, they have no legitimate pitching on their major league roster outside of maybe Jeremy Guthrie, so while it would be unreasonable to expect ALL eight prospects to pan out entirely, they definitely need half of them to be prime contributors to their future especially because they are stuck with the unfortunate curse of playing a division that seems like it will never have a down period.

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