Three Up, Three Down (cont.)
Posted: Friday April 11, 2008 4:31PM; Updated: Friday April 11, 2008 10:38PM
1. Deja Blue: In November 2006, Dodgers GM Ned Colletti signed center fielder Juan Pierre to a five-year, $44 million deal. "I truly believe the city of Los Angeles is going to love this player," the GM said at the time. Just one year into the deal, though, Colletti realized that Pierre is an out machine at the plate with a noodle arm in the field.
So last winter the Dodgers took another stab at filling the center field position, shelling out $36.2 million in a two-year deal for Andruw Jones. Unfortunately, the early returns on Jones have been wholly discouraging as well.
Jones' increased girth startled observers in spring training, and his production in the young season has been similarly shocking. At the plate, Jones picked up right where he left off last season: in a huge slump. The five-time All-Star is batting .129 with a laughable .161 slugging percentage. In 34 plate appearances, Jones has struck out 10 times and left 19 runners on base. His play in the field is even more jarring. The 10-time Gold Glover may be error-free, but he has noticeably lost a step. On Monday night Jones misplayed an Eric Byrnes line drive so badly, I had to rewind the play five times to make sure it was really him.
Oh, did I mention that Pierre's hitting .167 and has yet to score a run this season?
Besides making a huge imprint on Los Angeles' payroll, these two signings have created a logjam in the outfield. Until the Dodgers hoodwink some team into taking Pierre, talented youngsters Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp face the possibility of erratic playing time. It'll be very interesting to see how Joe Torre handles this situation going forward.
2. Atlanta's one-run woes: Nine games into the season, the Braves find themselves in the NL East cellar with a 3-6 record. This mark becomes more exasperating when one considers Atlanta's record in one-run games: 0-5. Following the team's latest one-run defeat, Bobby Cox said, "We've been in every game. It means we're a good club." Well, Bobbo, the former is definitely true, but what about the latter? Doesn't conventional thinking suggest that good teams win close ballgames?
Truth be told, records in one-run games are actually pretty random. In fact, four of the past seven World Series champions -- the 2001 Diamondbacks (23-25), '04 Red Sox (16-18), '06 Cardinals (22-27) and '07 Red Sox (22-28) -- finished below .500 in the category. One isolated year in the red doesn't necessarily signal a problem.
But the Braves had a major league-worst 37-58 record in one-run games over the past two seasons. And if they continue at the current pace, this will be a third straight season far in the red. Not coincidentally, it could also be Atlanta's third straight season without making the playoffs.
3. Roy Oswalt's declining dominance: In terms of wins and losses, there's no pitcher more consistent than Roy Oswalt. Since beginning his major league career in 2001, Oswalt has a 112-56 mark, making him the winningest pitcher of the 21st century.
But following Oswalt's first two outings of '08 (both losses) and a bit of research on some key statistics, it's easy to see that the pint-sized power pitcher is becoming less dominant by the second.
In his first two starts of the season, Oswalt rarely reached 90 mph with his fastball and had no control of his patented, overhand curve. He was tagged for 21 hits and eight earned runs, while recording just six Ks -- a low figure for this former strikeout machine. But upon further review, Roy's strikeout rate has steadily plummeted since his rookie season. And two other key statistics -- opponent batting average and slugging percentage -- have risen with alarming consistency. Take a look:
Now, decreasing dominance doesn't mean Oswalt's doomed to mediocrity. He just has to continue adapting to his aging body. (Adios, power. Hello, finesse!) With Oswalt set to earn at least $60 million over the next four seasons, his modification must be Houston's chief concern.
At 1-8, Detroit is very fortunate that presumed AL Central contender Cleveland only holds a 4-5 mark.
We're only two weeks into the '08 campaign, but Ozzie Guillen's mouth is already in midseason form. In a four-day span, Ozzie pissed off the island of Puerto Rico and started a personal vendetta with umpire Phil Cuzzi. Pace yourself, Oz-man -- it's a marathon, not a sprint.
Travis Hafner's ninth-inning homer on Tuesday night ended an Angels streak of 162 straight wins when leading after eight innings. And Hafner's blasť bat flip was Pronk chic.
Philadelphia's Pat Burrell is truly a Mets killer. In 137 games against the division rival, "Pat the Bat" has 41 bombs.
Doug Davis had surgery for thyroid cancer Thursday, two days after he beat the Dodgers by giving up just two runs over six innings. Talk about a gamer.
Since signing a five-year, $28 million extension with Arizona on Tuesday, Chris Young is 1-for-11 with six strikeouts and 13 runners left on base.
Ever wonder what Yankees radio announcer John Sterling looks like when he makes his obnoxious, end-of-game call ("Ballgame Over! Yankees win! Theeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Yankees win!")? Enjoy this.
Detroit's Placido Polanco set a major league record for a second baseman by going 186 games without an error ... and then committed errors on consecutive days against the Red Sox this week.
Tampa Bay 2B Akinori Iwamura's glove is made from alligator skin. Matching cleats are a must.
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