SI.com Fantasy Minors College Baseball Baseball

Posted: Wednesday April 09, 2003 11:32 AM
Updated: Wednesday April 16, 2003 11:40 AM
SI.com's Ryan Hunt takes a poke at answering a few baseball questions.
 
 BQ  Which team's slow start appears to be the most troubling?  
  Matt Williams Matt Williams is one of the few Diamondbacks who is off to a good start. AP
This isn't the way the Arizona Diamondbacks penciled in the start of their the season: four combined starts from Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling with no wins and a 5.40 ERA. It looks like a misprint, but considering it, Arizona's 2-6 last-place mark doesn't.

But don't hang this one totally on the arms of their big guns.

The Diamondbacks are last in the National League in hitting at .213, failing to score more than three runs in any of their three games at Coors Field. This from an offense that remains largely intact after leading the NL in runs scored last season.

Junior Spivey, one of 2002's biggest surprises, has struggled out of the gate, with five hits in his first 29 at-bats. Danny Bautista (.130) looks sluggish after recovering from season-ending shoulder surgery. And top-of-the-order veterans Tony Womack and Steve Finley have combined for six hits in the first seven games.

And while Arizona has spent so much energy trying to find the elusive No. 3 complement to Schilling and Johnson -- with Elmer Dessens the main offseason upgrade -- Luis Gonzalez is the only piece of the offensive arsenal that scares you. It's only 10 days, but the Diamondbacks look like "Gonzo and the Question Marks" in a division with the stacked Giants and talented Dodgers.

What if Spivey's season was a fluke? What if this is the year Finley's production drops off? What if Bautista can't regain his breakout form? What if rookie Lyle Overbay can't adjust to life as an everyday player? What if Matt Williams gets hurt ... again?

Johnson and Schilling will come around. You can't be as certain about the offense.

 BQ  Why do the Reds seem better without Junior?  
It just doesn't make sense. And it shouldn't.

No one ever will confuse Reggie Taylor or Ruben Mateo for a Hall of Fame talent like Ken Griffey Jr. But since Griffey went down -- again -- with a long-term injury, the Reds have found short-term success. Cincinnati started 1-4 with Griffey in the lineup, but since Junior suffered a shoulder injury that will keep him out a minimum of six weeks, the Reds are 2-0.

In the first half of last season -- in which Griffey suffered through two major injuries -- the Reds were 9-16 with Griffey in the lineup; 32-20 without him. Don't expect that to happen again.

The big difference this season will be the absence of Juan Encarnacion, who was dealt to Florida before the trade deadline last year. With Adam Dunn and Austin Kearns, the Reds' outfield was just as productive with Encarnacion. This season, Taylor and Mateo -- or even Barry Larkin, who worked in center field in spring training -- won't be able to fill that void.

 BQ  What was Alan Trammell thinking by taking the Tigers' job?  
How bad are the Tigers? Even only six games into the season, it's almost impossible to fathom all the ways. Sure, for the second consecutive season, Detroit is 0-6. But the Tigers have managed to make this season-opening slide look even worse.

Consider: The Tigers have only one player on the entire roster hitting above .200 (Gene Kingsale, .250). The entire team is hitting .133, scoring only six runs. In the 54 innings they've played, the Tigers have been retired 1-2-3 29 times (an amazing 53.7 percent). Detroit hasn't had an at-bat with a runner at third base with fewer than two outs all season -- with only two Eric Munson homers sending Tigers runners past second. And they have only 24 hits all season. The Marlins had 23 in one nine-inning victory over the Braves on Saturday.

Makes you wonder how quickly the first-year Trammell will want to put himself into the lineup. Surely he could get a runner to third base.

 BQ  Can the Rangers get a refund for Chan Ho Park?  
The world's highest-paid batting-practice pitcher is off to another fine start. After two starts, the league is hitting .423 off Park after 5 2/3 innings of 11-hit, 10-run work. For those scoring at home, that's a 15.88 ERA -- following up on last season's 5.75 gold standard -- for the low, low price of $12,884,803 a year. And there's only three years left on the contract. Ouch.

 BQ  What's the hottest name in the game?  
They're two underachieving shortstops with the same name. But it's been a big Alex Gonzalez party so far. The Cubs' Alex Gonzalez is hitting .536 (15 hits in 28 at-bats) with a league-leading eight doubles. The Marlins' version, meanwhile, is hitting .321 with four homers in 24 at-bats -- after a 2002 two-homer season that found him benched in favor of Andy Fox. At least for now, it's good to be an Alex Gonzalez.

 


 
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