As the season neared its one-third mark this week and Randy Johnson remained on the disabled list, only two National League lefthanders had thrown a shutout: the Brewers' Wayne Franklin and the Phillies' Randy Wolf, who is emerging as the best of a strangely shallow pool of lefty starters in the league. Through Sunday, lefthanders had made only 26.5% of the NL's starts (lefties had accounted for 31.8% in the AL). Only seven of the top 40 NL ERA qualifiers were lefthanded, and only Wolf was among the top 12 in strikeouts. The 26-year-old Wolf (5-2, 3.13) led NL lefthanders in strikeouts (57) and was second to the Dodgers' Kazuhisa Ishii among lefties in opponents batting average (.211).
Said one NL scout, "He was my [preseason] sleeper pick for the Cy Young. I just think he's figured a lot of things out. His curveball has good finish, he's really learned how to command his fastball, and he doesn't give you a whole lot to hit. He goes in and out, up and down, hard and soft. He's taken his game to a new level."
The biggest question about Hideki Matsui was how his 50-home-run power in Japan would translate in the majors. Here's your answer: poorly. Despite a dramatic grand slam in his first game at Yankee Stadium, the Yanks' outfielder has displayed the hitting style of a weak middle infielder. Through Sunday, Matsui was on pace to hit 10 home runs and exhaust the league's second basemen with a barrage of grounders. Seldom does he turn on a ball or lift it. He was hitting 2.47 grounders for every fly ball, well beyond slap hitters such as Ichiro Suzuki (1.88), David Eckstein (1.57) and Deivi Cruz (1.28).
"We haven't seen that power much in batting practice [either]," hitting coach Rick Down said. "He's been opening up his front side, and when you bail like that, it's hard to drive the ball. He's working very hard at it. This isn't the hitter you're going to see down the line."
ANGEL SEEING STARS
Anaheim's Tim Salmon (.308, seven home runs, 27 RBIs) has a good shot at his first All-Star Game selection, especially with his manager, Mike Scioscia, filling out the AL roster. Here are the active players who have hit the most home runs without ever being an All-Star:
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
THREE STRIKES FOR...
Cardinals leftfielder Albert Pujols