- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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COORS LOSES ITS FIZZ
Forget everything you believed about Coors Field, the Rockies' mile-high ballpark with the reputation for inflating hitters' statistics and pitchers' ERAs. That reputation has been fading since 2002, when the club began storing baseballs in a humidor to prevent them from becoming overly dry in the mountain air and, as a result, flying farther when hit. Runs per game at Coors have dropped from 13.8 before the humidor (1995 through 2001) to 11.8 in the last five seasons--including 8.85 this year, which ranks 21st among the majors' 30 ballparks.
The humidor effect is good news for the Rockies, who had struggled with having to play two brands of baseball: the pinball shootouts at Coors and games under normal conditions on the road. And with a strong pitching staff (led by lefthander Jeff Francis, above, its 4.05 ERA ranked fourth in the National League through Sunday) plus new confidence on the road (12-9), Colorado is a genuine contender.
GOOD YOUNG ARMS NEED TLC
The emergence of 23-year-old righthander Justin Verlander (5-3, 3.18 ERA) helped put the Tigers atop the AL Central on Sunday, the first time since 1993 that Detroit has been in first place after April. But pushing a rookie to make 33 starts and throw 210 innings--the projected totals for Verlander (left)--is risky business. He pitched only 130 innings last year, and a jump of 80 innings in one year can lead to a tired arm and a greater risk of breaking down. For that reason, expect rookie lefthander Sean Marshall to be dropped from the Cubs' rotation once Mark Prior returns. Marshall, 23, has never thrown more than 94 innings in a year but is on pace for 177. Only eight pitchers in the past 10 years--none since 2001--have made 30 starts in their debut seasons.
?Before you blame the World Baseball Classic for causing pitchers to start slowly or get injured, check out tournament MVP Daisuke Matsuzaka of WBC-champion Japan. At week's end the 25-year-old righthander was 6-1 with a 2.31 ERA for the Seibu Lions.
?Remember when first base in the AL was a glamour position? The A's, Angels, Devil Rays and Royals starting first basemen had 10 homers and 47 RBIs combined through Sunday--both totals fewer than Albert Pujols had by himself. Tampa Bay's Travis Lee (right), emblematic of the lack of production, was only 2 for 31 with runners in scoring position.
?The stolen base is back in vogue in the NL. Senior circuit teams are running much more frequently than last year (attempts are up 18%) and more successfully (75%, up from 71%). Stolen base rates in the AL are virtually unchanged.
Extra Mustard by Baseball Prospectus