Category Archives: Around the Majors

Sometimes Things Do Go As Expected

Strasburg dominated the Pirates last night (image from daylife.com)

It has been a pretty crazy baseball season so far – and that’s just talking about the Blue Jays.  If a person had missed the first two months of the season and just recently glanced at Toronto’s team stats, many surprises would certainly stick out:

– The Jays are winning?

– Jose Bautista leads baseball in home runs?

– Toronto leads all of baseball as a team in home runs?  They’re on pace to break the MLB single season record?  What?

– Vernon Wells is alive?

– Aaron Hill is hitting .183?  Adam Lind is hitting .212?

But try extrapolating that study to the rest of Major League Baseball and you’ll find that to this point 2010 has been a season full of surprises.  The Cincinnati Reds, Washington Nationals, Seattle Mariners, and San Diego Padres are peforming nowhere near their projected levels.  Likewise for Ubaldo Jimenez, Alex Rios, Ty Wigginton, Jake Peavy, and Prince Fielder.  While true that a lot of baseball is left to be played, the performances by these players and teams can no longer be chalked up to small sample sizes.  Their struggles and their dominance is for real.

Thankfully last night a feat happened in baseball that brought a bit of normalcy back to the game – Stephen Strasburg made his MLB debut for Washington.  As top pick of the 2009 draft, Strasburg was possibly the most hyped prospect of all time.  He completely dominated the minor leagues, and was expected by most to continue his success at the major league level.  Well – he did not disappoint.  7 IP, 2 ER, 14 K, and 0 BB for his first victory.  Though you can discount it a bit (it was against the Pirates) the bottom line is that he actually met expectations.  In this backwards season, that seems to be easier said than done.

Here are six more players/teams that are meeting expectations thus far:

1. Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays were expected to not only rebound from a disappointing ’09 and contend, but to be possibly the best team in baseball.  With a record of 38-20, they are in first overall and on pace for 106 wins.

2. New York Yankees

New York finishing near the top of the league is something that is taken for granted these days.  After winning another championship in ’09, and despite having an aging core, 2010 was expected to maintain the status-quo.  Currently at 36-22, New York is well on the way to another winning season, a feat they have grown accustomed to.  They haven’t finished below .500 since 1992.

3. Cleveland Indians / Kansas City Royals / Pittsburgh Pirates

Nothing screams normal more than a losing season by KC and Pittsburgh. With 17 consecutive losing seasons, the Pirates are historically bad.  Take out the surprising 2003 season, and Kansas City has been below .500 every year since ’95.  Neither of those stats are changing this year.  Cleveland came within one game of the World Series in 2007, but since that time have lost CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Victor Martinez, Casey Blake, and Mark DeRosa.  Seen as a rebuilding year, 2010 was supposed to be bad.  At 21-36, it is.

4. Ichiro

Just as the Yankees and winning go hand-in-hand, so does Ichiro and .300.  Year in, year out, the Mariners leadoff hitter continues hitting and getting on base.  If his current average of .347 holds up (as it should) 2010 would mark the 10th consecutive season Ichiro has eclipsed the .300 level.

5. Miguel Cabrera

2009 couldn’t have ended worse for Miggy, with his Tigers blowing the AL Central crown at the end of year, and with him admitting that he has a drinking problem.  But an offseason spent getting sober and in peak condition brought big expectations for the first baseman.  And he has delivered.  He is currently close to leading all of baseball in the triple crown categories: .344 average, 17 HR, 52 RBI.

6. Roy Halladay

Already considered the most dominant pitcher in the game, the offseason trade to the weaker NL blew expectations for Doc through the roof.  So far he is making a mockery of the league: 8-3 record, 2.03 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and 77 K’s vs. 13 BB.  He also leads the league with 5 complete games, 3 shutouts, and 93 innings pitched.  Oh – and he threw the 20th perfect game in MLB history.  Not bad.

Hell Freezes Over

Baseball is a crazy game.  Sometimes things happen that are so bizarre, so extreme, and so crazy that all you can do is simply shake your head.  Unlike other sports, when things happen in baseball we still feel shock or amazement.  Though players try to be innovative in basketball and hockey, fans have pretty much seen every variation of slam dunk and shootout shot that can be seen.

But baseball is different – the unexpected routinely takes place.  Look at what has happened so far this year, only about 1/3 of the way into the season:

– Dallas Braden, with a career record of 14-21, 4.68 ERA coming into this season, throws a perfect game

– Coming into this season there had been 18 perfect games in 130 years, or an average of one every 7+ years.  Three weeks after Braden’s gem, Roy Halladay does it again for the Phillies

– The Blue Jays hit six solo home runs in a game, accouting for all six of their runs, the first time that had happened in 90 years

– Angel Pagan starts a triple play and hits an inside-the-park home run in the same game

– A-Rod nearly decapitates Cleveland pitcher David Huff on a line drive, leaving the pitcher unconscious on the mound for several minutes yet without any serious injury

– Kendry Morales breaks his leg after jumping on home plate to celebrate a walk-off grand slam, potentially injuring himself for the rest of the season

But of all the things that have happened this year, the strangest (for me, BY FAR the strangest) happened this afternoon.  Bottom of the third in Houston, with nobody out and nobody on, this man hit a home run for the Astros:

That’s right – Gustavo Chacin went deep for the ‘Stros this afternoon.

Again – Chacin hit a bomb. 

The Gustavo Chacin.  The same Gus who pitched for the Blue Jays from 2004 – 2007.  The same Chacin who finished 5th in AL Rookie of the Year voting in ’05, after going 13-9 with a 3.72 ERA for Toronto.  The very same Mr. Chacin who became “famous” for a Chacin cologne night in Toronto in 2006.

And the very same Gustavo Chacin who was charged with driving under the influence in 2007, released in 2008, and bounced around the minor leagues for the last few years. 

I never thought I would ever lay eyes on the hairless wonder again, but to my surprise Houston signed him, and on May 7th he made his NL debut, over three years removed from his last major league appearance.  Including today he has made six appearances, with no decisions and a surprisingly effective 1.86 ERA.

But if there was ever to be a player this season to hit a home run, to have more home runs than players like Chone Figgins, Rafael Furcal, Ken Griffey Jr, Grady Sizemore, and Elvis Andrus combined?  I would have bet everything I possibly could have that it would NOT be a man with zero career hits.

I would have guaranteed that it would not be Gustavo Chacin.

But that is why this game is so great.  Because sometimes hell does freeze over. same sites . expired domains expiration of domains . apache web server website offline link checker .

Early MLB Surprises – Player Edition

Continued from below, here is part two of 2010’s early season surprises – player edition.

Carlos Ruiz – Catcher, Philadelphia Phillies

Ruiz currently sits 4th overall in the major leagues with a .354 average, leading the Phillies to a first place perch in the NL East.  Carlos is a career .246 hitter, and with well over 1,000 career AB it seems outrageous to think that he can keep this start going.  Enjoy it while it lasts Phillies fans.

Alex Gonzalez – Shortstop, Toronto Blue Jays

Signed primarily for his defense, Gonzalez has been lights out power-wise for the Jays in the early part of 2010.  His 10 HR are tied for the second-most in baseball and give him two more than he had in all of 2009 (391 AB).  While he has shown traces of power in his career before (23 bombs in 2004 with Florida), he is knocking balls over the fence with much more frequency than anybody could have imagined (1 HR per 13.7 AB this year, 1 HR per 38.5 AB the rest of his career).

Continue reading Early MLB Surprises – Player Edition

Early MLB Surprises – Team Edition

With 480 games in the books, the 2010 MLB season is almost 20% complete.  Although sample sizes are still relatively small, they’re not too small to start talking about early season surprises.  Below are six teams that have surprised through the first month and change of the season, either in positive or negative fashion.  Stay tuned later for seven surprising players.

Toronto Blue Jays (19-15, 3rd AL East)

Not much was expected of the Jays this year.  Losing Roy Halladay in the offseason left them with a gigantic, irreplaceable hole in the starting rotation.  They entered the season with what appeared to be glaring weaknesses at 3B, SS, 1B, C, and closer, had five inexperienced starters, and employed a CF who is widely regarded to have the worst contract in baseball.  Fifth place was a lock.  But through 34 games the Jays have won more than they’ve lost, currently sit ahead of the Boston Red Sox in the division, and are playing with a swagger and confidence that was non-existent last season.  Alex Gonzalez, John Buck, and Kevin Gregg have performed much better than expected, and the rotation has been rock solid.  As for that overpaid outfielder? Vernon Wells is playing like it’s 2006, and that’s a good thing!

Los Angeles Angels (15-19, 3rd AL West)

Winners of five of the past six AL West titles, including three straight, the Angels were expected to have a much tougher fight this year after losing Vladimir Guerrero, John Lackey, and Chone Figgins.  Still – this start is much worse than expected.  Baseball’s 4th lowest OBP and 6th highest ERA can be held responsible. Continue reading Early MLB Surprises – Team Edition