Marlins and Rays Hottest Teams in Baseball
The two Florida teams, the Tampa Bay Rays and the Florida Marlins, are the hottest teams in baseball, with the Rays only a game and a half behind the AL East leading Boston Red Sox after winning four in a row. The Rays and Red Sox are even in the loss column, as the Red Sox have played 3 more games than the Rays. They can only get better with the recent return to the rotation by Scott Kazmir.
Edwin Jackson has been an enigma winning his first two starts of the season and not winning since. However, to his credit, he has had some pretty solid outings after that. For instance, he gave up one run in 7 innings on April 26, and no runs in 8 innings on May 8 while not receiving the decision in either game. Evan Longoria has only 4 hits in 35 at-bats in May, but he is still third on the team in homers (4), and fifth in RBI's (15).
The Marlins have won seven games in a row and are on top of the NL East, but their fans don't seem to care, as their attendance is the worst in baseball. The Marlins are only averaging 14,980 fans per game, which is about 36,000 less fans than the Major League leading New York Yankees attract to their games. Dan Uggla has been a major part of their success lately, hitting 7 homers and driving in 15 runs in only 34 at-bats in May, and also hitting .353 for the month.
In contrast to last month, he he hit 4 homers and drove in 12 runs in 98 at-bats while hitting .255. Mike Jacobs, who hasn't really fulfilled the promise he had after signing with the New York Mets, looks like he is ready to have his breakthrough season with him being second on team in homers (9), and second in RBI's (24).
David Ortiz Turns Season Around
David Ortiz bottomed out on his dismal start this season when he was hitting .111 with one homer and 4 RBI's as of April 17th. He was also slugging .159 and had an OPS of .359. The next day, he equaled his season total in homers and bettered his RBI total with a 5 RBI game against the Texas Rangers.
Since then, he hasn't looked back. After going through that April slump, he hit 3 homers and drove in 18 runs in his next 7 games. After hitting .198 during March and April, he has hit .381 in May, and has a .643 slugging percentage after slugging .375 in March and April.
National League Overpowers AL in 2008
The 2008 season so far has seen the NL overpower the AL in hitting categories:
Batting Average: Chipper Jones leads the Majors in hitting with a .400 average. The closest AL league player is Victor Martinez (.346), who is 6th in the Majors. The next AL player on the list is Hideki Matsui with a .331 average (11th). Joe Mauer is 12th with a .330 average, and Kevin Youkilis is 19th with a .322 average. So out of the top 20 in batting average this season, only 4 players play in the AL.
Home Runs: Chase Utley has 13, while Lance Berkman is right behind with 12, as they lead the Majors in the top two spots in home runs. Carlos Quentin, the first AL player on the list with 9, is 10th place overall. Mike Napoli and Kevin Youkilis are tied for 14th on the list. Out of the top 17 players on the list, only 3 are American Leaguers.
Runs Batted In: Josh Hamilton, who leads the majors in RBI's with 39, is only one of 7 American Leaguers in the top 20 for RBI's this season.
Slugging Percentage: Lance Berkman leads all major leaguers with at least 100 at-bats in slugging percentage with a .772 mark. Kevin Youkilis is the first AL player on the list with a .596 percentage. Carlos Quentin is the next AL player listed with a .587 percentage. Eric Hinske is the next AL player on the list with a .559 slugging percentage. Josh Hamilton is last player in the top 23 with a .548 percentage, which means that only 4 American Leaguers are in the top 23 in slugging percentage.
With interleague baseball coming up soon it will be interesting to see how the AL fares against what appears to be a better hitting league.
Looking at Team Stats
The Chicago Cubs are leading the Majors in runs scored (211), while the San Diego Padres the worst with only 128 runs scored. Surprisingly the Rangers and Pirates are 9th on the list with 179 runs scored.
The Red Sox have the most hits (407), while the Cleveland Indians are last with 287 hits. The Red Sox also lead in doubles (93), which is 50 more than the last place Rays with (43)
The Arizona Diamondbacks lead in triples (16), while the Pirates and Indians are tied for last with 2 each.
The home run leader this season so far are the Philadelphia Phillies with 54 while the Kansas City Royals are last with 19. The last place Cincinnati Reds of the NL Central are 4th on the list with 42 homers showing that hitting a lot of homers does not always equal to success. On the other hand, the Oakland A's have hit only 3 more homers than the last place Royals and are in first place in the AL West.
The St. Louis Cardinals lead in walks with 185 while the Twins have 102 less with 83 walks. The Marlins are the major league leader in strikouts with 304 while the Braves have struck out the least with 185 strikeouts. The Houston Astros and San Francisco Giants lead in stolen bases with 40, while the Washington Nationals are last with 9 stolen bases.
The Red Sox have the highest batting average (.293), while the Padres are the worst (.231).
The A's show why they can hit so few homers and still be in first place in the AL West by leading the Majors in lowest earned run average (3.29). In last place is the Tigers with a 5.09 ERA. The Rays lead in shutouts with 5, while the Tigers, Phillies, and Mariners, along with the Colorado Rockies, Seattle Mariners have yet to pitch a shutout this season. The Cardinals lead in saves with 16 despite the recent failure of Jason Isringhausen to save games. The Reds, Tigers, and the Atlanta Braves are tied for last with only 5 saves each. The Nationals lead in blown saves with 9.
The Rangers have allowed the most runs (211), while the Braves have allowed the fewest runs (132). The Astros have allowed the most homers with a total of 49 homers given up this season, while the Braves and Chicago White Sox have allowed the least, giving up only 21 homers each. The Rangers have allowed the most walks with 172, while the Twins have allowed the least walks with 92. The Reds have struck out the most batters with 299 while the Pittsburgh Pirates are last with only 195.
Braves Recap of 2008 Season
The Braves continue to puzzle their fans when they play the less successful teams this season. They ended the month of April with a two game sweep of the Nationals. Then, they swept the Reds and Padres in three games each, giving them a 6 game winning streak. After that, they lost two in a row to the Pirates before the rainout yesterday. They play the Pirates in a doubleheader today with Tim Hudson (5-2) and Jair Jurjjens (4-2) starting today.
With John Smoltz (3-3) on the disabled list and Tom Glavine 0-1 after 6 starts, there has to be concern whether Smoltz will continue to be a starter or be moved to the bullpen as the closer. Glavine has issued 9 walks in the last 11 2/3 innings. He has only had one bad outing this season excluding the 16 pitch game in which he was injured when he gave up 6 runs in 4 2/3 innings. He has given up 2 runs or less in all his other starts. The scary part for Glavine is that all his starts have come against the Pirates (twice) Nationals (twice) Rockies and Reds so he hasn't really been tested against a better team yet.
Jo-Jo Reyes (1-0) is another pitcher who has not been tested against top caliber competition, with his two starts against the Reds and Padres. All of the starters will be tested in the next two weeks when they face the top home run hitting team in baseball in the Phillies starting tomorrow. After that, they face the Athletics (the team with the best ERA in baseball), then play four game sets against the Mets and Diamondbacks next week.
Infield and Outfield
Mark Teixeira 5-21 .265 is slumping again in June with 6 hits in 26 at bats and hitting .231 for the month. The Braves need to start considering what their options are to replace Texeira if he is traded before the trading deadline in July. At second base Kelly Johnson 4-15 .257 is hitting .308 in May after hitting .235 in March/April.
Shortstop Yunel Escobar 3-14 .317 is hitting .367 in May after hitting .292 coming into May. Third baseman Chipper Jones 10-29 .400 is having his best season ever average wise and is hitting .400 going into the doubleheader with the Pirates today. His average has dropped from .429 after going 1 for 11 in his last three games to an even .400 today. Jones has a phenomenal .459 on base percentage and .685 slugging percentage. His 1.144 OPS is only bettered by Lance Berkman with an OPS of 1.235 who is major league leader in that category. Jones needs 4 homers to reach the 400 homer mark.
In the outfield Jeff Francoeur 3-22 .257 is the anchor of the outfield is slumping in May with only 6 hits in 30 at bats for a .200 average. His home run totals are lower than expected with only 3 homers but his RBI numbers are in line for him to have his third consecutive 100 RBI season. Mark Kotsay 3-15 .298 has nailed down the center field spot with his hitting and superb outfield play. Kotsay has turned it up a notch in May hitting .333 for the month and hitting 2 homers and driving in 7 runs in 30 at bats after having only one homer and 8 at bats in his previous 84 at bats.
Matt Diaz 2-14 .282 has been sharing playing time in left field with Gregor Blanco 0-3 .309 to give the Braves a platoon of lefthanded hitting Blanco to go with the righthanded hitting Diaz who is slumping in May with a .214 average. Blanco is also slumping after hitting .361 when April ended but now is hitting .309 after hitting .211 in May.
Brian McCann (6-17, .309) is hitting .440 after ending May, hitting .273. McCann is in a three way tie for most hits by a catcher in the Majors (38), which is equaled by Joe Mauer and Geovany Soto. McCann is only two homers behind Major League leader Mike Napoli (who has 9), while McCann and Soto have 6 each. McCann is also 4th in the Majors in RBI's among catchers (17), and is second overall in slugging (.561) McCann continues to show the wisdom of the Braves to sign him to a long term contract.
The Braves are 14-4 at home, but are the worst team in baseball on the road with a 4-13 record. Unless they start winning on the road, the Braves can't be regarded as serious contenders for the NL East title in 2008. To play 17 games on the road and only have 4 wins to show for it is a sign this team is not destined to go far this season.
They are a game behind the Mets and Phillies and 4 games behind the first place Marlins. A sweep today against the Pirates would place them in a two way tie for third place with the idle Phillies. If the Braves win twice and the Mets lose today, the Braves would move into second place by themselves. If the Marlins lose today and Braves win both ends of the doubleheader with the Pirates they could move to within 2 and a half games of the Marlins.
For the Braves to contend, they need to start getting some wins from Tom Glavine, and they need John Smoltz on the mound soon as either a starter or reliever. Replacing Smoltz in the rotation would be Jo-Jo Reyes unless he proves he can't pitch against the better teams in the Majors. If Smoltz takes over the closer role, it is imperative that the Braves find an effective fifth starter who can win consistently since Chuck James and Jeff Bennett don't look like they can fill that spot in the rotation.
The Braves infield should be fine along with the catching position but the left field position is currently in the midst of a slump by both Matt Diaz and Gregor Blanco who are a combined 7 for 33 for the month of May. Jeff Francoeur is 6 for 30 for the month so when you combine Diaz, Blanco and Francoeur that is only 13 hits in 63 at bats from the right field and left field positions in May.
The first order of business is for the Braves to sweep the doubleheader with the Pirates and then after that they need to play their best in the next couple of weeks as they play some of the best teams in the majors.
Who Would Have Thought?....
That Cliff Lee, who was 5-8 with the Indians with a 6.29 ERA, would be 6-0 this season with a Major League leading 0.81 ERA. Last season, Lee pitched so badly that he was sent to the Minors and started 10 games there during stints with three Minor League clubs. To make matters worse, he wasn't even included on the Indians playoff roster. It has been a year later and he is the best pitcher in the American League.
That the Padres, who were the last team to be eliminated before the playoffs when they lost a one game playoff to the Rockies, would be the worst team in baseball this season with a 14-24 record, and that Jake Peavy would be the only Padres starter with a winning record.
That Jim Edmonds would be apparently out of baseball after his .178 batting average with one homer and 6 RBI's after the Padres released him.
That Mike Napoli would be hitting a homer every 9 at bats to lead the majors.
That Ervin Santana, who had a 7-14 record last season, would be 6-0 this season with the season less than two months old.
That Carlos Quentin, who had 5 homers and 31 RBI's in 229 at-bats with the Diamondbacks in 2007, would be leading the American League with 9 homers with the season only about a quarter over. This season, he has the 9 homers and 29 RBI's in only 121 at-bats. So in 108 less at-bats, he has 4 more homers and only two less RBI's.
That the Rays, who finished last season with a 66-96 record and 30 games behind the Red Sox in AL East, would now be 21-16 and only a game and a half behind the Red Sox.
That the Milwaukee Brewers, who started the season 6-1, would play 12-18 ball since then, and that by the end of today, they could see the Pirates move ahead of them and fall into fifth place ahead of only the Reds in the NL Central.