This Week in Baseball: April 16th

Target Field

The Minnesota Twins are Turf-Free as of April 12, 2010. The Twins beat the Red Sox (and consequently won the series 2-1) to open the stadium in fashion behind a Jason Kubel blast and some solid pitching by Carl Pavano. This new opening continues typically good vibes out of the Twin Cities and the team is clearly in tune with these vibes as they are also off to a great start. It already looks like the White Sox pitching is not what they had thought (as we thought, even though it is early) and the Tigers are playing well, but the division looks to be the Twins’ to lose, even this incredibly early. We had them for under 90 wins, but if they keep getting quality pitching out of Francisco Liriano and can stay healthy (especially concerning Morneau and Mauer), the Twins should run away with the Central. That is right, I am conditionally calling this fight just a week and a half in.

Hot and Cold

The hot teams (Toronto, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Oakland) stayed red hot with none having more than 3 losses and all having at least 7 wins at this early point in the season. The Giants have continued their formula of great pitching and enough hitting to lead the NL West and it should not be too surprising as they have played the Astros and Pirates in two of their series’) and have done a good job getting out of the gates. Similar things can be said of the Blue Jays who are slugging efficiently even without Aaron Hill, and throwing effectively as well. Ricky Romero took a no-hitter to the eighth and is showing that while the Blue Jays may not have the money to keep up long-ter in the AL East, they are not going to roll over. Philadelphia’s excellence has been boring but devastating for opponents. They are getting good pitching, they are killing the ball, and even with injuries to Rollins and Werth, they show no signs of stopping. Oakland is really the opposite as they continue to fly under the radar but are getting consistently good pitching and timely hitting. They are doing the same things as their brothers by the Bay (the Giants) but without the flash of Lincecum.

The Halos are not dead yet

On the other hand you have the Astros, Orioles, Indians, and (gasp) Angels. They have combined for 8 wins so far and have looked predictably bad doing so. The Astros just got their first win yesterday, the Orioles have had some decent performances by starting pitching but have been ravaged by gasmen throwing fuel on the fire in the bullpen. Similar things can be said of the Indians who are having decent outings on the mound and getting destroyed more often than not in the later innings. These teams are not going anywhere in a hurry, but I do not think anyone really had them penciled in for sleepers anyway (though the Orioles’ bandwagon had a few passengers). The Angels are a somewhat different story, though not too different. They did open up with a tough schedule, facing the Yankees, A’s, and the Twins, but they have just not pitched well enough or hit well enough at the same times to win. One day they kill the ball but dont get a guy throwing well, and the next they can’t sniff a hit but the pitcher throws ok. It is not time for panic in Anaheim, or Los Angeles or wherever they technically are, so while it is their worst start since ’02, do not think that any one team in the AL West is going to just run away with this thing. However, if you are Houston, Baltimore or Cleveland, panic at will, though since you had such low expectations, maybe just stay the same? I don’t know, just do not expect Ws.

League Leaders

It is always fun to look at these early on and see guys you have barely heard of leading the league in certain categories. Maybe “never heard of” is a bit harsh, but not at all guys you expect at the top. All stats are entering Friday.

  • Average- Placido Polanco- .475
  • Home Runs- Nelson Crus (6), Pujols, Utley, Wells, J. Guillen (Tied with 5)
  • RBI- Jorge Cantu and Albert Pujols (15)

    Cannot? Cantu!

  • Total Bases- Nelson Cruz (34), Adrian Gonzalez (33), Many tied with 31 and 30.
  • Strikeouts- Alexei Ramirez (14)
  • Wins- Casey Janssen (3) [Player Stats and Page Linked]
  • Ks- Dan Haren and Josh Johnson (20)
  • ERA- Brett Anderson and J.A. Happ tied at 0.00, though in 2 starts, Halladay has an impressive 0.56 and Brad Penny has a 0.64

See, wasn’t it fun to give Casey Janssen his due? Or to see Jorge Cantu and Albert Pujols tied in something? Or to see Pujols dominating already? Ok maybe that last one was more predictable.

A Few More Things Worth Mentioning

Martin Prado is also off to a blazing start even though he did not make the list above. I had him pegged for a good year (in my head at least. I am not sure if I put it on paper) and he has not let me down so far, keeping the Braves strong and at least somewhat keeping pace with the red-hot Phillies. Off to a horrible start would be Julio Borbon who could not hit hit a beach ball with a tennis racket. He needs to step it up if the Rangers want to really contend this year. Do not think for a second that Rudy Jaramillo’s departure did not hurt Borbon at least a little.

Player to watch this week

Keep an eye on Jeff Francoeur. He faltered toward his last days with the Braves, but seems to have remade himself with the Mets. Keep an eye on him and see if he has really remade himself or is simply hot early.

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