Baseball Wiseguys

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

NL Roundup, Beeyotch

A division by division look at the playoff races...

NL WEST

Fast Times at Petco Park
Jeff Spicoli scored from second on a routine grounder that the D-Backs booted, and the Padres won last night to hang tight at 2.5 games back in the NL West. The Pads have been a pleasant surprise this year, with a young team playing very well. Former Little League hero Sean Burroughs has hit well, though he could be part of a package to obtain Carlos Beltran. A rotation of Jake Peavy, Brian Lawrence, Adam Eaton, Ismael Valdes, and old man David Wells has looked solid in the tough NL West. One down note however, is the Padres #1 pick in the draft a few weeks back, Matt Bush, has already been suspended indefinitely due to his involvement in a bar fight. Maybe the little Weaver pothead would have been a better pick, at least he'd be a little more mellow...

Welcome to the OC, Bitch
The Dodgers are currently one game back of San Fran in the NL West, having fallen off the pace over the last 10 games. Led by psycho Milton Bradley and a surprising Adrian Beltre, they have hit better than they did last year (as if they could do any worse.) Billy Beane recently tried to swing a deal that would have brought the Dodgers Carlos Beltran and sent Guillermo Mota to Oakland, but GM Paul DePodesta obviously thought the better of trading with a guy whom he watched fleece the rest of baseball for the past 4 years, and the deal fell thru. It might be a good thing in the end, because Mota, Darren Dreifort, and Gagne have combined to form one of the best bullpens in baseball, rarely relinquishing an inherited lead.

Flowers in Your Hair
The Giants have surged into first place on the strength of an 8-2 past ten games, riding the hot arm of unheralded star Jason Schmidt. Schmidt threw a 1-hitter at the Red Sox on Sunday, further strenghthening his case as the top starter in the NL this year. Barry Bonds continues to hit, and his 7 to 1 BB/K ratio is absolutely stunning. Rubber chickens have become Giants fans' way of expressing their displeasure with those who continue to pitch around Balco Barry.

NL CENTRAL

The Kid Returns
The past few years, it seemed like Ken Griffey Jr had an extra first name, "Oft Injured", but the Kid of old is back again, launching bombs with his seemingly effortless swing. He, along with Sean Casey and big Adam Dunn, have slugged the Reds into contention. Save machine Danny Graves and solid Paul Wilson lead a bit of a patchwork pitching staff that will need a lot of help to hang in this tough division as the season progresses. Help could come in the form of recently acquired Porn Stache White, but that is doubtful.

Big Shoulders, Great Pitching
The Cubs have the 3rd best team ERA in baseball, despite losing Mark Prior and Kerry Wood for stretches of time. Carlos Zambrano has turned into a bona-fide stud, at 8-2 with a 2.25 ERA and WHIP of 1.13. Bodily functions have played a big role this year, as Sammy Sosa went on the DL after sneezing, and we found that Moises Alou likes to relieve himself...on himself. Aramis Ramirez continues to blossom, leading the team in batting and RBI's, and still only just shy of his 26th birthday.

Cards in 1st, Nelly Still Sucks
St. Louis is doing their damnedest to hold off the surging Cubs, currently one game up, and with the 2nd best record in baseball. Albert (24 years old, my ass) Pujols and Scotty Rolen are slugging their way through the league this year, both posting an OPS of over .1000. The starting pitching hasn't been great so far, with most ERA's in the 4's, and with Prior getting back to speed and Maddux settling in, the Cards should be worrying about the Cubs soon enough.

NL LEAST

Meet the Mets
If any team with a $100 million payroll can be considered scrappy, it may be the 2004 Mets. Or it could be just a .500 ballclub in a crappy division, but they are now sitting 2.5 games out of first. Their hitting is terrible, but the best team ERA in baseball is allowing the Mets to hang around. Elder statesmen Tom Glavine and Al Leiter lead the way, but it's probably only a matter of time before the Mets' appearance on the back pages is due less to their play than to their antics. Six games vs the Yankees over the next two weeks should help push them back down to familiar ground.

Ph the Phillies
The Phils are 18-16 both at home and on the road this year, leading one to believe that they are not fully acclimated to their new park enough to make it an advantage yet. Jim Thome continues to mash, and has to be the second most feared slugger in the NL after Boston Bonds. Rollins, Abreu, and Burrell are all having solid seasons once again, but Kevin Millwood, with a WHIP of almost 1.50 has been a disappointment. They will most likely need to add a quality arm out of the pen, or get a better showing from the rotation to contend even in this weak division.

Thanks for Coming Out
The defending champion Marlins continue to show why baseball does not belong in Miami, drawing a sad 23,000 per home game, 20th in the bigs. Ace Josh Beckett has been on the DL and is scheduled to make his first start back this Saturday. This could provide a much needed shot in the arm for a team that has gone 4-6 over their last ten. Miguel Cabrera, at age 21, continues to show why he will be one of the better players in baseball for a long time, playing solid defense and posting an OPS of over .900. Carl Pavano may be one of the best unknown pitchers in baseball; look for him in the All-Star game this year and you may be pleasantly surprised.

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