Baseball BeatApril 10, 2006
First Week Notes
By Rich Lederer

On the heels of my Opening Day Notes last Tuesday, I thought it would be appropriate to add a few more facts, observations, and questions into the mix after the first week of the season.

Sitting on a sofa on a Sunday afternoon...

  • Jered Weaver made a brilliant debut at the Triple-A level on Saturday. Pitching in a ballpark (Tucson) that is the minor league equivalent of Colorado's Coors Field and against a lineup featuring two of the top prospects in baseball (Stephen Drew and Carlos Quentin), Weaver allowed only two hits, no walks, and one run while striking out eight batters over seven innings.

    Here are Jered's last four outings, including his three spring training starts:

                       IP   H   R   ER   BB   SO 
    04/08/06 vs. Tuc    7   2   1    1    0    8    W 
    03/30/06 vs. SFG    5   2   0    0    1    4    W
    03/17/06 vs. Oak    5   2   0    0    0    5    -
    03/12/06 vs. CWS    4   2   0    0    2    2    -
    Totals             21   8   1    1    3   19   2-0

    Peter Gammons saw Weaver in person earlier this spring and said his "stuff is far more powerful than that of his brother." Buster Olney called Weaver "terrific" and said that he keeps hearing that he "looks great."

    Call him a #3 or a #4 if you feel the need to do so. That's fine. I've never understood such comments anyway. I'll just go on record and say that Jered Weaver will be one of the top 30 starting pitchers in the majors (as measured by ERA, DIPS, VORP, RSAA, K/100, you name it) for at least a few years of his career.

  • The most impressive MLB team thus far? After an opening night loss to the Chicago White Sox, the Cleveland Indians have won five in a row. The Tribe won two out of three against the defending World Series champs and followed that series by sweeping the Minnesota Twins. The Red Sox and Tigers are also 5-1. Although Boston and Detroit got off to great starts, neither club played a team that is likely to contend for a playoff spot.

  • The most surprising team? The Milwaukee Brewers, I'm sure, fits the bill for many. However, Bryan Smith picked the Brew Crew to win the NL Central, and I chose them as my wild card team. I realize that Milwaukee hasn't really beaten anyone of note yet, but winning five of six without Ben Sheets is pretty impressive. Chicago Cubs fans are feeling pretty good, too, sweeping their archrival St. Louis Cardinals without any help from Mark Prior or Kerry Wood.

  • Speaking of the Redbirds, Juan Encarnacion is 4-for-23 with no XBH or RBI, and he has left 20 runners on base during the Cardinals first six games. I've seen him on TV twice with the bases loaded, and he grounded out to second on a feeble swing with a 2-0 count and struck out on a breaking pitch that was out of the strike zone.

    I thought Walt Jocketty made two mistakes with respect to Encarnacion. Number one was signing him. Number two was giving him a three-year contract. I feel badly reminding St. Louis fans that Encarnacion won't be Juan Gone for a long time.

  • The Pittsburgh Pirates had one of the worst openings since Blue Swede's Hooked on a Feeling, losing their first six games before salvaging a victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday. I still see the Bucs and Reds battling all year for fifth place. What I'm not sure about is which of these two former successful franchises will win the NL Central first--and when.

  • The Atlanta Braves have given up more runs (53) than any other team. True, they are one of only five teams to have played seven games already, but allowing between seven and eight runs per contest sounds like a club in need of a pitching coach like Leo Mazzone. By comparison, the Baltimore Orioles have given up 34 thus far. Subtract the seven allowed by Daniel Cabrera in 1 1/3 IP last Friday and the Birds have held opponents to just 27 runs. I drafted Cabrera--surprise, surprise--for my fantasy team, so wish Daniel and me good luck in his next outing.

  • What is the over/under for the number of home runs Chris Shelton will hit this year? This isn't saying much, but he should slug somewhere between the 21 Lou Brock ripped in 1967 and the 46 Barry Bonds jacked in 2002. Let's split the difference and call it 33 1/2. According to ESPN's Baseball Tonight, Brock and Bonds just so happened to be the only other players who went yard five times in their first four games. In the meantime, Barry is homerless but is doing quite a bit of walking (in more ways than one).

  • Joe D. can rest easily once again. Joltin' Jimmy has left and gone away. Hey, hey, hey.

  • Comments

    The only team in the AL that allowed less runs than the Yankees after a week is the Detroit Tigers. The Yankees' pitching staff allowed 23 runs, 6 of which were unearned.

    Is it too late to change my NL MVP from Pujols to David Wright? The kid is flat out terrific. One of Joe Girardi's many blunders on Sunday, I still don't know why he preferred to pitch to Wright with runners on 1st and 2nd with 1 out in the 9th. I don't care if Carlos Delgado could pinch hit next. Wright is almost impossible to strike out.

    I'll just go on record and say that Jered Weaver will be one of the top 30 starting pitchers in the majors (as measured by ERA, DIPS, VORP, RSAA, K/100, you name it) for at least a few years of his career.

    Rich, I don't mean to be snarky or anything, but this isn't exactly going out on a limb or anything. There are a lot of guys who reach that level. Top 30 doesn't even imply a gurantee of all-star berths. Of course, that means he'll still be a valuable player and many teams would like to have him, but that gurantee you make means he's really just a notch below blue-chip prospect. Not exactly a world-beater.

    Jered Weaver's already better than Mark Prior. In ten years it will be as if people made comparisons of a young Reggie Jackson to the still-fresh legacy of Steve Bilko.

    From a Tiger fan who saw him for far too long, I agree completely on Encarnacion. He's also just clueless on the bases.

    I've seen him twice this year. The first time, he came very, very close to getting doubled off first on a popup to the 2b (I actually thought he was out). It was just bad judgment, hanging out halfway between 1st and 2nd until way too late for comfort, for no apparent reason. Then, the next time I saw him in another game, he did get doubled off first on a fly to left field, on which he was well around 2nd when the ball was caught. I don't know if Cards fans will have to deal with him for three years, because LaRussa might kill him.

    Re cabbage's comment above, a top 30 ranking means, by defintion, that Weaver would be the equivalent of a #1. That is much, much better than a #3 or #4 (which seems to be the consensus among many writers, analysts, etc.). By the way, a #3 or #4 implies a ranking of 61-120).

    I should also clarify that a top 30 ranking doesn't mean 30th. It simply suggests a range of 1-30. I believe Weaver is a blue chip prospect and will be an All-Star caliber pitcher in the big leagues.