Now that we are four and five games into teams' seasons, things can go one of two ways as far as pitching goes. The number fours and fives in starting rotations either get lit up or turn heads with some excellent performances. Last night was definitely more the latter. St. Louis, the Cubbies, Kansas City, Colorado, Texas, Arizona, the Mets and Cincinnati all rode strong outings from down-rotation starters en route to victory.
Starter IP SO H BB R ER Team Result
Adam Wainwright 7 4 5 3 1 1 Win, 4-2
Rich Hill 7 6 1 0 1 1 Win, 9-3
Jorge De La Rosa 7 5 4 3 1 1 Win, 3-1
Jason Hirsh 6.2 8 6 0 1 1 Win, 4-3
Robinson Tejeda 7 1 2 3 0 0 Win, 2-0
Micah Owings 5 6 1 3 0 0 Win, 7-1
Oliver Perez 7 6 5 0 1 1 Win, 11-1
Matt Belisle 6 6 4 1 1 1 Win, 6-1
Rotation depth is hard to come by, and yet critical to any team's hopes. If yesterday was any indication, there are some teams whose outlook might be considerably sunnier than many had thought.
- Patrick Sullivan, 4/7/2007, 10:46 EST
On the less than sunny side of the street, Francisco Rodriguez is not pitching nearly as well as his major league-leading three saves might suggest. His latest came last night in a 5-2 victory over the Oakland A's. All three of his saves were recorded after entering the contest with a three-run lead, the maximum allowable to earn a save when entering the game at the beginning of an inning.
K-Rod's first save on Opening Day against the Texas Rangers was his best performance. He pitched one inning and retired the side in order. It was a cheap save in that he had a three-run lead but at least the man who led the American League in saves in each of the past two seasons pitched well.
Frankie's second save took place on Wednesday in a day game that I attended. He was brought into the ninth inning once again with a three-run lead over the Rangers. It should have been an easy save but it was everything but. Rodriguez allowed one run on two hits and a walk. He ended the game by striking out Nelson Cruz with the tying run on base and the winning run at the plate. A little bit too exciting for Mike Scioscia's wishes.
Scioscia went to his main man the following evening vs. the A's in another game I attended. Rodriguez probably felt out of place as the score was tied 3-3 when he jogged in from the bullpen in left field to start the ninth. He struck out Shannon Stewart and got Milton Bradley to pop out. Up to the plate stepped Mike Piazza who deposited a 1-1 fastball over the wall in right-center field for his 420th career home run. Huston Street shut down the Angels in the bottom half of the inning and Rodriguez was charged with his first loss of the season.
With two saves and a loss, K-Rod was asked to nail down Friday night's victory with another commanding three-run lead. He made it interesting, allowing a one-out single to Todd Walker followed by a double to Travis Buck. Walker may have tried to score under normal circumstances but had no reason to head home down by three runs in Exhibit 37 as to why ERA is a less than desirable indicator of a reliever's performance. Rodriguez then got Marco Scutaro to line out to right before whiffing Bobby Kielty to end the game.
Frankie has pitched well one time in four games, yet has a MLB-leading three saves to show for his efforts. He is throwing 93-96 MPH but doesn't seem to have a clue where his fastball is going and his slider hasn't had the type of bite that we have become accustomed to seeing in the past. Is it the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end for K-Rod? I don't know, it might be neither. After all, the season is less than a week old. But he looks more like Don Stanhouse than his old self in the early going.
- Rich Lederer, 4/7/07, 8:20 a.m. PST
The season is less than a week old, yet the standings are already beginning to take shape in a manner that probably leaves few surprised.
In the American League, Baltimore has won one game out of five and sits in last place in the East. Three of our four panelists picked the O's to finish at the bottom of the division. The 5-1 Angels have the best record in baseball. In our AL West Preview, I wrote, "I'm more confident predicting the Angels to win than I am any other team in any other division." The Halos are off to a fast start without the likes of Jered Weaver, Bartolo Colon, Chone Figgins, and Juan Rivera. I see this team getting stronger over the course of the season although its winning percentage will obviously regress from the current .833 mark toward a more normalized level of .550-.575 for a first place club.
Over in the National League, was anybody - I mean ANYBODY - caught flat footed by Washington's start? The Nationals are 1-5 and looking more like the 1962 Mets than not. I can't fathom the team losing fewer than 100 games. This is, by far, the worst club in all of baseball. The Nats are averaging less than three runs per game while allowing seven. The pitching staff, if you can call it that, promises to be one of the worst in the post-expansion era. In our NL East Preview, I said, "The Nats are a lock to give up more than 900 runs and could conceivably allow 1,000 or more." Well, they are on pace to give up 1,134 and their ace John Patterson has started two of the team's six games.
In the meantime, kudos to the Mets for their outstanding start. They beat the Cardinals up and down and around in the opening series and have now scored 34 runs while allowing only 8. I'm not at all surprised by the team's offensive firepower but perhaps underestimated its pitching. The Redbirds, on the other hand, are 1-4 and have scored just 7 runs while giving up 27. This team is highly dependent on Albert Pujols (which is a good thing), Scott Rolen, Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, and, to a lesser degree, Jim Edmonds and Jason Isringhausen. I still think St. Louis is the class of the NL Central but the margin of error is razor thin.
Speaking of the Central, the Astros are not doing themselves any favors in trying to lure Roger Clemens back in June. Houston won't be interested in him or the Rocket won't be interested in them if the club isn't playing at least .500 ball and looking as if it has a legitimate shot at winning the division.
Lastly, the San Francisco Giants, a team all four of our panelists picked to finish dead last in the NL West, looks like a club in a heap of trouble. The starting pitchers aren't all that bad - Barry Zito is Barry Zito and Matt Cain is one of the most valuable pitching properties in all of baseball - but the offense is in need of a Barry Bonds circa 2001-2004 season in order to avoid scoring fewer runs than any team in the majors.
- Rich Lederer, 4/8/07, 9:40 a.m. PST