Welcome to this week’s Major League Roundup! Here we’ll discuss the week that was in baseball. There will be recommendations for Fantasy Baseball players, as well as musing on the real life game itself. So let’s get down to it.
•The first thing to emphasize before getting into the nitty-gritty, is to remember to consider sample size when analyzing sports, baseball in particular. What I mean by that is, teams have only played 3-4 games so far. Don’t make a snap judgement on a player/team based on 3 games of a 162 game season. With that said, there are still things you can take from a one game or a few games.
Carl Crawford looks like he may be a square peg the Sox are trying to fit in a round hole.
•OF Carl Crawford, he of the brand spanking new 7 year, $142 million contract, looks horribly out-of-place in the Red Sox lineup. He allegedly does not want to hit leadoff (which is fine because Jacoby Ellsbury looks like he’s settling back in there) and he’s probably not going to take the #2 spot away from 2B Dustin Pedroia (unless the Sox decide to bump him back to third, which wouldn’t make a ton of sense). Manager Terry Francona hit Crawford third in the first two games against the Rangers before bumping him down to seventh in the Sunday finale. This is a situation to keep an eye on. Crawford is infinitely more valuable hitting at the top of the lineup, but with Ellsbury and Pedroia entrenched in the first two spots and 1B Adrian Gonzalez and 3B Kevin Youkilis looking like the best options to hit third and cleanup respectively, it’s tough to see where Crawford fits here.
•Speaking of that Rangers/Red Sox series, I owe an apology to Rangers SP Matt Harrison. In my Rangers’ preview I stated that the starters vying for the final few spots in their rotation, which included Harrison, were less than solid (and that’s putting it nicely). Well Harrison certainly shut me up yesterday. He looked brilliant in shutting down the Red Sox in Arlington (7 IP, 5 H, 2 BB, 1 ER, 8 K). His fastball, which averaged about 92 mph last season, was sitting comfortably in the mid 90’s and even touched 97 a few times! His off-speed stuff still needs work, but a lefty with that kind of velocity has a lot of potential. He’s definitely someone to keep an eye on.
Don’t panic about Edwin Jackson’s velocity. It will return.
•Speaking of velocity (I’m on fire with the segways here), there were quite a few starters that were having trouble dialing it up this weekend. White Sox SP Edwin Jackson was sitting between 90 and 92 most of the day with his heater (he averaged 94.4 last year and was routinely in the upper 90’s) and Rays’ SP Wade Davis was having trouble getting his above 90 (average 92 mph last year). Velocity is a big deal for pitchers, but don’t fret. Most pitchers don’t hit their peak velocity until the middle of the summer as it takes them some time to build up arm strength. Now, if we get to July and Jackson is still sputtering along in the low 90’s, you might want to re-evaluate.
•We saw quite a few elite level starters get lit up this weekend to varying degrees. This list includes, but is not limited to: Wandy Rodriguez, Ubaldo Jimenez, Edinson Volquez, Tommy Hanson, Phil Hughes, Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, Francisco Liriano. There were many more to somewhat lesser degrees. Don’t panic. MLB moved Opening Day up this year (it’s usually a few days into April) and the weather clearly effected the pitchers. A lot of guys will have trouble harnessing their pitches with added moisture in the air and cold/numb hands (especially breaking balls).
•You shouldn’t make snap decisions when it comes to players, and you shouldn’t do it with teams either. No, the Orioles aren’t going to go 162-0 and the Red Sox will win a game eventually. The standings will even out eventually, so don’t read too much into the first few weeks.
Zach Britton, 23, showed poise beyond his years in his Major League debut.
•Speaking of the Orioles (keep these segways coming!), SP Zach Britton made his major league debut yesterday against the Rays at the Trop(icana Field). If you read my AL East Preview, you know that Britton is very highly regarded in prospect circles and has tons of potential. Unfortunately it took a Brian Matusz injury to get him a start (we’ll get to that shortly), but that’s neither here nor there. Britton looked very poised in getting his first Major League win (6 IP, 3 H, 3BB, 1 ER, 6 K). Granted he wasn’t exactly facing murders’ row (take a look at the Rays’ lineup from yesterday) and he needs to reign in the control a bit, but that line is still impressive nonetheless. The off-speed stuff still needs some refinement, but he had the two-seamer working to the outside corner. A lefty starter who sits around 93 with his fastball, induces a lot of grounders and gets strikeouts at a solid clip. That’s a valuable commodity. I’m not sure I’d recommend him in most Fantasy leagues yet, he’s going to take his lumps in the AL East, but he’s certainly someone to keep an eye on.
•If you looked at that Rays lineup card above, you probably noticed there was a big name missing from the batting order: 3B Evan Longoria. Longoria hit the DL this weekend with a strained oblique and the current timetable for his return is a minimum of three weeks. I’m not sure I would even bank on three weeks, we have seen similar injuries be quite tricky. That’s bad news for a Rays lineup that was already on shaky ground. Without Longoria in there, this lineup goes from average to just plain bad.
Evan Longoria will be watching from the sidelines for a while.
•In other injury news, young Orioles SP Brian Matusz will be out 3-6 weeks with a strained muscle on the side of his back. This is a big blow to the O’s who are off to a great start. Matusz is probably the most talented of their young starters and many were projecting a big leap forward for him this season. Baltimore would be wise to ignore the current AL East standings and let him work back slowly.
•In regards to judging a players’ performance this early in the season, here’s a good tip. When it comes to hitters, take a look at the K:BB split. This is a good indication of how well the hitter is seeing the ball when he steps to the plate. Even if a guy is struggling so far with his batting average or power, a good K:BB split indicates that he may be in for a hot streak just down the road.
That’s all for now. I’ll pop in with more baseball commentary every few days. Anything else you noticed that you’d like to discuss? Sound off in the comments.