What happens in April counts, but it’s often meaningless as an indicator of things to come. For some that’s a bad thing – you know a number of teams on hot streaks will be frigid as a Siberian seal come midseason. On the other hand, some cellar-dwellers who had hoped for better things may need to come to terms with their surroundings. So what awaits these two groups?
The starting pitching is dominant, but starting to break down (witness Cliff Lee’s DL stint and Halladay’s rapidly decreasing velocity which means every mistake gets punished). The hitting…isn’t. Cleanup hitter Hunter Pence is sitting on an on-base percentage of .310 while the rest of the lineup is populated by retreads and hitters who’ve never learned to hit the breaking ball…speaking of which, the Phillies will get Ryan Howard ($25m/year) and Chase Utley ($15m/year) back from injury in the next couple of months… Prognosis: still more talented than the Braves, but may be fighting for Wild Card scraps behind the upstart and very hungry Nationals
Boston Red Sox
Bobby Valentine is a great manager…on a 1950’s ballclub… Josh Beckett is a superb leader of the rotation…5 years ago…
I’m trying to speak positively in the present tense about the Red Sox but I can’t. Boston has the second-highest batting average in the AL but their second-worst ERA of 5.35 is beyond awful with little obvious hope for dramatic improvement outside of a probably turnaround by lefty Jon Lester who, when he’s on, is capable of dominating the league.
Prognosis: will be scrapping for the Wild Card, but if they do get into the playoffs they have the talent to go all the way.
Losing Prince Fielder wasn’t the problem. Having a lineup where the best hitters not named Ryan Braun are the starting catcher and his backup…that’s a problem. But the pitching is worse: ace Yovani Gallardo sports a bloated 5.35 ERA, veteran Randy Wolf may not have many chances left as he chugs along at 6.68, and the team is relying totally on unspectacular but steady Zach Greinke and Shaun Marcum just to keep them respectable. Prognosis: Ramirez will come around and Greinke and Gallardo will improve to put the Brewers right in the picture with the Cardinals fighting for the division.
Currently 19-11 and leading the AL East ahead of the more talented Yankee, Rays and Red Sox rosters, as well as the also possibly more talented Blue Jays. That’s no knock on ace Jason Hammel (4 wins, 2.09 ERA), or good young hitters like Adam Jones and Matt Wieters. But JJ Hardy and Robert Andino are hitting way above their career norms and will re-enter the earth’s atmosphere from orbit any day now. Prognosis: bye-bye Baltimore, it’s been fun.
New York Mets
Currently sitting relatively pretty at 17-13 and third in the competitive NL East, Mets fans should switch off now while things still look OK. Johan Santana has made a good return from injury and not-yet-injured 3B David Wright is raking the ball to all parts, but when you pack your roster with Tripe-A level players, sooner or later they’re going to start playing like it. This is not to say they have’t deserved to beat 5-time defending division champs Philadelphia in the last two games, but…well…the Phillies aren’t nearly as good as they think they are either. Prognosis: the Mets were predicted to finish last in their division and they won’t disappoint.
New York Yankee…haters
The Bronx Bombers are in third place, which has Yankee haters excited. But they’re only 2.5 out of first, their lineup is lethal and Mark Teixeira doesn’t hit until May every year so only figures to get better. Mariano Rivera’s serious knee injury has given haters reason to hope, but his replacement, David Robertson, has given up precisely zero runs in 13 innings pitched so far this year. Starters Nova, Kuroda and Sabbathia wil get them safely to the October crapshoot. Prognosis: Yankees will win one of the Wild Cards but don’t have the pitching to go deep into the playoffs
The subject of this column was of course another opportunity for me to lay into the organizational ineptitude and the almost talentless roster of the Pittsburgh Pirates. And I would have loved to have written a three paragraph [facepalm] about the acquisition of AJ Burnett. But I resisted it…kinda…