The Hanging Curve – Baseball Opinion Blog with MLB Analysis that won’t Bend or Break

MLB Roundup: NL West

This is a pretty sorry looking division.  Not only is Arizona in the lead with one game over .500, but there are not only one but two ultimate bottom feeders who are really giving the Mariners a run for their money for worst record ever.

Before the season started, I heard this division touted by a few pundits as one of the better divisions in baseball, the defending NL champion Rockies returning nearly unchanged, the young Diamondbacks with perhaps the best rotation in baseball rounded out with an amazing young core of players, bolstered further by a full season from phenom Justin Upton, and even the Padres who many thought would actually compete.

The D’Backs started off torrid, but why are they lolligagging around at 41-40?  Webb and Haren are coming through as promised, but Randy Johnson can only be described as “washed up” while the rest of their staff has not been good, Doug Davis’ triumphant return notwithstanding.  As far as their young hitting core, Upton start off just like the Diamondbacks but has hit only one home run and batted in one run in the month of June.  Mark Reynolds is slightly off pace but has a very real chance of becoming the first batter to strikeout 200 times in a season.  Stephen Drew has been unremarkable while Chris Young really is not a good hitter.  Still, it isn’t a bad place to be; atop a weak division with a pretty strong team when it really comes down to it.  And young to boot.

The Dodgers have been entirely unremarkeable this season.  While they have a few good young players (Loney, Kemp, Martin, LaRoche) they also suffer from their terrible management bringing in aging, useless veterans.  In their outfield they have two of the most terrible yet highly touted players of our generation in Juan Pierre and Andruw Jones.  If you can’t see from their stats why they aren’t worth dick I’ll make it the topic of another article.  Also hampering them is their rotation, composed entirely of journeymen.

Next up, we have the San Francisco Giants.  The Giants so far this season have far outmatched any expectations I could have placed on this team.  On paper they easily have the worst team that has been composed in the last five years.  Omar Vizquel has, I can only assume,  been thawed from a cryogenic state in order to re-man the shortstop position.  Jose Castillo, Ray Durham, Randy Winn, some guy named Bowker, and Bengie Molina batting cleanup?  The only two players on this team who should be starting are Aaron Rowand and Tim Lincecum.

Further down the standings we run into the Rockies.  We all expected the Rockies to make a somewhat triumphant return, at least to do OK.  What happened here?  Pitching.  Besides Cook, the Rockies pitching has been, well, very typical of a Rockies team.  Not to mention they’ve dealt with some injuries, the likes of Holliday, the Norse God of Hitting and Troy “They Gave Me a Giant Sack Full of Money to Suck” Tullowitzki as well as Kip Wells, who is working on at least his second blood clot problem (yikes).

Finally we come upon the San Diego Padres.  While Giles, Gonzalez, Peavy and Kouzmanoff have been making do, the rest of the team appears to be sapping their will to live.  Hasn’t anyone in the Padres organization come to the conclusion that Kahlil Greene is not a big leaguer?  Jody Gerut and Scott Hairston manning 2/3 of the outfield isn’t very helpful either.  Maybe it would be a little different if Peavy had some help in the rotation, but Chris Young and Mark Prior, apparently going for a record-long seven year DL stint, are in no position to help.

So, that’s my view on the pathetic NL West.  I’ll be breaking down the rest of the divisions in the coming days, seeing as it is the real mid-season.

Red Sox Get Best News of the Season

Sidney Ponson signed for the Yanks!  Oh sweet!  Sidney “The Hulk” Ponson.

“Hopefully what happened in Texas stays in Texas,” Cashman said. “We’re short a little bit on inventory. This was an obvious move. We had Sidney here in 2006, so I have a little bit of a feel for him. I talked to him after the cleared waivers [Wednesday] morning. … Hopefully he can help us. He threw well for them.”

Oh man, I love it.  If only it had been true for Bush.

In personal news I’ve been working a new job, something requiring me to work day shift like some sort of fucking Starbucks-going yuppie.  In addition, I’ve also been forced to quit smoking due to health concerns..this has proved to be an unforgiving combination; and I’ve spent the majority of the last two weeks pissed off and nicotine free.

Something else that pisses me off?  Gardenhire gets a fine for slow play – even though the Twins have the quickest played games time of all AL teams.

Oh, and my entire fantasy team is on the disabled list.

I can hear the wheelchairs creaking in my head.

State of the Pirates

The Pittsburgh Pirates today beat Randy Johnson and the Arizona Diamondbacks‘ team of young guns in a victory fueled by the unlikely contributions of Luis Rivas (2-3, 2 RBI) and Doug Mientkiewicz (1-2, 2 BB, 2 R). Zach Duke pitched well, adding another game to the “good” column in an inconsistent but decent season thus far.

The win brings the Pirates record to 31-33, and they remain at an interesting juncture in the season. The last five series the Pirates have split four with the D’backs, won 2-1 vs. the Astros, split four with the Cardinals, lost 1-2 vs. the Reds, and beat the Cubs 2-1. The Reds are one of those “improved teams” that is starting to pick it up, so maybe I can handle that loss. Houston is a divisional foe, but should be beaten. The Cards and Cubs are divisional foes that are playing extremely well, so wins there are great. Arizona has been tapering off from being one of the best teams in baseball, but still a good team to split with.

So they’ve been playing pretty well as of late, with little help from one of their perceived strengths at the beginning of the season: their starting pitchers. Ian Snell: 2-6 with 5.65 ERA. Tom Gorzelanny: 4-5, 6.83. Paul Maholm: 4-5, 4.48. Zack Duke: 4-4, 4.10 (including today). These four are supposed to be the budding core of Pirate’s team, the supposed “untouchables” in trade talks. Now, Duke and Maholm have been OK, possibly settling into their real roles: they probably are both going to be middle or late rotation starters for their careers. Snell and Gorzelanny (I think to a lesser extent) both have what it takes to be aces. I’ve probably seen Snell pitch more than any of these guys so far this season, and his troubles have been the most puzzling. He has yet to have a scoreless outing, with only four quality starts. His K numbers started out pretty slow and have only recently picked up. Most strange is his control. Historically, he hasn’t had these problems but his walk rate this year has risen by almost 2 BB/9 IP over last year (4.5 vs. 2.9).

Gorzelanny’s struggles are not nearly so puzzling to me. He pitched way too much late last season with his young arm as Jim Tracy ruthlessly pimped him for his 15th win (he didn’t get it). I believe he is injured.

The only real bright spot of the rotation so far this year has come from Matt Morris’ historic sucking. As I reported earlier, Phil Dumatrait was moved into the rotation at the beginning of May and has been a pleasant surprise. As a starter he has gone 3-2 with a 3.22 ERA. The only trouble spot has been his walk rate, which has been a little high (any start where he has walked 3 or more batters has been a no decision or loss), but he’s kept batters off base in general (1.28 WHIP), so therein lies his success.

The Pirates success thus far has not lain in their strength, but in their hitting lineup. Led by McLouth, Bay and Nady, as well as Ryan Doumit (who has been injured for the last 3 weeks), the Pirates are putting runs up on the board. Nady is very likely playing above his skills, but I don’t think McLouth’s stats are too far off from where they should be, and Bay is simply showing us that his knees did indeed take the year off last year. As for Doumit, as long as he stays off the DL (a broken thumb that he actually recovered from in about half the time expected put him on there this season) he has proven that he can hit for power and average as well as play adequate enough defense to remain the starter. The outfield depth looks good, with youngsters Pearce and McCutchen waiting in the wings for possible trades of Nady, Bay and even LaRoche (if he has any trade value left).

With the recent draft, the Pirates picked Pedro Alvarez in the first round, a Boras client who will likely command somewhere between an assload and a fuckload of money, the team has taken a 180° flip from the previous regime’s draft strategy (draft an unskilled player who will sign for peanuts), as well as some other bigger dollar picks. With the new drafting and developmental rhetoric the new regime has laid down (and now started acting on), the team’s distant future looks good, but what about the present? The team’s record is 31-33, they are only 2.5 games out of third place in the division, and the team is playing fairly strong baseball, back at full health, and has hope for the starters to turn the corner. However, the NL Central is not as weak as many predicted. The Cubs and Cardinals are looking great at the top of the division, and even with the Cubs’ best record in baseball, the division is only ten games top to bottom. My guess is the team will entertain trade offers but play a holding pattern and wait until just before the deadline to either ream a desperate contender or try to add a piece to go for the playoffs. My best guess is the team has to be within five games of the division lead (or at least a wild-card berth) to be buyer’s. Mostly though, management appears to be readying the Pirates’ fan for the letdown of a lovable franchise figure (Bay) very likely becoming trade bait.

Ortiz Gives My Fantasy Team a Wrist-Job

Mr. Ortiz, you make me sick.

Mr. Ortiz,

I would like to express my deep dissatisfaction with the state of your wrist. The Boston Herald is reporting that you will be out at least one month. About ten days ago, in my fantasy baseball league, I traded Derrek “Fucking” Lee for you. I did this because you are a great hitter, hitting for both average and power. You were supposed to be the guy on my team that never quit. Apparently, I was wrong.

Somehow; you have become a cowardly, limp-wristed chronic jerk-off artist.

After injuring his left wrist during the Red Sox’ victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday night, Ortiz learned yesterday he has tendon sheath damage that will keep him sidelined indefinitely. According to a source, Ortiz’ wrist will be immobilized for roughly the next month to determine whether the injury can heal on its own.

Oooooo immobilized wrist! That’d be the longest month of my life. You’re probably strong enough in your right wrist to keep the mojo working without several brief pauses while your hand cramps into Kaiser Soze. Honestly though, I hope you tear your other wrist while that happens. My team’s been plagued with injuries so far. In the words of Hank Hill, “I’m trying to contain an outbreak here and you’re driving the monkey to the airport.”

Left-hand is the top-hand for you Big Papi, the only thing you need to immobilize is your irrational thinking about your future. LET’S PLAY BALL BITCHES!

Manny Joins “Exclusive Club”

No, not the Mile High Club (well, who knows); he’s hit his 500th home run. He wasted very little time, hitting number 500 on just the fourth game after he hit 499. Also very apropos that he has hit the milestone during an old-fashioned series beatdown against divisional foes of the Orioles: everyone knows Manny was going to hit 500, just like everyone knows that the Orioles will end the year in last place. Check out the highlight.

Western European Hedgehog, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

File Photo

In other (hilarious) news, a man was convicted of heaving a hedgehog at someone, in a move I’m dubbing the “hogball”. Apparently, there was some question as to the animation of the hedgehog at the time of throwing. Here comes PETA.