Feist Facts by Jim Feist | Thereís been plenty of focus on the surprising play of the Marlins and Rays, and the expected strong starts of the Cubs and Red Sox. Less attention has been paid to the busts.
Hereís a look at some teams that have struggled and what has gone wrong:
Tigers: After reaching the 2006 World Series, the Tigers were all but crowned champions for 2008 after acquiring slugger Miguel Cabrera, SS Edgar Renteria and pitcher Dontrelle Willis. Who wouldnít want a lineup with Renteria, Curtis Granderson, Carlos Guillen, Ivan Rodriguez, Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez and Gary Sheffield? Itís Motownís version of Murdererís Row.
Yet, the offense is in the middle of the pack in runs scored, partly because of injuries to Granderson and Sheffield. The pitching has been a disaster, ranked last in the American League and second worst in all of baseball. The defense has made the third-most errors in the AL.
Padres: No, itís not your imagination. The Padres did win 89 games last season, finishing just one game behind the D-Backs and Rockies Ė both playoff teams. San Diego has made the fewest errors in the big leagues, but there are major problems with the pitching and hitting. The offense has scored the fewest runs in the league. The Padres started 27-19 under the total, including 15-5 at Petco Park.
The pitching is eighth in the NL, very disappointing playing in such a pitcher-friendly park. Donít look for any improvement offensively as the Padres have perhaps the slowest and least athletic team in the majors. Manager Bud Black might be under fire already as last week GM Kevin Towers said, "Iím not going to watch this for another four months. If we make changes, they will be wholesale."
Rockies: Coloradoís miracle run to the World Series last October indeed appears to be a fluke. Last year the Rockies were No. 1 in fewest errors allowed and that great defense had a domino effect on the pitching staff. Colorado is ranked second in the NL in team defense, but thatís the only thing thatís gone right.
The Rockies are 13th in the NL in runs scored, 14th in team ERA. San Francisco and Colorado pitchers have walked the most batters in the NL. They are poor starters, too: the Rockies have been outscored 41-24 in the first inning,
Mariners: A year ago Seattle started the season 5-3, led by dominating young pitcher Felix Hernandez. A young ace can do wonders for a staff and the Mariners had high hopes for 2007. Then, they stumbled, losing six in a row as Hernandez missed a month with an elbow problem.
This year Hernandez has been healthy and hopes were even higher with the acquisition of Baltimore lefty Erik Bedard, the 2007 AL strikeout leader. Yet, Seattle is a huge underachiever despite plenty of talent, with players like Ichiro Suzuki, Richie Sexson, Adrian Beltre, catcher Kenji Johjima and closer J. J. Putz. The offense draws the fewest walks in the AL and is last in OBP.
Yankees: A $209-million dollar payroll just doesnít buy what it used to. The final season in Yankee Stadium has NY in last place. The Yanks are third worst in runs scored in the AL and 11th in pitching. NY started 29-14 under the total because of an overvalued offense in the eyes of oddsmakers.
GM Brian Cashman put all his chips on kid pitchers Phillip Hughes and Ian Kennedy, refusing to trade them for ace Johan Santana. The non-move has been disastrous. Last week Alex Rodriguez returned from an injury and the team went out and lost 12-2 at home to the Orioles. "It was ugly," Yankee first-year manager Joe Girardi said. Looks like Joe Torre picked the right time to head west.