3 2 Pitch by Andy Iskoe | Two weeks into the 2008 season have brought surprises and disappointments.
There has been no greater disappointment thus far then the woeful play of the Detroit Tigers. Picked by many to contend for the World Series, Detroit has won just 2 of 12 games through Sunday and has the worst record in baseball with two fewer wins than any other team. The offense has sputtered as the Tigers have been shut out four times – one fewer than all of last season.
It’s just a matter of time before things click for this potentially powerful lineup. However, once the bats start hitting the concerns about the pitching staff will not go away. The Tigers should perform better early this week as they host Minnesota for two games. Detroit seeks its first home win of the season following the 0-6 start.
New York has to be disappointed with the starts of the Yankees and Mets. Both teams begin the week a game below .500 and have suffered from inconsistent play.
For the Mets, the offense has been erratic. The Yankees have also not been banging the ball as they can, but have also not gotten the kind of pitching from youngsters Ian Kennedy and especially Philip Hughes as they had hoped.
It’s still early and both teams should turn things around but there may be more the Yankees to be concerned about than the Mets.
St. Louis has been a pleasant surprise at 9-4 despite a starting rotation that is considered suspect and an offense that has seen support for star Albert Pujols steadily slip away over the past couple of seasons.
Again, it is early but there may be some nice upside to the Cardinals as young starting pitchers Adam Wainwright and Todd Wellmeyer continue to develop. Tony LaRussa and pitching coach Dave Duncan have woven their magic in the past with young staffs and this season may unfold along a similar path.
Arizona has the best record in baseball through two weeks (9-3) and has starting lefty Randy Johnson back for Monday night’s game in San Francisco. The Diamondbacks lead the NL in offense, averaging nearly 6½ runs per game. They have scored at least eight runs in 4-of-6 home games this season and made a statement by taking 5-of-6 against rival Colorado.
The Red Sox-Yankees rivalry was renewed this past weekend as Boston took two of three from the Bronx Bombers. The Yankees did score a big win however by digging up a Boston jersey that was buried in the building of the new Yankee Stadium that will open next spring. The teams meet for a pair of games at the "old" Yankee Stadium Wednesday and Thursday of this week.
Injuries continue to play a major role in the fortunes of teams. It seems as though there have been more nagging injuries early this season than in recent years. Already pitchers Pedro Martinez of the Mets and Dontrelle Willis of the Tigers have been sidelined as has Seattle closer JJ Putz.
Whether there is a connection between the seemingly greater number of injuries and revamped methods of treatment (read that innuendo as you choose) has yet to be determined as being fact or coincidence.
Here’s a look at four series to be played this weekend.
Mets at Phillies: Jimmy Rollins has been sidelined for the Phils, but should be back for this series. Both teams have plenty of offense and questions on the mound, especially in the bullpen. Lefty Cole Hamels is the ace of the Philly staff and continues to develop. The Mets two big guns are Johan Santana and John Maine.
Preferred plays: Mets -125 in starts by Santana or Maine unless Hamels starts. Hamels -140 unless opposed by Santana or Maine. Either side as +130 dog if none of those starters are pitching. Over 9 or lower in starts not involving Hamels, Santana or Maine; Under 7½ or less if Hamels faces Santana or Maine.
Dodgers at Braves: The Braves have gotten more offense than expected and have a better overall lineup, having already scored double-digit runs four times in 12 games. The Dodgers have a slight edge in pitching. Both teams have a pair of solid starters capable of going at least 6.
Preferred plays: Under 8 or higher and the dog if the Dodgers’ Brad Penny or Derek Lowe oppose Atlanta’s Tim Hudson or John Smoltz. Atlanta -140 if facing other than Penny or Lowe. Over 9 or lower if none of these four pitchers start.
Tigers at Blue Jays: Detroit’s struggling offense must contend with one of baseball’s best overall starting rotations. Toronto has two proven starters in Roy Halladay and AJ Burnett. The other three starters – Dustin McGowan, Jessie Litsch and Shaun Marcum have plenty of potential. Of Detroit’s five starters, four have ERAs above 6.45. Only Jeremy Bonderman has a respectable (3.98) ERA.
Preferred plays: Toronto -130 in any matchup except against Justin Verlander. Detroit as a dog with Verlander. Under 9 or higher in starts by Verlander or Bonderman.
Indians at Twins: Cleveland’s 5-7 start is surprising considering how well Cliff Lee, Jake Westbrook and Fausto Carmona have pitched. It’s been the poor starts of CC Sabathia and Paul Byrd that have raised concern. Minnesota’s 6-6 start is a pleasant surprise. Cleveland has a potent lineup, while Minnesota has an excellent bullpen, anchored by closer Joe Nathan.
Preferred plays: Minnesota as underdogs in starts by Livan Hernandez or Boof Bonser; Cleveland as a dog in starts by Westbrook or Lee; Under 9 or higher with Bonser, Scott Baker or Nick Blackburn vs. Lee, Westbrook or Carmona.