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News » Lurie: Major league pitching has been unseasonably cold so far this season


Lurie: Major league pitching has been unseasonably cold so far this season


Lurie: Major league pitching has been unseasonably cold so far this season
With two weeks of the 2009 Baseball season now concluded have we learned anything from the performance of the teams?

The pitching, in general, has not been good. Based on the number of starting pitchers struggling early in the year it is hard to believe that the clubs spent seven weeks playing exhibition games in Arizona and Florida.

Let's take a look at the clubs and see how they have performed since opening day:

AL West:

The Angels are one of the most disappointing teams to date. Not only were they rocked by the death of Nick Adenhart, now the club learned that power hitting Vladimir Guerrero is lost for the next month with a torn chest muscle.

The 'pen has been erratic. Scot Shields, Jose Arredondo, and Brian Fuentes have melted down as many times as they have stopped the opposition late in the game.

Veteran reliever Darren Oliver is in the rotation. John Lackey and Ervin Santana are still weeks away from starting a game. The Angels might be closer to the A's, Rangers, and Mariners than anticipated.

Seattle is playing good Baseball. They are doing the small things that win ballgames. Pitchers Erik Bedard and Jarrod Washburn have been solid starters.

If the 'pen is as good as it has looked this year, the Mariners will be in the race. With much of the season yet to be played, right now this is a club with good starting pitching, a good clubhouse, and a lineup that is scoring enough runs to win.

Texas has followed its form of the past few years, making Ron Washington's tenure as skipper of the Rangers tenuous once again. Abysmal starting pitching, other than from Kevin Millwood and Brandon McCarthy, can't be ignored. The 'pen isn't any better. Hitting isn't the problem in Texas, never is. The Rangers can score with the best in the game. Pitching will be the key once again and so far the picture isn't pretty.

The A's are getting outstanding pitching from youngsters Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill. If they continue to pitch deep into games, the 21-year olds will hit their season allotment of innings by August 1.

The A's haven't hit many home runs. The core of the order is banged up with Jason Giambi needing days off, Nomar Garciaparra's calf acting up, and Eric Chavez still sidelined with a bum shoulder. Matt Holliday is a professional hitter driving in runs, but where is the power?

The A's 'pen has played a major part in just about every victory. If the starters don't pick it up soon, the 'pen will burn out by June 1.

AL Central:

The White Sox are still searching for a leadoff hitter and a center fielder. Jermaine Dye and Carlos Quentin are hitting, but shortstop Alexei Ramirez isn't. Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd, and Jon Danks have been excellent starting pitchers so far.

The White Sox are showing signs of being a good team in '09 if they can get more consistency from pitchers Bartolo Colon and Jose Contreras.

Minnesota's rotation has been hit very hard. Francisco Liriano hasn't looked like a number one starter yet. Glen Perkins has been reliable. Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey, and Scott Baker are nowhere near what they were in '08.

This team misses the left-handed bat of Joe Mauer. Jason Kubel and Justin Morneau are hitting. The Twins are off to a slow start.

Cleveland's rotation has been one of the worst in the game. Finally, Cliff Lee had a good start this week versus the Yankees. Carl Pavano is a bust. The' pen has not been able to get the ball to closer Kerry Wood.

On offense, Travis Hafner has had a nice couple of weeks. Overall, nothing has gone right for this club in any aspect of the game.

Kansas City has a chance to win every time Zack Greinke, Gil Meche, and Kyle Davies start a game. Mark Teahen has been hot at the plate. The 'pen has been better more times than not. Once the rotation is settled in the four and five spots, the Royals will be a team to watch. They haven't hit the ball that well, but the problem doesn't seem to be insurmountable.

Detroit has played reasonably well. Armando Gallaraga is the team's best starter. The struggles of Justin Verlander continue on the mound. The 'pen has been very good led by Fernando Rodney, Ryan Perry, and Bobby Seay. Miguel Cabrera is the toughest out in the AL right now.

AL East:

The Yankees still haven't found any consistency, either on the mound or at the plate. Hideki Matsui's knee is acting up. Outfielder Xavier Nady might be done for the year with an elbow injury.

CC Sabathia is putting too many runners on base. A.J. Burnett has pitched very well. Andy Pettitte has thrown the ball nicely, too. Joba Chamberlin can't get to the sixth inning. If the N.Y. set up relief continues to be shaky, Chamberlain should go back to the 'pen. Chien-Ming Wang has been hit extremely hard.

Yankees are still a work in progress.

Tampa upgraded its offense with its signing of former Phillie Pat Burell. He has yet to hit the ball with any authority, thus leaving the Rays vulnerable to left-handed pitching once again. B.J. Upton and Carl Crawford aren't getting much accomplished at the top of the order either.

The Rays starting pitching has been good and will get better when David Price comes up to the majors. The 'pen has blown some games early on and is still a weak point for this team.

The defending AL champion Rays are showing the league that they still play good Baseball and are not one-year wonders.

The Red Sox are off to a very slow start with some glaring weaknesses. Pitchers Jon Lester and Daisuke Matsuzka (DL) have been hit hard. Josh Beckett faces a six-game suspension. Justin Masterson is now in the rotation. The 'pen is very good, but it has been throwing entirely too many innings so far.

David Ortiz is having trouble catching up to the fastball, making him vulnerable to off-speed pitches. Kevin Youkilis and Jason Bay are the two most solid hitters in the lineup.

The Red Sox nation has to be concerned with the team's play the first two weeks.

Toronto has been smashing the ball. Second baseman Aaron Hill has been spectacular. Shortstop Marco Scutaro already had four home runs. Adam Lind, Vernon Wells, and Scott Rolen are hitting.

Roy Halladay is the best starter in the AL right now. The 'pen has been good, except for closer B.J. Ryan whose velocity is way down. Toronto needs much better starting pitching. If the Jays get it, the offense seems legit so far, and a good season isn't out of the question for this overachieving team. Watch the 'pen for overuse.

The Orioles team ERA is very high. Other than Jeremy Guthrie, no starter has been consistent. The 'pen is deep, but overworked. Not a good formula for success over the season.

NL East:

The Mets have a solid trio off to a good start in David Wright, Carlos Beltran, and Carlos Delgado. Only starting pitcher Johan Santana has distinguished himself on the mound in the early season. The 'pen is deep, but like other teams they are getting far too much work in the first 10 games.

The Marlins have enjoyed playing the Nationals in two series this year. Florida is pitching well. Josh Johnson already has a complete game. The 'pen is led by Matt Lindstrom and a host of others. The Fish are off to a great start and must be watched closely if the young pitching holds up as it has so far in '09.

The Phillies are struggling because its pitching has been a disaster. Cole Hamels has had two bad starts. He insists he is healthy, but who knows the truth? Brett Myers and the rest of the starters are giving up the long ball.

The Phils have hit adequately so far, other than Jimmy Rollins (under. 200). Not a good start for the champs.

The Braves have opened some eyes with their play the first two weeks. The pitching has been good in general despite some meltdowns from both starters and relievers. Jeff Francouer is off to a good start. Chipper Jones (thumb injury) is missed.

The Nats are fighting to reach three wins as the third week of the season looms on Monday.

NL Central:

The Cubs might have something special in Alfonso Soriano if his hot start continues. Soriano can carry this offense. Derek Lee still isn't driving the ball. Milton Bradley isn't hitting and his muscle aches are starting to keep him out of the lineup. Kosuke Fukudome is making people forget his awful second half last year.

The Cubs are still the best team in the Central, even though their play has been spotty so far. Looks like Carlos Marmol should be the closer, based on early season results. Carlos Zambrano and Rich Harden got hit hard in their last starts.

The Cardinals shake the lineup every day or so. Ryan Ludwick, Albert Pujols, and Yadier Molina are hitting. The 'pen has been very inconsistent. Losing pitcher Chris Carpenter to an oblique injury is not good news. All in all a good start for the Cards, led by pitcher Kyle Lohse.

The Brewers have been awful. They haven't hit the ball well. Prince Fielder is mired below the Mendoza line (.182). The pitching is a mess, for both starters and relievers. There has to be serious concern for manager Ken Macha as he watches his team play.

Houston can't score many runs and won't unless Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee pick it up. Roy Oswalt couldn't even get a win against his favorite team the Reds (23-1 lifetime vs. Reds, the'pen blew the lead Friday night). One might have surmised manager Cecil Cooper is on shaky ground, but the Astros picked up his option for 2010 on Saturday.

Reds are struggling to score runs too. The pitchers are mediocre so far. Other than Aaron Harang's shut out last Sunday, the starters are not sharp. Outfielder Jay Bruce leads a number of Reds hitters currently under the.200 mark.

The Pirates are off to a terrific start. Pitchers Zach Duke, Paul Maholm, and Ian Snell have dominated in the early going. Now if they could just continue pitching like this for five more months. The Pirates are hitting just enough right now to win. Even if it is just two weeks, at least Pittsburgh fans have something to cheer about.

NL West:

The Dodgers have three excellent starters in Clayton Kershaw, Randy Wolf, and Chad Billingsley. All have pitched strong games. Jonathan Broxton hasn't stumbled in the closer's role. Matt Kemp is hitting the ball. The Dodgers are winning without much from Manny, a very good sign.

The Diamondbacks are struggling on the mound, with only Dan Haren looking like a winner. Arizona doesn't hit much and the 'pen is in disarray. Not a good two weeks for Bob Melvin's team.

The Giants must be patient. Fred Lewis has been showing some good tools. Other than closer Brian Wilson, the 'pen is hit and miss. Jonathan Sanchez and Matt Cain have had good games. Tim Lincecum has had a number of issues on the field and off (health). Barry Zito and Randy Johnson aren't fooling anyone.

The Giants have the starting pitching, but where is the offense, especially with the slow starts of rookies Pablo Sandoval and Travis Ishikawa?

The Rockies are showing they can hit. The 'pen is a work in progress with Huston Street and Manny Corpas still competing for the closer's job. Street has been a disappointment so far. Rookie outfielder Dexter Fowler has shown flashes of brilliance.

Now the surprise of the NL: The San Diego Padres . Not only are the Padres winning games at an unexpected rate, but they are hitting too. Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Hairston, Chase Headley, Luis Rodriguez, and Nick Hundley are coming up with big hits each day. Jake Peavy and Chris Young (until his last start) are holding the opposition down. Heath Bell has six saves. Too early to say break up the Padres , but it is a nice beginning to the '09 season for manager Bud Black's team.

What have we learned so far?

The pitchers are usually ahead of the hitters at this juncture of the season. Not so this year. An unusual number of pitchers are off to very rocky starts.

Teams are going to the 'pen much too much in the early going. Relief innings must be watched carefully.

There is a long way to go. Injuries again will play a huge part in determining the outcome of the races.

The best teams over the first weeks of play in '09: The Mariners, Blue Jays, Dodgers, Padres , and Marlins.

Do you think any of the surprise teams will be close to the lead by June 1?

Who knows, but if they are, it will be quite a story.

Marty Lurie hosts ``Right Off The Bat,'' now in its 12th year, and ``Memories of the Game'' on KTRB 860 AM before A's games. His Web site is loveofthegameproductions.com and his e-mail is luriem@earthlink.net


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 19, 2009

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