LEAD OFF

There are three undefeated teams left in the Majors. The Reds defeated the Astros 8-2 to improve to 4-0 while the Rangers continued to roll with a 3-2 win over Seattle to move to a  5-0 mark. They join the 4-0 Orioles, who enjoyed an off day Tuesday. All three are in action on Wednesday. On the other side of the spectrum, there are three winless teams remaining: one that isn’t a shock (Astros) and two that are a surprise (Red Sox and Rays).

NOTABLE DEBUTS

Michael Pineda, Mariners: L, 6.0 IP, 5H, 3R, 3ER, 1BB, 4K (Not a bad start at all against the red-hot Rangers offense on the road).

QUESTION:

The 4-0 Reds are off to their best start since what year?

INSIDE THE BOXSCORE

Nelson Cruz‘s bid to become the only player in MLB history to homer in his first five games came up short Tuesday with an 0-for-2 performance with one walk. His four home runs in the Rangers first four games was a feat matched only by Willie Mays and Mark McGwire.

QUICK HITS

– The Mets will need more performances like this one if they hope to compete this year. Mets starter Chris Young did it all on Tuesday in his debut with his new team as he not only shut down the Phillies through 5.1 innings with one run allowed for a victory, but he helped his own cause with three hits and one RBI. Two of his three hits came in the third inning as the Mets exploded for a six-run inning. Giants starter Madison Bumgarner was the last pitcher to record two hits in an inning last September.

– The Red Sox lineup Tuesday including their starting pitcher will earn $87.4 million this year. While their opponent Indians starting lineup and pitcher will make just over $23 million. And the Red Sox are 0-4. Good thing it’s a long season.

ANSWER:

The Reds haven’t been on a start like this since 1990 when they started the season 9-0 and would eventually go on to sweep the A’s in the World Series. On the flip side, the Reds dropped the Astros to 0-4. It’s the worst start for the Astros since…2010.

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There were numerous deals throughout the league on Friday. Let’s recap in the order that they were announced:

White Sox Acquire Edwin Jackson from Arizona
The Diamondbacks fire sale continues and believe it or not, but they may have picked up a better return for Edwin Jackson than they did for Dan Haren.I’m not sure what the D-Backs franchise plan is at the moment, but they seem to love trading for mid-rotation starters and then trading them away.

Jackson was traded for the fourth time of his career for pitcher Dan Hudson (No. 66 top prospect according to Baseball America) and low-level minor leaguer David Holmberg. Hudson is a great pickup for Arizona, but I’m not certain that they didn’t have more with Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth when they traded the two of them to Detroit last December for Jackson. I still think they should have held onto Scherzer. Despite throwing a no-hitter earlier this year with about 45 walks, Jackson isn’t having a very good season with a 5.16 ERA, 7.0 K/9 and a 4.0 BB/9. Forgetting about the deal last year, this stand alone deal was a good one for Arizona. Jackson will provide the White Sox some rotation depth with the loss of Jake Peavy as they battle the Twins for the AL Central title, but I can’t help thinking they gave up way too much in this deal. Though there’s also rumors going around that their plan is to flip Jackson around to the Nationals for maybe Adam Dunn? Crazy shit going down right here.

Rangers pick up Jorge Cantu and Cristian Guzman
Yesterday, the Rangers dealt for Marlins first baseman Jorge Cantu for two Double-A pitcher (Evan Reed and Omar Poveda) and today they added speedy infielder Cristian Guzman. Texas will send another couple of Double-A pitchers in Ryan Tatusko and Tanner Roark, which begs the question of who’s left at Double-A Frisco?

Guzman could have waived his 10-and-5 rights, but agreed to the trade. Guzman is hitting .282/.327/.361 while playing shortstop, second base and right field. Cantu has 10 home runs, 54 RBI and a slash line of .262/.310/.409 in 97 games. The Marlins may also not be done dealing as it looks like Cody Ross is also available. Neither of these guys (Cantu and Guzman) are going to single-handily win a division title for the Rangers, but they provide the team depth, experience and someone to play first base.

Yankees Bring Berkman to the Bronx
First the Yankees acquired Austin Kearns for a player to be named later from Cleveland. They like his right-handed bat. Ah, whatever. The next deal will make headlines. The Yankees continued to wheel and deal, trading for long-time Astros slugger Lance Berkman. In exchange, the Astros got reliever Mark Melancon and low-level minor league infielder Jimmy Paredes. Apparently after years and years of thinking they were still in the hunt, the Astros have finally given up the fight and are selling, selling, selling.

For some reason the Astros are sending about $4MM to cover part of Berkman’s salary for this year. Isn’t one of the prominent reasons to trade with the Yankees is that they have no payroll and will pay anyone and anything to play for them?

This trade will make big headlines in New York, but it would have been great had it been two years ago when Berkman was hitting like Lance Berkman. He’s currently in mist of a disappointing season with 13 home runs, 49 RBI and a slash line of .245/.372/.436 through 85 games. And I swear most of those home runs and runs batted in were against the Pirates this season. He’ll play DH for the Yankees and is an obvious upgrade over Colin Curtis, who has been playing there. Plus, the big guy still gets on base with 60 walks in 85 games for a .372 OBP. Berkman has the 10-and-5 rights, but waived his no trade clause in this deal, which he did when the White Sox attempted to get him.

There are the deals that went down today with possibly another one on the way with twitter blowing up right now on how the Dodgers are close to acquiring Ted Lilly from Chicago. Now does Paul Maholm go anywhere or Adam Dunn or Jose Bautista? Ah, the trade deadline. Don’t you just love it?

Well if you haven’t heard about it by now, the Phillies ended the numerous Roy Oswalt rumors and acquired him from the Astros.

So let’s go back to last December in the offseason and play a little timeline game. The Phillies trade a couple prospects away to get Roy Halladay in a deal on Dec. 16, 2009. Almost immediately following that trade, the Phillies turn around and deal Cliff Lee to Seattle for a couple of prospects. Fast forward to July 29, 2010 when the Phillies trade a couple prospects away and a ML pitcher in J.A. Happ to Houston for Oswalt.

Why didn’t they just keep Lee originally like everyone was wondering last December? A rotation with Halladay and Lee for a full year in light years better than a rotation with Roy and Roy for a half season. Oswalt is a nice pickup, but he’s not Cliff Lee at this time of his career. Oswalt currently has a WAR of 2.7 while Lee’s is significantly higher at 4.9. Lee has been dominant this year and is now helping Texas run away with the AL West.

At any rate, the Phils now have Oswalt to provide a great 1-2 punch in hopes of getting ahead of Atlanta in the last two months of the season. They traded Happ and minor league prospects Anthony Gose and Jonathan Villar. The Astros immediately turned around and dealt Gose to Toronto for key prospect Brett Wallace. Speaking of Wallace, if he’s such a great prospect that everyone raves about his power, why is this the fourth trade he’s been involved in about a year?

Wallace could eventually be the Astros long-term answer to Lance Berkman at first base as they are now discussing deals to send Berkman out of Houston. Anyway, getting back to Happ, who went 12-4 with a 2.93 ERA last year to finish second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. He only pitched in three games in April for Philadelphia before a forearm injury has sidelined him since then. I’m just confused to what the Phillies were doing last offseason when they could have had Halladay, Lee and Happ all under contract. Instead, Lee and Happ are gone and Oswalt is the pitcher coming in.

Oswalt should be fine for the Phillies, but he won’t do what Lee did for them last year in the playoffs. It also will be interesting to see how Oswalt will react to pitching for a new team that isn’t the Astros for the first time in his career. The Astros probably could have landed better prospects for Oswalt, but with the money involved and Roy’s willingness to have his 2012 option picked up probably derailed better deals. The fact that they were able to get Villar, a young raw shortstop who could have a high ceiling, and a former first round pick with power that is probably ML ready in Wallace is a decent enough return for a pitcher that wanted out and wouldn’t be leading the Astros into the playoffs in the next two years.

Of course if you go over to FanGraphs or some other baseball site, they will probably tell you the Astros totally lost out on the deal. Anytime you’re trading for prospects with some of them in the low-level of the minors, you have to wait and see how these players develop before fully dissecting the trade. If Villar, Wallace and Happ end up having decent major league careers (even only two of them), doesn’t that outweigh a half season of Oswalt’s 32-year-old arm?

My post on Saturday about the Texas Rangers mentions that acquiring a front-line starter should be key for the Rangers and their postseason hopes this summer. And one front line starter that asked to be traded to a contender earlier this season just happens to be Roy Oswalt.

Now, I honestly haven’t followed the rumor mill surrounding Oswalt and the Astros and what teams are interested, but Oswalt to Texas just makes sense. Oswalt is from the south and moving from Houston to Arlington wouldn’t exactly be a cultural shock for him. Texas needs a starter, especially with Derek Holland and Rich Harden currently on the DL, and Oswalt wants to be moved to a contender, and Texas is just that.

The Braves are another team that I think would be interested in Oswalt, and they also could certainly use a veteran starter in a rotation that continues to run Kenshin Kawakami to the mound every fifth day despite his 0-9 record and 4.78 ERA.

Now the Astros continue to say they won’t trade Oswalt just because he wants to be dealt, but I have a problem believing a team that is 26-44 and going nowhere would stand pat and hold onto an all-star pitcher that obviously wants out of there. I believe they will listen to offers and eventually deal him at the deadline.

The problem with Oswalt going to Atlanta is I’m not sure that Braves are anxious to deal one of their young pitchers or hitting prospects in the minors. The Braves aren’t known to trade their prospects for a one- or two-year pitcher no matter what the reward is. The Rangers, on the other hand, have a plethora of pitching prospects in the farm system (which seems to be a norm for them these days) and could get by with trading them due to the young talent already up to the big league team.

At the end of the day the bottom line for if any deal gets done will be the Astros expectations of the return they will get for Oswalt. They aren’t going to get a Jason Heyward-type prospect back. Oswalt doesn’t exactly have the healthiest past with his back and shoulder, plus he turns 33 this August. They may not even get a top prospect in return, but the fact of the matter is the Astros are going nowhere in 2010 or next season, they need to begin the rebuilding process and dealing Oswalt for multiple mid-level prospects is a start.

Two weeks into the 2010 season and heading into tonight’s action the Astros and Orioles are a combined 2-16. The Astros actually started 0-8 before picking up their first win today over the Cardinals. So what’s wrong with these two teams?

Well to put it blunt for the first case—the Astros stink. They were mostly projected to rank in fifth or last place in the NL Central, any other division probably would have put them in dead last but I understand just not be able to pick them behind the Pirates. So Houston stinks, but they have been extremely horrid thanks to Hunter Pence batting .121 and Carlos Lee with a putrid .086 clip. Plus, Pedro Feliz has been hitting in the three hole for this team. Not good. Not good at all.

The Orioles were a little different in the preseason rankings. While no one had them ahead of the three-headed monster (New York, Boston, Tampa Bay) in the East, this was still supposed to be one of the most improved teams in the majors. I even picked the O’s as one of my possible surprise teams prior to the season. Whoops. It’s obviously still early, but putting yourself in a 1-8 hole in the AL East is usually not a good way to be a successful improved team. Besides catcher Matt Wieters and outfielder Felix Pie, the Orioles are simply not hitting. Take at look at these averages…

  • Adam Jones, .211
  • Nick Markakis, .207
  • Nolan Reimold, .130
  • Garrett Atkins, .219
  • Miguel Tejada, . 229

It’s not unusual to see a couple expected run producers struggle just nine games into the season, but five of your main sluggers? Plus Brian Roberts, who is a great catalyst at the top of this lineup, played four games before landing on the DL with a strained abdominal. Simply put, the offense is a mess.

The pitching hasn’t been much better, but you can’t blame this start on the starters. Kevin Millwood has a 2.13 ERA in two starts, Brian Matusz and Jeremy Guthrie have been decent, but the bullpen especially the back-end is all over the place. The “closer” Mike Gonzalez has blown two saves already as the group owns a 5.08 ERA.

Obviously the O’s won’t continue to lose at this rate, but for a team that was projected to improve by about 13 games, you can probably forget about that one. As I’m writing this tonight, they are already trailing in Oakland 3-0 in the third inning. Oy vey!

I wanted to kick each week off with a recap of the recent happenings around the league throughout the last week. I’m not sure what day this will end up on from here on out—Monday makes the most sense since it’s by the beginning of the week and a lot of teams have an off day on Mondays, but depending on my schedule the day may fluctuate.

Let’s start off with the Tigers rolling out to a 5-1 start. What happened to everyone who said they wouldn’t be a good team without Curtis Granderson or Edwin Jackson? Well it looks like the Tigers benefited from some nice scheduling to start the season starting off with the Royals, Indians and now the Royals again for a three-game series. The Tigers rotation will be crucial to their hopes this year. Let’s see where they end up at the end of April after they get the Angels, Rangers and Twins the rest of the month.

Speaking of Jackson, now a member of the Diamondbacks rotation, want to know how shitty the 13-run 4th inning against the Pirates yesterday got? Jackson recorded two hits in the fourth inning, a single and even a home run. This from a guy that had four hits in eight major league seasons even though a bulk of that was spent in the American League.

With Cliff Lee out for probably all of April, the Mariners cannot afford to get in a hole early as they are struggling out of the gate already to a 2-5 mark. Someone in that rotation not named Felix Hernandez needs to step up for the M’s to stay even close to contention until Lee gets back. It’s still early, but after all the additions Seattle made in the offseason it will be an interesting trade deadline if they fall out of it early.

The Houston Astros are the only team yet to win a game in 2010. Not a real surprise here, but I’m curious to know if the Astros are 0-fer at the trading deadline does the brass still make moves to go for it as if they were in a pennant race?

Roy Halladay seems to be enjoying the National League very much so. He’s already 2-0 with 0.56 ERA in 16 innings with one CG, 17K’s and only two walks. Yikes to the rest of the NL East! We knew Halladay was a beast and now in the NL, if he stays healthy I’m predicting at least 15 CG from him this year.

The 5-2 Twins will open Target Field this afternoon against the Red Sox on ESPN. This will mark the first time the Twins have played outdoors in Minnesota since 1981. Anyone have the weather forecast for Minneapolis? Actually, it appears to be in the 60s today so that shouldn’t be much of a problem, but the weather channel’s website actually did an interesting feature on the typical weather to expect in April and October at Target Field. It’s safe to say at some point soon we’ll see some snow at the new ballpark.

The Giants ran off a nice 5-1 start thanks to a 2.79 ERA, good for fourth best in the major leagues. The pitching was expected, but they are also fifth in the league with a .289 average. I doubt they will hold that average and score runs, but they have a chance to extend their solid start with three upcoming home games against the Pirates.