There were plenty of intriguing story lines and notes around the league on Wednesday night that you wouldn’t necessarily find by reading the boxscore. I thought I’d dive into a couple of them with this post.

  • Reds superb rookie pitcher Mike Leake suffered his first loss of his pro career in a 6-2 loss to the Dodgers. His record now falls to 5-1, but a quick look into Baseball Reference’s Play Index shows that Leake had a truly great start to his career, going 12 games before receiving his first loss. As you can see from the link, he ranks eighth on the list of most games before being tagged with a loss to start a career tied with Jered Weaver and Mike Nagy. Not bad at all for a guy that bypassed the minors entirely for Cincinnati. Current Washington Nationals pitcher Livan Hernandez is also on the list with 13 games, but first place belongs to Kirk Rueter who enjoyed a 22-game stretch over the course of two seasons before losing a ML game.
  • These days when fossil Jamie Moyer wins a game, he seems to break about two new records every time. Wednesday night he became the oldest pitcher to defeat the Yankees as he stifled them with three hits allowed in 8.0 innings of work. He beat the Yankees at the tender age of 47 years, 155 days, surpassing Phil Niekro as the oldest player to accomplish that task. The win only came one outing after his worst start of his career (1.oIP, 9ER). Oh, it was his 256th career victory. He’s the closest active pitcher to 300 wins, and despite his age I’m starting to think he may just pitch forever.
  • Leave it to the Pirates to play their worst on the night when the majority of their fans are tuned in to see uber-prospect Pedro Alvarez’s debut in the majors. His first start was very quiet for him as he went 0-for-2 with a walk and run scored, but the Pirates were a mess. They committed a season-high six errors to hand the White Sox a 7-2 victory for their 10th consecutive loss. Pedro must have thought he was still in the minors with the poor pitching and defense around him. Then again, he contributed as well with one of the six errors. It can only go up from here, right?
  • The Mets defeated the Indians again Wednesday night for their sixth straight victory. They sit a half game back of the Braves in the NL East and are a nice 11-2 in June, but I would be more willing to believe it if they didn’t get two of the worst opponents to start interleague play this month—the Orioles and Indians. Let’s see how they fare against their next three opponents, who should prove to be more of a match with the Yankees, Tigers and Twins.
  • Michael Young became the Rangers all-time hits leader with 1,748 hits, passing Ivan Rodriguez in 91 fewer games. I seriously didn’t think Young has been around that long and had to look it up that he’s actually in his 11th season…and he’s a six-time all-star and should be one again this year. The dude can hit too in those 11 years with a career.303 average. The Rangers are currently playing stellar baseball, which may lead me to write a post about them in the recent future.
  • I’ll end on a preview for Thursday afternoon if you enjoy pitching duels. The Rockies and Twins final game of a three-game series will feature Ubaldo Jimenez versus Francisco Liriano in what could be a showdown of eventual Cy Young winners later this season. As far as I can tell from my quick research, no future Cy Young winners have ever faced each other in the regular season that they ended up winning the award. Something to keep an eye on as Ubaldo and Francisco go at it later this afternoon.

Happy MLB First-Year Player Draft Day! I figured draft day would be a great opportunity to talk about Mike Leake for a minute. If you’re asking yourself “who the hell is Mike Leake?” than shame on you. He’s no Stephen Strasburg, but at this point he may be better or at least has accomplished a lot more in the majors.

Overshadowed by the Strasburg sweepstakes in last year’s draft, Leake was the eighth overall pick by the Reds for a $2.9 million signing bonus. Following a strong spring training, Leake became the first pitcher to skip the minors altogether since Ariel Prieto in 1995. The former Arizona State Sun Devil is only the 13th pitcher and 21st player ever to be drafted and start his pro career in the majors (a full list of these players can be found here). The last position player to do it was Xavier Nady in 2000. While there was so much attention paid to the signing of Cuban pitcher Aroldis Chapman, Leake quietly coasted under the radar. What has Leake done since being told he would have not have to ride buses in the minors? Well he’s only been the Reds best pitcher to date and has yet to lose a game in his career.

Leake enters Monday’s action with a 5-0 record and 2.22 ERA (73.0IP/18ER) including 6.2 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 through 11 starts. And there’s also not much indication that he’s been getting lucky as his .281 BAPIP shows he’s just slightly under the average mark. You should easily have a couple more wins to his total, but the bullpen blew two games after he exited with the lead and twice the Reds have given him zero run support. The right-hander has been so effective that’s he’s third overall in the NL with a 2.7 WAR, which is Wins Above Replacements, a single number that represents how the number of wins the player adds to his team above what a replacement player would like a Triple-A pitcher.

Plus he pitches in one of the top five hitting parks in the country at Great American Ballpark where more home runs have been hit in the last five seasons combined that anywhere else. Leake has given up just four home runs, all at home in 46.0 innings pitched there. The rest of the Reds rotation’s ERAs are: 4.65, 5.43, 4.09 and 5.51. And Leake sits at 2.22 with the second most innings in that rotation. To put it simple, there’s no denying Leake’s success through June 7 this season.

He’s probably the only thing standing in Jason Heyward’s way for NL rookie of the year. Leake should get a ton of credit, but I’m surprised that he’s not been talked about and focused on as much as he should be. Think if Strasburg was putting up those kind of numbers after he gets called up tomorrow. That’s all you would hear about. Leake should get the same kind of attention with the legit season he’s having.

With teams set to play their 40th game of 2010 early this week, it marks a fourth of the MLB season in the books. We’ve already seen two no-hitters, including one perfect game, and plenty of surprises in teams through this first month and a half of baseball. Let’s take a look at the week that was.

Sweeps weekend
Not only is it sweeps time in the TV industry, but this weekend was sweeps weekend around the country in baseball. There were six series sweeps: Blue Jays over the Rangers, Marlins over Mets, Angels over A’s, Giants over Astros, Dodgers over Padres and Phillies over the Brewers. The Phillies are started to roll and run away with the NL East as they are 8-2 in their past 10 games for the best record in the National League at 23-13. Plus, the Phillies get ready to welcome Jimmy Rollins back to the lineup tonight. Even better for the Phils to keep their surge on is that the Pirates come into town for a nice two-game series. I would be stunned if the Pirates took either game of that series.

Also, speaking of teams that are on a roll currently, the Los Angeles Dodgers are starting to finally heat up. Their three-game sweep of the first-place Padres puts them at seven straight wins to move to 20-17 after a horrible start to the season. Though Dodgers fans (and my fantasy team) are holding their collective breath until more news comes down regarding Andre Ethier’s broken finger. Still no word on whether or not Ethier will make a trip to the DL as he will try to swing through any pain he has. This could be a huge loss for the Dodgers as Ethier is currently raking with a .392 average, 11 homers and 38 RBI, which all rank first in the NL. Yes, Ethier is leading all the Triple Crown categories, so him being out of the lineup for a significant period of time is big news.

Big Red Machine
I had to do a double take while looking at the standings today, specifically the NL Central that showed the Reds in first, a half game ahead of the Cardinals. Cincinnati has won eight of its last 10 games, but don’t buy too much into this streak because the Reds had three wins against the Buccos. Though they did take two out of three from the Cards this past weekend to take over first place.

One reason for the 21-16 record is the pitching staff which has seen pretty much the opening day rotation healthy 37 games into the season. A great find has been rookie pitcher Mike Leake, who skipped the minors altogether to join the Reds rotation this year and has been their most consistent starter (4-0, 3.09 ERA). They’re winning close games, but Francisco Cordero has nailed down 12 saves in 14 chances. Cincy has a good shot to keep this up at least till the end of the month as they have the Brewers, Braves, Indians, four games with the Pirates and three against Houston in the next two weeks.

Rays-Yankees showdown
I don’t buy into early season matchups that ESPN will totally over hype too much, but I am interested to see how the Rays play in a two-game series in Yankee Stadium on Wednesday and Thursday. The Rays are flying high with a league-best 26-11 record, two games ahead of the Yankees in the AL East. The pitching matchups don’t favor the Rays very much with Wade Davis scheduled to pitch against AJ Burnett on Wednesday. James Shields faces Andy Pettitte in the second game, but the Yanks are lucky to miss red-hot Matt Garza and David Price early this season. These two teams will not meet up after this series until after the All-Star break in July.

Nationals call-up rookie pitcher!
Don’t worry, it’s not Stephen Strasburg…at least yet anyway. The Nats purchased the contract of the 10th overall pick from 2009 in Drew Storen to pitch out of the bullpen. This is just another step of homegrown talent from their farm system to play for the Nationals this year. Strasburg is not far behind as he continues to blow away (1 hit, 0ER in 12 innings) the International League.