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Early Season Baseball Questions Answered
by Bryan Leonard - 04/14/2006
It's only April, but it's always a good time to ask: Why? That's a basic element of professional handicapping. If a sports team is playing good defense, or winning, or hitting the heck out of the baseball, ask why? More important, see if you can find out the reasons why certain things are occurring. Let's ask why for several surprises early in the baseball season.
Why are the Tigers 5-4? Detroit started 5-0 then lost 4 straight, so they are roughly a .500 team. That doesn't seem so unusual as it's been years since the Tigers even approached the playoffs, but this team and some of their stats are very interesting. The Tigers are third in the AL in hitting (a robust .313 average), and leading the AL in home runs and slugging. How about defense? Detroit is No. 1 in fielding with only one error in the first 9 games! Perhaps they have lousy pitching? The Tigers are second in the AL in team ERA. The stats suggest this is a decent team, so perhaps they should be better than .500. The schedule hasn't been easy, with 6 straight road games to open the season, playing at Texas and then 3 straight losses at home to the defending champion White Sox. Keep an eye on the Tigers, they might be very improved under first-year manager Jim Leyland.
Why are the Rockies 5-1 on the road? For years, Colorado has been a very good team at home in Coors Field, but terrible on the road. The opposite has been true this April. The stats show that the Rockies are 6th in the NL in pitching, third in batting, but fifth-worst in fielding. The pitching staff also has the second fewest strikeouts in the NL. All in all, the stats suggest this Colorado team isn't that good, which is in line to most preseason prognostications. Don't look for them to keep playing this well on the road, as it is probably a statistical anomaly more than any dramatic turnaround.
Why are the NY Yankees 6-3 over the total? This one has correlating answers. The offense is outstanding, with newcomer Johnny Damon at leadoff to a gazillion dollar lineup. The pitching staff is, well, old and questionable. Their No. 3 and 4 starters have ERAs of 5.91 and 7.59! The offense leads the AL in runs scored. Don't be surprised to see a lot more high scoring games with the Yanks this season.
Are the Phillies Really This Bad? Probably not. Philadelphia has had a tough start, but remember this team has come close to the playoffs the last two seasons, winning 84 and 88 games. The schedule hasn't been kind thus far, facing the Cardinals, the healthy Dodgers and the Braves.
Are the Royals Really This Bad? Ummmm, Yes. Kansas City is already second to last in batting average in the AL, and last in pitching. With Scott Elarton, Denny Bautista and Joe Mays as your one-through-three starters, 100 losses are likely again.