The Tenth Inning – Week 1

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The Tenth Inning – Week 1 ]]> include($base_url . “/includes/header.htm”); ?>

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By Mike Ivcic

Baseball is once again underway, and so we’ll start this season’s “Tenth Inning” edition with five things that happened during the first week that proved something already thought to be true. And away we go:

5 Things We Already Knew

1. Albert Pujols is the best hitter in baseball – He proved this Opening Day with two blasts against the Reds, and continued the onslaught in Milwaukee. He now has four homers and 10 RBI’s through one week of the season, and it’s certainly not something that can be looked at as an anomaly. Having Matt Holliday and his three HR’s hitting behind him only makes him more dangerous, but he’s so patient and can even hit pitches out of the zone that it really doesn’t much matter what you throw up there, it’s still ridiculously difficult to get him out.

2. The Mets have no pitching behind Santana – And even he didn’t pitch well Sunday. Without Beltran until mid-May, an unknown Reyes coming back from injury, and the loss of the main power threat from last year’s lineup in Delgado, all while playing in a big ballpark, this team needed to significantly upgrade their rotation in order to compete. Instead they signed Jason Bay and left the rotation to three pitchers with great potential – Perez, Pelfrey, and Maine – who were all coming off subpar years. At this point even third might be too high for the Big Apple’s second team.

3. The Giants can outpitch anyone – There’s a reason this team is 5-1. Their pitching staff as a whole is fourth in ERA, third in walks allowed, second in strikeouts, third in both runs and earned runs allowed, and tied for first in wins. Zito and Lincecum are both at the top of their games, and their top six relievers have allowed only one run in 15.2 innings pitched. While that clip likely won’t last, if the bullpen can continue to provide support that’s even anywhere close to that range over the full season, then the starting rotation – with Sanchez, Cain, and Wellemeyer following up the big two – could put this team in position to be playing playoff baseball for the first time since a guy named Barry was mashing balls into McCovey Cove.

4. Regardless of league, Roy Halladay has no problem throwing 9 innings at a time – He’s so far and away the leader in complete games from the previous decade that this almost isn’t surprising anymore. But the former Blue Jays ace tossed a CG for his new team, the Phillies, in only his second start with them, validating the offseason deal that brought him to Philly and shipped Cliff Lee to Seattle. Maybe he’ll be able to impart some veteran wisdom on Cole Hamels, because if those two start throwing 7-9 innings every start, it won’t matter how long Brad Lidge and J.C. Romero remain on the DL – and that will make a lot of Phillies fans (and their stomach ulcers) extremely happy.

5. Stephen Strasburg and Ardolis Chapman are really, really good – Sure, they both made their first starts on Sunday in the minors, at AA and AAA respectively. But Chapman hit 101 on the gun more than once and routinely delivered a fastball at 99 mph while striking out nine for Louisville. Meanwhile Strasburg only hit 97-98, but in his 82-pitch outing for Harrisburg delivered Nationals fans – and eager team execs, as well – proof of his ability with 8 K’s, and an RBI hit of his own to boot. When Strasburg finally makes his debut with the Nationals, it will likely be a media spectacle on the scale of Bonds, Woods, and Jordan (at least for the first start) but it will probably overshadow Chapman’s debut with the Reds, which will be much less heralded but just as impactful for two organizations that desperately need pitching help.

Look for my column, “The Tenth Inning,” every Monday for the UltimateCapper

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