I am really, really, really sick and tired of hearing "It's early, but . . ." What if some of the early-season events are actual indicators and not merely scurrilous scatterings of small samples? So let's all play the first annual (snicker) edition of "Fluke" vs. "Trend"! Grab some Yoohoo, find a friend (or hire one, this being a community of nerds, after all), and pull up a chair (or two, this being a community of fat nerds, after all).
• Eight games in and the A's are doing exactly what I thought they would be doing. Outside of the Two-H-Club -- Danny Haren and Rich Harden -- the rotation looks iffy. Other than Juan Cruz, the bullpen has been terrific. Offensively? Yuk. They've scored three runs or less in five games. They work counts and draw walks but don't drive people in. Erubiel Durazo has four singles in his eight games. Keith Ginter has twice as many home runs as Eric Chavez. Nick Swisher has nine strikeouts and one walk. Bobby Kielty and Charles Thomas are 0-20 with one walk. The team has been beaten or held down by such luminaries as Gustavo Chacin, Rob Bell, Josh Towers, and Hideo Nomo. Etc. Etc. Etc.
• Through eight games, Albert Pujols does not have a strike out.
Opinion? TREND. He will not strike out once this entire season.
• The Orioles starting second baseman is slugging a robust .931, he's stolen a couple of bases, and he's hit four home runs. No, they did not trade for the player Marcus Giles was supposed to be. Of course I'm talking about Brian Roberts, the little switch-hitter who could. Anyone who has seen Roberts play knows he's a good baseball player with modest statistical evidence to back this up. On the other hand, is he this good? Probably not. But is he on the verge of a breakout? Possibly. In preparing for my AL-only keeper auction fantasy draft, I read a blurb on Roberts which said something to the effect of, "Having hit 50 doubles last year, Roberts could be on the verge of a power surge." After cleaning up the coffee I spit out from laughing so hard, I turned to the annual Marcus Giles Career Season Pimping Page. So who's laughing now, Gizzi????? Still . . .
Opinion? An obvious FLUKE, though Roberts is a terrific player.
• The Arizona Diamondbacks are hitting .297/.373/.519 as a team and have scored 47 runs. The team has no pitching so they had better be scoring runs, but it's not as if they have a roster of Brian Roberts's -- i.e. players doing things they have never done before. Troy Glaus was clobbering the ball last year until he got hurt, and he's off to a nice start so far in 2005. Luis Gonzalez won't hit even 30 home runs again, but he's going to slug .500. The potential is there for Shawn Green to bounce back -- he's only 32-years-old -- and while it's unreasonable to suggest a return to 45-plus home runs, 35 is not asking too much. Craig Counsell has drawn nine walks already, and in general is a good OBP guy to have around. To repeat: There are people who know how to reach base and to hit for power in Phoenix. Sadly, there are also people who know how to allow people to reach base and to hit for power in Phoenix, so watch out in the swimming pool.
• Not given a lot of respect in the analyst community, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are 5-3, using a formula similar to the A's, with one exception: they're scoring runs. With a team OPS of .721, we're still trying to figure out how they're doing it, but they've amassed 45 runs in eight games, or 16 more than the A's. Like the A's, they are getting outstanding work from their bullpen, in particular the rubber-armed (or so the Angels hope) Scot Shields, who's already appeared in five games. On the other hand, as a team the Angels are allowing 1.54 base-runners per nine innings. If that keeps up, they're going to give up more runs than they score. Or will they?
Opinion? TREND. The Angels's statistics will look inferior but the only one that counts -- wins -- will be more than anyone else in the division.
• Not given a lot of respect in any community, the Toronto Blue Jays are flying to the tune of a 6-2 record. Their new closer, Miguel Batista, has a win and three saves despite throwing, roughly, nine balls to every strike. Rookie starter Chacin has been terrific in his two starts, and Josh Towers seems to have found four MPH on his fastball. Eric Hinkse has been re-born as Albert Pujols, though I think the Jays and their fans would settle for something more like Eric Hinske, circa 2002. As a team, they are hitting .321/.385/.512 with runners on base. They are playing extraordinary defense. Their team K/BB ratio is nearly 3:1. In short, nearly everything has gone right. Which can only mean . . .
Opinion? FLUKE. Sorry, kids, but the fun will end soon; the team simply isn't this good. But who cares? Enjoy it while you can, and if the team keeps playing as it has -- not giving away at-bats, not allowing free and cheap baserunners, playing defense as if their lives were at stake -- it's going to be a good year in Toronto no matter what.