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Speed Bumps Encountered Along I-2011

In the words of the brilliant Greek thinker and philosopher Aristotle, “it’s a damn crazy world.” Nowhere does that better apply than the start of the 2011 Major League Baseball season. The first week of real baseball since the final game of the 2010 World Series has seemingly been a series of illogical events and contrary circumstances that proves two things beyond any doubt: 1) the game always does stuff like this; and, 2)  it’s early yet.     

Boston fans are collecting pitchforks and torches because the best best offense in the game is 0-4 and expensive free agent outfielder Carl Crawford is hitting .133. The team with the best young talent in the game, Tampa Bay, lost third baseman Evan Longoria to a 2 week stint on the DL and they’ve graciously joined the Red Sox in the 0-4 club to start the season.

Colorado star Troy Tulowitzki is sporting a .091 average, and Rockies’ ace Ubaldo Jimenez is on the 15 day DL with a cracked cuticle on his pitching thumb. In New York, Yankee captain Derek Jeter is hitting .167 having been moved back to his lead-off spot after former lead-off man Brett Gardner started the year batting .125.

On the other side of midnight, the Baltimore Orioles are 4-0 and their pitching staff leads the Majors with a 1.00 team ERA.

The World Champion San Francisco Giants are 1-4 after dropping three of four at Los Angeles, and losing the first of two at San Diego. As SF Chronicle beat writer Henry Schulman pointed out, the Giants have only managed a 2-15 record at Chavez Ravine and Petco Park in March and April since the 2009 season. So in a sense everything is normal.

Jumping briefly back to reality, several things are going wrong early for San Francisco. These include, but are not limited to:

a) Terrible fielding. The Giants’ five errors puts them third worst in the Majors behind Kansas City (6) and Oakland (9), but hardly reflects the bad choices, bad positioning, and several opposition hits that probably should have been called errors. Aubrey Huff will be fine in the outfield, but the team can’t support Huff and Pat Burrell starting every day out there.

Cody Ross will solve that problem in about ten days, but this is an early warning that down the line the Giants need to be thinking about starting outfield help.

b) Not hitting with runners in scoring position, which is basically how you score runs. The Giants have plated an average of 4 runs per game which is OK, but they are 16th in the Majors in extra base hits with 12. XBHs are the bread and butter of this team’s offensive success and that has to change. The Texas Rangers have hit 30 XBHs.

The Giants’ strength– pitching– is strong early. The staff is 5th in the Majors with a 2.85 ERA and the bullpen is coming around. A tip of the cap to Guillermo Mota and Ramon Ramirez for 5 shutout innings yesterday when starter Madison Bumgarner was taken out after three innings.

Yogi Berra, perhaps the greatest philosopher of all, might have put it this way: “It’s too soon to worry about what’s happening early…”.                 

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