Another week brings another session of studs and duds. This week had its normal share of accomplishments as well as disappointments. We'll start off with the AL offensive studs and duds.
Travis Hafner almost earned my vote as the AL masher of the week. He has been solid so far this season and is one of the reasons the Tribe has had such an impressive early showing. However, I was not able to crown Hafner after taking a look at the damage Curtis Granderson had done this week. The Yankee OF had a batting average of .435 to go along with a ridiculous 1.130 slugging %. His 1.565 OPS jumped out at me as I reviewed the stats and upon spotting it I knew I had found my stud. Granderson had 7 extra base hits this week; 4 homeruns, 2 doubles and a triple. During this offensive surge Granderson has seen his average rise from .156 to .273.
After a slow start, Granderson has taken off
This week was not very kind to several big name hitters in the American League. Nick Markakis, Alex Rios and Bobby Abreu all hit around the .100 mark over the last 7 days. These veterans were all able to at least take advantage of the base on balls. This week's AL dud did not, and his numbers suffered. Gordon Beckham of the Chicago White Sox managed 2 hits in 23 plate appearances, striking out 4 times last week. His average, OBP and slugging are all an identical .087 because he was unable to hit for extra bases or take a walk. Beckham emerged in 2009 to much fanfare and performed fairly well early. Last season, he was not able to replicate his early success, and is now off to a slow start in 2011. The White Sox hope their second baseman can again capture that success he found early in his career.
Beckham looks to rebound after a slow start
Look for the AL's best and worst pitching performances of the week later on today.
The Rangers suffered a blow yesterday when last year's MVP Josh Hamilton suffered a broken arm in the team's loss to the Detroit Tigers. The slugger didn't make it out of the first inning before sustaining the injury. Hamilton is expected to miss 8 weeks with a small fracture in his upper right arm. The play has received national attention not only because Hamilton is a recognizable figure but because of the situation that ultimately caused the injury.
Hamilton came to the plate in the first and connected off Brad Penny for an RBI triple. He slid headfirst into third and initially some thought he may have injured his arm on this play. With one out Adrian Beltre hit a lazy pop up in foul ground in front of third base. Third base coach Dave Anderson noticed that catcher Victor Martinez had left home to make a play on the ball and pitcher Brad Penny failed to cover the plate. As the ball was in the air he was telling Hamilton, "Nobody's at home, nobody's at home". Hamilton stated after the game that he went against his gut trying to tag up, but that he was simply listening to his coach.
Hamilton was injured on this play at the plate
Martinez realized home was abandoned and raced back in time to receive the throw from Brandon Inge and tag out Hamilton who gave up his body sliding head first into the plate. This, it was later determined, is the play that will cost the Ranger's star 6-8 weeks. The play has been talked about much since the event took place last night, some saying it was silly for Hamilton to give up his body in the first inning of a game this early in the season. Others counter that he is a pro athlete and merely doing his job. There is also the issue of the third base coach encouraging Hamilton to tag up.
After the game Hamilton said that it was a 'stupid play' but he was just listening to his coach. Some people took this as Hamilton blaming Anderson for the whole situation. He went on to say that it was a little too aggressive and upon hearing Anderson's urging remarks Hamilton thought to himself, "Dude, I don't want to do this. Something's going to happen".
I'll take a swing at the first situation before I get into who is responsible for the play at home. If you've ever played competitive sports you know that you cannot simply turn it off on some plays. What I mean by that is you are not going to sit there in the few seconds that ball is in the air and go through a checklist in your head, weighing your options. Hamilton wasn't saying, 'well it's the first inning early on in the season but if we score another run we'll have a great shot to win this game and that may end up making a difference between playoffs or not'. Hamilton heard his coach's remarks and being a competitive professional athlete he decided to give it his all and go for it. You cannot expect him not to slide head first in that situation either. That's his best way to get around the tag and again he is a competitive athlete who is going to do what he needs to do to win.
Now to the issue of who is responsible for the play. I bet Hamilton and the Rangers wish that Brad Penny had just done his job and covered the plate and none of this would have ever happened. While I'm not going to blame Penny, I'm also not going to blame the third base coach. He is there to give the runner advice and be his eyes on plays that Hamilton couldn't see. This was not one of those plays. This play was in front of Hamilton and he could see it happening just as well as the coach. If he went against his gut and went anyway then at the end of the day he is the one that made the decision.
Ranger's third base coach Dave Anderson
Regardless of what people think Hamilton should have done or who was at fault it doesn't change the end result. The Rangers are going to have to look to their depth to replace last year's MVP for 8 weeks of this season. We will see if they can continue their hot start and not miss a beat without him, or if this is something that really ends up slowing the team down.
It's certainly hard to have any kind of rankings this early in the year but I'll do my best to try and determine who looks to be the best of MLB. The top two spots are locks right now with Texas and the Phillies. After that things get a little fuzzier. This early in the year it's more common to find unlikely teams like Minnesota, Atlanta, St. Louis and San Francisco on the bottom, so it's hard to truly gauge the top teams. Here are my current top 5 of the MLB.
1. Texas Rangers
Wilson leads the Rangers pitching staff
The Rangers have gotten off to a sizzling start, winning their first 6 and currently sitting at 9-1. They started off the year at home and swept both the slow start Red Sox and 3 win Mariners. They took 2 of 3 from the upstart O's and blanked the Tigers in Tuesday's series opener. While their bats have been hot, the real story will be Texas's arms. If they could put it together this year they may not be as unlikely to repeat as AL champs as some have thought.
2. Philadelphia Phillies
Philly carries four aces up its sleeve
The big four in Philly have all delivered so far this year and have certainly contributed to the teams 7-2 start. While many wondered how the Phillies' offense would respond to the losses of Jayson Werth and Chase Utley, the bats have come out strong. When the team is hitting on all cylinders they are no doubt the favorite to represent the NL in the Fall Classic.
3. Cincinnati Reds
The Reds continue to develop Chapman the Cuban fireballer
The Reds are another team hot out of the gate with a 5-0 start including their comeback against the Brewers opening night. The Reds offense is off to a torrid start, ranking first in runs scored and second in team batting average and on base percentage. Slugger Joey Votto headlines Cincinnati's lineup and is supported by Brandon Phillips and Scott Rolen. While their pitching is not producing at a comparable rate, the Reds do have several solid young arms with perhaps the most intriguing youngster at the major league level, Aroldis Chapman.
4. Colorado Rockies
Rockies hope Jimenez returns to last year's first half form
The NL West ended up being somewhat surprisingly competitive last year and ultimately produced the World Series champion. After a week it's not those San Francisco Giants or the San Diego Padres that sit on top of the West, it is instead the Colorado Rockies. They have a strong young nucleus of hitters including Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gomez and yes you can still find Todd Helton manning first at Coors field. The pitching has been the story early in the season, and that is while last year's first half stud Ubaldo Jimenez has been on the DL.
5. New York Yankees
Yankees ace CC Sabathia
This 5th spot was really up for grabs to me. If the Orioles come into New York and can take the win tonight then I would bump them up to the 5th spot, but right now I'll give it to the Yankees. While there is certainly some questions surrounding their pitchers not named CC, the Yankees still put one of the best lineups on the field every night. I'm not sure if their pitching will keep them here as the season goes on, but for this week the Yankees get my nod at the 5 spot.
With week one in the books I'd like to take a second to see which individuals got to a quick start out of the gates and those who couldn't figure out how to open theirs. I'll start with the American League and then share those Studs and Duds in the National League later today.
We'll start on a positive note with the studs. While in their first two starts Dan Haren was exceptional and Edwin Jackson punched out a league leading 20 batters, my pick for AL stud pitcher of the week goes to Jered Weaver of the Angels. While he wasn't facing the beasts of the AL in the Rays and Royals, Weaver only allowed 5 hits and 1 ER over his first two starts. We will see if this 0.69 ERA holds up next week against a tougher opponent in the Blue Jays