The King is back. Felix Hernandez’s eight shutout innings Thursday has to be taken with a big grain of salt considering Jeff Weaver tossed a complete game shutout against the lifeless Bucs just one day earlier, but Hernandez was impressive nevertheless. His fastball was 2-3 mph faster than his previous outings (reaching 97-98), and his curveball had more bite to it. Heavily criticized recently for throwing fastballs exclusively in the early innings, Hernandez didn’t change that game plan much, but it didn’t matter with the added zip and extra movement. He could still improve on location, but things do look to be moving in the right direction. Finally.
Death. Taxes. Rocco Baldelli hurting his hamstring. Things that are more durable than Baldelli’s hamstring: paper-mache, my 94-year-old grandma’s artificial hip and Mr. Glass from “Unbreakable.” Mark Prior thinks Baldelli is brittle.
Nomar Garciaparra is on pace for two homers and 86 RBI this season. The last time a similar feat occurred was in 1951. The .57 Isolated Power is eye-poppingly bad.
Well, at least Barry Zito is durable. Signed to the richest contract a pitcher has ever received, Zito hasn’t just been bad, he’s been brutal. Admittedly, he’s a notorious slow starter, and his schedule has been difficult, but the 54:41 K:BB ratio is just plain unacceptable. What would his 4.84 ERA look like if he wasn’t limiting opponents to a .280 BABIP? Imagine if he wasn’t pitching in the NL West and calling AT&T Park home. His fastball is literally, on average, the slowest in MLB.
On the other hand, there’s Gil Meche. Signed to a $55 million deal that was universally panned – including myself – Meche is looking like an absolute bargain right now. He’s never thrown 190 innings in a season, so he does make a good sell-high guy, but it’s doubtful many of your leaguemates believe in the turnaround, and KC’s offense really hurts his chances at wins. He’s also pitched a fairly easy schedule. Still, Meche has always had plus stuff, and he’s exhibited marked improvement in all the important component areas. He’s drastically improved his control, sports a solid K rate and is inducing more groundballs. I’m not sure what’s more unlikely, Meche living up to the rich contract, or Mark Philippoussis picking a “cougar” on the even-worse-than-you-expected “Age of Love.”
Did Miguel Tejada really just bat second and bunt to keep his consecutive games played streak alive? He does realize that he plays for the Baltimore Orioles, right? Hey, by all accounts, he’s a tough guy, and I’m for him playing through pain, but it’s going to be interesting to see how much playing shortstop with a fractured wrist helps the team.