Monday, April 4, 2011

The Pretty Okay Weekend in Sports

Here's what was awesome about the last 4 days:

1) The Yankees took 2 of 3 from Detroit, and lordy are dem bats lively. Teixeira, who normally plays like a hibernating bear that woke up too early until August, is pounding the everloving snot out of the ball. A-Rod looks like he might contend for an MVP. Cano is slowly working his way back to awesome. Russell friggin' Martin, of all people, has become an impossible out. Grandy is so good that Girardi's going to be forced to bat him second within a week if things keep up. And (hip hip) Jorge is thriving as a DH. This lineup could set records.

2) Despite having a bad sinus infection that limited his ability to even hear sounds, AJ Burnett looked pretty solid in his first start. In five innings he managed six strikeouts, a really promising number. He only walked one, and while he got into some trouble in the fifth, he survived intact to get the win. He had a 15% swinging strike rate, which is NOW THE HIGHEST SEASON AVERAGE OF HIS CAREER AFTER ONE GAME! Seriously, though, he was getting batters to chase pitches and his curve looked devastating. I'm excited to see him operate with a clean bill of health.

3) Boston got swept by the Rangers. They still have an awesome team, at least on paper, but now Red Sox fans have to be seriously concerned about their supposedly fail-proof staff. I can't imagine Lester won't recover, and you'd think Buchholz would too, but what about Lackey? I kind of suspect he might be average at best throughout the year. Add in the uncertain success of Beckett and Dice-K, and all the sudden there some exclamation points turn to question marks.

4) Butler won! Brad Stevens out Brad Stevens'd Shaka Smart, who was trying to pose as the new Brad Stevens when the old Brad Stevens was still Brad Stevens'ing at a high level. Disrespectful, if you ask me.

5) The Orioles swept the Rays, and are now leading the AL East. The strength of this division makes me want to cry; it's brutal. Whoever comes out on top should just win the World Series automatically. The sad part is, it's so stacked that I can see a situation where a central or western team sneaks in for the Wild Card because they have an easier schedule. That would be annoying.

Here's what was not awesome:

1) Derek Jeter does not seem to have turned the corner. Any corner. Because I'm in a time crunch, I'm going to turn to the ESPN stat service. This is good stuff:

Last year, Derek Jeter led the major leagues with a groundball percentage of 64.8 percent (groundballs as a percentage of balls hit in play). That was also a career-high for him. Despite significant work with hitting coach Kevin Long in the offseason and during spring training, things aren't much different this season for Jeter. 9 of his 11 balls hit into play (81.8 pct) have been groundballs. And just 2 of those 9 grounders have been hits (.222 batting average). Last year, he hit .243 on groundballs, which was exactly the MLB average for batting average on grounders in 2010.

Right now, Girardi has Gardner leading off against righties and Jeter batting second, while Jeter will lead off against lefties. But at this rate, we can't afford both of them at the top of the lineup. You need guys on base by the time murderer's row steps in. Granderson or Cano will have to step in to the 2-hole, and it probably won't be Robbie since he's so used to #5.

2) Phil Hughes can't strike anyone out. In 104 pitches and four innings, he had a 2-strike count on 12 batters. Only of them went on to strike out. Six of them put the ball in play and made an out. Three of them got base hits, including Miguel Cabrera's first home run. Two of them walked.

Last year's pitcher strikeout average was 17% league-wide, and that was against all batters, not batters with two strikes. Needless to say, Hughes' 8% rate in the latter category is really, really unimpressive. And so is this: he only registered two swinging strikes all game long.

On the other hand, it's the beginning of the season. Lester and Ubaldo Jimenez, who were near the top of the league in K% in 2010, managed zero strikeouts in their first starts. I doubt anyone's pushing the panic button on them yet, so I'll refrain from doing so for Hughes. But it's something to keep an eye on.

3) UConn and Kentucky played a basketball game of some magnitude, ensuring that one of them, by virtue of the no-tie system employed in college basketball, had to win. It ended up being UConn in a surprisingly grind-ish game.

4) Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic did battle in their second straight final, and for the second straight time, the bad guy emerged. This was a total classic, coming down to a third-set tiebreaker where the first 5 points went to the returning player. Nadal's uncharacteristic double fault at 2-all turned the tide against Djokovic, who won 7-4. The Djoker is currently undefeated in 2011. More surprising still, he's showing some heart. The clay season begins now, and in about two months you can bet the two will meet on Rafa's favorite court in Paris.

Okay, that's gotta be it for today. Apologies for the shortness, but school is getting incredi-busy. So busy that I had to combine the words 'incredible' and 'busy' into one to save time. Except now I've explained it, which actually took more time than if I'd just written 'incredibly busy' the first time and DAMMIT WHY DO I ALWAYS DO THIS!

Yanks-Twins tonight, and our first chance to see the Super Nova, Ivan Nova. After that, it will be time for El Clasico. For the second straight year, the Butler Scrapdogs will face off against college basketball royalty for a title shot. And this time, AMERICA'S ON THEIR SIDE!

Enjoy the games.


  1. Shane - What do you think about the reports saying Jeter is going to have a breakout year? Seems you are pretty convinced he's going to blow all year, I think i've got a more optimistic approach. Any chance he hits .300? .290? Where do you see him falling at the end of the year?


  2. Do you think Burnett's sinus infection prevented him from hearing my shrieks of terror every time I see him on screen?

    That's about as close to trash talk I ever get but it is simply necessary when you have a man who appears to be a serial killer and/or meth dealer on your team. Seriously, he for reals gives me bad dreams.

  3. I do not think that we have seen the last of DJ's awesomeness. At the same time, he is clearly not used to his new batting stance and looks uncomfortable - which makes ME uncomfortable. On the other hand, Carrie's attempt at talking smack sort of made my day. AJ totally looks like a serial killer.

  4. Everybody…just relax…this is the way it's gonna be for this pitching staff this year… we do not have a lights out pitcher..except Mariano. -- already got my tickets to attend them , so sit back, watch joe girardi pull out his hair trying to figure out our pitching staff. we're still gonna win it in the END!!!

  5. Two outta three ain't bad. And even in that loss, the Yanks didn't give up. They kept battling back. It's just that Colon couldn't remember what it was like to actually pitch in the majors. Hughes didn't fare much better, but I get a more positive vibe from him. (A feeling based on completely nothing, but it's all I got.)

    Tonight, Butler takes that last second shot and it goes IN!

  6. Not the best weekend for a Sox fan, though the sports pundits up here are quick to remind us that its only opening weekend and theres still 159 games left. That being said, it was pretty terrible seeing the Rangers having a home run derby against two of our top three pitchers (i dont count Lackey in the top three, Beckett is much better but Tito didnt want to start him against the Rangers in Arlington, where he has historically sucked).

    I don't know if anyone caught the Sox-Rangers game yesterday, but there was a (presumably drunk) Sox fan in the outfield that kept yelling "Relapse" anytime Josh Hamilton was about to catch a pop fly. Initially I thought it was pretty funny, but by the third time, I was kind of uncomfortable. And when he caught both popups in the 9th, I was angry for laughing in the first place. If it was anyone else I probably wouldnt care, but Hamilton overcame some pretty awful substance abuse issues before getting his act together. His rise from draft bust and junkie to AL MVP is one of the best sports-related stories this decade

    -Craig J.

  7. Dylan, I really have no idea what to think. I was optimistic based on his improvement last September, but honestly the start to this year doesn't look good.

    Scooter, our guys are just raking at the plate. It's amazing.


  8. Craig, at the risk of offending an entire city, that's so Boston. A guy who's funny in a loud, merciless way, but just won't let up and has a real hard streak of cruelty.

    Good news: it's so hard to judge pitchers by these first games. I agree about Hamilton, the dude is fighting a hard battle and making good on it.


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