The String's Already Broken
Finally, the Long Gandhi team is starting to make gains toward it's expected level of production. Mark Quinn has returned to regular play and the starting pitchers are beginning to get wins at a rate more representative of how well they've pitched. More importantly, the rest of the hitters are beginning to play up to expectation. Damian Easley is just about ready to go on rehab assignment and should be back in Detroit by the first of June. The week he returns will be the first this season in which I'll have a full complement of 14 active hitters. It's amazing that my offense is as close to the rest as it is.
He was born in the summer of his 27th year
Paul Wilson's numbers are down from last season. His strikeout rate is down (5.8 down from 7.0) and his walk rate is up (3.2 up from 3.0). However, there doesn't appear to be anything physically wrong with him. Much like last year's struggles, this has been due to Wilson trying to be too fine with his pitches. And understandably so. With an offense that has struggled to score runs and a bullpen that has been largely ineffective, a starter might feel as though he has to pitch a perfect game in order to win. This malady is readily curable. Toby Hall and Greg Vaughn can't continue to hit under .200 much longer and Jason Tyner will probably be replaced soon by Carl Crawford, who's mashing AAA pitching: .361, 5 homers, 23 RBI. .613 slugging. So he'll either get better run support or he'll get traded to a contending team with a good offense like the White Sox. Wilson is especially appealing for a potential trade because 1) he's making a little more than a million a year, 2) there's nothing mechanically wrong with him and 3) he's still young enough for any team trading for him to get 4 or 5 good years from him should they decide to resign him. In essence, any team dealing for him is getting a pitcher in the prime time to get him.
Either way, his confidence should return soon and we'll see more of the Wilson that finished so strongly last year and in 2000. Even with this mediocre start, it would not be surprising to see him finish the year with 12-14 wins, an ERA in the mid-low 3's, a WHIP below 1.300 and around 150 Ks.
They say he got crazy once and tried to touch the sun
The Joe Lawrence experiment hasn't gone well so far. He's only had 26 at bats, but 15 of his 22 outs have been made on the infield, either from groundballs, pop-ups or strikeouts. Again, it's only 26 at bats, so it's hard to make a case whether he's slumping or simply overmatched. But another 2 weeks of this and the Joe Lawrence era will likely be over in Toronto. Unfortunately, the next two weeks will bring the Mariners, A's, Yankees, and Red Sox to his schedule, 4 of the 6 stingiest AL pitching staffs when it comes to allowing hits.
Maybe I'll get lucky and the O's will bring up Brian Roberts to play second. Currently, Roberts is hitting .315 with a .419 on base percentage (and .452 slugging) in AAA Rochester while current O's second baseman Jerry Hairston Jr. hits .222 with a .304 on base (and .283 slugging) in Baltimore. Hairston got off to a very slow start last year as well, but picked it up significantly in May. That has not happened this year. Roberts outplayed Hairston this spring - better on base, slugging, strikeout rate and stolen base success rate - yet it was Roberts who was sent down. One has to wonder when or even if the Orioles will begin to recognize and understand the talent they have.
Now his life is full of wonder but his hearts still knows some fear...
Even with the head start the rest of the league got on offense, I still think this team can be respectable in homers, RBI and runs and do reasonably well in average and steals. With the addition of Ventura, this team should be able to top 200 homers and perhaps get close to 900 RBI. Those totals should fetch 8, maybe 10 points total. If all the hitters just hit their career average, this team will bat .278, which right now would be good for third best. I think 950 runs is a fairly reasonable expectation given the volume of lead-off and number two hitters I have. As is 120 steals, although with Guzman's knee hurting, I may have to settle for 110-115. Between runs, steals and average, I'd like to get in the neighborhood of 18 and 24 points. So 26 to 32 points in hitting is the goal.
And if I can get 50-ish points from the pitching - which is not really a stretch since I'm at 46.0 now and the wins total is well below projection and the other categories are pretty much in line with what I expected - then I should be in good shape. My goal is, or at least what I'm hoping for is for the team to get into the mid-70s by the All-Star break. Because of the injuries, I probably will fall short of that goal, but not so far as to be out of reach. If I can get there by the end of July/first of August, I should be able to turn a couple of my reserve players into the help I need for the stretch run. As Lawr Michaels and Jason Grey proved last year in Tout, it's not where you are in May or even June, but where you are in September that counts.