Home > Uncategorized > MLB 2010 — Day 25: D-Train Back On Track For At Least One Day

MLB 2010 — Day 25: D-Train Back On Track For At Least One Day

I love a feel-good sports story. There is a reason why Zack Greinke is my favorite player today and it’s not just because he makes major league hitters want to catch the next bus back to the team hotel immediately. Greinke, the sixth pick in the 2002 draft, basically disappeared from the league in 2006 due to social anxiety disorder and depression. Maybe he would never reach his potential because of his own mind.

Now he’s the reigns as the best pitcher in the American League from 2009.

I’m not a huge fan of Dontrelle Willis, but Thursday gave us a glimpse of the old Dontrelle, before he lost control of every pitch, was getting battered by hitters in the majors and minors and spent many days on the disabled list because of an anxiety disorder.

Six innings, four hits, no runs, two walks, six strikeouts in a win versus the Minnesota Twins*.

I probably shouldn’t rave too much about this outing because Willis turned in something similar last May. By June, his control was back to being AWOL and he had an ERA of more than seven. But so far this season, Willis’ control hasn’t been fantastic, but it’s been better. He has walked three or fewer batters in all five starts, a string that he hasn’t matched since 2007. His delivery has changed. His velocity is up — the six Ks are his most in an appearance since 2007 — and he’s pitching deeper into games. He has made it into the seventh inning three times this year. In 2008 and 2009, he had just two such games in 14 starts.

Willis will never again win 22 games or complete seven games as he did in 2005. But maybe today’s effort and the changes he has made is a preview of what’s ahead for Dontrelle, who was one of the game’s most exciting pitchers back in his younger days.

* Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau didn’t start today. Mauer came in as a pitch-hitter later on against Joel Zumaya and struck out on three pitches.

  • Two more hits for Magglio Ordonez, who reached the 2,000-hit plateau. I had Ordonez on my fantasy team for most of last season and I suffered along with most of those in Detroit. But maybe we shouldn’t be shocked that he is hitting so well this season.

He already has four home runs, but I think Mags understands that he is not a power hitter any longer. He may not hit more than 20. But people forget how well he swung the bat in September and October of last year. He went 43-for-98 and ended the year with a .310 average when most thought he wouldn’t hit above .270. It’s not worth $18 million, but I’m not surprised by his .300+ beginning to ’10.

  • Bobby Jenks had a rather interesting day: One inning, three hits, two runs, three Ks. He could have had a four-strikeout inning since Vladimir Guerrero reached base on a strikeout/wild pitch. Rangers broadcaster Josh Lewin kept saying during the ninth that Jenks is accustomed to 1-2-3 innings, which would be true if only it wasn’t so obviously not true.

Jenks has thrown just one perfect complete inning through nine appearances this season. In 2009, he completed 48 whole innings (recorded all three outs). They went down in order just 12 times. Jenks hasn’t been accustomed to 1-2-3 innings since 2007 when he had a 0.89 WHIP. I don’t know why this bothered me so much while watching the Rangers game. Maybe it was because Lewin kept repeating his falsity.

  • Kelly Johnson hit his ninth home run today. His career high is 16. Here’s how much I believe in Kelly Johnson: I’ll be dropping him off my fantasy team tomorrow for Carlos Lee. You just can’t fall in love with April stats, both good and bad. Lee is starting to pick it up while Johnson is destined to cool off. Coming into this season, Johnson had hit 20 of his 53 career homers in April.
  • On a related note, Paul Konerko now has 10 home runs. That AL home run leaderboard is all screwed up. You have Konerko followed by Jose Guillen, Vernon Wells and Nelson Cruz with seven. Andruw Jones and Robinson Cano have six. (Cano now has seven. I mean eight … holy Christ! Will this guy slow down?! He’ll probably hit another one before I finishing typing this). Cruz is the only one who should hit more than 30 this year. I don’t have the guts to say that he’s the only one of that bunch who will.
  • John Buck hit three home runs tonight. That should be the cover story here, but instead I’ll say this: There has got to be an awesome stat out there somewhere about how many hitters batting below .200 have recorded a three-homer game. Minimum 15 games played.

I’ve liked John Buck in the past, if only because it’s hard to find catchers with legitimate 25-homer power. Unfortunately, Buck doesn’t have the ability to hit the ball consistently anywhere else. He has a career .233 average and have never ended any season at more than .250. He also has just 153 walks in more than 2,100 plate appearances.

  • Carl Crawford had four hits and was a home run shy of the cycle. Really, he was about 10 feet shy of the cycle as a seventh-inning double hit off the middle of the wall in center field. Carl Crawford: good player. Moving on …
  • What to do with Adam LaRoche? He’s typically a slow starter, but he’s having the best April of his career by far. He added two home runs and five RBIs to his total on Thursday. He is batting .299 in a month that he has a .205 career average. He often bats in the very cozy position after Justin Upton and before Mark Reynolds. If he can just hold to his monthly norms for the rest of the year (and stay healthy, of course), he could be on his way to a 100-RBI season. That would be quite an accomplishment for a guy who has been off the radar for most of the past three years.
  • Rarely is a grand slam cheap, but a cheap grand slam ruined the look of Ian Kennedy’s line against the Cubs. At the time of the homer, the D-Backs were up in the eighth, 13-1. So Kennedy won by a score of 13-5 instead. But he has pitched eight innings in consecutive starts throwing well against the Phillies and the Cubs. He doesn’t hurt himself with walks — just eight on the season and his WHIP is now 1.05 — and he has struck out 27 batters in 30.1 innings. He didn’t do much in the pros with the Yankees after a horrid 2008, but he’s a former first-rounder and I’m certainly buying right now in all NL-only leagues and in deeper mixed leagues.
  • David Freese knocked in eight runs in 61 at bats going into Thursday. He knocked in six runs today. That’s the most by any Cardinals rookie since 1925 Treasure it, David. It was probably nothing more than a one-day late birthday present.

    Put on an Orioles cap, cover up the tooth gap and you've basically got the possible 2010 AL Rookie of the Year

  • The Braves have now lost nine in a row, scoring a collective 17  runs.
  • Brian Matusz looks fine on the mound. But if you take a look at his MLB mug shot, I see a slight resemblance to Alfred E. Neuman.
  • At this very moment, Robinson Cano is the scariest hitter around. Sure, the first home run could have been handled in a beer league game as Neuman Matusz hung a big curveball. But his second homer showcased his incredibly quick hands. He has great plate coverage and can turn on the inside pitch with the best of them. He has 13 hits in his past 21 at bats with four home runs. His current OPS: 1.234. And talk about ability! Cano has the ability to make you completely ignore the fact that A.J. Burnett tossed an eight-inning three-hitter on Thursday.
  • Roy Oswalt lost to the Cincinnati Reds for the second time in 25 career decisions. In perspective, that can’t mean all that much to a guy whose childhood home was almost flattened by a tornado last week.
  • I had Justin Duchscherer on my fantasy team in 2008. That July, he had 1.87 ERA in 17 starts. In August, he left a game in the third inning because of a bad hip. That hip forced him to miss the rest of 2008 and all of the 2009 season.

In 2010, he is off to another good start with a 1.82 ERA in 24.2 innings. But he got hit around a little bit by the Blue Jays tonight and left the game in the fourth with more hip issues. Initial word doesn’t sound good at all.

  • Steven Strasburg isn’t in the news today, but I do love that he still has a prominent link on San Diego State’s baseball Web site. There has been no updates to the page since August, yet it is the first thing that catches your eye on the baseball home page. I guess it’s good PR for perspective students. I think of it more as a school desperately clinging to its past.
  • The Padres aren’t a powerful team. They entered the day with the sixth-fewest extra base hits in the majors (59). But this outing against the Brewers was a little ridiculous. San Diego scored nine runs with the help of 13 hits — all singles. 9-0 was the score. Three of those singles came off the bat of starting pitcher Wade LeBlanc, who threw 6.1 innings of shutout ball. I’m trying to think of a clever saying starting with “I guess you could say they … “. But I’ve got nothing.
  • I’m not sure how, but this was ruled a triple. Maybe the official scorer wanted to save Matt Kemp from more of Ned Colletti’s wrath. That play was basically the game as the Pirates won, 2-0. There are talented players who look lazy in the field (Cano, B.J. Upton) and there are talented players who are lazy in the field (Garret Anderson is one of the all-time greats in that category). This season, Kemp is a part of that latter group. He has been absolutely listless in center.
  • Evan Meek notched (inherited?) his first career save in place of the oh-so-struggling Octavio Dotel.

Robinson Cano: Locked. In.

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