Three Up, Three Down
Jackson ended up pitching in three more games that September, wowing scouts with his overpowering arsenal and becoming one of the premier pitching prospects in baseball. But in the years that followed, something highly unexpected happened to the "can't-miss" ace.
Jackson developed massive control problems and struggled during two seasons with the Dodgers organization (making 11 combined starts with the big club) before being traded to the Devil Rays in January 2006. Jackson worked almost exclusively out of the bullpen during his first season in Tampa Bay and posted a 5.45 ERA. Last season the Rays tossed him into a rotation. Jackson finished the year at 5-15 with a 5.76 ERA.
Entering this season, expectations were extremely low for Jackson. He was penciled into Tampa Bay's starting rotation, supposedly holding the spot only until someone half decent came along. At 24, Jackson was already becoming a cautionary tale of what can happen to a top prospect if he's not developed properly.
But after a mediocre spring training, something clicked. In his initial start of the season at Yankee Stadium, Jackson recorded his first win by holding New York to just one run and five hits over six innings. Thursday afternoon he pitched eight innings of shutout baseball against the Mariners, earning win No. 2 -- a feat he didn't accomplish until July 20 last season.
Finally able to harness each of his three pitches -- a high-90s fastball, hard-breaking slider and effective changeup -- Jackson owns a 0.64 ERA and looks like that nasty 20-year-old from '03. He still needs to cut down on his walks (six in 14 innings leaves room for improvement), but this kid has the chance to be this year's
The O's entered the '08 campaign destined to lose 95 games. After Baltimore's 10th straight losing season in '07, new president
Not so fast, Andy.
Following an Opening Day loss to Tampa Bay, the Orioles ran off six straight wins. Even after being swept by Texas in Thursday's doubleheader, Baltimore still sits atop baseball's most celebrated division.
The key to Baltimore's hot start has been the bullpen's shocking turnaround. The O's 'pen was an absolute nightmare in '07, possessing the second-worst ERA in baseball (5.71). To add injury to insult, emerging closer
It's still far too early for Baltimore to even consider the playoffs, but tortured Orioles fans should enjoy the ride while it lasts.
But D'backs fans never bought into it. And neither did Reynolds. During a recent broadcast, Grace admitted that the D'backs' third baseman begged for a new handle.
With Reynolds off to a huge start -- leading the majors in homers (5) and RBIs (13) -- the nickname search has reached a fever pitch. Grace and boothmate
Photos courtesy of AP and Jeff Gross/Getty Images
So last winter the Dodgers took another stab at filling the center field position, shelling out $36.2 million in a two-year deal for
Jones' increased girth startled observers in spring training, and his production in the young season has been similarly shocking. At the plate, Jones picked up right where he left off last season: in a huge slump. The five-time All-Star is batting .129 with a laughable .161 slugging percentage. In 34 plate appearances, Jones has struck out 10 times and left 19 runners on base. His play in the field is even more jarring. The 10-time Gold Glover may be error-free, but he has noticeably lost a step. On Monday night Jones misplayed an
Oh, did I mention that Pierre's hitting .167 and has yet to score a run this season?
Besides making a huge imprint on Los Angeles' payroll, these two signings have created a logjam in the outfield. Until the Dodgers hoodwink some team into taking Pierre, talented youngsters
Truth be told, records in one-run games are actually pretty random. In fact, four of the past seven World Series champions -- the 2001 Diamondbacks (23-25), '04 Red Sox (16-18), '06 Cardinals (22-27) and '07 Red Sox (22-28) -- finished below .500 in the category. One isolated year in the red doesn't necessarily signal a problem.
But the Braves had a major league-worst 37-58 record in one-run games over the past two seasons. And if they continue at the current pace, this will be a third straight season
But following Oswalt's first two outings of '08 (both losses) and a bit of research on some key statistics, it's easy to see that the pint-sized power pitcher is becoming less dominant by the second.
In his first two starts of the season, Oswalt rarely reached 90 mph with his fastball and had no control of his patented, overhand curve. He was tagged for 21 hits and eight earned runs, while recording just six Ks -- a low figure for this former strikeout machine. But upon further review, Roy's strikeout rate has steadily plummeted since his rookie season. And two other key statistics -- opponent batting average and slugging percentage -- have risen with alarming consistency. Take a look:
Now, decreasing dominance doesn't mean Oswalt's doomed to mediocrity. He just has to continue adapting to his aging body. (Adios, power. Hello, finesse!) With Oswalt set to earn at least $60 million over the next four seasons, his modification must be Houston's chief concern.
• At 1-8, Detroit is very fortunate that presumed AL Central contender Cleveland only holds a 4-5 mark.
• We're only two weeks into the '08 campaign, but
• Since signing a five-year, $28 million extension with Arizona on Tuesday,
• Ever wonder what Yankees radio announcer
• Last season I chronicled
• Tampa Bay 2B