David Sabino
Tuesday August 12th, 2008

While the world is enthralled by Michael Phelps and the rest of the incredible Olympians competing in Beijing, Diamond Digits is keeping tabs on baseball back here in the States. This week's entry looks at past Olympians still playing in the majors, the imploding Mets bullpen and the reason for that strong breeze emanating from Phoenix.

17

Former U.S. Olympic team members currently on major league rosters. President Bush paid a visit to the U.S. squad in China last weekend and who he found weren't major league All Stars like those who compete in the World Cup, but rather a bunch of decent prospects and Four-A players. Unlike basketball that can and does send its best and brightest to the world's premier athletic event, U.S.A. Baseball has a limited pool of available players to send to the Summer Games, thus also limiting the group who makes it to the big time. Only two teams currently employ more than one former U.S. Olympian: St. Louis with four (Ryan Franklin, Troy Glaus, Braden Looper and Ron Villone) and the Diamondbacks with two (Augie Ojeda and Jon Rauch). Here are the rest: R.A. Dickey, Mariners; Adam Everett, Twins; Nomar Garciaparra, Dodgers; Jason Giambi, Yankees; Mark Kotsay, Braves; Doug Mientkiewicz, Pirates; Roy Oswalt, Astros; Bobby Seay, Tigers; Ben Sheets, Brewers; Jason Varitek, Red Sox; and Brad Wilkerson, Blue Jays.

6.23

The Mets bullpen ERA since losing closer Billy Wagner to a strained forearm. The Mets 'pen has been in a tailspin in the eight games since Wagner was disabled, blowing two crucial games in the tight NL East race. The reorganized 'pen has an ERA two runs higher than the 4.23 they amassed up to that point, allowing 15 earned runs, 22 hits and eight walks in 21 2/3 innings. Opponents are batting a hearty .272 against them, opposed to .249 before Wagner's injury. The main culprits have been Aaron Heilman (12.46 ERA, one blown save), Joe Smith (15.43 ERA), Pedro Feliciano (4 of 8 inherited runners have scored) and Scott Schoeneweis (2 of 4 inherited runners have scored, one save in two tries). Manager Jerry Manuel will now turn to rookie Eddie Kunz who really hasn't fared much better (.286 opponents' batting average, one earned run of his own and one inherited run scored against him in 2 1/3 innings).

3.87

Plate appearances per strikeout for the newest Diamondback, Adam Dunn, acquired on Monday in a waiver deal with the Reds. Dunn will provide much needed power to a lineup tied for 20th in the majors with just 113 home runs. However with Dunn, you have to take the bad with the good. This season he has struck out at he fourth highest rate of any National Leaguer. He now joins a lineup including the eighth most frequent fanner, centerfielder Chris Young (4.22 PA/K), and the NL leader, third baseman Mark Reynolds (3.03 PA/K).

Carlos Lee, Houston Astros

Before suffering a broken pinkie that will likely sideline him for most of the remainder of the season, Lee batted .550 with a 1.100 slugging percentage last week. He hit three home runs and drove in a big league leading 11 runs for the week, enabling him to reach 100 RBIs for the third consecutive season. He bows out tied with Philly's Ryan Howard for the league RBI lead, ranking sixth in batting (.314), third in total bases (248) and sixth in home runs (28).

John Buck, Kansas City Royals

Taking an 0-fer in a game is expected every once in a while. Taking an 0-fer for a series happens from time to time, but Buck took an 0-fer for the week, stepping to the plate 20 times and returning to the dugout after making 19 outs. His only time on base came on Monday when he was plunked by a Clay Buccholz pitch with the bases loaded, providing the deciding run in a 4-3 win over Boston.

His Oakland A's may be the worst team in baseball since the All Star Break, losing 19 of 22 games, but the best stats story of the season could be reliever Brad Ziegler. Featured here when he set the alltime record for most scoreless innings from the start of a career, Ziegler has continued his roll and STILL hasn't allowed an earned run after 37 innings. This week he broke Oakland's mark for consecutive scoreless innings, set by Mike Torrez in 1976. According to the Elias Sports Bureau he also tied Hank Thormahlen's alltime AL mark for a rookie set in 1918 for the Yankees. Now Ziegler needs to extend the streak to just seven more scoreless outs to surpass the alltime scoreless mark by a reliever set in 1949 by Cleveland's Al Benton and then just six more past that to advance Grover Cleveland Alexander's modern rookie record of 41 scoreless innings.

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