Take a quick gander at the standings, though: Florida sits atop the division at 13-9. And a lion's share of the credit goes to a 24-year-old shortstop making $439K.
In just his third major league campaign,
The frightening thing is Hanley's still extremely raw and there is plenty of room for improvement in many aspects of his game. This is most evident in his defensive play. Although Ramirez boasts a solid arm and plus range, he seems to lose focus in the field, leading to a number of correctable miscues. And while most of his offensive numbers are MVP-caliber, he still strikes out twice as often as he walks.
Considering Hanley doesn't turn 25 until December, the ceiling on this kid is outrageously high.
Last season, ESPN's
The statement seemed absurdly far-fetched at the time, but its validity increases with each passing day.
As the Golden Spikes Award winner during his junior season at Washington, Lincecum went 12-4 with a 1.94 ERA and 199 strikeouts in 125 1/3 innings. Boasting a 100 mph fastball, solid offspeed and a proven track record, Lincecum was projected as a possible No. 1 pick. But a number of teams questioned the durability of his 5-foot-10, 160-pound frame and he slipped to the Giants at No. 10. Six other pitchers were selected before him.
"We were kind of shocked he was there -- he was supposed to be in the top three," Giants scouting director
Less than two years later, the 23-year-old is the Giants' ace and one of the best young hurlers in the game. At 4-0 with a 1.23 ERA, Lincecum leads the majors in strikeouts (36 in 29.1 innings pitched) and hasn't allowed a run in 16 1/3 innings.
Lincecum still struggles with command, rarely hitting
Lincecum recoils at the start of his delivery, completely turning his back to the plate. Then, as his body uncoils, he takes a gigantic stride and catapults the ball to home plate. The key to his velocity is an explosive hip rotation. (
Known by a bevy of nicknames, including "The Franchise," "The Future" and "Seabiscuit" (a reference to his undersized dominance), Lincecum gives national fans a legitimate reason to keep taps on the lowly Giants.
Tampa Bay easily posted the worst bullpen ERA in baseball last season (6.16). Opposing hitters feasted on Rays relievers, racking up a .303 batting average. For Tampa Bay fans, a
Twenty-one games into this season, though, the Rays boast the best bullpen ERA in baseball (2.39). The biggest key to the turnaround has been a significant decrease in walks by the staff. On an individual level, nobody has made a larger impact than 38-year-old closer
But who really cares? The strikeouts are just a byproduct of a vicious home-run stroke that fuels Philly's offense, right? Well, not in April.
Howard is currently hitting .176 with four homers and a puny .638 OPS. Phils manager
The exasperating aspect is that Howard seems to begin every season at rock bottom. He hit just three homers last April and his career average for the month is .235. Howard acknowledges the disconcerting trend: "You can call my mom and she'll tell you that I've never hit good in April," Howard told the
Fortunately for Philly, the slugger's career averages steadily progress over the next five months of the regular season: .259 in May, .280 in June, .294 in July, .307 in August and .304 in September.
So by the end of the year, Howard will most likely have at least 40 bombs and 120 RBIs. But you can bet management isn't too happy with this annual April swoon. Howard won his arbitration case in February, bumping his salary up from $900,000 last year to $10,000,000 in '08. Ten large calls for a bit of consistency.
At last year's July 31 trade deadline, with his team 14 1/2 games out of first place, Littlefield made the most puzzling move of his senseless, seven-season tenure. He traded cheap outfield prospect
Upon arrival in Pittsburgh, Morris instantly became the highest-paid player in franchise history. He started 11 games for the Pirates in '07, going 3-4 with a 6.10 ERA. This season has been even worse. Set to earn a Pirates-record $10,037,283, Morris holds a 0-3 mark with a 9.15 ERA over his first four starts.
On the plus side, nobody will ever claim Dave Littlefield doesn't pick up tabs, especially in that city by the bay.
Following the game, the normally mellow Zito expressed his unadulterated frustration to the
I channeled the pulse of Giants faithful and it's eerily similar:
And just in case there are any San Franciscans who don't feel like s---, the
• Twenty-two games into the season, the D'backs have already built a six-game lead on the rest of the NL West, thanks to a 15-4 mark against division foes. Wasn't this supposed to be baseball's most competitive division?
• The A's brought back
• At 3-0,
• Last Sunday
• There's no better name in baseball than Padres rookie
• Since coming over from Houston in the
• When are the Reds going to bring up top outfield prospect
• Braves pitchers are 0-for-39 at the plate. Atlanta's the only National League staff without a hit.