Tom Verducci's View

May 21, 2006

PLAYING IT COOL INTHE BRONX

The Yankees' bidto score 1,000 runs was derailed last Thursday when leftfielder Hideki Matsuisuffered a gruesome broken left wrist diving for a pop fly. He will miss atleast three months, if not the rest of the year--a major blow because he is theteam's most versatile and best situational hitter.

There wasimmediate buzz about trades for possible replacements, including the Phillies'Bobby Abreu, the Devil Rays' Aubrey Huff, the Twins' Shannon Stewart and theNationals' Alfonso Soriano. Says Oakland general manager Billy Beane, "Theonly thing faster in New York than the time between the light turning green andthe guy behind you honking is the time between an injury to a Yankees starterand reports of the names of guys the Yankees will get."

But New York G.M.Brian Cashman, having wrested power away from the club's Tampa-based officialslast winter, promised patience instead of a quick deal. That's fine as long asrightfielder Gary Sheffield comes back in about a week, as expected, from asprained left wrist. If Sheffield's injury lingers, however, Cashman will tireof seeing an aged Bernie Williams (above) and the underwhelming Melky Cabreraand Bubba Crosby sharing the corner outfield spots. Cashman also knows that hissupply of attractive trading chips is thin, with not much beyond righthanderPhilip Hughes and first baseman Eric Duncan.

TOUGHER STEROIDPOLICY APPEARS SAFE

The players' unioncan unilaterally get rid of the three-strikes-and-you're-out steroid penalty,rolling back to the softer 2005 drug policy, if a new collective bargainingagreement is not reached by Aug. 1. And Donald Fehr (left) & Co. can expectanother grilling by Congress if they even consider such a wrongheaded action."No way it's going to happen," says one insider. Players and owners mettwice last week in what have been cordial talks toward a new CBA. The currentone expires on Dec. 19.

THE RUNDOWN

•The Cubs arepaying for not finding a replacement for injured first baseman Derrek Lee lastmonth and for thinking that winter acquisitions Juan Pierre (right) and JacqueJones would help their offense. During a 2--14 free fall through Sunday,Chicago was outscored 101--32, the franchise's worst 16-game run productionsince 1992.

•Let me get thisstraight: Oakland designated hitter Frank Thomas strained a leg muscle lastThursday because he ran "a little too fast" on the bases? Better stickto the safety of the trainer's room.

•No one gets morebang for their buck in the bullpen than the Cardinals. They led the majors inrelief ERA at week's end (2.76), including a 2.02 combined mark by BradThompson, Adam Wainwright, Josh Hancock, Brian Falkenborg and RandyFlores--none of whom earn more than $355,000.

ExtraMustard
by Baseball Prospectus

WHICH STRUGGLINGPITCHERS ARE PRIMED FOR A REBOUND? Pitchers don't have much control over whathappens to a batted ball--the defense, the park and the breaks of the gamedetermine whether it becomes a hit or an out. So in looking for pitchers whoare likely to improve on their poor early results, pay attention to those withgood ratios (K's/9 IP, K's/BB, HRs/9 IP) and unusually high batting averages onballs in play (BABIP). For example, the Mariners' Felix Hernandez, with 43strikeouts, 16 walks and six homers allowed in 391/3 innings at week's end,hasn't pitched as poorly as his 4.58 ERA would indicate. He's been hampered bya .349 BABIP, which figures to come down. The Brewers' Ben Sheets has a 28-to-1strikeout-to-walk ratio, a much better indicator of the quality of his pitchingthan his 6.64 ERA, which is inflated by a .481 BABIP. The Twins' Scott Baker,the Phillies' Jon Lieber and the Marlins' Dontrelle Willis should also showimprovement soon.

> More fromTom Verducci and Baseball Prospectus at SI.com/baseball.

PHOTOMIKE EHRMANN/WIREIMAGE.COM PHOTOKEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS PHOTOBEN LIEBENBERG/WIREIMAGE.COM

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)