COORS LOSES ITSFIZZ
Forget everythingyou believed about Coors Field, the Rockies' mile-high ballpark with thereputation for inflating hitters' statistics and pitchers' ERAs. Thatreputation has been fading since 2002, when the club began storing baseballs ina humidor to prevent them from becoming overly dry in the mountain air and, asa result, flying farther when hit. Runs per game at Coors have dropped from13.8 before the humidor (1995 through 2001) to 11.8 in the last fiveseasons--including 8.85 this year, which ranks 21st among the majors' 30ballparks.
The humidoreffect is good news for the Rockies, who had struggled with having to play twobrands of baseball: the pinball shootouts at Coors and games under normalconditions on the road. And with a strong pitching staff (led by lefthanderJeff Francis, above, its 4.05 ERA ranked fourth in the National League throughSunday) plus new confidence on the road (12-9), Colorado is a genuinecontender.
GOOD YOUNG ARMSNEED TLC
The emergence of23-year-old righthander Justin Verlander (5-3, 3.18 ERA) helped put the Tigersatop the AL Central on Sunday, the first time since 1993 that Detroit has beenin first place after April. But pushing a rookie to make 33 starts and throw210 innings--the projected totals for Verlander (left)--is risky business. Hepitched only 130 innings last year, and a jump of 80 innings in one year canlead to a tired arm and a greater risk of breaking down. For that reason,expect rookie lefthander Sean Marshall to be dropped from the Cubs' rotationonce Mark Prior returns. Marshall, 23, has never thrown more than 94 innings ina year but is on pace for 177. Only eight pitchers in the past 10 years--nonesince 2001--have made 30 starts in their debut seasons.
•Before you blamethe World Baseball Classic for causing pitchers to start slowly or get injured,check out tournament MVP Daisuke Matsuzaka of WBC-champion Japan. At week's endthe 25-year-old righthander was 6-1 with a 2.31 ERA for the Seibu Lions.
•Remember whenfirst base in the AL was a glamour position? The A's, Angels, Devil Rays andRoyals starting first basemen had 10 homers and 47 RBIs combined throughSunday--both totals fewer than Albert Pujols had by himself. Tampa Bay's TravisLee (right), emblematic of the lack of production, was only 2 for 31 withrunners in scoring position.
•The stolen baseis back in vogue in the NL. Senior circuit teams are running much morefrequently than last year (attempts are up 18%) and more successfully (75%, upfrom 71%). Stolen base rates in the AL are virtually unchanged.
Extra Mustard byBaseball Prospectus
ARE THE ROYALSTHE WORST TEAM IN MAJOR LEAGUE HISTORY? Kansas City is on its way to becomingthe first nonexpansion team since the 1952-54 Pirates to lose 100 games forthree straight years, and a simple projection of the Royals' 10-31 recordthrough Sunday (.244 winning percentage) puts them on track to finish 40-122,two losses worse than the 1962 Mets' post-1900 standard for futility. But thePythagenport formula (Baseball Prospectus's refined version of Bill James'sPythagorean formula), which projects a team's record based on its ratio of runsscored to runs allowed, reveals that Kansas City is not quite as bad as itsrecord: Despite ranking last in the majors in runs scored (154) and runsallowed (251), K.C.'s winning percentage should be about .280. If the Royalsplay .280 ball for the rest of the season, they'll finish with 118 losses,which wouldn't even match the 2003 Tigers' AL record of 119.
• More from TomVerducci and Baseball Prospectus at SI.com/baseball.