Before you start wondering if I mean Shelley Duncan, Chris Duncan, Dave Duncan, Jeff Duncan (yes, I went there, Mets fans) or any other Duncan in baseball, let me just say I am referring to an episode of the TV show Community. In said episode, Professor Duncan conducts a study to prove his “Duncan Principle,” which essentially states that every person has a breaking point. Not much of a principle, but hey, it was a funny episode. It turned out one character, Abed, didn’t have a breaking point, at least in that episode. He broke in a later one after drinking a bunch and blacking out.
The point remains, though, that Abed didn’t break. There are always outliers in every data gathering. In baseball, there are those who believe every player and every person has a breaking point, and there are those who believe, sometimes more out of hope than out of true instinct, that miracles happen and that a team or player will have a mind-blowing, record-setting season if they’re off to a roaring start.
So who will be baseball’s Abed this season?
For a while, it looked like the Tampa Bay Rays would be the outliers who didn’t break. At 32-15, they are still the best team in baseball by 3.5 games and the only team with 30 or more wins, but after being swept in Tampa by the now third-place Boston Red Sox, it looks like they might be starting to bend a little. Tampa Bay has, in recent years, dominated Boston, especially at Tropicana field; whether this means that Tampa is finally faltering or that Boston is finally coming around remains to be seen. David “Bruce Banner” Ortiz hit his ninth homer of the month to give him ten on the season, and seems poised to reclaim his old “Big Papi” nickname.
The second-best team in baseball right now, and the only other one with a winning percentage over .600, is surprisingly the San Diego Padres. After being a surefire pick for last place coming into the year, the Pads started off strong and have yet to really dim. They’re still somewhat in a battle for first place with the Giants, who remain two games back, but with excellent pitching, the Padres seem to keep on winning. Will their offense keep up? We’ll see. Adrian Gonzalez looks like he won’t be traded to the Red Sox after all now that the Friars are winning, and now that Bruce Papi (he’s halfway there) is hitting, it looks like the Sox are a lot less desperate for his services.
Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez looks like the best bet to be this year’s Abed, as he managed to lower his ERA to 0.88 after eight shutout innings against Arizona. Jimenez is now 9-1 after the win and his ERA through his first ten starts is fourth all-time behind Zach Greinke (0.84 last year), Hoyt Wilhelm (0.83 in 1959) and Juan Marichal (0.59 in 1966). Unlike the Blue Jays’ Ricky Romero, who is now 4-2 with a 3.42 ERA after being touted as the next big thing when he nearly threw a no-hitter in early April, Jimenez has more than lived up to the hype surrounding him after he no-hit the Atlanta Braves on April 17th. We’ll see how he ends up; Greinke ended up last season with a 16-8 record, a 2.16 ERA and the Cy Young. It’d take a major meltdown for Ubaldo to stray far from that path. Will his ERA remain under 1.00? Almost definitely not. Under 2.00? Unlikely, but you never know. It’d be remarkable to say the least, but that’s exactly what he’s been so far.
Philadelphia may have already reached its breaking point, as after a week or so as the NL’s best team, they have mustered one run over their past four games. Boston’s Japanese-Knuckleballer tag team of Daisuke Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield managed to hold the Phillies scoreless over their sixteen total innings before the Mets’ Knuckleballer-Japanese combo of R.A. Dickey and Hisanori Takahashi held them scoreless over their twelve innings. Overall, the Phillies have been outscored 26-3 during their four-game skid, including three shutouts, prompting their general manager Ruben Amaro to say that they, well, “stink.”
- The Baltimore Orioles are currently 3.0 games ahead of the losingest season in history at 15-32. The 1962 Mets were 12-35 after their first 47 games, and said 47th game was number sixteen of a seventeen-game losing streak. Can the Orioles end up with a worse season than those awful Mets? And if they suddenly start winning, do we call it a breaking point?
- Perhaps the definition of irony is that Sean Rodriguez of the Rays was stung by a stingray a few days ago. There really isn’t anything more to be said on the matter.
- Baseball’s messiah, Stephen Strasburg, is apparently on track to make his MLB debut against the Pirates next month. Until then, he will continue to dominate at the Triple-A level, and though the hype level for him is still a bit irrational, it’s definitely looking a little more legitimate with every start he makes.
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