The changing of the calendar today brings about another checkpoint for the Major League Baseball season. Although I’d hoped to get this entry written by the first, as I did with checkpoint one, it doesn’t make much of a difference from an analytical standpoint. Very little has changed since the start of May, though there have been a few stark differences as well.
First, for the old news:
With a 5-18 record at the end of April, the Baltimore Orioles found themselves one game worse than the 1962 Mets through their first 23 games. After playing slightly better (anything is better) baseball through most of May, the Birds ended the month with a five game slide to put them back at a mere one game better than the ’62 Mets at 15-36. After losing last night, however, the O’s are now back in a tie with the losingest team in history, as those Mets managed to win their 52nd game of the season.
Note: The Mets’ 15th victory of the season was their third in a five-game series against the Cubs, probably the best series they played all season. The Cubs then swept a four-game set the following week. What does this mean? Even a broken clock is right twice a day – don’t get too encouraged by the occasional good baseball, Orioles fans.
When the calendar last flipped, the AL East standings had the Rays on top, followed by the Yanks, Jays, Sox and O’s. Since the calendar has turned another page, the division is now led by the Rays, followed by the Yanks, Jays, Sox and O’s. Oddly enough, every division in the American League follows suit, as despite changes during the month, every AL division ended up where it started after May. That said, things are not nearly the same for some teams: the Red Sox have been playing far better baseball of late, with the turnaround being led by David “Big Papi” Ortiz – yes, after hitting ten home runs and driving in 27 in May, Mr. Ortiz has officially shed his “Bruce Banner” nickname, as he no longer is being pinch-hit for and hence has no reason to look like a sad Hulk. Victor Martinez has been playing slightly better (anything is better) baseball as well, though he recently got injured so we’ll see how that plays out.
The Rays have been cooling off of late, showing signs that they may not be this season’s Abed. They were recently swept by the Sox at home, a rare feat for Boston, and they now sit a mere 2.5 ahead of the Yankees. The Blue Jays, on the other hand, have once again played consistently, and unlike last month, the first four teams in the AL East are all considerably above .500. The Jays lead the universe in homers right now, with 90 as a team after Fred Lewis hit a leadoff shot last night, and fell four short of the AL record with 54 team homers in May. Ex-Pirate Jose Bautista currently leads the Majors with 16 homers. Anyone else see that coming besides no one?
Remember when the Cubs and Mariners exchanged beleaguered players one-for-one this offseason in the hopes that they’d each get someone just needing a change of scenery in order to jump start their careers again? The Cubbies received Carlos Silva, who is currently 7-0 with a 3.12 ERA. The M’s got Mr. Milton Bradley, who after a vicious meltdown to start the season is starting to produce like he should. Bradley took an extended stint on the restricted list to sort out what appears to have been a boatload of inner demons, and although he’s now showing quite a few signs of life, it still looks like daaaaa Cubs definitely got the better half of the deal.
At the end of April, the Philadelphia Phillies found themselves a half game out of first place behind the then-surging New York Mets. After a month, the Phils once again found themselves a half game out, but the team in first was the Atlanta Braves, who took first after winning their sixth in a row. They’ve now won seven to widen their lead over Philly, who, like the Rays, have been swooning of late. It’s a stark turnaround for the Braves, who ended April deep into last place amidst a nine-game losing streak. The Mets, after May, were in a three-team tie for third/last with the Nationals and Marlins, all at .500. The Phils have, however, gotten a perfect game from their ace Roy Halladay, who pitched one on the second-to-last day of the month to highlight an otherwise subpar 31 days.
No short hops today, but expect full entries tomorrow and Friday, and hopefully over the weekend!