Posts Tagged ‘Roy Halladay’

Roy+Halladay+Sitting

For much of the decade of the 2000’s, the question about who was the best pitcher in baseball started at number two. Mostly because the dominance of Roy Halladay made it so simple to decide on who was at the top of the list. Whether it was during his run of triumph in-spite of some less than desirable clubs in Toronto, or his turn of fortune (and perfection) in Philadelphia, Doc Halladay has stood for the pinnacle of both competition and resilient results for his career.

Yet, as he has turned into his twilight of his career, where does this place him among the greats that have ever toed the mound? Pitching more so than any other position is guided by the standard set by magic numbers and an ever-changing chance to reach the position’s definitive quality marker: wins. Despite this, Halladay has dominated his era at a quality as good as any hurler has, but has it been great enough, for long enough, for him to sit among the immortals when his time is up? Let’s have a look.

The Numbers (through June 12)—Record: 201-104 (.659 win %), 3.37 ERA, 2101 strikeouts, 2721.2 innings pitched, 67 complete games, 20 shutouts

1. The Case For: At his peak, he was the perfect example of the exception rule. He excelled regardless of surroundings as well as any pitcher in baseball for the bulk of his career. From 2002 to 2009, he pitched for only one team that finished any better than third place in the American League East. However, during this time, he won at least 16 games in six seasons, including 19 in ’02, 22 in ’03 and 20 again in ’08. In those respective seasons, he won 24, 25 and 23 percent of all Blue Jay games. He posted a winning percentage of at least 75% in four seasons, and after turning 25 in ’02, he posted only one season with a winning percentage under 63% for the next ten years. That goes beyond efficiency; that crosses into dominance.

And working in bulk is another of Halladay’s great assets. He’s almost a man out of time in that regard, as in a time where less innings are being pitched by starters and instead being shared by increasingly specialized staffs; Halladay is pitching like it’s the 1960’s still. From 2007-2011, he led the American and National Leagues (respectively) in complete games, totaling 42 across that span. He also led the AL in shutouts from 2008-10, totaling 10. For his career, he has led a league in complete games seven times, shutouts four times, and innings pitched four times as well. He’s a warhorse.

He’s perhaps the perfect blend of strikeout and control pitcher. He throws hard, yet with consistent control, which allows him to work quickly and control the pace of games, thus his ability to work high innings totals. In 2010 with the Phillies, he became the first pitcher since 1923 to top 250 innings, but walk 30 or less batters. From 2006 to 2011, he only walked more than 40 batters once, while pitching at least 220 innings in each season.

2. The Case Against: The case against Halladay could be that he’s far away from being a member of the 300 win club, or even the 250 win club. While his 201 wins are the second most actively of any pitcher all-time, it ranks him only 107th all-time. While there have been Hall of Famers that have won less, namely Dizzy Dean and Dazzy Vance, of those inducted in the last 30 years, only Don Drysdale’s 209 have been within the same range as Halladay’s total.

Part of this is due to the poor performing Blue Jay clubs he played for, but also due in part to the bookends of his career. Over his first three full seasons, his record was 17-17 and his ERA 5.08. Within the past two seasons, injuries have sidelined him twice and greatly curbed his impact as well. Since the beginning of 2012, he has a 13-12 record and 5.24 ERA. The wins standard is important, and he’s short there, as well as he has only pitched in two playoff series in his career, with his first coming at age 34.

Halladay has the highest career winning percentage of any active pitcher and is in the Top 20 all-time.

Halladay has the highest active career winning percentage and is Top 20 all-time. His percentage is fifth best ever of any pitcher to throw at least 15 seasons.

3. Similar Players (thru age 35):

– Mike Mussina: 270-153 record, 3.68 ERA, .638 win%, 2813 strikeouts, 3562.2 innings pitched

– Tim Hudson: 201-110 record, 3.45 ERA, .646 win%, 1862 strikeouts, 2766 innings pitched

– Dwight Gooden: 194-112 record, 3.51 ERA, .634 win%, 2293 strikeouts, 2800.2 innings pitched

4. Cooperstown Likelihood (thru age 36): Halladay is an interesting case when it comes to Cooperstown profile. Is he one of the greatest of his era? Unquestionably. Yet, has he had the sustained dominance of a no-doubt Hall of Famer? The answer is both yes and no. Nothing tells the story of this better than three players that compare most favorably to him. Each have had three very different careers, and would make no sense in being tied to each other without Halladay being the common denominator. He was regularly above average to excellent in the same style as Mussina, although for not as consecutively long as Moose was. He had an undeniably dominant era in the late 2000’s in a similar fashion to what Gooden did in the mid-80’s. And finally, he had two peaks to his career, but not a long consecutive run, in the same fashion that Hudson did.

In the end, what puts Halladay over is just how great his peak was. He was a Cy Young winner in both leagues, eight seasons apart. At his most transcendent, he threw both a Perfect Game and a No-Hitter in the same season, his first in the National League. And although the opportunities were delayed, two of his five October games were classic efforts, including the no-hitter coming in his first postseason appearance, and his 1-0 battle with best friend and postseason great Chris Carpenter in Game 5 of the NLDS in 2011.

Something can also be said for excellence in the face of adversity. He took the ball and made the Blue Jays favorites at least once every fifth day for 12 years. He is one of the great competitors of all-time, and raised the levels of the players around him as well in a way that even few great players have. He has been responsible for 65.5 Wins Above Replacement level in his career, including six seasons of better than 5 in Toronto, and an astonishing 16.2 in his two Philly seasons combined. And while he’ll probably never return to the full health that enabled him accomplish these feats again, what he’s accomplished thus far has been exceptional to a level that may not be clear when looking at paper years from now, but when viewed in time, was quite often unmatchable.

So to that extent, while the deed may be nearly done for the 36-year-old righty, if the question is asked today if Roy Halladay is in, out or in-between being a Hall of Famer, the answer has to be he is IN. With as strong of a quality over quantity pull as there can be.

For more on the push to the Hall in the day-to-day world of baseball, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

Yahoo

I present to you a struggle that many can relate to….the struggle of a fantasy sports season gone bad from the beginning.

I was riding high coming into my fantasy baseball Draft last March. I was coming off a strong run of being in first place nearly the entire season, before a single hit knocked me out of the playoffs (against my father no less). I’d drafted well the year before, made some shrewd moves and put myself in good position to win my second consecutive championship. The loss was okay, I can deal with it.

Back to last year’s draft, I was ready. I’d done my research, was obviously ready up on the happenings around baseball and was sitting in a nice spot in the middle of the first round, with the sixth pick out of 12 teams. I was ramped up and ready to go.

And then I picked the worst team in the history of the game, about the game.

There are a few things that went wrong here that were outside of my control, with regularity: injuries ravished my roster, nearly from the beginning. This happens; it’s the nature of the game. Also, there were some guys that plain didn’t perform up to their expected levels. Once again, the nature of the game. All in all, the season was rough as it gets, and anti-2011. I stuck around the middle of the pack all year, made every deft trade I possibly could with the underachieving roster I had, but nothing gave, and I was bludgeoned out of the playoffs in round 1, with very little fight. It was the worst finish I’ve had, and the longest season of the all.

But in the middle of all-that there was also some pure user error, and while everything is 20/20 in hindsight, there were some plain mistakes I made in evaluating and approaching the draft from the beginning.

And with that, I present to you my tragically flawed shadow of the summer of 2012: the 6-Tool Superstars, whose name will prove ironic as possible.

 

Pick 5—Jose Bautista: The lure was the fact he hit 97 home runs over 2010-11, and was eligible at two positions. He was an on-base machine as well, that led the league in walks and hit .302 the year before. But really, it was a reach on the single homer stat alone, and predictably, he regressed. He still hit 27 long balls, but he stunk it up everywhere else. A late season surge helped him pick UP his average to .241, before two wrist injuries ended his season in August.

The great conflict between me here was between him and Ryan Braun, who I gave into the suspicion about PED performance, although I never believed he was implicated in, as well as the loss of Prince Fielder as his protection. And all Braun did was have the best year of his life. Figures.

Pick 20—Roy Halladay: The greatest tragedy of them all, this was a colossal mistake on every level for me. Firstly, I took a pitcher not named Verlander in the top 24 picks. Secondly, his arm died early on in the year, and I couldn’t even trade out on name value alone. Worst of all, lost potential everyday value from Andrew McCutchen, Adrian Beltre and Mark Teixeira in the name of landing the pitcher formerly known as Doc too.

Pick 29—Giancarlo Stanton: Great pick, best of the draft. He won’t be there this late this time around.

Pick 44—Dan Uggla: Worst pick of the entire draft, and when I looked back at this I spit my coffee up on my screen. It was a pure reach for positional value that would have been bad even if he was good by his own standards. Uggla staying healthy actually hurt me, with his 19 homers and .220 average.

Pick 53—Eric Hosmer: The reach of the draft, where I felt like I’d gotten a steal and justified my passing up of the first and second-tier of first baseman. The sophomore slump hit Hos like a truck, and while he gained some value in the second half, he didn’t top 15 homers or a .240 average.

Hosmer's struggles held the Royals back, but in the Fantasy world, he missed his expectations by miles.

Hosmer’s struggles held the Royals back, but in the Fantasy world, he missed his expectations by miles.

Pick 68—CJ Wilson: He started off a virtuoso in the first few months, and then hit the absolute bottom of the tank by the second. He turned out a 5.54 second half ERA, before exiting the season injured as well.

Pick 77—Shin-Soo Choo: He’s a steadily consistent guy, that’s the type you want to grab here. Finally was healthy (155 games) and gave me 43 doubles and 21 steals (the only runner on the team; another huge draft error).

Pick 92—Joe Mauer: My sleeper pick that made good. He tumbled down the draft boards due to his injury history, but I grabbed him right when the run on catchers was about to take off.  Joe led the American League in on-base percentage, and had first base eligibility too, which was needed mid-Hosmer’s year long tumble down off the year two cliff.

Pick 101—Josh Johnson: Another reach that wasn’t made good on, completely. He started off slow, working through his rehab from shoulder surgery, but I cashed in on him by trading for Brett Lawrie….who also ended up out for most of the August/September. Figures.

Pick 116—Heath Bell: Sigh….moving right along.

After the tenth round, things are usually about finding depth, and this actually treated me well. Landing Derek Jeter in the 11th round and Adam Dunn in the 16th were solid picks that paid off throughout the year. But overall, even this late, solid draft picks just didn’t show up. Cameron Maybin (12th), Jonny Venters (17th), Trevor Cahill (20th) and Justin Masterson (19th) couldn’t match their fantastic 2011 efforts. Andrew Bailey (13th) and Brandon McCarthy (22nd) never got healthy either, and Jesus Montero (15th) or Zack Cozart (23rd) never lived up to their impact rookie billing.

All in all, a frustrating season, but flawed from the start. Three things win Fantasy Baseball: high team on-base percentage pitching depth and speed. They are fringe stats that can be picked up sparingly across the board, but must be had. This team had none of those, and when coupled with a few long-range reaches and an injury sheet that looked like an episode of the Walking Dead, there’s nowhere to go but up soon.

Maybe I’ll skip pre-draft beers this time..

 

For more on the game in all its forms and formats, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

There was no more interesting division in baseball than the NL East this winter. It is essentially a rebuilt, redesigned, revamp of what it was just a few months back, familiar only in team locations in many regards. The Florida Marlins changed out everything about their club, both on field, off field and in the budgeting department. The Washington Nationals continued to drop big money, but also made smart, low price decisions as well. After a colossal collapse, that took them from a sure return to the postseason last year with a 8.5 game headed into September, they chose to had steady and give it another go. As for the Mets? Well, they let the National League’s batting champ walk to a division rival…and couldn’t do anything about it.

2011 Standings

  1. Philadelphia Phillies (102-60)
  2. Atlanta Braves (89-73)
  3. Washington Nationals (80-81)
  4. New York Mets (77-85)
  5. Florida Marlins (72-90)

While all of this was going around, one thing stayed the same: the Phillies looked down at it all. After winning their fifth consecutive division title, but being coming out on the wrong half of a classic Divisional Series matchup with the St. Louis Cardinals, they’ll look to pick up where they’ve left off for the last half decade. In order to do so, they’ll have to take on the revamped Miami Marlins, a newly deep Nationals team, the Braves with a major chip on their shoulder and a Mets club with absolutely nothing to lose….and does it without two of their top contributors in Ryan Howard and Chase Utley for an unknown amount of time?

Doc Halladay had his standard Cy Young caliber year before being narrowly outdone in a classic Playoff matchup.

All-Division Team

Catcher: Brian McCann, Braves

First Base: Freddie Freeman, Braves

Second Base: Dan Uggla, Braves

Third Base: David Wright, Mets

Shortstop: Jose Reyes, Marlins

Left Field: Logan Morrison, Marlins

Center Field: Shane Victorino, Phillies

Right Field: Hunter Pence, Phillies

Starting Pitcher: Roy Halladay, Phillies

Starting Pitcher: Cliff Lee, Phillies

Starting Pitcher: Cole Hamels, Phillies

Starting Pitcher: Josh Johnson, Marlins

Righty Reliever: Tyler Clippard, Nationals

Best Players: Jonny Venters, Braves

Closer: Craig Kimbrel, Braves

Top 10 Players

1. Roy Halladay, Phillies

2. Cliff Lee, Phillies

3. Hanley Ramirez, Marlins

4. Jose Reyes, Marlins

Reyes rediscovered his healthy legs last year, and landed his first batting title as a result.

5. David Wright, Mets

6. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals

7. Cole Hamels, Phillies

8. Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins

9. Brian McCann, Braves

10. Craig Kimbrel, Braves

Lineup

  1. Marlins
  2. Braves
  3. Phillies
  4. Nationals
  5. Mets

Miami one of the most versatile lineups in the game, featuring multiple 50 steals candidates, 5 former All-Stars and two of the premier young talents in the game in the former Mike, now Giancarlo, Stanton. The Braves lineup had a down year as a whole last summer, but the potential to rebound is definitely there. The Phillies will have to go into survival mode being down both Ryan Howard and Chase Utley to start the year.

Rotation

  1. Phillies
  2. Marlins
  3. Nationals
  4. Braves
  5. Mets

This the best collection of rotations of any division in baseball. Halladay, Lee and Hamels would be the number one guy on nearly any other team in the game, yet they combine in Philly to be by far the best collection of arms in one city. They finished second, third and fifth, respectively, in last year’s NL Cy Young vote. Mark Buehrle and Gio Gonzalez join Miami and Washington to provide All-Star boost to growing rotations for each franchise.

Strasberg's return will feature an unparalleled mixture of expectation, but he won't be alone in carrying the weight.

1-2 Punch

  1. Phillies (Halladay & Lee)
  2. Nationals (Strasberg & Zimmerman)
  3. Marlins (Johnson & Buehrle)
  4. Braves (Hudson & Hanson)
  5. Mets (Santana & Dickey)

Halladay and Cliff combined to go 36-14 last year, with 14 complete games and 7 shutouts; dominant. Strasburg and Zimmermann have both had Tommy John surgery over the last two years, but the results both showed upon returning were very positive. Their potential should come into reality this summer. Much of the extent of how well the Marlins, Braves and Mets seasons go lay on the healthy returns of Josh Johnson, Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson and Johan Santana.

Bullpen

  1. Braves
  2. Nationals
  3. Phillies
  4. Marlins
  5. Mets

The backend of the Braves bullpen turns games into six inning affairs at best. Kimbrel had 46 saves and struck out 127 batters in 77 innings. Venters lowered his ERA from 1.95 to 1.84 and Eric O’Flaherty posted a 0.98 mark. In DC, Drew Storen, Brad Lidge and Tyler Clippard should be a very formidable group, and new closers Papelbon in Philly and Heath Bell in Miami bring solid new dynamics to their clubs.

Kimbrel set the rookie record for saves last year with 46, in addition to leading the Majors in relief strikeouts.

Tablesetters

  1. Marlins (Reyes & Bonafacio)
  2. Braves (Bourn & Prado)
  3. Phillies (Rollins & Polanco)
  4. Nationals (Desmond & Espinosa)
  5. Mets (Torres & Murphy)

Reyes led the league in hitting and triples last year, in addition to swiping 39 bases as a Met last year. Bonafacio stole 40 bags himself, and together they should be pure hell. Bourn has led the NL in steals the last two seasons. Him and Prado should make for one of the more potent hit and run combos in either league.

Heart of the Lineup

  1. Marlins (Ramirez/Stanton/Morrison)
  2. Braves (McCann/Uggla/Freeman)
  3. Nationals (Zimmerman/Werth/LaRoche)
  4. Mets (Wright/Davis/Bay)
  5. Phillies (Victorino/Pence/Wigginton)

When Hanley is healthy, very few players can do more than he does. Behind him is Stanton, and only A-Rod and Ken Griffey, Jr have hit more homers before the age of 22 than him. If the Mets can keep Wright, Ike Davis and Jason Bay on the field together in the newly redesigned Citi Field, it push the Mets into a competitive season. The Nats hope that year two of Jayson Werth payout the promise his contract reads out at.

If Wright (102 games in '11) and the rest of the middle of the Mets attack can stay healthy, they'll shake up the East.

Bench

  1. Phillies
  2. Marlins
  3. Mets
  4. Nationals
  5. Braves

The Phillies bench will be pushed early due to filling in for its injured starters, but Jim Thome and Juan Pierre provide great options for an offense that will need contributions from everywhere. All in all, no team is particularly deep offensively in the East, and an injury to the wrong starter on any club could change the direction of the entire division.

Defense

  1. Phillies
  2. Mets
  3. Braves
  4. Nationals
  5. Marlins

Pence, Victorino and John Mayberry are a very strong outfield, while Jimmy Rollins and Carlos Ruiz anchor a good infield collection as well. Andres Torres will cover the expansive outfields in New York well, while Davis and Wright are plus fielders as well. Michael Bourn covers more outfield than player in the game, and the Braves will benefit from it in his first full year in the A. The Marlins will have to hope Hanley Ramirez takes to his new position at third base quickly, and Emilio Bonafacio and Logan Morrison take big strides in the outfield soon.

Speed

  1. Marlins
  2. Mets
  3. Phillies
  4. Nationals
  5. Braves

Reyes and Bonafacio are the burners, but Ramirez, Logan Morrison and Chris Coghlan can spark the bases as well. Wright is the rare third baseman that can steal 20 bases, and even after losing Reyes, the Mets should be a very good running team.

Manager

  1. Charlie Manuel, Phillies
  2. Ozzie Guillen, Marlins
  3. Davey Johnson, Nationals
  4. Freddi Gonzalez, Braves
  5. Terry Collins, Mets

Charlie Manuel is trying to wrap up his sixth consecutive division title this year, and has pushed the Phillies to the best record in baseball the last two years, as well as a World Series title in 2008. For as colorful as he is, there’s probably no better scenario for Ozzie Guillen than leading an exciting, rebuilt Marlins team that can be pushed by his energy. The best is yet to come for him. Terry Collins is a good manager, and as much life as the Mets show, he’ll be able to maximize it.

Ozzie's aggressive style fits in perfectly with the approach the Marlins have put forth all winter, and should pay off well this summer.

Finances

  1. Marlins
  2. Nationals
  3. Phillies
  4. Braves
  5. Mets

The Marlins’ bottomless, Scrooge McDuck-style money pit was one of the stories of the offseason, and they have the resources to continue to make needed additions to the team throughout the year. The Nationals also have the funds, and prospects, to make additions needed to shift a potential pennant chase in their favor. The Phillies hands are tied by the uncertain number it will take to secure Cole Hamels past this year and Ryan Howard’s escalated, $25 million mark he’ll pull down this year.

Impact Additions

  1. Jose Reyes (Marlins from Mets)
  2. Jonathan Papelbon (Phillies from Red Sox)
  3. Heath Bell (Marlins from Padres)
  4. Mark Buehrle (Marlins from White Sox)
  5. Gio Gonzalez (Nationals from A’s)

Reyes was the first big signing of the offseason, and the Marlins #1 target in their aggressive rebuilding effort early on. Bell, Buehrle, and eventually, Carlos Zambrano followed suit soon after and reshaped the direction of a team that competed early last year before injuries and a lack of depth dropped them into the bottom of the division.

Breakthrough Candidates

  1. Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
  2. Lucas Duda, Mets
  3. Jason Heyward, Braves
  4. Brandon Beachy, Braves
  5. John Mayberry, Jr., Phillies

Before tearing his elbow up in 2009 and missing most of last year, StrasMania was at a fever pitch. This is the year to see what it can be about in full effect, despite an inning limit he’ll have to adhere too (most likely based on where the Nats are sitting in the pennant race). Jason Heyward had a brutal sophomore slump, but he’s still primed to become one of the game’s best hitters still. Lucas Duda is the type of low cost, high payout talent the cash and prospect deprived Mets have a desperate need to produce.

Rookies/Prospects to Watch

  1. Bryce Harper (Outfielder, Nationals)
  2. Randall Delgado (Pitcher, Braves)
  3. Zach Wheeler (Pitcher, Mets)
  4. Julio Teheran (Pitcher, Braves)
  5. Tyler Pastornicky (Shortstop, Braves)

Harper's the next "Next Big Thing" in DC;whenever he arrives he'll widen the Strasburg spotlight to shine on him as well.

Harper is baseball’s “Next Big Thing”, and for good reason. The 18 year old has shown he can dominate minor league comp and play solid, if slightly inconsistent, ball with the big boys. That inconsistency will start him in Triple A, but it’s going to be hard to leave him there all summer, even if the Nationals are technically “in need” of him. The Braves really need for Delgado or Teheran to live up to their top prospect billing, so they can round out a pitching staff that needs improvement on its bottom half.

2011 PROJECTION

  1. Phillies
  2. Marlins
  3. Braves
  4. Nationals
  5. Mets

The Phillies have run the East for the last half decade in part due to a brutal lineup that featured MVP winners in Rollins and Howard, and one of the game’s most productive overall players in Utley. More recently, it has been due to their dominant pitching staff taking the lead. This summer the weight of the world will be on that pitching staff and whatever the lineup can provide. The good news is if any team can live with this arrangement, it’s the Phillies; and as far as win and losses go, they probably won’t skip much of a beat. Halladay is the best pitcher in the game and Lee isn’t too far behind. Hamels is in a contract year, and will be auditioning for one of the biggest deals this upcoming winter. With yet another up and coming stud in Vance Worley joining them and a championship-level closer in Papelbon backing it all up, runs may be a luxury, but not a necessity, until Howard and Utley potentially return.

However, it won’t be a runaway by any means. The Marlins are bringing in a lot of new pieces, but are both undeniably experienced and developing major young talents at once. They easily have what it takes to throw the Phillies from their home atop the division, but their pitching staff will have to prove both healthy and consistent. Also their very shaky defense will have to step up as well. The same story goes for the Nationals; a well rounded on pitching staff on paper will have stay on the mound, and its stars have to produce and be healthy. The Braves are coming off of an epic collapse, and now have to face both a tougher division and a certain pitching staff/lineup at once. The Mets are still stuck in financial limbo and cannot add pieces to their team of much substance at all, let alone up to the level that their divisional mates can…and have.

However, for all that has changed, the end result will be the same. They won’t finish with the best record in the game for a third straight year and the margin of their championship finish will be the slimmest since 2008. But the Phillies will ride high in the East again. And you know what else happened last time they had to fight so hard for the regular season title?

A World Series one followed. Not predicting THAT yet, but foreshadowing is what is it is.

For more on where the MLB is headed this summer and in the moment, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

It’s been a busy year in the big time record breaking (and setting) department around Major League Baseball. Derek Jeter became the 28th member of the 3,000 hit club in July, and is rapidly climbing up the list still (he currently sits at 20th all-time in total hits). Jim Thome hit his 600th home run in August with the Minnesota Twins, and has since return to the Cleveland Indians where it all started for him back in 1991.

The record pace kept moving along yesterday, when the game’s most dominant closer of all-time, Mariano Rivera, notched his 600th save. He joined Trevor Hoffman has the only player to ever reach that level of game ending excellence, and by the end of the week he could be in solo waters once again. His 43rd save of the year would also be his 602nd of his career, moving him past Hoffman and making him the all-time saves King.

Rivera secured a milestone summer, but A-Rod and a few other Yankees have dates with big numbers soon.

So what’s next? Next season won’t be able to match this summer in career excellence coming to age before us in big, round “WOW” numbers. Apologies to Ivan Rodriguez and his prolonged attempt to be the first catcher to surpass 3,000 hits, but it’s not looking like that’s going to happen. But there are more than a few milestone markers that are in the sights of a few either potential or ticket-punched Hall of Famers. However, how many will be able to seal the deal and when could it come to pass? Here’s the magic numbers that could be met next summer, and what it would take to meet the mark.

 

200 WINS – One guy is guaranteed to hit the mark, and could do it before the All-Star. Roy Halladay sits at 186 wins today with two or three more 2011 starts remaining. That will put him most likely as needing 12 to 13 W’s to get to his next mile marker as a starter. With the way that Doc has pitched in his first two years in the NL and the Phillies standing to return another great club, he’ll hit this level easy. For prediction’s sake let’s say July 2012.

Outside shot: CC Sabathia and Tim Hudson. CC sits at 176 wins currently and saying he wins another two this year, it would still require a 22 win season to match it. If he stays in the Bronx, 22 wins are very possible, but it’s still a tough number to put an absolute on. Early 2013 (like his first two starts) is more likely. Hudson actually sits closer to the record than CC with 179 wins and plays for a good Braves club, but has only won more than 17 games twice, so early 2013 for him as well.

 

2,500 HITS – Ichiro is guaranteed to top it, and Bobby Abreu won’t be too far behind. Even after a step backwards (by his unreal standards) this year, he is still among the most productive hitters in the game. With his career mark sitting at 2,414 right now, he’ll get over 2,600 as well most likely. First things first, and by June, he’ll be past 2.5k. His division mate Abreu will continue to quietly accumulate more impressive numbers in his career as well, with 2,500 being the next. He’s at 2,374 and by August of next year, he’ll be at his next milestone.

Ichiro's slower production this summer won't throw his historic hit pace off too far.

Outside shot: Todd Helton has a chance, but it’s about how often he’s out there. His with good health, his current 2,363 hits and a few more set him up to meet an important number for his Hall of Fame candidacy next September.

 

2,000 HITS – A record eight players reached this mark in 2011 alone. Not quite that many will get there next summer, but it’s a clear shot for a few. Placido Polanco (1,956), Derrek Lee (1,944) and Carlos Beltran (1,900) will all pass it by midsummer; June for Polanco, July for Lee and Beltran.

Outside shot: Andruw Jones (1,881) and Jason Giambi (1,946) are close, but playing time is an issue, as neither is a regular at anymore.  Jimmy Rollins (1,848) has the best shot to make it with a combination of range and playing time opportunities, but health is his struggle and if his recent trend stays up, 2013 will be his time.

 

2,000 RBIAlex Rodriguez stands to jump a lot of Hall of Fame hurdles in route to becoming the 3rd player to meet the mark (the names Mays, Cobb, Musial, Gehrig and Bonds should be familiar among others), along with Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth. His career number will be over 1,900 after this season, and hitting in the heart of the Yankees order will get him the 100 RBI he’ll need by September.

 

That’s the best of what could be to come from next summer, and some of what to expect from 2013. However, the summer of ’13 has some big moments from the biggest names in store:

Entering his early 30's, Pujols will meet some rare numbers for full careers just past the halfway point of his.

–          500: Albert Pujols stands to hit this number in both home runs and doubles.

–          1,500: Once again, Pujols shows up here, as he’ll hit that level in RBI.

–          3,000: Alex Rodriguez will get to yet another big number in his career and get past the big number for career hits…but the focus will will be on…

–          700: A-Rod could conceively become the 4th player to smack this many home runs

–          Also…: Derek Jeter stands to enter the top 10 hitters of all-time this summer, which will require him to top Willie Mays’ 3,288 hits. At his current level, he could get as high as sixth all-time this summer.

 

Follow me on Twitter for more random rants, stats, thoughts and everything else Baseball and more at @CheapSeatFan.

There’s a world of nasty pitches in Major League Baseball. Unlike getting dunked on or getting ran over trying to make a tackle, one of the most embarrassing moments in all of sports doesn’t require any contact at all. However, the struggle to make it with a bat can be just as funny-awkward as either of those first two go downs.

The right pitch can be the ultimate humbler for even the most professional hitter (if you think back to the All-Star game two years ago, the #2 pitch on this list broke Albert Pujols down to his knees almost….but don’t skip ahead, wait for it). The type that is so nasty that you can see the quit in a guy’s eyes when it’s halfway there. Something that so disgusting that if a swing is raised against it, it more closely resembles what the receiving half of a Mike Tyson hook looked like in ’87.

The rule in baseball is to set up your pitches, take them out strategically and go for the kill. While nobody is exempt from that rule, these 10 pitches below could be thrown every time out and would still have guys not knowing exactly what to do (and one of them actually is). The scariest thing in sports is when you know exactly what’s coming, yet still can’t do anything about it. Here are 10 perfect examples of that (with a bit a video to prove it as well).

 

10. Johan Santana’s change-up: When he was younger, his fastball was snapping in the mid 90’s and he didn’t need much else to be a major problem. However, when he added this hopping slow ball that he threw with the same motion and look, but around 10 mph slower, folks might as well had two strikes when they came to bat already.

Before injuries slowed him, this change was the primary weapon in racking up five consecutive 200 strikeout years.

9. Cliff Lee’s cutter: It breaks in on the hands on left handers, and gives them fits trying to put it in play. However it may be nastier to face from the other side of the plate, where either gets them reaching to hit it straight into the ground, or just looking at it because it breaks outside late and keeps them looking at it like an art museum exhibit, like Cameron from Ferris Bueller.

8. Clayton Kershaw’s curveball: Kershaw has two main things working for him. He’s a rare truly hard throwing lefty and he has a pitch that hitters are worried about seeing before he unleashes it in this curve. His fastball is so good that he can usually save this as his knockout pitch, but the scariest thing about it is still developing…yet already this nasty.

7. Justin Verlander’s fastball: This is a simple one, but can also raise questions too. “How can a guy’s fastball be considered a great pitch? Everybody has one.” Well, I can count on one hand how many guys have one that is still as deadly in the 8th inning as the first, and is still checking in at 100 mph then as well. Verlander dabbles in other pitches time to time, but has fastballed his way to two no-hitters in his first six years.

6. Tim Lincecum’s curveball: This could be basically anything he let’s go from his hand, but let’s list the curveball just because of how it’s almost comical how it frustrates Major League hitters into taking tee ball-style swings at it. His twisting delivery hides the pitch until the last second, and it comes in looking just like his fastball or change-up until the last few seconds when it flashes across the whole plate. It’s what he usually goes to for strikeouts, and considering he’s led the National League in those the last three years, this will do for standing as his signature offering.

Few pitchers can dominate with one pitch the way Verlander does. But few can throw 100 mph for 100 pitches either.

5. Adam Wainwright’s curveball: You won’t be seeing this one this season with Waino out getting his arm worked on all summer, but don’t forget about how he’s hooked his way into two top 2 finishes in the Cy Young race the last two years with it. With his 6’6 frame and ridiculous accuracy, he drops this hammer down from what looks like about 60 feet in the air, and by the time it breaks guys are usually already stepping out the box pissed at themselves.

4. Zack Greinke’s slider: He throws his fastball in the mid 90’s, and then breaks out this “off speed” option only about 5 mph slower, so peace to any hitter who’s trying to decide what to wait on or what to take their hacks at here. No wonder several American League hitters called this baseball’s best pitch a few years ago while he used it to land the ’09 Cy Young. No doubt National Leaguers are now considering joining with that opinion as well.

3. Felix Hernandez’s fastball: Both his curve and change-up could easily be listed in this top 10 separately as well; however it’s his fastball, or balls, that take the lead simply because he throws both with equal ease and location. His primary heat touches 100 mph and can own the top of the strike zone, while his next second “slower” fastball stays in the mid 90’s and owns the bottom of the zone. He can win on some days just throwing two essentially basic pitches, but they are anything but that when coming from him.

With a two fastballs he can throw with pinpoint precision, that never stay straight, it's almost wrong he has any other tricks in his bag.

2. Roy Halladay’s sinker: I’m not exactly sure what to call this pitch. It looks like a slider sometimes, but falls off the Earth like a split-finger fastball. So for the purpose of listing it, I’ll call it a sinker, which is what it does with more heft than any other pitchers offering in the game. It stays dead straight before darting down towards the hitters knees at the last second, all while staying a strike the whole time. And what’s most deadly about it is that Doc somehow makes it move in and out with the same movement on both sides of the plate. But at least I’m not alone in being lost on figuring this thing out, his no-hitter followed by a Playoff perfect game, Cy Young National League debut proves that his opponents can’t either.

1. Mariano Rivera’s cutter: This isn’t just the best pitch in baseball now, it can make claim to being the best ever due to the fact it’s really all Mo has ever thrown, yet nobody can figure it out after 17 years. In career that has seen 10 seasons his ERA finishing under 2.00 and that is approaching 600 saves, he has thrown this brutally deceptive, smooth breaking fastball all the way to a certain place in Cooperstown. It works on both sides of the plate, and even right down the mid of it. It’s so good that it actually breaks the basic rule of left-handed batters hitting better against righties: lefties hit points lower against him for his career.

Mariano's one pitch is so good that it's made him an All-Star 11 times and sealed 5 World Titles on it's own. Nuff said.

For more on this, base to base and strike to strike, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

For the third consecutive week there is a change at the top as the young season sorts itself out, yet three of the top five spots feature teams that have remained there from the beginning of the season still. In a surprising turn, the AL Central remains the top division by representation in the top half of the poll, with 4 of it’s 5 teams ranked 12 or better, while it’s defending champ is nowhere to be found for quite a while. The ever-changing AL West is on the rise as well, while the NL Central continues to be a mess that changes it’s look daily.

Behind the combined effort of guys like Astrubal Cabrera (and his AL leading 14 RBI), the Indians are cruising.

Enough with the intros though, here’s how all 30 MLB teams are looking from the CHEAP SEATS, and which hitters and pitchers are the best at what they do currently below. (Sorry for the lack of pics, technical difficulties set in. Be better again next week)

1. Rockies (5): The hottest team in baseball makes a play to move to the top of the charts this week, which is what six wins in one week will do for you. Troy Tulowitzki is picking up right where he picked up last year, and what is most scary is that their ace Ubaldo Jimenez was on the DL the entire time. He returns this week, so their reign at the top may not be short lived.

2. Phillies (2): Cy Young…er…Roy Halladay is cruising along, and now Cliff Lee (3 hit, 12 strikeout shutout on less than 100 pitches vs. the Nationals) is getting into the act as well. However, will their advantage continue to be as potent as it is if Roy Oswalt’s back injury forces him to join the numerous other out of action Phils?

3. Yankees (4): Another weekend, another big series for the Bombers. This time they took some revenge out on the Rangers from last year’s ALCS loss, taking 2 of 3 last weekend. However, Alex Rodriguez had his first injury flare up of the season, so stay tuned to them as well.

4. Indians (7): The keep winning (an AL-high 11 wins), and thus remain as the biggest surprise of the young season. And now they sit upon the top of the AL Central, with their biggest talent in Grady Sizemore, returning to the lineup finally.

5. Angels (12): Dan Haren and Jared Weaver seem to have forgotten how to lose, and the Halos took  5 of 6 match ups with the White Sox and Indians this past week as a result.

6. Rangers (1): They fall from #1 after a tough week on the road against the Yanks and Tigers, losing both series. What’s more is than losing any of those games is that they lost MVP Josh Hamilton to a broken arm in the process. They have to rally to ensure this past week isn’t the constant result with him out the mix.

7. Royals (8): Is it too early to say what’s happening in Kaufmann is legit? After thumping Felix Hernandez around (5 runs in 5 innings) this weekend, and still not having lost a series yet this season, the time may be now for the Royals already.

8. Reds (6): They remain atop the bland NL Central, but after an easy early slate, tussle with the Cardinals (maybe literally…) and another showdown with the D’Backs await. An early proving ground is on deck for this club.

9. Giants (14): The steady rise of the champs continues, as they haven’t lost a series since the season opener vs. the Dodgers. They took 2 of the 3 against their old rivals last week in a rematch of that series for good measure.

10. White Sox (3): Home isn’t always where the heart is apparently. The Sox dropped 5 of 6 six games at the Cell last week, including two extra inning affairs with the A’s, before being swept by the red hot Angels over the weekend.

11. Marlins (18): The Fish stood their ground in matchups within the East last week, taking 3 of 5 against the Phillies and Braves, and showing they won’t be an easy out this year.

12. Tigers (24): Fortunes swung in the Tigers favor finally this season, and they won the close ones, building a four game winning streak of games decided by 2 or less runs.

13. Orioles (9): Ugly week for the O’s, dropping all five contests they took the field for, albeit against some tough comp in the Yanks and Indians. But 5 L’s is still 5 L’s.

14. Athletics (17): Their bats woke up some finally, and gave their pitchers a chance to win some games. They don’t need much support, and when they get it they don’t waste it.

15. Cardinals (26): Their west coast swing continued last week, with much better results overall in Arizona and LA. Lance Berkman and Albert Pujols combined for 10 homers to fuel a 5 win week, as they move into second place in the NL Central.

16. Nationals (23): A weekend sweep of the Brewers took the Nats over .500 and continued their early season success that’s made them one of the more surprising NL teams early.

17. Blue Jays (10): They had back-t0-back showdowns with struggling Boston and Seattle clubs, yet only 2 wins to show from it. Their pitching has the wake up, and in a hurry.

18. Brewers (13): What gives? After rounding into shape after a slugging start, the Brewers are right back where they began. A weekend sweep at the hands of the Nationals leaves them as one of the biggest question marks in baseball.

19. Braves (20): Freddi Gonzalez’s club can’t pull it together for any consistency so far, with a pair of two game winning streaks being the most the frequent efforts they’ve been able to muster so far.

20. Padres (19): San Diego is struggling to find their identity so far this year. They traded wins and losses all week after dropping their first two contests of the week against the Reds.

21. Dodgers (11): Matt Kemp’s walk-off home run on Sunday saved them from a four game sweep at home at the hands of the Cardinals, but they tumbled down the NL West standings last week during a five game losing streak.

22. Rays (30): After as bad of a start as can be imagined, with no offense to be spoken of, the Rays blew up on the scene last week. After a 16 run Monday in Boston, they began a 5 game winning streak that was sparked by a 3-homer week from Johnny Damon.

23. D’Backs (15): They lost and won slugfests vs. the Cardinals early in the week that more resembled an NFC West showdown between the two cities than National League baseball. That same offense alluded them in the weekend however, losing a series vs. the Giants.

24. Cubs (25): Scored an impressive win on Saturday, ending the Rockies 7-game winning streak, but it came in the midst of more inconsistency from the club. They alternated wins and loses all week, and continued to struggle to find an identity early on.

25. Red Sox (16): The Sox continued to try to find a way to remedy their early season woes, which even included benching Carl Crawford and hitting Jed Lowrie and J.D. Drew lead off. It’s still too early to panic, but it’s definitely time for some concern on what exactly is going on here.

26 . Pirates (21): The Bucs continue to spring some surprising victories (such as winning their weekend series against the Reds), but continue be just as liable to do that as they are to not show up entirely (outscored 10-1 in two L’s vs. the Brewers early in the week).

27. Mariners (29): They ended their 7-game skid with two wins versus the Jays, but then handed 3 of 4 to the Royals over the weekend as a follow up.

28. Astros (28): Still have managed to land consecutive victories all season, which explains why they remain in the cellar of the NL Central.

29. Mets (25): The 7-game losing streak the rode through most the week is the longest in the NL all year, and their offense could desperately use Jason Bay right about now, as he continues his minor league rehab work.

30. Twins (27): Paging Joe Mauer, Paging Joe Mauer….your Twins need you badly. They served as the “Get Right” match up for the Rays, who were in this spot last week, and have already bumped closer Joe Nathan from the ninth inning, after he has blown three games already with an ERA that’s over 8.00.

M-V-ME: The best of both Leagues thus far

N.L.: Troy Tulowitzki: The Rockies have taken off once again in the same style he finished last season in. His 7 home runs lead the Major Leagues, and he has been the catalyst in a seven-game win streak that has made Colorado the standard bearer in the West by 5 games.(Runners Up: Joey Votto, Matt Kemp)

A.L.: Alex Gordon: Is this what we’ve been waiting for here? After years of being heralded as the savior for the Royals, the second coming of George Brent even, Gordon is having a tremendous season. He is one of several KC bats that is filling up box scores nightly, but he gets the nod over all others because he is top 5 in average, FBI & runs scored, and leading in doubles. Considering he’d all but been left for dead coming into this year, this is a great sign for the guys in blue.(Runners Up: Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Cabrera)

KINGS OF THE HILL

N.L.: Roy Halladay. More of the same from Doc. He carried a shutout into the ninth inning against the Nationals before surrendering a few runs, but still held on for his first complete game victory of the year. Coming into play today his 1.23 ERA tops the NL.(Runners Up: Tim Lincecum, Clayton Kershaw)

A.L.: Jared Weaver. More of the same from Weaver, who is pairing with Dan Haren to be the most intimidating 1-2 punch in all of baseball so far. He became the first pitcher to reach 4 wins, and is in the top 5 of virtually every significant pitching stat.(Runners Up: Dan Haren, Josh Beckett)

Things shifted everywhere around the MLB during it’s first full week, as expected. A few favorites showing that they are who and what we thought they would be, while some upstarts have decided that the cellar either isn’t for them, or are just delaying the inevitable for a while longer. At any rate, this weeks poll continues to showcase huge leaps and bounds up the rankings from some quick starters, while a few teams are yet to kick into gear completely yet.

Kinsler and the Rangers are looking arguably better than they did at any point last year already.

Top looks basically the same and the back end has some usual suspects as well, however a few clubs (especially in the AL Central) are crashing the party in the high end parts of the polls. A few MVP candidates are keeping their teams in the drivers seat as expected, a brand new “Shame of the Nation” has dealt yet another blow to reeling expected contender and a even last week’s Cy Young pick couldn’t keep his guys from beginning to imitate last year already in all the worst ways possible.

Here’s the countdown, followed by MVP and Cy updates. As always, feel free to comment, rant and throw appropriate and salad-ready vegetables if you disagree…or agree. Basically, all contributions are welcomed.

1. Rangers (2): Nolan Ryan’s boys head to the top of the poll this week with a MLB-best 8 wins, and coming off a week featuring a sweep of the Mariners and a dominant weekend in Baltimore against the AL East leaders that featured a shutout and 13-run outburst.

2. Phillies (1): The Phils drop down a notch this week, but its due more to the Rangers efforts than a lack of results on their end. Their pitching continued to overwhelm as expected (2 shutouts) and Shane Victorino went off to a .464 clip versus the Mets and Braves.

3. White Sox (5): A split against a tough Royals club, followed by taking three of four against the reeling Rays move the Sox up the polls. Paul Konerko (.417 week)  joined Carlos Quentin in the Southside power surge that is still awaiting Adam Dunn to rejoin it.

4. Yankees (3): The Yanks offense became a bit inconsistent, showing a Saturday outburst to drop the Red Sox, but then followed it up by being limited to a two-hit shutout a night later as they dropped two of their first three showdowns with their arch nemesis’ in Boston.

5. Rockies (12): The Rockies break into the the drivers seat in the NL West and into the top five of this poll after a three win weekend series over the Pirates after slowing the Dodgers’ momentum to kick off the week for a 5-1 showing.

6. Reds (4): An up and down week for the NL Central leaders, outscoring the Astros 20-6 in the first two games of their week opening series, but then being outdone by the D’Backs to the tone of 29-11 in the weekend series. Joey Votto (.455 avg) is doing his part as defending-MVP however.

7. Indians (28): The surprise of all of baseball so far, they swept both the Red Sox and Mariners last week, in route a having a current seven-game winning streak and control of the AL Central. They have a challenging week on deck however, with a trip to the Angels and hosting the Orioles over the weekend. Time to show and prove.

8. Royals (11): The Royals “World’s Of Fun” start to 2011 continued this week, taking two more games to extra innings with the White Sox (winning one and losing another), followed by taking two of three from the Tigers over the weekend. Has Alex Gordon FINALLY shown up the party for good? His .357 average and 15 hits are a prime reason for the Royals early boom.

9. Orioles (9): The O’s stay at the top of the AL East despite having a unenviable weekend versus the Rangers, where they were outscored 16-1 during two losses, but managed to shutout their powerful lineup behind a great Derek Holland start on Saturday.

10. Blue Jays (10): The Jays played tight match ups in Anaheim and Oakland on the first leg of their west coast swing this weekend, but with Jose Bautista back for good now from a brief personal absence, they’ll be in better shape for the Mariners and Red Sox this week.

11. Dodgers (7): A sweep in Colorado knocked the Dodgers off of their opening weekend high versus the Giants, but they rebounded to take two of three from the Padres, cued by a strong outburst from Matt Kemp, who looks primed for a great post-Rihanna season (if that’s possible).

12. Angels (24): There will be more on Jared Weaver a little later, but two outstanding starts from him erased any possible hangover from their tough start in KC last week, and Dan Haren added in two wins of his own, as the Angels top starters were as good as advertised versus two tough AL East opponents.

13. Brewers (19): The Brewers jump back into the fray behind huge weekends from Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun, taking four of six last week, including a sweep of the Braves.

14. Giants (15): The Giants got their World Series rings over the weekend and two tight late inning victories over the Cardinals as well, notching two walk-off victories during their homecoming.

15. D’Backs (21): They took the fight to a tough Reds club and showed that their lineup may be turning the corner from it’s swinging-and-miss ways of the past already. Miguel Montero’s .500 start to the year (13 for 26) is paving the way for this effort.

16. Red Sox (6): Hard to say if their early slide is over after last week’s showings, which were an impressive series win at home versus the Yankees, but an ugly 3-0 sweep at the hands of the Indians. I’m betting this will be as low as they are on this poll all year though.

17. A’s (14): As expected, their pitching is ready to win now (3 or less runs in five of six games), but their offense isn’t giving them anything to win with so far (3 games of one or less runs).

18. Marlins (26): The Fish didn’t play the strongest slate last week (the Nationals and Astros), but they took two of three in both series, and won the gimme games that you need headed into a week versus the Phillies and Braves.

19. Padres (13): Rough week in the division for the Pads, splitting a series with the Giants and losing another to the Dodgers. They had trouble scoring runs against their tough pitching staffs, and since this will be the case for every division match up they have all summer, they better find a way to make more contact or else…

20. Braves (8): At the end of an awful week against some tough opponents in Milwaukee and Philly, the Braves find themselves at the bottom of the East. For some teams, losing to this calibur of opponent would be acceptable, but not for a team expect to contend with both of these clubs for the Wild Card and Division championships, respectively.

21. Pirates (20): Good start to the week, surprisingly taking a series in St. Louis, but probably got a reality check while losing three of four to the Rockies over the weekend. Enjoy it while it lasts Buccos.

22. Cubs (same): They lost three games by one run, but also got shutout a the hands of the Brewers #4 starter Chris Narveson as well. They have to find a way to get the big hit when needed if they want to make an impact in a wide open NL Central.

23. Nationals (27): Both Jordan & Ryan Zimmerman (no relation) cued a surprisingly strong week on the mound and at the plate for the Nats, as they won three contests, including two in extra innings.

24. Tigers (16): The Tigers are playing basically every hot club in the AL right now, but still have a to find a way to beat teams they are more talented than. They didn’t do that last week against the Orioles or Royals.

25. Mets (18): Dropping two against the Phillies is alright. Losing two against the Nationals at home isn’t.

26. Cardinals (23): The offense isn’t scoring and the bullpen isn’t supporting. When those things don’t happen you don’t win too often. And those two elements are the two biggest features of the Cardinals’ young season. Perhaps the return of Matt Holliday this week can fix part of that equation.

27. Twins (28): The two-time defending AL Central champs still can’t get into the swing of it all yet this year, literally. Their pitchers held the Yanks in check, but still dropped two of three by one run. That tendency followed them into the weekend, where they dropped another two games by one run to the A’s, by scores of 2-1 and 1-0.

28. Astros (30): They rise out of the cellar due to taking wins against the Reds and Marlins, but are greatly assisted in this effort by the next club’s futility…

29. Mariners (17): The M’s have dropped a week of consecutive games now, with the Indians and Rangers picking up some quick gimme games. This weeks showdowns with the Blue Jays and Royals don’t look to alleviate these issues anytime soon. But there’s always Felix…if they score for him.

30. Rays (25): The bad times keep getting worse for the Rays. After already losing Evan Longoria, this week they lost Manny Ramirez, permanently. The controversial slugger retired midweek after being popped for steroids for a second time. In the process they dropped five games the Angels and White Sox. You gotta pray Tampa, that’s about all I can offer about now.

M-V-ME:

N.L.: Ryan Howard-Phillies: For the second week in a row Howard holds the pole position here. He’s yet to have that huge two or three homer game you just know he’s gonna have, but so far he’s carrying the Phils offense w/o Chase Utley to support him & is tied for the NL lead in RBI, along with a .361 average. Not bad for a guy known has the biggest all or nothing hitter in the game. (Runners up: Joey Votto & Prince Fielder)

Ryan Howard

A.L.: Nelson Cruz-Rangers: Any number of bats could be cued as the catalyst to the Texas outburst to start the season, but Cruz has been the most devastating of them all thus far. He leads the Majors with 5 homers thus far, including 4 in the first four games of the season. With the tablesetters in front of him, he could run away with the RBI title this year & is one short of the AL lead already. (Runners Up: Paul Konerko, Miguel Cabrera)

KINGS OF THE HILL

N.L.: Roy Halladay-Phillies: What a surprise here. There’s a lot of guys having excellent starts in the N.L., but Doc is basically cruising along still & gives off the idea he hasn’t even kicked it into gear all the way yet. With one walk & 13 strikeouts in his first 13 innings, and a 0.69 ERA (4th in the league), he’s primed for yet another lights out year.

A.L.: Jared Weaver-Angels: Last year, he pitched into a lot of hard luck & notched only 13 wins for his efforts, despite leading the Majors in strikeouts. After Sunday’s 15-strikeout effort he’s back a top that category again, but has 3 wins in 3 starts to show for it, proving that sometimes it’s just easier to handle it yourself. After giving up only 2 runs in his first 20.2 innings this year, Weaver is proving the “I in win” theory quite true. (Runners Up: Felix Hernandez, Dan Haren)

Jared Weaver