The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Homestand Slide, Donuts, and Barry Below .400

Yesterday concluded the Marlins third homestand of the 2004 campaign. This six game set was not the Marlins most successful of the season – they won three games and lost three others. Many fans have been quick to note that the Fish should have won Tuesday night’s game against the Dodgers (which they lost in extra innings after at least three defensive miscues) and Saturday night’s game against the Padres (lowlighted by three strike outs in a row in the sixth inning with the bases loaded).

There were, however, a number of highlights during the week: Alex Gonzalez and Ramon Castro hit well during Sunday’s game, possibly indicating that both are poised to break out of their (so-far) season long slumps. A few more games like they had yesterday and Gonzalez and Castro may get out of I-95 and Mendoza line territory.

Other than that, there were Krispy Kreme giveaways twice this week (each time the Marlins record 12 hits at home, everyone with a ticket gets a free dozen donuts). I was fortunate enough to partake in this after yesterday’s game. Although, I must admit that I felt a little guilty about it. The Marlins ended up with a total of exactly twelve hits, and the twelfth came on a Juan Pierre ground ball to the second baseman which was thrown into the Marlins dugout. The official scorer credited Pierre with an infield single and Juan took second base on the throwing error. This was questionable at best, and simply playing to the “we want donuts” chanting crowd at worst. The Marlins had eight hits through the first two innings and at that point the donuts seemed like a lock. But they only managed four hits over the last six innings in which they batted, and for a long time were stuck on eleven for the game.

Despite the disappointing homestand, the Marlins are still 18 – 13 with a two game lead over their Eastern Division foes. The Phillies are surging right now and the Marlins are struggling, relatively at least. I suppose it’s still early to tell whether the Marlins are playing below their abilities and the Phillies are playing above them, or if the trends we’ve seen over the past two weeks are indicative of what we are likely to see over the remainder of the season.

This week should be another challenging week for the Marlins, with visits to Houston and St. Louis on the schedule (interestingly, the Marlins will not face an Eastern Division rival until the Mets come to Miami beginning on May 28th. By that time, the Marlins will have gone more than a month – since April 26th – and will have played 29 games since matching up against and intra-division foe). The marquee matchup of the week comes tomorrow night when new Astros ace (or possibly co-ace) Roger Clemens faces off against Brad Penny. For the Marlins and Clemens this is a rematch from last year’s World Series, where Clemens pitched well, but where the Marlins prevailed.

In other areas around baseball, the White Sox were swept over the weekend by the Blue Jays in Toronto. While the Sox remain tied for first place with the Twins, this is probably a little misleading. To date, the Twins have suffered numerous injuries and have played a relatively tough schedule. The White Sox have also been extraordinarily lucky – winning ten of eleven one run games. It is highly unlikely that the Sox will continue to be able to win one-run games at such a pace (particularly if Billy Koch continues to pitch like the Billy Koch of 2003 and not the Billy Koch of 2002 or earlier).

You probably also noticed that Barry Bonds was noticeably absent from baseball headlines, or at least the superlatives, last week. To recap the week’s Bonds highlights: Bonds missed a few games with a sinus infection, and then ran off an 0-for-15 stretch at the plate. Barry also managed to work in some unusual interviews where he talked about retiring, advertising on the bases, and other subjects (although I must admit that I preferred Phil Mushnick’s take on the Spiderman flap; Phil pretty much said it was silly – that the kids who could see the logos on the bases at the stadium would obviously be superheroes – with extraordinary vision – or aliens, and not the traditional target market that these advertisers would be looking for). He was still walked 14 times during the 0-for-15 stretch, which was as much a testament to his other worldly abilities as the ineptitude of the men that surround Bonds in the lineup, giving him an onbase percentage of .483. Incredible.

What was lost in this cold streak by Bonds recently was that his batting average has now dipped, for the first time since April 11th, below .400. A few weeks back, many people were writing that Bonds was a near lock to hit .400 for the season. The most commonly cited reason for this was that Bonds was locked in and would need a record low number of hits to accomplish the feat (since he is walked so much). While true, this analysis often failed to mention that the downside to being walked so much – in terms of it improving your ability to hit .400 – is that a fairly small number of at bats can quickly bring your average below .400, as the 0-for-15 slide did to Bonds over the weekend. Sure, Barry could still hit .400 for the season – another tear like he started the year on and we’ll probably be talking about if he can hit .450 or .500 and not just .400.


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