Diamond Update

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Around the Horn
Tulowitzki: Total Package

By the time Troy Tulowitzki earns $20 million for a season in 2015, there will be at least 13 other players who have reached that milestone before him. But few, if any, of them will provide more value than the Colorado shortstop.

Tulowitzki won’t turn 27 until October and just signed a seven-year, $134 million contract extension last season. The Tulowitzki tote board shows the Rockies committed to paying their star shortstop $153.75 million through 2020, a season in which Tulowitzki will be just 35.

Is he worth it? You bet he is. Tulowitzki is the total package. He’s the Rockies’ cleanup hitter who also hits for average, plays Gold Glove defense at a premium position, and is the team’s best leader. He is outspoken when necessary in the clubhouse and comfortable in that role. He has quickly become the new face of the franchise.

If you’re looking for numbers to provide proof of Tulowitzki’s value, over his last 75 games since returning from a broken wrist last July, Tulowitzki is hitting .331 with 25 home runs and 75 RBIs. He’s slugging .672 with an OBP of .407 giving him an OPS of 1.079.
That’s more than just a hot streak; 75 games provides a large enough sample to understand what kind of play Tulowitzki can be when healthy.

Bats Make Difference
The Cleveland Indians are off to their best start since 2002. While it’s only 15 games — less than 10 percent of the season — the first couple of weeks of the season have a way of setting the tone for the rest of the year.

Much has been made over the improved pitching. And the staff has been much better, statistically. The bullpen’s ERA is down about a run a game over last season.

But the real difference has been the Indians’ bats. After 15 games last season the Indians had scored 45 runs and given up 50 and were 7-8. This season Cleveland has given up 50 runs but scored 79. Big difference. An extra two runs per game will alleviate a ton of pressure on a thin pitching staff.

Patience is a Virtue
The St. Louis Cardinals’ offense made an abrupt turnaround halfway through the first 16 games.

A more patient approach has yielded positive results for Tony La Russa’s charges.

You might think that a more patient approach is all about taking more walks. But that’s not the case. The Cardinals’ approach has been about making pitchers work and getting pitches to hit and being aggressive with those pitches.

Over the first eight games, opposing starting pitchers completed six innings in all but two games, and never threw more than 100 pitches. In contrast, over the next eight games, St. Louis knocked out starters much earlier. Only twice did starters complete six innings, and three times the opposing hurlers didn’t even complete five.

Surprisingly, the Cardinals’ walks went down from 30 in the first eight games to 23 over the next eight. And strikeouts went up. That’s right, St. Louis hitters actually struck out 11 more times over the last eight games.

But the important results are overwhelming. After getting 12 hits in the opener, St. Louis didn’t reach double digits in hits until game nine. That began a streak of seven straight. The Cardinals increased their output from a little more than seven hits a game to almost 14. And the runs came in bunches as well, almost tripling from 21 to 67.

Penny Wise
David Price // (Age 25) // SP

Tampa Bay // Contract: 6 years, $11,250,000
The Rays astutely signed the first pick in the 2007 draft to a six-year deal, which will pay him $1.25 million this season and $1.5 million next year. The Cy Young candidate becomes arbitration eligible in 2013, which should earn the lefthander a sizeable raise.

Dollar Foolish
Carlos Lee // (34) // OF

Houston // Contract: 6 years, $100,000,000
If this had been a three-year deal, the Astros could claim a nice bargain. Houston signed the hefty outfielder in 2007 and Lee delivered three solid seasons. However, last year his average dipped to .246 and his on-base percentage to .291. He’s hit just one homer and is due $18.5 million this season and next. The team had the foresight to include a minimal weight clause, but Lee — generously listed at 265 — has somehow managed to make weight.

AL Player of the Week
Johnny Damon, Rays

The Rays’ lineup was gutted over the offseason, and the team responded with the signing of Damon and former Red Sox teammate Manny Ramirez. The Ramirez deal has blown up ending with Manny retiring, and to make matters worse, stalwart Evan Longoria has been lost to an oblique injury. Never fear Rays fans, Damon drove in the winning run in five consecutive games, including a couple of walk-off wins.

AL Pitcher of the Week
Josh Beckett, Red Sox

The Red Sox struggles have been well chronicled. Boston, heavily favored to win the AL pennant, ended the week with the worst record in the league. Beckett’s recent performances have been encouraging. In two starts, Beckett tossed 15 innings and allowed just five hits and three walks. He whiffed 19 and had an ERA of 0.60 and a WHIP of 0.53.

NL Player of the Week
Lance Berkman, Cardinals

The Big Puma quickly endeared himself to his new teammates with his affable personality during spring training. Over the past week, he’s impressed teammates with his bat. Berkman slugged six home runs and drove in 12. He scored nine runs while batting .476.

NL Pitcher of the Week
Kyle Lohse, Cardinals

With ace Adam Wainwright out for the season, Lohse has picked up some of the slack. He won his two starts last week, going 15.1 innings and walking just one batter. He gave up 11 hits for a WHIP of 0.78 and an ERA of 1.76.

Farm Report
Anthony Gose, of, Blue Jays

Originally in the Phillies’ system, the 20-year-old Gose is one of the youngest players in Double-A. He’s struggled out of the gate, stealing two bases in the first game but none since. Three of his eight hits in 40 at-bats came in one game.

Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B, Indians
Considered the third baseman of the future for Cleveland, Chisenhall is experiencing growing pains in his first season at Triple-A. Chisenhall, who bats left-handed, is just 2-for-22 against southpaw pitching.

Zack Cox, 3B, Cardinals
Cox, at high Class-A Palm Beach, is hitting .310, but has just one extra-base hit. He’s still two years away from St. Louis.

Numbers Game
       5   Different teams for which Johnny Damon has hit a walk-off home run.

     17   Seasons that Chipper Jones has homered at least once against the New York Mets, joining Willie Stargell and Mike Schmidt.

       2   Triples this season by Houston’s Carlos Lee. His career high is three set in 2001. He has but one home run this season. His   career high in homers is 37 set in 2006.

  .341   OPS of Carl Crawford, which is last in the majors among the 199 players who qualify. Signed to a seven-year, $142 million contract over the winter, the career .295 hitter is batting .133.

       4   Wins each for Angels Dan Haren and Jered Weaver. They are the only pitchers in baseball with four wins as of April 17.


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