Diamond Update

May 25, 2011

May 25, 2011
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Around the Horn

Time to Assess A.L. races
Now with the quarter pole comfortably behind us, it’s time to reassess the American League divisional races. Next week, we’ll examine the National League.

Clearly, the biggest surprise in baseball has been the Cleveland Indians. Few experts saw this coming. The question now is whether the Indians can maintain their hot start. The answer here is ‘yes.’ Although some injuries are beginning to take a toll, Cleveland has enjoyed success without stars Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo contributing like they are capable. A deep bullpen can keep the Tribe in games even when the lineup may slump. Detroit appears to be the only team that will challenge Cleveland in the AL Central.

Yes, the Red Sox have officially recovered and will win the AL East. It will be interesting to watch the Tampa Bay-New York race for second place. Age and a lack of starting pitching may catch up to the Yankees this summer. However, the Yankees certainly have the resources to overhaul their roster during the season. The Rays don’t.

Expect Texas to take control out West. The Rangers have weathered the storm without stars Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz. Jered Weaver and Dan Haren could not have been much better over the first six weeks, and the Angels are still laboring behind their rivals from Texas.

Trivia Corner
There are two pitchers on current 40-man rosters who have led their leagues in ERA, wins and strikeouts at some point in their careers. Can you name the two aces?
(Answer below)

Athlon Spotlight
The New Tommy John Surgery?

Soon baseball fans may become familiar with the term Bartolo Colon Surgery in much the same way we have referred to ligament replacement surgery as Tommy John Surgery.

The 2005 AL Cy Young winner struggled mightily in 2008-09 before missing all of 2010 after elbow surgery.
Colon underwent a stem cell procedure last year in his native Dominican Republic. Stem cells were taken from Colon’s bone marrow and fat tissue and were injected into his elbow and shoulder to help repair damaged ligaments and a torn rotator cuff.

MLB has “investigated” the procedure, not because of concerns over the procedure itself, but one of the physicians assisting with the procedure has advocated the use of HGH in his non-athlete patients.
Steroids and HGH can easily be obtained legally in the Dominican, and MLB remains on high alert trying to rid the game of performance enhancing drugs.

While this procedure is legal, stem cell procedures remain in their infancy. But this new procedure reminds us that the line between injury treatment and recovery, and performance enhancing is becoming a little more blurry.

Many pitchers from the 1950s and ’60s might argue that ligament replacement surgery is performance enhancing.

We may soon witness more and more athletes opting for this radical new procedure rather than choose early retirement, or even mediocre results.

What’s in a Nickname?
Born during the Civil War in Houcktown, Ohio, William Ellsworth Hoy lost his hearing and his ability to speak as a result of childhood meningitis. After attending the Ohio State School for the Deaf, Hoy went on to enjoy a fine 14-year major league career. Hoy owns the distinction of hitting the first grand slam in American League history in 1901 while playing for the AL champion Chicago White Sox. An indication of the world 100 years ago, the deaf-mute Hoy went by Dummy Hoy throughout his career. He passed away in 1961 five months shy of his 100th birthday.

AL Player of the Week
Kevin Youkilis, Boston

Youkilis batted an even .500 for the week with four doubles, a triple and homer for a slugging percentage of .950. Swinging a red-hot bat, Youk led the red-hot Red Sox to a 5-1 mark. He scored five runs, drove home seven and had an OPS of 1.543.

AL Pitcher of the Week
Michael Pineda, Seattle

The rising star for the Mariners won both starts last week by tossing 14 scoreless innings. He allowed just five hits and walked one batter while setting 16 down on strikes. His WHIP and ERA led all pitchers who made two starts.

NL Player of the Week
Yadier Molina, St. Louis

The rock-solid catcher with a cannon arm led the majors in batting last week with a .565 average. He has now raised his average to .333 for the season, good enough for fifth in the league. His weekly total of 13 hits was tied for best in the majors.

NL Pitcher of the Week
Jake Westbrook, St. Louis

Having struggled through most of the first six weeks, Westbrook turned in two brilliant starts last week. His 0.60 ERA led all National League pitchers who made two starts. In 15 innings, he walked six, gave up eight hits and struck out four while defeating the Phillies and Royals.

Numbers Game
1986   The last year that a 40-year-old hit three home runs in game before Jason Giambi of the Rockies pulled off the hat trick against the Phillies last week. Reggie Jackson of the Angels was the last to do so 25 years ago.
    23    RBIs for the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez in his 18 career plate appearances following a batter who was intentionally walked. He is 7-for-13 with three home runs in such situations.
      0    Wins this year for Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez, who is 0-4 with 5.44 ERA. At this time last season, he was 8-1 with a 0.99 ERA.
    21    Wins for the National League and American League during the first weekend of Interleague play. Eight of the 14 series were played in AL ballparks.
      7    Runs given up by the Seattle pitching staff in seven games last week. The Mariners won six, losing only a 2-1 decision to the Twins.

Turn Back the Clock
May 26, 1959

Pittsburgh’s Harvey Haddix tosses 12 perfect innings, but loses the game in the 13th. An error, a sacrifice bunt by Hall of Fame slugger Eddie Mathews and an intentional walk to Hank Aaron lead to an apparent walk-off home run by Joe Adcock. As Aaron rounds second, he leaves the field, Adcock passes him, and both are called out after Felix Mantilla crosses the plate. Officially, the score is 1-0 and Adcock is credited with a double. The Braves’ Lew Burdette scatters 12 hits over 13 innings for the complete game shutout.

Trivia Answer: Jake Peavy and Johan Santana.

<p> Players of the Week, Reassessing the American League races, Numbers Game and more.</p>
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