2009 MLB National League Central Notebook
No one is going to confuse these Pittsburgh Pirates from the Barry Bonds era Pirates. But the 9-6 start is kind of rare around the steel town.
It has been 16 seasons since Pittsburgh finished a season with a winning record. To be three games above .500 is also noteworthy. The Pirates have been this far above .500 for only the fourth time since 1993.
They were also there in 1994, 1997, 1999 and 2002. As for the starts, this is the best one since the 2002 team began 2002. Last year, Pittsburgh began 7-8. The Pirates were 6-9 in 2007 and 4-11 in 2005 and 2006.
Frankly, the pitching has carried the day. The Pirates’ 3.07 ERA leads the National League as does their 10 quality starts. Equally impressive is that the staff has allowed only 115 hits in 132 innings this season.
It’s led by Paul Maholm and Zach Duke. Each has averaged well over six innings in each of his starts and has an ERA of less than 3.00. Maholm’s is a miniscule 2.03.
One reason why expectations are low for the Astros this year is because they are baseball’s oldest team.
The average age of this ballclub is 30 years and one month. No other team is above 30. The New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies and Toronto Blue Jays have an average age of more than 29 years.
But the Astros don’t have the oldest player in the game. Philadelphia left-hander Jamie Moyer is 46.
While Dusty Baker has found new life in managing back in Cincinnati, Cub fans aren’t willing to forget his tenure in the Windy City from 2003-06. He went 322-326 the culminated in a 66-96 debacle in 2006.
Yes, Baker had the Cubs on the brink of getting to the World Series in 2003 before blowing a NLCS lead to Florida.
But the Baker era ended in frustration and ultimately his dismissal, especially in light of the rise and fall of right-handers Mark Prior and Kerry Wood.
When the Reds went to Chicago to play the Cubs earlier in the week, Baker was booed heavily for every time he made a pitching change.
Ryan Braun has turned into quite a young player for the Brewers. The 2007 National League Rookie of the Year has been nothing short of consistent.
Remember last year, the left fielder signed an extension because he said he wasn’t concerned about a big contract. He just wanted a contract that was fair.
And so he has rewarded GM Doug Melvin with an errorless streak of 164 games. He also produced his first 5-for-5 game of the season on April 21 at Philadelphia and is hitting .327 with four home runs and 11 RBIs.
Kyle Lohse was figured to be a journeyman right-hander when the Minnesota Twins, Cincinnati and Philadelphia gave up on him.
But since Lohse came to the Cardinals and began working with pitching coach Dave Duncan last year, he’s been different. On April 23, Lohse went to 3-0 this season with a win over the Mets.
Lohse has been pretty tough at home. In his first season plus, he is 11-2. For his career with the Cardinals, he is 18-6. That pushed his career record to 81-80.
Lohse always carried a reputation as a pitcher who was hard to work with. That appears no longer the case.
Everything about the Reds’ offense is poor. In all of the important categories – batting average, runs, slugging percentage and on-base percentage – the ballclub ranks either 14 th, 15 th or last in the National League.
So how was this club 9-6 going into the weekend series with Atlanta?
Probably good fortune more than anything else. But there has been some timely hitting with this team as well.
By Kevin Lonnquist
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