2009 MLB American League East Notebook
Once again, the quiet leader and MVP for Tampa Bay is shortstop Jason Barlett. While many remember the key figures in the trade between the Rays and Minnesota before 2008 involved outfielder Delmon Young and right-hander Matt Garza, Bartlett was also involved.
He turned out to be the Rays 2008 MVP. Now, he's doing it again. Barlett is third in the American League batting race at .384 going into the week and was hitting close to .500 over the last couple of weeks. Plus, he is basically the offensive leader in just about every offensive category among AL shortstops including home runs, RBIs, slugging percentage, stolen bases and on-base percentage.
Bartlett is also fourth among AL shortstops in fielding. In short, he has become the leader for a team that owns some dynamic personalities including Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and Scott Kazmir.
The trend for the Orioles this year is a team that can get off to great starts but then fizzles at the end. Consider that through the first three innings of a game this year, the Birds have outscored their opponents, 92-70.
But in the final three innings, it's a disaster. The Orioles have been outscored, 66-41. That figure includes extra innings. So it doesn't take much smarts to understand that when the Orioles are trailing in a game after eight innings this year, they are 0-20.
The only time the Orioles won a game after the eighth inning was when the game was tied. And for good measure, the Orioles have not rallied to win a game after seven innings. That's an 0-20 record as well.
Is veteran left-hander Andy Pettitte really the last hope in this era to get to 300 wins? San Francisco's Randy Johnson is sitting at 298 and will get it this year. Philadelphia's Jamie Moyer is at 249 and going for 250 Wednesday at Cincinnati. But he's 46, so it's hard to think he can make it.
Pettitte picked up his 219th win on May 18 against Minnesota. It seems likes it's going to take a lot of endurance and fortune for Pettitte to reach that milestone. At 37, his career is on the other side. But he could have about five or six more seasons in him depending on his physical condition and ability to keep his team in ballgames.
In his start against the Twins, Pettitte has lasted at least six innings for the seventh time in his first eight starts. Pettitte's shortest was 5 2/3 innings May 1 against the Angels.
It's hard not to talk about David Ortiz when he is becoming quite the story for the Red Sox. Manager Terry Francona sat Ortiz for this past weekend's series at Seattle.
Ortiz was expected to return to the lineup for the Toronto series this week, but the concerns about what is really in store for his season. The Red Sox should consider dropping him lower in the order because he is just not the run producer he was.
The homerless streak is at a career-high 144 at-bats. His slugging percentage was at a woeful .300, while his on-base percentage was .318. It's hard to fathom how a power hitter just "lost it" but this is beyond the concern stage for the Red Sox.
While the early attention for the Blue Jays' climb into first place was because of the offense, the complimenting part is how well this team has caught the baseball.
Toronto is second in the American League in fielding at .987. The team has committed 20 errors, which is the fourth fewest in the league. However, the surprising statistic from all of this is that there has been no error committed by a shortstop. That's 195 chances in the first 41 games between Marco Scutaro and John McDonald.
Second baseman Aaron Hill and third baseman Scott Rolen have combined to commit nine. Thus far, the Blue Jays have surrendered 14 unearned runs. That's a pretty good total through first 25 percent of the season and would project to an amazingly low 56 for the season.
By Kevin Lonnquist
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