Welcome friends and baseball fans to another edition of This Week in Small Market Baseball. This week, we tackle the Pirates, the Nationals, the A’s, the Twins, and the Cleveland Indians, so let’s jump right onto the diamond and hit the bases.
- - Pirates’ starter James McDonald is having a solid season despite his team’s offensive struggles. He is 2-2 on the year with a 2.42 ERA and 39 strike-outs over 44.2 innings pitched. Still, the 27-year-old righty deserves better, as he’s allowed 3 earned runs or less in all 7 of his starts and has taken a loss or a no-decision in 5 of those. He can blame the offensively challenged Pirates who are last in Major League Baseball with only 89 runs scored in 32 games. You can’t win a lot of games when the offensive can’t give you at least 3 runs scored.
- - Just when I was ready to admit that Bryce Harper had become the mature player that I had previously said he needed to grow into, he proves me right. His leap to the majors has been successful, minus the power that will come, but his ability was never the question. He has shown the need to become more professional and on Friday night, he showed why he still has a long way to go. Harper took a strike-out badly and decided to take his frustration out of the dugout wall. The only problem was that this was the one time he didn’t have good bat control, and the bat rebounded off the wall and clocked him in the melon. The subsequent wound required 10 stiches to close up and cost Harper a little bit of the luster from his star. Hopefully it is a lesson learned because Kevin Brown and Amare Stoudemire are horrible role models for a young player.
- - Think the Tigers are wishing that they had waited out Brandon Inge’s struggles? The third baseman, now with Oakland, has 4 home runs and 17 RBI in 10 games since joining the A’s. More impressive is the streak he is on, with 4 RBI or more in four of the last five games he’s played. Inge is still batting only .197 on the season, but he’s been a solid boost for an A’s line-up looking for a power bat.
- - At 29-years-old, Joe Mauer should be entering the prime of his career, yet he is starting to look like his best years are behind him, with a .274 average and just 7 extra-base hits in his first 113 at-bats. Since signing the biggest contract in club history prior to the 2010 season, Mauer has played in just 250 games, hitting .308 with a total of 13 home runs and 120 RBI. Granted, he’s had trouble staying healthy through the last two seasons, but his lack of power makes paying $23 million a season to an Ichiro type hitter a bit much. It was a contract that the Twins needed to sign in order to show the fans that they were committed to fielding a winner, but six more seasons at that rate may be a big chunk to swallow for a team that cannot afford to make those kinds of mistakes.
- - Watch out folks, but the best trade in the entire off-season may have been the Indians acquisition of right-hander Derek Lowe from the Braves. Cleveland sent minor-leaguer Chris Jones to the Braves for Lowe and $10 million to offset his salary prior to the 2012 season, and Lowe has made them look brilliant. The 38-year-old is 5-1 with a 2.47 ERA for the first-place Indians. Causes of concern include the fact that batters are hitting him at a rate of .303 on the season and he sports a meager 2.7 strike-outs per nine innings pitched, but Lowe is also getting a solid 2.33 ground-outs to air outs. He may not keep it up throughout the season, but it may almost be safe to say that the Indians are getting their $5 million worth.