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Ball Five

April 18, 2012

Five quick MLB thoughts from the past week

  • The Giants locked up their best pitcher with a club- and player-friendly deal

Following the pattern that the Rays have made famous with their club-friendly deals to Evan Longoria and Matt Moore the Giants locked up Madison Bumgarner for the next five years at a relatively cheap $35 million. The Giants also have a club option for 2018 and ’19, and even if they use those options Bumgarner will be a free agent at the age of 30 and could still get another nice contract, perhaps one that’s even larger than the one he just signed. Bumgarner was a top-1o pitcher last year using Fangraphs’ WAR stat, better than his teammates Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum. MadBum is only 22 and has plenty of room to grow to be a top five pitcher in the near future.

  • The Giants really shouldn’t worry about their other ace…yet

Bumgarner’s $35 million he’ll make in the next five years is nice, but it’s nowhere close to Tim Lincecum’s $40+ million he’ll make this year and next even if Lincecum isn’t pitching well, or even mediocre at this point. Lincecum’s ERA through three starts is 10.54, which is oddly the same as his K/9 – which is higher than either of his two Cy Young campaigns. Lincecum is getting roughed up early and often, and his velocity is only at a notch above 90 mph, well below his Cy Young campaigns. But he’s also walking fewer guys than ever before and his BABIP is a crazy-high .426. Timmah’s getting batters to swing and miss 11.7 percent of the time, which is roughly equal to his ’08 Cy Young season. If Lincecum’s problems persist for the next month then we can worry, but everyone goes through a rough patch so let’s see if he can work it out.

  • The Cardinals need to take advantage of their early schedule

So far, they have, winning 8 of 11 games and staking a three-game lead over the Brewers for the NL Central. Outside of St. Louis, NL Central teams have a combined record of 20-35 and no winning records. Those teams have been outscored by 46 runs. Part of those numbers are due to the Cards going 7-3 against NL Central opponents so far, and from today until May 6 the Cards play 17 in a row against Central opponents. If the Cards can go 12-5 in those games, which would be a lower winning percentage than what they already have, they should be able to distance themselves even more from any of their opponents.

  • Can the Orioles be competitive?

Probably not, but their offense could be able to keep them in games, at least. Nolan Reimold, Matt Wieters and Adam Jones each have four homers, and JJ Hardy and Mark Reynolds are nice complementary pieces and we’re still waiting for the breakout years from Chris Davis and the steady Nick Markakis. The O’s rank in the top 10 in runs, average and slugging, but don’t crack the top 10 in ERA, quality starts, WHIP or opponents’ average. Jake Arrieta has been a bright spot for an otherwise dim rotation so far, but in the murderer’s row that is the AL East – and the rise of the second-place Blue Jays – there’s just too much firepower and good pitching for them to stay hot all year long. But they should be able to score some runs and make their games exciting for once.

  • The Nationals are fun to watch

They’re sitting at 9-3 with the second-best run differential in the NL and in first place in the NL East. Their pitching, led by Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Gio Gonzalez, is first in ERA, quality starts and opponents’ average, and second in WHIP. Those three pitchers haven’t allowed a home run in over 50 innings so far this season and all have ERAs at 2.04 or better. They’ve got several exciting young players in Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, Ryan Zimmerman and Wilson Ramos, and veterans Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche are leading the team in average, OBP and slugging. The pitching is due for a bit of regression, but Espinosa, Zim and Ramos aren’t hitting as well as they should, so it’ll be a give and take for the Nats throughout the season but there’s no reason to think they can’t be in the running for a division crown this year.

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