This week did a lot to tighten all of the races across baseball. Of the league’s six divisions, only the Giants have a lead of larger than 4.5 games. Consequently, no first place team has a lead smaller than three games. Breathing room was the name of the game this week.
Most impressive team of the week: Boston Red Sox. I’ll hand it to the Red Sox – for as bad as they were during their ten game losing streak, they were that good in winning seven straight this past week. Boston took four straight from the AL East leading Braves, two in Atlanta and two in Boston, and came from behind to win three of those four games. The Red Sox then silenced the Rays’ bats at Fenway Park, allowing just three runs over the three-game sweep. After being left for dead a week ago, Boston is two games below .500 and 2.5 games out of the AL’s final wild card spot as this week begins. That’ll do.
Honorable mentions: Houston Astros, New York Mets, Toronto Blue Jays
Least impressive team of the week: Tampa Bay Rays, It may not be time to count out the Rays quite yet thanks to the sad state of the American League, but their impressive this week was garbage. The Rays went 0-fer, getting swept in Toronto and Boston to help undo all the good that their sweep of the Red Sox last week at Tropicana Field did. As of today, June 2nd, the Rays have the worst record in the American League, and only the Astros have a worse run differential. Despite all that, they’re still only seven games out of a playoff spot. You’ve gotta love the AL.
Dishonorable mentions: Colorado Rockies, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers
Most impressive hitter of the week: A.J. Pollock. With every bit of respect to mashers Nelson Cruz and Edwin Encarnacion, who could have EVER predicted that A.J. Pollock would have a week like this? He’s been a roughly league average hitter at nearly every stop of his major league career. And this year, he’s just two homers shy of his career high at the beginning of June, and is hitting like he never has before. Pollock hit .522/.593/1.000 last week, homering just once, but balancing it by striking out just once (and walking twice). It’s pretty clearly a case of a high BABIP completely dominating a player’s stat line, but let’s take off our analyst hats and applaud Pollock for just how good he was this week. I mean, he doubled six times and tripled once in a four game period to close out the week. We’ve talked about Cruz and Encarnacion plenty this year – let’s give some love to a guy like Pollock for once. The sad part is that Pollock broke his hand on Saturday, and will be out for six to eight weeks.
Honorable mentions: Ryan Braun, Nelson Cruz, Khris Davis, Edwin Encarnacion
Least impressive hitter of the week: Chris Davis. I’ll give Davis somewhat of a pass, since he just came off of the paternity list on Tuesday. But his performance this week was…not good. He struck out 13 times in 26 plate appearances, and tallied just a pair of singles during the week. He’s followed up his ungodly 2013 with a much more pedestrian 2014, and his barely been a replacement level player this season, which is absolutely stunning given his 53 homer breakout a year ago.
Dishonorable mentions: Adam Eaton, Austin Jackson, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Troy Tulowitzki
Most impressive pitcher of the week: Collin McHugh. The Astros’ secret sauce is starting to come together this year, and maybe McHugh’s hot start to the year isn’t a fluke. He dominated an admittedly punchless Royals lineup on Tuesday, striking out nine without walking any over seven shutout innings. For the season, McHugh has struck out 50 and walked 12 in 45 innings, and has pitched his way to a 2.80 ERA. I still don’t know what to make of McHugh – is he just another flash in the pan, or is there a solid middle of the rotation guy here, like we’re seeing with teammate Dallas Keuchel? I can’t answer that question yet, but following up a good start in Anaheim with a dominant start in Kansas City is enough to raise my eyebrow.
Honorable mentions: Josh Collmenter, Johnny Cueto, Rubby de la Rosa, Jacob deGrom
Least impressive pitcher of the week: Drew Smyly. They’ll be fine with Smyly in the rotation, they said. Smyly is being wasted as a reliever, they said. There has been a substantial downgrade in Smyly’s performance from 2013 to 2014, due mainly to drops in his strikeout and ground ball rates and rises in his walk and home run rates. All of that was on display last week in Smyly’s two starts, both Tigers losses. He struck out eight hitters and walked three in nine innings, but allowed four home runs and generated a low number of ground balls in the defeats. He improved substantially from his first start in Oakland to his second start in Seattle, but no matter – both had the same outcome for the Tigers.
Dishonorable mentions: Bronson Arroyo, Brandon Cumpton, Ervin Santana, Jacob Turner
This week in Tommy John surgeries: Chris Withrow, Sean Burnett
Notable newly disabled players: Carlos Santana, Nick Swisher, A.J. Ellis, Clay Buchholz, Sean Burnett, Carl Crawford, Ryan Hanigan, Ryan Lavarnway, Matt Adams, Wil Myers, Jarrod Saltalamcchia
Notable newly healthy players: Omar Infante, Justin Ruggiano, Jason Kipnis, Joe Saunders, Travis d’Arnaud, Matt Cain, Ben Zobrist
Notable transactions: Mets fire hitting coach Dave Hudgens, Mets release Jose Valverde, Astros demote L.J. Hoes to AAA, Astros promote Robbie Grossman from AAA, Mariners sign Xavier Nady, Royals name Dale Sveum hitting coach, Mariners demote Blake Beavan to AAA, Cardinals promote Oscar Taveras from AAA, Cardinals promote Randal Grichuk from AAA, Red Sox promote Rubby de la Rosa from AAA, Red Sox promote Garin Cecchini from AAA, Pirates release Wandy Rodriguez, Blue Jays promote Marcus Stroman from AAA, Astros demote Brett Oberholtzer to AAA, Royals promote Mike Moustakas from AAA, Pirates trade Bryan Morris to Marlins for 39th overall pick in MLB Draft
Major league debuts: Jamie Romak, Tommy La Stella, Shae Simmons, Jarrett Grube, Oscar Taveras, Alex Hassan, Garin Cecchini, David Peralta
Enjoy your week of baseball, everyone.