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Anatomy of a Great Start

Well, Wainwright finally gave us what we’ve come to expect from him and was able to pitch around Skip’s coulda-been-disastrous flub in LF by getting a DP. Albert and Ludwick gave us 2 seeing eye singles and a stolen base to produce the game winner and Franklin closed it out for our 4th straight win. This team, save dropped pop flies and Ankiel at the plate, is really playing well right now. The key has been the offense, which is leading the league in many different categories. 5 of the 8 starters on offense have an OPS+ greater than 125 plus Rasmus, Barden, and Ryan are over 100.

Right now the offense leads the NL in runs scored, runs per game, hits, doubles, homers (tied), batting average, slugging, and OPS. They’re second in walks and OBP, and have the 4th fewest strikeouts in the NL. They’ve stolen 10 bases against only 2 caught stealings – very good considering how poorly the team fared in SB% last season. Unsurprisingly, Pujols leads the league in a number of offensive categories including slugging %, where Ludwick is #2. A team that bangs out 6.12 runs per game is going to be tough to beat.

On the pitching side, the news isn’t quite so rosy. Lohse has been outstanding and Wainwright was strong last night. Pineiro’s been pretty good. Franklin’s been terrific – 5 base runners in 8 innings. Many of us were concerned about McClellan entering the season but he’s been very good. Motte’s improving and Reyes has been fine. The pen, all in all, seems to be coming together, though Franklin’s track record tells us it’s not all going to be sunshine and flowers when he pitches. Despite Wellemeyer’s troubles, the ‘pen’s troubles, Carp’s injury, and the fact that P.J. Walters and Mitch Boggs have already thrown some important innings, the staff is holding its own. Our ERA is 3rd in the NL and we’ve given up the 6th fewest runs per game in the league. We’re leading the league in the fewest walks per game and are tied for the fewest homers per game. Anytime your staff can avoid walking people and can keep the ball in the ballpark, you’re going to win some games. It gives the team a lot more flexibility to give up singles if it takes 3 hits to score a run.

Defensively, we haven’t been quite as good as we have been in the other 2 areas. Our defensive efficiency is just .690 – 10th in the league – though we have had only 6 stolen base attempts against us – fewest in the NL. I suppose that’s going to happen when you’ve got an OF playing 2B, a 2B playing 3B, a DH playing LF, and a RF playing CF. As long as the team continues to score, the defensive issues won’t matter quite so much. But we know we’re not going to average more than 6 runs per game for the year. We know Lohse isn’t going to finish the season w/ a 2.50 ERA. There’s going to be some regression to the mean but I wouldn’t expect Ankiel to finish the season w/ a .306 OBP either. Still, you’ve gotta like what’s happening now. Let’s ride the wave as long as it lasts.

There’s a pretty good article over at fangraphs about prospects in the Texas League, including our very own Daryl Jones. If he keeps this up, that outfield’s going to get really crowded really quickly.

Everyone probably knows by now that Lohse is OK and intends to make his next start Tuesday. It goes w/o saying that that’s fantastic news.

I’ll be back in a few hours w/ a game thread. Another day game. Another lefty. It’s been standard fare for the 1st 17 games – and still we’re 12-5. Not bad, huh?