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ON BASEBALL


ON BASEBALL
Good time for a freeze frame. At the end of April, no team had a larger lead in its division than the Dodgers did in the National League West. Playoffs, baby!

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Not so fast.

The Dodgers led the NL West by 3 1/2 games. At the end of April last year, the Arizona Diamondbacks led the NL West by 5 1/2 games.

The NL playoff field, had last season ended on April 30: The Diamondbacks , Chicago Cubs, Florida Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals.

The actual NL playoff field: The Dodgers, Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers and Philadelphia Phillies.

The Dodgers ended April leading the league in batting average and on-base percentage, Manny Ramirez was hitting .372 and still ranked fourth on the team in runs batted in and Jonathan Broxton was striking out nearly two guys per inning. So what's to worry about?

Chad Billingsley and Randy Wolf combined for 10 starts in April, pitching at least six innings all but once. In the other 13 games, the Dodgers' starter pitched at least six innings only once.

So no bullpen pitched more innings than the Dodgers', and no NL reliever pitched more innings than the Dodgers' Ronald Belisario. If the starters don't last longer, Manager Joe Torre figures to exhaust his favorite relievers by the All-Star break.

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What's with the Toronto Blue Jays?

Standing in the American League East at end of April: tied for first place.

Games played against AL East rivals in April: zero.

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What about the first-place Kansas City Royals?

They were 5-0 when Zack Greinke pitched in April, 7-10 when he did not. Greinke already has two 2-0 victories and one 4-2 victory.

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Who's the Lee of the Month?

That would be outfielder Carlos Lee of the Houston Astros, who batted .253 with five home runs and a .299 on-base percentage. Nice power, dreadful otherwise, still a winner in this group.

Second place goes to Cliff Lee of the Cleveland Indians, the Cy Young Award winner last season, when he was 22-3 with a 2.54 earned-run average. He's already lost three games this season -- he's 1-3 with a 3.94 ERA -- but he has given up two runs in his last 16 innings, with one walk and 10 strikeouts.

The Indians have plenty of problems -- outfielder Grady Sizemore batted .239 in April, designated hitter Travis Hafner is injured again and pitcher Fausto Carmona looks more and more like a one-season wonder -- but Lee should be good, maybe good enough to trade come July.

Last place goes to Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee, who hit .189 with one home run in April. Lee's average season: .281 with 27 homers. The Cubs finished April below .500, in large part because Lee actually outhit the sometime cleanup batter and marquee free-agent signing, Milton Bradley, who batted .118.

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Who has the fastest fastball in the majors?

That would be the Dodgers' closer, Broxton, who has thrown six of the 10 fastest pitches this season, according to ESPN. Broxton hit 100 mph twice, in the same at-bat, to Geoff Blum of the Houston Astros. Broxton then hit Blum with a pitch.

The fastest pitch thrown in April: 100.3 mph, by Juan Morillo of the Minnesota Twins. He was sent to the minor leagues Friday.

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Can Matt Holliday still ask for $20 million per year in free agency?

Scott Boras can, and he will. But Boras will say Holliday can hit anywhere, and the numbers so far don't back that up.

Holliday, traded from the Colorado Rockies to the Oakland Athletics last winter, hit .357 with a .645 slugging percentage in his career at Coors Field, .280 with a .455 slugging percentage elsewhere.

So what did the outfielder do in his first month with the A's? He hit .240, with one home run and a .360 slugging percentage.

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Whatever happened to Andruw Jones?

He has three home runs in 32 at-bats for the Texas Rangers, after hitting three home runs in 209 at-bats for the Dodgers last year. He has as many homers as Holliday, Derrek Lee, David Ortiz and David Wright combined.

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And how many players had at least 25 plate appearances in April and had a higher OPS than Jones' 1.304?

None.

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bill.shaikin@latimes.com


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 3, 2009

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