Streaking in the Park: Morneau, Rowland-Smith, Ichiro and More

As the Streaking in the Park column continues to evolve, I have added another component to the mix this week. The Weekly Player Spotlight will focus a little more in-depth on 2 players each week, giving a bit more career background and allowing players that may not normally get a lot of recognition get their due. It will focus on players that have had either a great or terrible week, but will also take into account their entire season statistics and performances. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: All stats used are prior to games on Tuesday, May 18th.

Weekly Player Spotlight

1B Justin Morneau, MIN

Since making his MLB debut in 2003, Justin Morneau has been a staple in the Minnesota Twins lineup. He often gets overlooked because of his hot-hitting teammate Joe Mauer, but has been putting up impressive numbers throughout his career from the left-side of the plate. Morneau has hit 174 career homeruns and driven in 652 runs in his career and thus far in 2010, has only continued to build on those numbers. This past week, Morneau appeared in 6 games and hit .545 with 4 home runs and a slugging percentage of 1.136.

This past week is just a sampling of the impressive season the big slugger is having. He is hitting .374 on the year with 11 home runs and 29 RBIs. Morneau has put up a .710 slugging percentage, a career high thus far and is on pace to reach or eclipse his career high in home runs. Over the years, Morneau has consistently put up strong numbers, but has not gotten the same attention as other powers hitters partially due to playing in Minnesota, which is a smaller market area.

With an MVP award in 2006 and 3 consecutive All-Star team selections, Morneau has proven his value as one of the best hitters in the game. He has consistently finished near the top of the league in home runs and RBIs, while quietly coming to the ball park and doing his job on a daily basis. If the entire Twins lineup continues to hit at .276 (3rd best), Morneau will have plenty of opportunities to drive in runs and keep his team atop the AL Central.

RF Ichiro Suzuki, SEA

Now playing in his 10th season in the majors, Ichiro Suzuki continues to be an unstoppable force in the batter’s box. Following up his .352 average in 2009, Ichiro is hitting .354 this season, thanks to an incredible past 7 games in which he hit .483. With 3 doubles and a home run this week, Ichiro has boosted his season slugging percentage to .443 and has now scored a run in half of his appearances for the Mariners who have the worst team batting average in the AL. Ichiro continues to show his value, but unless the Mariners can start to hit, it will be another season in which Seattle doesn’t have a playoff team.

SP Johnny Cueto, CIN

One of the hottest teams in baseball right now is the Cincinnati Reds. This past week, 2 of the teams’ wins are thanks to starting pitcher Johnny Cueto. Cueto made 2 starts this week and allowed a single earned run on a solo home run. In 16 innings, Cueto gave up 8 hits while striking out 15, including completing a complete game shutout. Cueto finished the week with a .056 ERA which lowered his season ERA to 3.67. In surprising fashion, the Reds now sit atop the NL Central, 0.5 games ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Honorable Mention

1B David Ortiz, BOS

RP Jonathan Broxton, LAD

Team

Los Angeles Dodgers

After a shaky start to the season, the Los Angeles Dodgers have been scorching the competition these past 10 days. In their last 10 games, the Dodgers are 9-1 and have now won 8 straight contests to climb just 2 games back of the NL West leading San Diego Padres. The Dodgers have the 2nd best average in the NL (.272), but are having to deal with an injury to one of their best offensive players, most notably outfielder Andre Ethier. If they can continue to roll, the Dodgers may find themselves atop the NL West before too long.

Honorable Mention

Cincinnati Reds

Weekly Player Spotlight

SP Ryan Rowland-Smith, SEA

The Seattle Mariners have been one of the most underachieving teams this season thus far. In the offseason, there were many articles about the strength of the team’s pitching staff, mostly hyping them up to be at the same level as the Yankees and Red Sox. Nearly 40 games into the season, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Ryan Rowland-Smith has been one of the weak links in the rotation this season with a record of 0-4 and an ERA of 7.62.

In the past week, Rowland-Smith got 2 starts, both poor performances resulting in an early exit. His ERA this week was 15.88 and he lasted just 5.2 combined innings in both of his starts, allowing 10 earned runs, including 3 long balls. The only decent stat in both outings was his 1 BB and 5 Ks. Rowland-Smith allowed 17 hits, averaging 3 hits per inning, which is horrible for any pitcher.

With the Mariners underachieving and quickly falling out of contention, Rowland-Smith could be included in a trade to build for the future. He has spent time as a reliever and could hold some serious value in that role. No matter how you look at it, he has been poor this season and does not appear to be improving in the Seattle system.

SP Brett Cecil, TOR

The Toronto Blue Jays have been a streaking team this year in a difficult AL East. They haven’t been helped much recently with their pitching, specifically Brett Cecil. Cecil had 1 start last week and was terrible, allowing 8 earned runs on 8 hits in just 2 innings of work. He walked 2 while striking out 2 and raising his season ERA with a 36.00 for the game. If the Blue Jays are going to be serious contenders for a playoff spot, they need much better performances from their starting rotation. Even then, they may not have a chance at catching up to the Rays and Yankees and holding off the Red Sox in 4th place.

2B Rickie Weeks, MIL

Maybe the biggest surprise this season in terms of struggles has been the Milwaukee Brewers. Their second baseman, Rickie Weeks, has not helped the cause recently with his struggles at the plate. This past week, Weeks had just 3 hits in 25 at-bats and drove in just 1 run. Weeks struck out 8 times in 6 games and walked just 3 times, giving him an on-base percentage of .214. Because of his recent slump, Weeks season average has dropped to .250 and he has over twice as many strikeouts than walks on the season (21:49). I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Brewers begin a fire sale before too long and Rickie Weeks will probably be on the list of available players.

Honorable Mention

C Yadier Molina, STL

CF Aaron Rowand, SF

Team

Arizona Diamondbacks

The Arizona Diamondbacks are well into a season they would like to forget. They currently sit at 16-23, in last place in the NL West staring up at a 7.5 game whole. The past 10 games have not been friendly for the D-Backs, who went 2-8 and have been sliding faster than a kid on a water-slide. They sit 2nd to last in ERA at 5.67 and 13th in batting average at .261. Those numbers are not going to get the job done and it appears Arizona fans should start thinking about the off-season and the potential free-agents the team can go after.

Honorable Mention

Milwaukee Brewers

Brian Phair – BoSox Injection – Streaking in the Park

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Tags: Aaron Rowand Arizona Diamondbacks Boston Red Sox Brett Cecil Cincinnati Reds David Ortiz Ichiro Suzuki Johnny Cueto Jonathan Broxton Justin Morneau LA Dodgers Milwaukee Brewers Minnesota Twins Rickie Weeks Ryan Rowland-Smith San Francisco Giants Seattle Mariners St Louis Cardinals Streaking In The Park Toronto Blue Jays Yadier Molina

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