Stock Watch: A King leads the Bulls; an entire city is the biggest Bear
King Felix is off to a huge start after signing a (briefly) record contract. Meanwhile, Los Angeles is as cold as can be.
A few days ago, Seattle Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik mentioned that ace right-hander Felix Hernandez is the only player locked up long-term by the team. “If you’re going to have one player signed long-term, that’s a good one for it be,’’ Zduriencik said.
I agreed, of course. But it's even better than that.
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The Mariners have only two other major-leaguers signed even through 2014 ( Hisashi Iwakuma , who’s 3-1 with a 1.61 ERA and has been nearly as good as Hernandez, plus Dustin Ackley ). That short-term strategy includes even Zduriencik and manager Eric Wedge, whose contracts expire after this season, shining a spotlight on them as the Mariners aim for marked improvement after a few rough seasons.
King Felix, meanwhile, a true ace and lover of Seattle, will be a Mariner through at least 2019, and that’s not such a bad thing. He’s certainly doing his part in year one of his $175 million, seven-year deal, which was a record contract for a pitcher -- for a couple months, anyway.
With King Felix on top, here are all the Bulls and Bears of the Stock Watch this week.
1. Felix Hernandez, Mariners SP
King Felix has been everything they could hope a $175 million pitcher could be, and perhaps more. We're still not sure what the hesitation over the elbow was about since Felix has shown no hint of an injury, and not one sign of slowing down, either. During his past four starts, he has been at his best, with only two runs allowed in 30 innings, while walking two and striking out 35. He now totes a 1.60 ERA (0.01 better than Iwakuma). It's all befitting a king who signed for a king’s ransom.
2. James Loney , Tampa Bay Rays 1B
He's not included here just to make the Los Angeles Dodgers feel worse about their plight, but because he deserves to be here. It’s clear Loney’s time was up in LA last year, and up again in Boston, too. But now he looks reborn with the Rays. He is batting -- yes, .398. That's no misprint. He has five three-hit games in his past eight starts, raising his average from .327, which isn't so bad, either. Amazing comeback story at work.
3. Clay Buchholz , Boston Red Sox SP
He had already made Stock Watch once. But when a pitcher is so good he's accused of doctoring the baseball, he’s automatic. It’s not a serious accusation, since it only came from two opposing Toronto Blue Jays broadcasters, and no actual Blue Jays, who had the decency not to throw out accusations when they aren’t hitting anyone. Anyway, Buchholz is now 6-0 with a 1.01 ERA, good for a league-high WAR of 2.5. Not sure why that’s only worth 2.5 wins, but I’d have to ask someone smarter than me to explain that. In any case, it's more than anyone else, which I think is dead on.
1. LA baseball
The $220 million Dodgers are off to a slow start, and the $150 million Los Angeles Angels are off to an even slower start. Both teams have been severely hampered by injuries, with the Dodgers losing Zack Greinke, Chad Billingsley, Hanley Ramirez and several others, and the Angels missing Jered Weaver, Peter Bourjos, Erick Aybar and much of their bullpen. Under-performance hasn’t helped, either, with Matt Kemp not showing his usual power, and Josh Hamilton looking rather limp for a $125 million pickup. Kemp has only one home run and Hamilton’s double Sunday was his first extra-base hit since April 14, as @BillShaikin of the Los Angeles Times pointed out. Overall, he has a .296 slugging percentage. But it has been a whole city of disappointments.
2. 2012 Cy Young winners
R.A. Dickey was booed off the mound as he fell to 2-5 in Toronto's terrible start while David Price ’s most notable moment came when he accused home-plate umpire Tom Hallion of yelling at him to “throw the [bleeping] ball over the plate.’’ Both were brilliant last year but no better than mundane so far this year. Combined, they are 3-8 with a 5.82 ERA. That’s 2-5 with a 5.36 ERA for Dickey, and 1-3 with a 6.25 ERA for Tampa Bay's Price. Yeesh.
3. Josh Reddick , A's OF
The good news is, he finally broken his lifetime collar at New Yankee Stadium. A hard-to-believe 0-for-33 streak was ended by his double Sunday. No matter, he just isn’t hitting anywhere near the way he did last year when he was a revelation for the A’s, and that goes for all parks. Oakland is making up for it with big starts by several others and a team-wide propensity to take the walk, which has led to a baseball-best 166 runs. Reddick hasn't contributed much to that, though, with only one home run and a .148 batting average overall.
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