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Chipper, Albert, and Lowe at the Quarter Pole

May 19, 2012

Hugh Atkins

It’s hard to believe, but a fourth of the 2012 major league season is already gone. It has been an interesting first couple of months, especially for three particular players.

Chipper

The Atlanta Braves started the season 0-4 and then third baseman Chipper Jones came off the disabled list.

After beating the Tampa Bay Rays 5-3 Friday night the Braves were in first place by 1.5 games. As of Friday night the Braves were 25-15 on the season, which means they were 25-11 since Jones joined the team and they were 19-5 in games he started.

© T.C.G.

Jones turned 40 on April 24 and he celebrated by hitting a home run. He drove in five runs in a game on May 5 and was the first Brave over 40 to drive in as many as five runs in a game since May 25, 1935. That was the day Babe Ruth, playing for the Boston Braves, hit three home runs and drove in six runs in a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Those were the last three homers of the Babe’s career.

Jones is headed toward another milestone. As of today, he has 1,585 RBIs in his career. Of players who played the majority of their careers at third base, only George Brett with 1,596 and Mike Schmidt with 1,595 have more RBIs than Jones.

Since Jones already announced that he will retire at the end of this season, he is on a farewell tour around baseball. It looks like he’s going out in style.

It’s the Hitting Coach, Stupid

In another week or so all should be right with the world; that’s because the Los Angeles Angels fired their hitting coach.

© T.C.G.

Mickey Hatcher became the hitting coach for the Angels when his good buddy and former teammate, Mike Scioscia, became their manager in 2000. Hatcher had enjoyed great success in L.A., but a strange thing happened to him this season; he became responsible for the performance of Albert Pujols.

Pujols joined the Angels as a free agent after spending his first 11 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals. He had perhaps the best first 11 seasons of anyone in major league history, hitting 445 home runs, driving in 1,329 runs, with a .328 batting average.

During the off-season, the Angels gave Pujols a 10-year contract worth $240 million. But a funny thing happened; Pujols went 110 at-bats this before he finally hit his first home run for the Angels. At the time of Hatcher’s firing, Pujols was hitting .212 with one home run. The Angels figured out what was wrong with Prince Albert; it was Mickey Hatcher.

Pujols has hit two more homers and has his average up to .215 since Hatcher was fired so, naturally, it follows that the hitting coach was the problem.

With a quarter of the season gone, the Angels only have nine and three-quarters seasons to go before they are out from under Pujols’ contract. And Pujols’ former team, the Cardinals, is getting along just fine without him. They are in first place in the National League Central.

Good for Derek Lowe

Derek Lowe of the Cleveland Indians is the flip side of the Pujols coin. After a dismal 2011 season that saw Lowe go 9-17 with a 5.05 earned run average, the Braves traded Lowe to Cleveland and even agreed to pay $10 million of the $15 million left on his contract.

© T.C.G.

This past Tuesday, Lowe pitched a complete game shutout against the Minnesota Twins. After the win, Lowe’s record stood at 6-1 and he led the American League with a 2.05 ERA.

A change of scenery is working out well for Lowe. But things can change in a hurry in baseball. Lowe was the National League Pitcher of the Month for September 2010, but he could not carry that success over into the following season.

Lowe’s early success is a major factor in why the Indians are in first place in the American League Central a quarter of the way through the season. I hope Lowe keeps it up and has a fine season. But I still am not convinced the Braves made a huge mistake when they traded him to Cleveland.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. R. Dale McCarver permalink
    May 19, 2012 7:36 am

    Oh, brother. I did not realize Albert was doing so poorly until I read your post. I saw him a few years back in St. Louis. The Rockies pounded the Cards 10-1. Albert did nothing that night. St. Louis loved him though. If his poor performance continues, they may be glad to be rid of him.

    Like

    • May 19, 2012 9:14 am

      Albert’s early performance has been kept fairly quiet. I obviously follow baseball on a daily basis and had not heard about it unitl a week or so ago and I read it on a scroll on a television at Logan’s Roadhouse. Thanks for the comments.

      Like

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