Jekyll and Hyde

Jeff Passan
Yahoo! Sports

A standing ovation, please.

The Chicago White Sox pulled their collective batting average over .220 this week.

An announcement from Mayor Richard Daley for a parade should be coming any minute now.

"We keep saying it's going to get better," White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "But it keeps getting later and later. You wonder when it's actually going to happen."

Funny thing is, it doesn't seem to matter. In spite of their offense – in spite of Paul Konerko (.188), Joe Crede (.200) and Jermaine Dye (.216) playing Little Sisters of the Poor – the White Sox are 20-17, while the crosstown Chicago Cubs, whom they visit during the first batch of interleague play this weekend, are 18-21 (even though their numbers are almost across-the-board better).

"Our pitching has saved us," Konerko said, and he's not lying, as their 3.86 earned-run average is fourth in the American League. "They've felt like if they give up more than two runs they're going to lose. And that's not how it should be. I can't figure it out. No one can. Everything happens for a reason. I just don't know what it is.

"I've gone through bad times. Same for this guy or that guy. But this many? At the same time?"

Well, for starters, the White Sox are impatient. The 5,191 pitches they have seen are second-lowest in baseball. They can't hit left-handers (.199 batting average, .568 on-base-plus-slugging). And their best hitter, Jim Thome, the all-time leader with 52 interleague home runs, is on a rehab assignment.

So the White Sox truck on and try to scratch across runs as best they know how: By praying Dr. Jekyll shows up and Mr. Hyde stays away.

In that honor, here are the Jekyll-and-Hyde characteristics for nine natural rivalries scheduled for this weekend.

Chicago White Sox at Chicago Cubs

Cubs' Jekyll: By almost every statistical measure, the Cubs should be above .500. They're sixth or better in every important offensive category in the National League. They're sixth in ERA, too. They've outscored opponents by 26 runs, and factoring in park differences, Baseball Prospectus' Pythagorean standings actually have the Cubs in first place – ahead of even Milwaukee.

Cubs' Hyde: To put it in the kindest fashion possible: reality. The Cubs find unimaginable ways to lose games – like Thursday's implosion against the New York Mets in which they blew a 5-1 ninth-inning lead. Carlos Zambrano surrendering a five-run lead against Cincinnati was a doozy, too. Hyde, in this instance, has a far stronger grip than Jekyll.

New York Yankees at New York Mets

Yankees' Jekyll: The 212 runs scored – one less than Boston for most in the major leagues – are nice. And that's with Alex Rodriguez just cracking a 2-for-25 slump. As hot as A-Rod was, Jorge Posada leads the AL in hitting at .371 and Derek Jeter is on his tail at .368.

Yankees' Hyde: The 4.55 ERA is not nice. It jumps to 4.82 among starters. Yes, that is why the Yankees will be paying about $26 million, including luxury-tax dollars, for the privilege of 23 Roger Clemens starts, give or take a couple. And the big-league-worst 11 blown saves are not nice, either.

Mets' Jekyll: Where to start? They trot out the best offense in the NL with 211 runs. Their 3.27 ERA ranks third overall, and hitters are even worse against their starters (.224 batting average) than their bullpen (.226). They've also got the best defensive efficiency – measured by taking the number of plays made on batted balls – in the game.

Mets' Hyde: Hmmmm. Carlos Delgado's numbers stink, but he drove in the game-winning run in a thrilling win against the Cubs, so that earns him a temporary pardon. Lino Urdaneta got suspended for performance-enhancing drug use, but he was sent to the minors already, so he's exempt. OK, here's one that might work: The Mets are human during day games, going 7-7 and posting a 4.39 ERA. Of course, their on-base-plus slugging is an MLB-best .794 during the day. So much for that.

Atlanta Braves at Boston Red Sox

Braves' Jekyll: Ah yes, the 2007 Braves standby: runners in scoring position with two outs. In such situations, they have scored 88 of their 197 runs, are hitting .298 and slugging .513. Most impressive: They've had more at-bats in that scenario than any other team, too.

Braves' Hyde: Pitches 16 through 30. Maybe it's just a coincidence, but for some reason, the Braves pitchers' ERA is 6.24, more than two points higher from the 16th to 30th pitch than the concurrent 15-pitch stretches before or after. And this means what? We were struggling to find a Braves weakness.

Red Sox's Jekyll: Just about everything. They're patient (2,352 balls taken is tops). They're in control (three wild pitches is best). Hitters can't touch them (third in batting average against, second in OPS against). Pitchers can't stop them (only the Mets are better than their .797 OPS). And if that weren't enough, David Ortiz led baseball last year with nine HR and 21 RBIs in interleague games.

Red Sox's Hyde: Julio Lugo's 23 RBIs look nice, but they're more a function of Boston's lineup than his productivity. Among Lugo, Coco Crisp and J.D. Drew, the Red Sox have 28 extra-base hits in 404 at-bats. Magglio Ordoñez has 28 in 145 at-bats.

Cincinnati Reds at Cleveland Indians

Reds' Jekyll: Tough to argue that any outfield has been better than the Reds' triumvirate of Adam Dunn, Josh Hamilton and Ken Griffey Jr. They've hit 27 home runs in 380 at-bats, or one every 14.07 at-bats, which makes for about one a game. Added bonus: 56 walks drawn.

Reds' Hyde: Manager Jerry Narron needs to be careful with his starters' arms. Aaron Harang has gone over 120 pitches three times, Bronson Arroyo two times, and the Reds lead baseball with 72,710 Pitcher Abuse Points. They are calculated by cubing a starter's number of pitches over 100. Arroyo's recent 129-pitch start led to 24,389, or more than 22 teams' totals this season.

Indians' Jekyll: No one can touch the Indians at Jacobs Field, where they're 14-3. While their hitting is slightly better at home, the team ERA drops almost a point, the strikeout rate goes up almost one per inning and they've given up half as many home runs.

Indians' Hyde: Right-handers hit Cleveland about 30 points higher than lefties. And Josh Barfield, the second baseman acquired for Kevin Kouzmanoff this offseason, can't hit anyone, as his batting average sits at .215 and his slugging percentage struggles to crack .300.

Florida Marlins at Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Marlins' Jekyll: Tough to argue with their offense, buoyed by four young stars: shortstop Hanley Ramirez, third baseman Miguel Cabrera, second baseman Dan Uggla and outfielder Josh Willingham – the least known of the four, yet the most adept at driving in runs this year.

Marlins' Hyde: The Marlins are young, and so they do things like strike out a big-league-worst 340 times in their first 41 games and rank last overall with a defensive efficiency of .670. The culprits: .331-slugging Joe Borchard, with 45 Ks in 127 at-bats, and Ramirez and Cabrera, the left side of the infield, with 16 errors. One last odd stat: Ramirez has scored 38 runs and driven in only eight.

Devil Rays' Jekyll: They certainly hit the ball hard, knocking line drives on more than 20 percent of their batted balls. Their three best: Ty Wigginton (22 percent), Delmon Young (21.3 percent) and B.J. Upton (20.3 percent) – who has translated that into a .479 batting average when he puts a ball in play.

Devil Rays' Hyde: Tampa Bay, weak in pitching? You don't say. The Devil Rays have yielded 53 home runs, second-worst in the big leagues, and have allowed 30 inherited runners to score, tied for worst with Baltimore. We could go on, but it would only reinforce the lunacy of the Devil Rays never trading offensive surplus for an arm or two.

Baltimore Orioles at Washington Nationals

Orioles' Jekyll: Jeremy Guthrie and Brian Burres have been nice surprises. Their 17 errors are the fewest in the AL. And … well, the Orioles seem to have a knack for winning, because they had absolutely no business being .500 before their current five-game losing streak sent them back to the AL East basement.

Orioles' Hyde: Their pitchers have issued 175 walks, almost one every two innings. Their offense manages line drives only 16.2 percent of the time, the worst number in baseball. And the title of their best offensive player is a tossup among Melvin Mora (.762 OPS), Brian Roberts (.386 slugging percentage), Miguel Tejada (.383 slugging) and Nick Markakis (.324 on-base).

Nationals' Jekyll: They're better than the Royals by one game in the loss column!

Nationals' Hyde: A team of replacement players might be better. Like, literally. According to Baseball Prospectus' Value Over Replacement Player metric, which compares a lineup to what would be expected of replacement-level players, the Nationals are actually in negative numbers. For what it's worth, the Cardinals and White Sox are replacement-worthy as well. And the pitchers should try throwing more strikes than balls. Currently, their ratio is 2,432-to-2,491, the only one under 1-to-1 in the game.

Texas Rangers at Houston Astros

Rangers' Jekyll: The Rangers certainly can mash. Sammy Sosa has been very productive with nine home runs, and though Ian Kinsler has cooled as of late, his 10 home runs are still third in the AL. Once Michael Young (.634 OPS) heats up, the offense will get even more dangerous.

Rangers' Hyde: Isn't first-year manager Ron Washington supposed to be a defensive guru? The Rangers lead baseball with 38 errors. Perhaps that's because their pitchers give them too many chances. The 6,256 pitches they've thrown are the most in the AL.

Astros' Jekyll: For all the guff Brad Lidge got earlier this season, he has been excellent lately – save for the bad-hop game-winner against San Francisco – and indicative of the Astros' bullpen. They've allowed only six inherited runners to score this year. And their pitching staff is the best at inducing ground balls at 49.1 percent.

Astros' Hyde: Nothing is less productive than a pop-up, and once every 10 at-bats, the Astros will throw up a lazy infield fly. Speaking of 10, it seems to be the Astros' lucky (or unlucky) number. They have 10 wins at home and on the road, and 10 losses at home and on the road.

Minnesota Twins at Milwaukee Brewers

Twins' Jekyll: They know how to play interleague baseball. Last season, the Twins went 16-2 against the NL, tied with the Red Sox for the best record.

Twins' Hyde: Catcher Joe Mauer, who led the big leagues in interleague batting average last year, is on the disabled list. So is Francisco Liriano, who went 5-0 against the NL.

Brewers' Jekyll: Milwaukee leads baseball in a few categories, including biggest surprise, though none is more important than their 55 home runs. J.J. Hardy leads the league with 13 and Prince Fielder is second with 12. And as if the potent offense weren't enough, the Brewers' pitchers do not give away baserunners. Their 108 walks are fewest in the NL.

Brewers' Hyde: The Brewers hit only .239 with runners in scoring position, though they slug over .400. They give up a fair number of baserunners in close-and-late situations, though they strike out more than one hitter per inning in them, too. It's tough to nitpick a team that's been this solid altogether through the first 40 games.

Los Angeles Dodgers at Los Angeles Angels

Dodgers' Jekyll: Power stuff on the mound. Their 315 strikeouts are the most in baseball, and six of their pitchers – starter Randy Wolf, relievers Chad Billingsley, Jonathan Broxton, Rudy Seanez, Chin-hui Tsao and closer Takashi Saito average more than 7.5 Ks per nine innings. Just on the cusp: Mark Hendrickson, who, with a 2.61 ERA, has been quietly excellent.

Dodgers' Hyde: They hit like Little Leaguers. Of the Dodgers' 372 hits, 272 are singles. Only the Cardinals, Nationals and White Sox – do we see a recurring theme here? – have fewer extra-base hits than the Dodgers.

Angels' Jekyll: As much as is said about the Angels' bullpen, their starters lead the AL in innings pitched. John Lackey should get some Cy Young love this year, Kelvim Escobar was just as good before his last start, Bartolo Colon is 5-0 since returning and Ervin Santana is much better than his 5.51 ERA.

Angels' Hyde: Well, if you take away Vladimir Guerrero's 10 home runs, the Angels have combined for 19, and their best offensive player becomes … Gary Matthews Jr. And then it's Reggie Willits. Really. See for yourself.

San Francisco Giants at Oakland A's

Giants' Jekyll: The old men can move. The Giants, whose clubhouse ought to be sponsored by Metamucil and Sunsweet Growers prunes, somehow have managed to leg out a big-league-best 14 triples, including two from Ryan Klesko. And that just makes it all the more impressive (or unimaginable).

Giants' Hyde: The Giants can't tough so-called "finesse" pitchers. In nine games and 79 at-bats against such deemed, they've gotten four extra-base hits, drawn six walks and scored only six runs.

A's Jekyll: No team's starters' ERA is within a half-point of Oakland's 2.71. Dan Haren has been the ace – maybe the best pitcher in the AL thus far – but Joe Kennedy has been the most surprising. The left-hander, who spent last season in the bullpen, has a 1.94 ERA. Even more amazing: the A's Nos. 1 and 3 starters, Rich Harden and Esteban Loaiza, are on the disabled list.

A's Hyde: In his first 37 at-bats, Jack Cust took the team lead in home runs with seven. And while their power production has picked up lately, the A's are somehow still just .500 despite scoring 29 more runs than their opponents – a differential greater than the first-place Angels'.

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