You can find more from Michael Salfino at Comcast SportsNet
One of the great baseball books is "Nine Innings" by Dan Okrent, coincidentally the inventor of fantasy baseball. Okrent uses a lazy, early-season contest between the Brewers and Orioles in 1982 as a jumping off point for a bevy of entertaining stories on the intricacies of our most complex game.
As we put the first month of 2009 into the books, I figured we could take a page, literally, from "Nine Innings" and look at the season to-date through the prism of one day. What stories have been told by the numbers in Monday's box scores and what do they foretell?
Let's do away with the "Buy, Hold, Sell" format for this week and take a leisurely stroll through Monday night's action.
Emilio Bonifacio, 2B, Marlins: He's down to .266 now after a 1-for-5 night. He K'ed again and didn't walk, making those ratios 20 Ks and four walks for the year, and has stolen two bags since opening day. Bonifacio skepticism was such a lay up that I admire my colleagues who had the courage to buy. We're suckers for an April breakout – the mid-level player struggling with his limitations in the harsh face of stardom (apologies to "Almost Famous" and Lester Bangs).
Raul Ibanez, OF, Phillies: He hit his sixth homer, on pace for 30. Should we have expected that moving to the hitter's haven that is Philly from Seattle? The 30 percent boost in homers according to three-year park factors is noted in "The Bill James Handbook." You only play half your games at homes, though, so that boost gets split to 15 percent. Thus Ibanez from last year (23 homers) hits about 26 or 27 courtesy of the change in zip codes. Of course, you must assume he's not losing anything to age (37 in June).
Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies: He banged out three hits to almost raise his average to .200. What gives? He entered the game hitting just .172 on balls in play (average is about .300). But it's not all bad luck because his line-drive rate is 11.7 percent, down from 24 percent last year. About three quarters of line drives are hits.
Michael Young, 3B, Rangers: He banged his sixth homer and seventh double Monday. He's slugging .600. In nearly 1,300 at bats in 2007-08, Young hit 21 homers and slugged about .400. His owners those years are greatly annoyed by this inexplicable surge.
Orioles Lineup Tip of the Top and Top of the Tip: After Monday, Brian Roberts is hitting .366, Adam Jones .343 and Nick Markakis .382. That's why the Orioles entered action sixth in the majors in runs.
Tim Wakefield, P, Red Sox: His ERA is now 1.86 for the year after shutting out the Indians for seven innings on one hit. From 2006-to-2008, Wakefield's April ERA is about a run less than his overall ERA.
Cliff Lee, P, Indians: He's looked very good of late and his ERA for the year is now below 4.00 after eight shutout innings versus the Red Sox Monday night. His K/BB ratio is moving in the right direction but it's not going to be 5:1 like last year. So a 4.00-ish ERA for 2009 feels right.
Carlos Pena, 1B, Rays: He banged his ninth homer and that seems good but it's not the type of league-leading total you'd expect given the increase in long balls. Yes, the pace this year is only up five percent compared to the full 2008 season. But homers spike in warmer weather because the ball travels about four feet further with every additional 10 degrees of air temperature.
Lance Berkman, 1B, Astros: He hit his fifth homer, but his average increased to just .174. He's become a three-outcome guy, with more walks (16) than hits (12) while on pace for about 170 Ks. Those are "sell" numbers, unless you're okay with him profiling like Adam Dunn.
Mark DeRosa, 3B, Indians: He's hitting .200 with 16 RBI. Put another way, .333 with runners in scoring position. All that clutch hitting got him demoted to the No. 7 spot in the lineup.
Dexter Fowler, OF, Rockies: He had five steals Monday night as the Rockies swiped eight in three innings against the Chris Young/Nick Hundley battery. Hundley threw out 14 of 56 baserunners last year but is now 0-for-19 in 2009. But 14 of those have come with Young pitching. For his career, Young now has allowed base stealers to convert 131 of 144 attempts.
Joel Pineiro, P, Cardinals: He's 4-0. St. Louis leads the majors in OPS and is second in runs. But pass on Pineiro given he K'ed just one and walked none giving him six of each for the season. He's on pace to yield seven homers, but you should expect three times as many and an ERA in the mid-4.00s.
Michael Salfino's work has appeared in USA Today's Sports Weekly, RotoWire, dozens of newspapers nationwide and most recently throughout Comcast SportsNet, including SNY.tv, for which he also analyzes the Mets and Yankees. He's been writing "Baseball by the Numbers" weekly since 2005.