August 24, 2009

The Senior Circuit’s problem

by Dan Bilicki In: Baseball

If you had any doubt that there is a huge disparity in the calibre of play between the American League and National League, those doubts should have ended yesterday with John Smoltz’s performance against the Padres.

Smoltz, debuting for the Cardinals after being released by the Boston Red Sox, gave up three hits and no runs over five innings and struck out nine, including seven in a row at one point. This is the same John Smoltz that started the season in the minors recovering from surgery, made it up to the bigs and was absolutely shelled. His line with Boston included a 2-5 record, an ERA of 8.32 and a 1.70 WHIP on a team that’s still in the wild card lead. It’s ridiculous to think that it’s just coincidence that he turned it around yesterday; just take a look at two of new teammates that also recently crossed leagues.

Look at Julio Lugo. He played 37 games for Boston, batted a semi-respectable .284 and drove in a whopping eight runs. The Red Sox and their fans couldn’t run him out of town fast enough. Since leaving, he’s been hitting a marvellous .307 over 23 games. Can a change of scenery really be worth a jump of 23 points.

Now, look at the wonderful Matt Holliday. The former Rockies outfielder was dealt to Oakland over the winter and preceded to bomb, by his standards. His .286 batting average and 11 home runs over 93 games were quite uninspiring. Then, after being dealt to the aforementioned Cardinals, Holliday started playing like he is the reincarnation of Hack Wilson. Through 27 games, he had six home runs, 26 RBIs and a masterful batting average of .410.

So, either there’s something in the water of the Mississippi that helps out players coming to St. Louis, or, more than likely, it’s going from superior to inferior opponents. It really makes you wonder how Albert Pujols might fare in the American League.

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