This week, I thought we’d take a look at the teams whose projected full-season run differential has changed the most since we last left off. Stats for this edition run from May 21 through the games on June 2.
St. Louis Cardinals
Projected Full-Season Run Differential: +125 (second)
Last Fortnight: +80 (fourth)
Since 2006, Matt Holliday has put together seven straight seasons with a wRC+ of at least 138. That streak may come to an end this season, as he has “only” tallied a 110 wRC+. Despite hitting third in the St. Louis order though, the team has not been hampered by his slowish start. Matt Carpenter has been on fire essentially all season, and Yadier Molina has joined him. After a nice April in which he posted a 124 wRC+, he took to the warpath in May, when he posted a 193 wRC+. In this most recent Fortnight, he hit .441/.475/.618 in 10 games. He tallied two three-hit games and a four-hit game to boot, and has been a big part of the reason why the Cards’ full-season run differential is now 45 runs higher than it was just two weeks ago.
Of course, it hasn’t just been the offense that has fueled the spike in run differential, but also the ridiculous starting pitching. Adam Wainwright and Shelby Miller have gotten plenty of ink, but Lance Lynn has been just as instrumental to the team’s success. Entering last night, his 76 FIP- was 18th best in the game among qualified pitchers, and then Lynn went out and shut down the Diamondbacks. In his two starts before that, he tossed 13 innings, struck out 13 batters and allowed just two runs. Perhaps Lynn isn’t this good, just as was not as good as his hot start last season, but he has improved his K%-BB% against left-handed batters just enough to give me pause.
San Francisco Giants
Projected Full-Season Run Differential: -1 (16th)
Last Fortnight: +29 (11th)
The Giants went a middling 5-7 during our period covered here, and while the offense was plenty involved in the five wins, it was non-existent during many of the losses. The team lost 0-5, 1-4, 3-6, and then this weekend in St. Louis, 0-8 and 1-7 in what must have been a mortifying doubleheader for the black-and-orange faithful. To make matters worse, Pablo Sandoval may miss a week with an injured foot. Actually, Sandoval wasn’t hitting all that well recently anyway. In his last nine games, he has hit a dreadful .200/.243/.286. And his replacements at third base have been worse — with wRC+’s of 30 and 33, Nick Noonan and Joaquin Arias are the Giants worst hitters (minimum 50 plate appearances), and it isn’t close. This is to say, the Giants may feel a Sandoval absence more than most. Entering the week with a negative run differential, the Giants can ill afford to lose Kung Fu Panda for any extended amount of time.
Retaining Gregor Blanco as a full-time starter also seems like a suboptimal move at the moment. Buoyed by his strong 2012 campaign, the Giants decided to rely on him even more heavily in 2013. To date, that has been a mistake. Blanco is still playing strong defense, but his hitting has been so poor that he’s barely above replacement level overall. Overall, at the end of this Fortnight, the Giants were left with a projected negative run differential. They were still pegged to have an 84-78 record, but obviously things looked a lot rosier just two weeks ago.
New York Yankees
Projected Full-Season Run Differential: +19 (13th)
Last Fortnight: +47 (seventh)
Hopefully, for those that sing those River Avenue blues, this particular nightmare is coming to a close, but my has it been painful. Through Sunday, the Yankees scored four or fewer runs in eight consecutive games — in five of them, they scored one or fewer. Now Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis have returned to bolster the lineup, and they couldn’t get back soon enough. Vernon Wells was a nice story in April, but he’s only notched five hits in his last 44 PA. Travis Hafner has been beaten pretty hard with the regression stick as well, as he went just 6-for-35 over the Fortnight, before finally popping a homer in last night’s game. And with Andy Pettitte returning, the Bombers will try to put the halcyon days of Vidal Nuno, starting pitcher, in their rearview mirror. With just a 1.5 percent difference between his K% and BB%, Nuno’s particular brand of smoke and mirrors were not long for this world, even if he did fill in admirably when needed.
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