Reaching the unreachable could be possible this season
Memorial Day is in the rearview mirror. June is closing in. We're one-third of the way through another fascinating baseball season. And so far, it's been about as predictable as the Cricket World Cup.
HIGHEST BATTING AVERAGE
THRU MAY 28 (LAST 50 SEASONS)
THRU MAY 28 (LAST 50 SEASONS)
(Min.: 165 plate appearances)
So when do we start the Chipper .400 Watch? Uh, how about now? Only three times in the past 50 years -- in 1983 (Rod Carew), 1974 (Rico Carty) and 1959 (Hank Aaron) -- have we awakened on May 29 and found any hitter with as high a batting average as the Chipster has now (.418). So why not jump on board this locomotive? Yeah, sure, we recognize that it's 67 years and counting since Ted Williams hit .400. And it's 28 years since George Brett even became the last man to carry a .400 average into September. But why not Chipper? He's a switch-hitter who's batting .409 left-handed and .431 right-handed. He hit .422 in April. He's been just as scorching in May (.429; a 3-for-10 March brings his average down to its current .418). And over the past year, he has had only one month when he's hit lower than .364. In fact, if we look back over that year, we find a man who's batting .376 (with a .459 OBP and .622 SLG) -- for a full season. Which means if he'd just gotten one extra hit every two weeks, he'd be a .400 hitter for the equivalent of one complete season. So let's say this one more time: Why not? "I think he could do it, because I've never seen him so locked in from both sides of the plate as he is this year," said one NL scout. "In the past, there were ways to pitch to Chipper and get him out. This year, even if you make good pitches, he can still get a hit."
Can Lance Berkman or Josh Hamilton win a Triple Crown?
This just in: According to Bodog, the odds of Big Brown winning the horse racing Triple Crown are way better (1 to 3) than the odds of either Berkman (30 to 1) or Hamilton (25 to 1) winning a baseball Triple Crown. And friends, that's one sad state of affairs.
Are the Marlins and Rays this good?
The Yankees' starting infield alone makes more money ($76 million) than these two rosters combined (about $65.6 million). But on the morning after Memorial Day, it was the pride of Palm Tree Land, the Rays and Marlins, that had the best record in their respective leagues. Whaddaya know.
Who is positioned to be this year's Rockies?
A year ago this time, four of the eight playoff teams (Rockies, Cubs, Phillies, Yankees) were at least 5½ games out of the playoff spots they eventually won. Then the light bulb flicked on. So the question is: Which team this year is most likely to come from even a couple of games back in the pack and show up in October?
The Yankees, Mets, Indians and Brewers ought to be realllll nervous about now. The Tigers, Mariners and Rockies can just about wave goodbye to their seasons. That's what history tells us, anyway. There have been 104 playoff teams in the wild-card era. Only 13 of them (or 12.5 percent) had a losing record at the end of May. Just 10 of them (9.6 percent) were five games or more out of a playoff spot at the end of May.
If Chipper Jones wins the batting title, he would become only the third batting champ in history who was once the No. 1 overall pick in the June draft. Can you name the other two? (Answer later.)
Rumbling through the jungle• Mad Dog for sale?: Greg Maddux to the Braves? Hey, it's a beautiful plot line. It's a rumor that never quite dies. And it sure isn't impossible, if the price is right. But clubs that have spoken with the Braves say they're more focused on trying to find a younger starting pitcher they can hang onto for just the last few months of this season. So think more along the lines of the non-free agents who could pop onto the market (though not necessarily these names in particular) -- Joe Blanton, Rich Harden, Bronson Arroyo, Daniel Cabrera, Jeremy Bonderman, etc.
THE CUS ZONE
OK, you asked for it. Here it comes -- your CUS leaderboard (through Tuesday).Just a reminder for those who hadn't caught onto the cool stat we invented last year -- the Criminally Unsupported Start. To qualify for a CUS, a starting pitcher needs to go six innings or more, and his team can score no more than one run for him while he's in the game. Got it? Now here goes: NL leaders:
Dan Haren, 4
Cole Hamels, 3
Jake Peavy, 3
Ian Snell, 3
Greg Maddux, 3
Jonathan Sanchez, 3
Adam Eaton, 3
Yovani Gallardo, 3 in 3 starts AL leaders:
Justin Verlander 5
Dustin McGowan, 4
Mark Buehrle, 4
Gil Meche, 4
Greg Smith, 4
NL team leaders:
AL team leaders:
Blue Jays, 12
White Sox, 11
Headliner of the weekFrom the breaking news scroll on the always-amusing sports-parody site, sportspickle.com: STRIKEOUT MISTAKENLY RULED A HOME RUN
Quote of the weekFrom Charles Barkley, of all people, on Jon Lester's no-hitter: "If it was against the Royals, it should only count as half a no-hitter." Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His book, "The Stark Truth: The Most Overrated and Underrated Players in Baseball History," was published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores. Click here to order a copy.
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