What happens late at night does get noticed

Updated: August 30, 2009

Mark Cunningham/Getty Images

Without much fanfare, Michael Wuertz is 6-1 with a 3.13 ERA out of the Oakland bullpen.

People love ESPN conspiracy theories. I hear and read them all the time. ESPN loves the Mets. ESPN hates the Mets. In reading some comments from a past BBTN Clubhouse column, I found one guy who actually wrote, "John Kruk hates the Brewers." Good grief. Do you REALLY think he hates the Brewers?

Baseball fans are passionate -- it's part of what makes the game great. But I can guarantee you John Kruk does NOT hate the Brewers.

There's always the East Coast bias conspiracy theory, which states that we don't pay enough attention to West Coast teams. For those out there who subscribe to that theory, this one's for you.

We here at "Baseball Tonight" watch every West Coast game. In fact, we don't leave for the night until the last out is recorded in the last game. So I dedicated this week strictly to some of the best and perhaps most unheralded West Coast arms I've watched this season.

Let's start with the A's Michael Wuertz because he's among the best pitching stories of the '09 season that you never hear about. Yes, it's the same Michael Wuertz that spent five years with the Cubs. I've watched him pitch late in games all season long, and the guy has been filthy. Going into Sunday, Wuertz had pitched 63 1/3 innings and issued only 19 walks and 47 hits while striking out 82. Stop. Go back and reread those numbers for a moment. Wuertz is on pace to finish with the best strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio in A's history. His slider has been among the best in baseball. Hitters swing and miss at Wuertz's slider more than half the time; the major league average is only about one-third.

I watched Trevor Cahill dominate in Anaheim on Thursday. He's just 21 years old and looks like the next Brandon Webb. He had an erratic first inning, but settled down after that, and the Angels, the team leading the majors in batting average, simply couldn't touch him. Cahill was giving up homers in bunches earlier this season. In fact, he's already set an A's rookie record, but he seems to have figured that out and now hasn't allowed a homer over his past 27 innings. He has a great slider, effective change, and a two-seamer that moves all over the place. You hear a lot about his outstanding sinker, but opponents are hitting only .186 against Cahill's fastball in his past three starts. It was a treat to watch Cahill on Thursday. He became almost automatic as the game wore on, and by the time he was done, he'd pitched seven innings of two-hit ball against the best-hitting team in baseball. After 98 pitches, Bob Geren then went to Michael Wuertz. See previous item.

Next up, the Mariners' Doug Fister. I've really enjoyed watching Fister over the past month. He's a big, 6-foot-8 righty that tops out in the mid- to high 80s, but his stuff moves all over the place. I was home watching his MLB debut on Aug. 11 and those big White Sox sluggers were swinging and missing wildly all night. Poor Jim Thome almost swung out of his shoes. Fister is out of Fresno State, and had a lot of family and friends at Safeco Field just a few days after being called up. He went six scoreless and left to a standing ovation. The bullpen let the one-run lead get away, so it was a shame he didn't get the win in his debut, but I enjoyed watching Fister pitch so much, I've made sure to watch him every time out since and he's done well: 1-1 in four starts with an ERA under 3.42, 18 strikeouts and 21 hits in 26 1/3 innings. Lefties are hitting only .161 against Fister, and I'll be watching again when he starts Tuesday against the Angels.

The Rockies' bullpen has taken some major injury hits this season. First, it was Taylor Buchholz, then Alan Embree and Manny Corpas. Those are injuries that would cripple any contender, but Colorado has rebuilt with it's new Venezuelan Dynamic Duo of Rafael Betancourt from the right side and Franklin Morales from the left. Since arriving from Cleveland, Betancourt had allowed only two earned runs and nine hits in 12 1/3 innings while striking out 14 with a 1.46 ERA. Betancourt gets ahead in the count immediately, throwing the first pitch for a strike 70 percent of the time. He's held opponents scoreless in 15 of his 16 appearances with the Rockies, while Morales, just 23 years old, has had 19 scoreless outings in 22 appearances and has become the key lefty in that Colorado bullpen: 26 strikeouts in 28 innings with an ERA just a smidge over 2.00 (before a bad outing Sunday against the Giants bumped it to 3.03). His ERA at Coors Field is 0.68.

Don't want to forget one of the other unheralded lefty relievers this season: Jeremy Affeldt. You don't hear much about the Giants' bullpen because their starters are so good, but Affeldt has been as dependable as any lefty set-up man in baseball. Consider this: No reliever in baseball has induced more double-play balls this season than Affeldt. After another scoreless appearance Sunday, his ERA rests at 1.81. He simply gets guys out, registering 27 holds in 60 games. The pieces in the Giants' bullpen have worked out nicely.

And then there's Barry Zito. It was great to watch him come out of the Giants' dugout for a standing ovation and curtain call Saturday night after taking a shutout into the ninth inning against the Rockies. In a game critical to the Giants' season, Zito delivered big time. His stuff was outstanding and he walked only one in 8 1/3 innings with seven strikeouts. Watch out for Zito in September. He's now 4-2, 1.77 since the All-Star break; for his career he is 74-38 in the season's second half.

These are just a few of the guys we've been watching late-night here in Bristol. Bring on September -- it should be fun.

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: Aug. 27 | Aug. 26 | Aug. 25 | Aug. 24 | Aug. 23

WEB GEMS SCOREBOARD

Touch 'Em AllThis season, "Baseball Tonight" will be tracking Web Gems. We'll publish a leaderboard on the Baseball Tonight Clubhouse page each Monday. In addition to listing the leaders in appearances (both players and teams) on "Baseball Tonight," we'll offer up the leaders in Web Gem points.

Web Gem points will be calculated by awarding five points for the night's top defensive play, four points for second, three for third, two for fourth and one for fifth. Scoring will be based on the Web Gems from the last "Baseball Tonight" show to air on a given night.

Web Gem points leaderboard
Ryan Zimmerman 40
Jack Wilson 37
Brandon Inge 34
Mark Reynolds 31
Carlos Gomez 27
Jacoby Ellsbury 27
Cristian Guzman 25

Web Gem appearances leaderboard (players)
Ryan Zimmerman Washington Third base 13
Brandon Inge Detroit Third base 11
Jack Wilson Pittsburgh-Seattle Shortstop 9
David Wright New York Mets Third base 9
Mark Reynolds Arizona Third base 8
Three tied 7

Web Gem appearances leaderboard (teams)
Pittsburgh 34
Washington 32
Cincinnati 30
Philadelphia 29
Minnesota 27

TOUCH 'EM ALL

Touch 'Em AllWho went deep? Keep track of all the home runs hit each day on "Baseball Tonight" and on the Baseball Tonight Clubhouse page.

For more, check out the Home Run Tracker page.

Home Run Tracker
NAME HR OPPSITUATION
Mark Teixeira, NYY32LinebrinkBot 7: 1-2, 2 Outs. 2 on.
Kendry Morales, LAA30MarshallBot 8: 1-2, 2 Outs. 2 on.
Nelson Cruz, TEX28BakerTop 7: 0-0, 1 Out. 1 on.
Evan Longoria, TB25VerlanderTop 4: 1-0, 1 Out. 1 on.
The complete list of Sunday's homers


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BBTN ON THE AIR: MONDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
12:30 a.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Steve Berthiaume
Analysts: John Kruk, Tim Kurkjian

BBTN MINUTE: ROCKIES SLIDING

SIMON SAYS

Simon Says ESPN researcher Mark Simon digs deep, looking for the night's best baseball numbers.

Tonight, he looks at Zack Greinke, who followed up his Royals record 15-strikeout game with a one-hitter against the Mariners. How often has that happened? Well, not often:

15+ strikeout start followed by one-hitter (since 1900)
Zack Greinke 2009
Pedro Martinez 1999
Randy Johnson 1998
Vida Blue 1971

Source: Elias Sports Bureau

WEB GEMS

SUNDAY'S BEST AND WORST

BEST
Zack Greinke• Well, that would be Zack Greinke. He followed his 15-strikeout game with a complete-game one-hitter. On Sunday, he retired the final 22 batters the Mariners sent to the plate in the Royals' 3-0 win. Greinke now leads the majors in shutouts (3), complete games (6) and ERA (2.32).
WORST
Roy HalladayRoy Halladay hasn't been the same this month, going 2-5 since a complete-game no-decision against the Rays on July 24. Halladay lost again Sunday, his third consecutive defeat. He gave up seven hits and four runs in six innings in a 7-0 loss against the Red Sox.

ON DECK: MONDAY'S BEST MATCHUPS

Rays at Tigers, 1:05 p.m. ET

Jarrod Washburn finally got his first win with the Tigers in his most recent start, his fifth since joining Detroit. The Rays, 5½ back of Boston in the AL wild-card race, need a good outing from James Shields. Problem is, Shields has struggled, losing four of his past six starts.

Astros at Cubs, 8:05 p.m. ET

Rich Harden is scheduled to start for the Cubs … unless, of course, the rumored waiver-wire deal to the Twins goes through. The deadline for the deal to take place is Monday at 1 p.m. ET. It's a possibility the Cubs will have to make a short-notice change to the rotation if Harden is no longer with the team Monday night.

White Sox at Twins, 8:10 p.m. ET, ESPN

The White Sox are reeling, losing five of six to Boston and New York so far on this road trip. Manager Ozzie Guillen is frustrated that his team is playing so poorly and has fallen six games back of Detroit in the AL Central. Gavin Floyd will try to stop the skid; he is 5-5 with a 5.22 ERA on the road this season.

For the rest of Monday's schedule, click here.

NUMBERS TO KNOW

Ryan Zimmerman Washington's Ryan Zimmerman was the talk of baseball when he put together a 30-game hit streak earlier this season, but after that streak ended in San Francisco, Zimmerman continued hitting and has quietly put together a career season.

Zimmerman is hitting .299 and slugging .528 with a .373 OBP entering Monday -- all have the 24-year-old on pace for career highs. His 27 home runs represent a new career high, and are almost double his output from a season ago, when he struggled with injuries and played only 106 games.

Zimmerman hits to all fields. He goes to the opposite field much better than most right-handed batters, with a batting average more than 50 points higher than the league average and a slugging percentage nearly 300 points higher.

Zimmerman and the Nationals head to San Diego to start a three-game series on Monday with the Padres. Padres pitchers have held opposing right-handed batters to a .227 batting average (third-lowest in the majors) and a .325 slugging percentage (fourth lowest) to right field.

Ryan Zimmerman
Hitting by field (2009)
Zimmerman MLB avg.
BA SLG BA SLG
Left field .382 .713 .354 .648
Center field .438 .551 .348 .439
Right field .318 .667 .263 .390

-- ESPN Stats & Information

FANTASY: PREVIEW OF MONDAY'S GAMES

Fantasy Adam Madison examines the 12 games on Monday's slate.

Madison ranks the pitchers scheduled to take the mound and supplies loads of other information that could help shape your roster for Monday. Daily Notes