On-Base Perception

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What we've learned one month into the MLB season

Yu Darvish walks through the dugout after pitching

Yu Darvish walks through the dugout after pitching in the second inning of a spring training baseball game against the Cleveland Indians. (March 13, 2012) (Credit: Getty Images)

One month into the season, we’ve learned quite a few interesting facts about some contenders:

The pen is not mightier

The Cardinals are one of the top teams in baseball once again this season. After winning the World Series in 2011 and making it to Game 7 of the National League Championship Series against the eventual World Champion Giants last year, St. Louis is now a half-game out of first place in the NL Central.

But they could have a commanding lead in the division if not for the one faulty piece of their club. The lineup is deep and powerful. The starting rotation is splendid.

But the bullpen is a mess.

After losing closer Jason Motte to an elbow injury, the Cards pen – a strength during that 2011 Series run – has struggled to find success.

The bullpen’s cumulative 5.89 ERA is the worst in baseball by...well...a lot. The Mets are second-worst and their 5.09 ERA is more than three quarters of a run better. The pen has been tagged with five losses. Their 1.37 home runs allowed per nine innings is third worst, behind the Reds and Mariners.

Imagine where the Cards could be if the pen gets straightened out.

Deep in the start of Texas

Remember this offseason when many pundits criticized the Texas Rangers’ rotation for not having a true ace?

After missing out on free agent Zack Greinke and failing to trade for James Shields, some analysts worried about the starting staff in Arlington.

One month into the season, the Rangers starters’ 3.03 ERA is the third-best in baseball (behind the Cardinals and Reds) and tops in the American League. Their 1.099 WHIP is the best in the majors and their 3.22 strikeout to walk ratio is sixth.

Yu Darvish has pitched like the ace the Rangers thought he could be when they acquired him from Japan before the 2012 season. He’s 4-1 with a 1.65 ERA and has struck out 49 in 32.2 innings – nearly throwing a no-hitter in the process. Lefty Derek Holland and converted reliever Alexia Ogando each have a 3.38 ERA and Justin Grimm and Nick Tepesch, a pair of 24-year-old starters in their rookie seasons, have sparkling ERAs and two wins each.

Ogando, 29, is the oldest of the bunch, and the next oldest are Darvish and Holland at 26.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T spells intentional walk

The Reds lead the majors in intentional walks received with 15, beating runner-up Milwaukee, which has 10.

Joey Votto has four and Devin Mesoraco three to lead Cincinnati.

That Votto has been intentionally walked four times means he has more intentional passes than eight entire teams and at least as many as four others. The Braves (2), Minnesota (1) and Toronto (1) COMBINED have been intentionally walked as many times as Votto.

The only team without an intentional free pass in the majors: Tampa Bay.

Tags: St. Louis Cardinals , Cincinnati Reds , Tampa Bay Rays , Joey Votto , Jason Motte , Texas Rangers , Yu Darvish , Derek Holland , Alexi Ogando

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