With Chase Utley returning for the Phillies tonight, they finally get another bat in their lineup. Phillies' second basemen are hitting .226 with no homers and 10 RBIs, so I think even if Utley plays on one leg and hops around the bases he should be able outproduce that. Here is a look at the biggest problem positions in the majors so far this season ... but only among teams currently at or above .500.
Rays catchers: .190/.256/.314. John Jaso was a big surprise a year ago, posting a .372 OBP and even leading off. He's not hitting this season (.211, .276 OBP) and platoon mate Kelly Shoppach is even worse.
In my weekly look-ahead piece, I made an off-hand comment that only three AL outfielders currently have an OPS greater than .900 (and only eight have are higher than .800). Is that a low total? Actually, we haven't had more than three AL outfielders post a .900 OPS since 2006 (at least 50 percent of games played in the outfield). Here's the chart of .900 and .800 OPS seasons by AL outfielders since 2001:
Fun look from The Common Man at the Platoon Advantage on the three position players who have been on a 25-man roster season and have yet to draw a walk ... plus some other non-walking feats.
The Mariners' streak of nine straight games where their starting pitchers went at least seven innings and allowed two or fewer runs is the first time that's happened since the 1999 Braves.
Sticking with the Mariners. Check out the list of pitchers with the highest percentage of strikes, from ESPN Stats & Information:
The Stats & Info department passes this note along as well: Josh Tomlin has pitched a quality start in each of his first nine starts this season, the longest streak to start a season by an Indians pitcher since 1913. He has gone 5+ IP in each of his first 21 career starts, tied for the third-longest streak in the Live Ball Era (since 1920).
Carl Pavano is averaging 3.31 K's per nine innings, lowest among qualified starters. Only four pitchers since 2000 who pitched at least 162 innings have struck out so few batters: Aaron Cook for the 2007 Rockies (3.31), Danny Graves of the 2003 Reds (3.20), Chien-Ming Wang of the 2006 Yankees (3.14; he led the AL with 19 wins that year), Kirk Rueter of the 2004 Giants (2.65), and the immortal Nate Cornejo of the 2003 Tigers (2.13). Cornejo made 32 starts that year and struck out 46 batters in 194 innings. He didn't record a strikeout in nine different.
Rays first basemen: .272/.335/.337. Talk about an empty .272: Rays' first sackers have just one home, nine RBIs and 13 runs scored. Most of the blame goes to Dan Johnson, who hit .115 before getting designated for assignment over the weekend. Casey Kotchman his hitting .352 in 117 plate appearances, so the problem may be solved.
Blue Jays second basemen: .217/.268/.317. Aaron Hill has received most of the playing time, but has yet to homer in 116 at-bats. He's hit 62 home runs the past two seasons, although hit just .207 in 2010.
Rockies third basemen: .169/.219/.247. There was a lot of competition for this spot, as Toronto, Baltimore and Oakland third basemen are also hitting under .200, with Seattle and Detroit under .210. That .466 OPS is the worst of any position other than Twins catchers. Take a bow, Jose Lopez, Ian Stewart and Ty Wigginton.
Rays shortstops: .199/.236/.288. That's the lowest OPS of any shortstop group in the majors. Reid Brignac and company have combined for 40 strikeouts and seven walks. Did we mention the Rays are tied for first with the Yankees?
Red Sox left fielders: .207/.244/.272. That's one expensive No. 8 hitter.
Brewers right fielders: .236/.288/.348. Corey Hart is back but has one RBI in 21 games.
Blue Jays DHs: .235/.313/.324. The Mariners don't have a home run from their DHs (that's you, Jack Cust), but at least have a .361 OBP. Yankee DHs are hitting .195, but at least have nine home runs. Toronto's DHs aren't getting on base or hitting for power.
By the way, how bad are the Twins? Here are their position OPS ranks across the majors: C (30th), 1B (22nd), 2B (30th), 3B (22nd), SS (26th), LF (29th), CF (17th), RF (6th), DH (11th of 14). Oh ... the Twins have allowed the most runs in the AL as well. It's not going to be a fun summer in Minnesota.
Michael Pineda, 70.4%
Cliff Lee, 70.0%
Ted Lilly, 69.9%
Roy Halladay, 69.0%
Jordan Zimmerman, 68.1%
And guess which starting pitcher has the highest average fastball velocity this season?