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    3 Things I Learned This Week

    Three things I learned about baseball this week

    Heath Bell is still pretty good at baseball! Remember last year when nearly everyone had written him off? He couldn’t throw strikes, and when he did, they were hit very hard to places his teammates couldn’t catch them.

    Of the last 17 batters he’s retired, 12 of them have gone down on strikes. As relievers pitch fewer innings than starters, their numbers can vary from season to season because of the smaller sample size. It’s not unprecedented for an ace reliever to stumble for a season and then return to glory. His numbers this year are skewed because of three earned runs he surrendered in his first appearance. Watch out for the Diamondbacks. Top ten in runs, top ten in runs allowed. Five solid starters, very deep bullpen and a deep, versatile lineup. Don’t be surprised if they come out on top in the NL West.

    Don’t point out stats a couple of weeks into the season, or make any kind of predictions. Last week I learned Barry Zito threw the slowest fastball in the majors, aside from RA Dickey. I guess the Brewers read that as they scored nine runs and sent Zito to the bath before he could finish three innings. The Padres didn’t pay attention, as Zito shut them out for seven innings Sunday. I predicted big weeks for Jason Heyward and B.J. Upton. Upton had a decent week stroking one ball over the fence along with three doubles on his way to a 261/320/522 week.  Heyward not so much his scuffles continued as he 174/208/391 but did have a home run and a pair of doubles. Doubles squared? I don’t know math. The Blue Jays were caught stealing twice, as teams begin to catch on to the shady characters living in America’s hat.

    Bell TV in Canada doesn’t know the teams in baseball. On Monday, according to the guide, viewing options in Canada on the Extra Innings package included a game between the St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers. Amazing seeing as how I was watching the Tigers and Mariners at the time.

    I tired of that game and wanted to see what else there was to watch. Bell TV informed me that I could watch the San Francisco Padres take on the LA Angels. I was excited to see the San Francisco Padres in action. Had the Padres moved to San Francisco and merged with the Giants into one superteam? Maybe MLB was following the lead of the Canadian Football League, who for the longest time had two of the eight teams with the same name. If Canada can have two teams called the Roughriders, California can have two teams called the Padres. The Giants is a very scary name! Maybe children were frightened, but I can’t speak for the decision makers in San Francisco. Alas, the promise of a superteam playing an interleague game against Mike Trout and the Angels was just a regular Padre/Dodger game. Thanks for getting my hopes up, stupid Bell.

    Shin-Soo Choo gets hit by all of the pitches. Get out of the way Shin-Soo!!! He’s been hit by nine pitches this year. Nine! He also has 11 walks. He’s been on base more than half the time. His defense has been an adventure at times in center, but he’s an on base machine. The Dodgers and Yankees fall behind the Reds in players that have the most bruises. They are tied with nine HBP. Choo has nine. He’s been hit more times than the Nationals, Astros and Orioles combined! Those three teams have a combined 2,001 plate appearances. 2,001 chances to lean into one. Choo has 89. He’s been hit 9% of the time he comes to the plate. That’s just a lot.

    Other quick notes from the week:

    – Kyle Seager of the Mariners has 19 hits and ten of them are doubles. I watch a lot of Mariner games and think this is simply because he’s incredibly fast, turning singles into doubles. Just kidding, he’s not very fast. They’re regular doubles in the gaps and down the lines.
    – Al Alburquerque struck out 5 Angels in two innings on Sunday. On 20 pitches. Do the mathematics on that one.
    – “Pitching and defense win games, offense creates enthusiasm” This is wisdom from Kent Tekulve on the Pirate pre-game show prior to Sunday. The Braves are an enthusiastic 13-5 and lead the league in runs allowed, so shush your mush Tekulve.
    – Ryan Dempster is the hardest pitcher to make contact off of. He leads the majors with a 39.5% whiff rate. Nearly 40% of the time batters swing at a Dempster offering, it ends up in the catcher’s pillowy mitt.
    – Brandon McCarthy is the easiest to connect with. 89.29% of the time hitters hack, they put the ball in play. Couple that with a 29% line drive rate on balls in play and look out! Also it gives you an unattractive 7.06 ERA
    All numbers from Baseball Prospectus and mlb.com. Numbers are subject to change. Canada is not actually a hat.

    Darren Schienbein is a freelance baseball analyst and BravesWire contributor. Follow Darren on Twitter: @shinesie