Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Boys Of Spring

That was quick.

It's not even late April yet, and already there's trouble for each of Princeton's three Major Leaguers, even though all three entered the season with really high hopes.

Of course, because it's so early, there's also plenty of time to straighten it all out.

Let's start with Will Venable, who is batting leadoff and playing in the outfield for the San Diego Padres. Venable had a strong finish to the 2010 season and then a big spring, so his early .156 average is going to start to come up.

Of course, Venable is still on the cusp of establishing himself as an everyday player in the Major Leagues, so a number like ".156" doesn't help his long-term situation. In fact, it's nearly 100 points below his lifetime average of .248, and he has 27 home runs, 100 RBI and 38 stolen bases in 827 career at-bats.

Venable began to show reliable power last year, which makes his no home runs, one RBI start more disappointing. His defensive ability increases his value considerably, but he's going to need to start putting up better numbers.

During the early portion of his career, he's shown himself to get into sizzling hot grooves, where he hits well above .400 for a week at a time; he can use one of those shortly.

At least Venable is healthy, though.

Ross Ohlendorf finds himself on the Pirates' 15-day disabled list with a shoulder strain, which, according to a quote from Ohlendorf, is in the same spot in his shoulder as last year, when he ended up on the 60-day DL. Ohlendorf did say that he didn't think it would take as long to get over it as it did last year.

Ohlendorf went 1-11 a year ago and then won an arbitration hearing that netted him more than $2 million for this season, so he clearly wants to 1) prove that he's way better than the 1-11 record and 2) earn the money. In truth, his W-L record last year was more a function of the team he plays for and not how he pitched, which for most of the year was pretty well.

His career record is 13-25, but his other numbers are all pretty strong. He has a 4.47 ERA, and he's allowed 373 hits and struck out 252 in 363 innings. Those aren't quite Cy Young numbers, but they're solid for a Major League starter.

Actually, Ohlendorf's numbers aren't quite Chris Young numbers either.

Young has been the best New York Met so far, with a 1-0 record and 1.46 ERA in two starts. He has allowed six hits and struck out 12 in 12 1/3 innings.

His last start saw him go seven innings and allow one run on one hit. He turned a 3-1 lead over to the bullpen - in a game that the Mets lost 7-3.

Unfortunately for the oft-injured Young, his next start has been pushed back two days, to Sunday against the Braves, because of bicep tendinitis that he insists is only a minor annoyance.

For his career, Young is 49-34. He has pitched 764 innings, allowing 620 hits while striking out 665.

Of course, if you're a Princeton baseball fan, there's a great deal to be excited about much closer to home.

The Tigers play four games at Penn this weekend, and the teams enter the weekend tied for first in the Gehrig Division after both went 6-2 against the teams in the Rolfe. The schedule has been changed due to rain in the forecast for Saturday, so the teams will play twice tomorrow and twice Sunday.

The next three weekends see each team play the others in the division four times apiece, so the race can go in a lot of directions between now and the end of the month, when the Ivy League Championship Series matchup is set.

Dartmouth, who swept Princeton last week, is 6-2 in the Rolfe, where Brown and Yale are 4-4 and Harvard is 1-7.

Princeton and Penn are both 4-2, while Columbia is 3-5 and Cornell is 2-6. If Princeton or Penn goes 3-1 in the four games, it'll have taken a huge step towards the division title, which could mean that Sunday's second game will take on extra significance if one team has won two of the first three.

On a weekend without many home events, the drive to Philadelphia will be worth it.

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