Production up in MLB's first week

Posted: Tuesday, April 08, 2003

NEW YORK -- Look out, pitchers!

The lowly Chicago Cubs had the biggest opening-day win by any team in 52 years, with Corey Patterson driving in seven runs.

Boston's Shea Hillenbrand already has 15 RBIs, and Pittsburgh's Reggie Sanders and Oakland's Erubiel Durazo have 11 each. Tampa Bay's Rey Ordonez, who had 42 RBIs all of last season, has eight.

In the first week of the season, scoring and home runs both were up more than 10 percent as hitters regained some of the punch they lost last year.

''Maybe some of the pitchers aren't ready yet,'' Atlanta's Robert Fick said Monday. ''Some guys are pitching in cold weather, and it's hard to play in it.''

It seems as the temperature goes down, scoring goes up.

Games in the first week averaged 10.03 runs, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, baseball's statistician. That marked an increase of 12 percent from the 8.97 last year, the lowest scoring first week since 1993.

The 196 homers in the first week came to 2.18 per game, up 15 percent from the 1.90 average last year but well below the 2.74 in 2000.

''I've seen some lopsided scores,'' Los Angeles Dodgers manager Jim Tracy said. ''I don't know why.''

Wintry weather may be a big reason.

On a freezing March 31 at Shea Stadium, the Cubs routed the New York Mets 15-2, the largest margin of victory on opening day since the Chicago White Sox beat up the St. Louis Browns 17-3 on April 17, 1951. Tom Glavine, a two-time NL Cy Young Award winner, didn't make it past the fourth inning.

Maybe he should have been playing hockey -- after all, Glavine was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings. The weather was more suited to a pond than a diamond, with a temperature of 39 and wind at 20 mph.

At Denver's Coors Field on Sunday, it was 36 degrees.

''When it's cold, sometimes it's hard for them to grip the ball,'' Arizona's Carlos Baerga said. ''Curt (Schilling) had trouble gripping the ball. At the beginning, his breaking ball wasn't working.''

Cleveland's opener at Baltimore was interrupted by a snow delay.

''I couldn't even see the hitter, that's how bad it was,'' Orioles right fielder Jay Gibbons said. ''I heard him hit it, and that was about it.''

The Chicago White Sox, Detroit, Kansas City, Philadelphia and St. Louis also started at home in bad weather, and home openers for the Chicago Cubs, Cleveland, the New York Yankees and Pittsburgh were postponed Monday by snow and rain.

Attendance dropped 2.7 percent during the first week of the season to an average of 28,272, down from 29,063, with weather probably causing part of the decrease.

Perhaps because it was so cold, the average time of a nine-inning game dropped to 2 hours, 48 minutes from 2:59 in the first week last year.

Looking at all the offense, Fick thought youth might be a factor, too. The former Tiger thought about his old team, the first since the 1962-63 New York Mets to open 0-6 in consecutive seasons. Detroit started with three pitchers selected in the winter meeting draft of unprotected players.

''Maybe it's the money and stuff,'' he said. ''Maybe teams are having to go with younger guys because they couldn't afford to get some of the others.''

Milwaukee bullpen catcher Marcus Hanel predicted power stats will rise this season because the balls seem harder to him.

''I think there are going to be more home runs this year than last year. A lot more,'' he said.

San Francisco's Rich Aurilia cautioned against making judgments.

''It's only six games in. You can't overanalyze it,'' he said. ''Greg Maddux is 0-2 with a 11.00 ERA, but is he going to do that all year? I doubt it.''



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