|Monthly report: Baseball hits Ice Age in April|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 01 May 2007 12:18|
Ryan Howard had just three homers, Carlos Delgado only one and Alfonso Soriano none at all: Hitters were stuck in an April ice age, with home runs and scoring in the major leagues dropping to their lowest levels since 1993.|
Home runs fell 20 percent, from an average of 2.31 to 1.84 per game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The average had not been that low at the end of April since 1993's 1.58.
A huge cold front left hitters feeling frozen.
``Being cold, it's tough to get warmed up. Sometimes, it's the windy days, the wind blowing in your eyes, and different kind of stuff,'' Howard said. ``I've never been a quick starter.''
Scoring dropped 8 percent, from 9.86 to 9.08 runs per game, the lowest since the 1993 rate of 1.58. The batting average fell from .265 to .256 and the ERA fell from 4.62 to 4.12.
Looking for a cause? The average temperature was below normal for long stretches in Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Washington, according to the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.
Cleveland had six straight days of snow, with temperatures 10-to-20 degrees below normal. The Indians had an entire four-game Seattle wiped out, among 22 postponements in the majors - up from eight in April last year.
``The first two weeks of the season were miserable,'' New York Mets catcher Paul Lo Duca said. ``You're playing in 12-degree weather and the ball feels like it's a rock when it hits your bat.''
When they did play, attendance was up 4.8 percent, from 28,955 to 30,356. And much of baseball was turned upside down.
Mark Buehrle of the Chicago White Sox threw a no-hitter on the 18th day of the season. Last year, the only no-hitter was pitched by Florida's Anibal Sanchez, and it didn't take place until Sept. 6 - the first in the major leagues since Randy Johnson's perfect game in May 2004.
``Maybe all the pitching's caught up to the hitting,'' Oakland designated hitter Mike Piazza said with a chuckle.
Still, some sluggers have defied the trend. The Yankees' Alex Rodriguez hit 14 homers, tying the April record Albert Pujols set last year. Barry Bonds had eight, moving within eight of Hank Aaron's record of 755, and Sammy Sosa hit seven in his comeback with Texas, moving within 12 of 600.
Then there were forgettable Aprils. Mariano Rivera had just one save, blew two and left the month with a 10.57 ERA. Despite A-Rod's homers, the injury-weakened Yankees lost eight of their last nine games in the month and ended April at 9-14, better than only Colorado and Kansas City.
That start renewed speculation that manager Joe Torre's job may be in jeopardy, and while George Steinbrenner backed him Monday, the owner also said his $195 million team's start was ``clearly not acceptable.''
In Boston, Daisuke Matsuzaka was overwhelming at times, wild at others, going 3-2 with a 4.36 ERA in his first month in the majors. Tim Hudson was sharp for the Atlanta Braves: He's 3-0 with a 1.40 ERA in six starts.
Then there was the unusual. Colorado rookie shortstop Troy Tulowitzki accomplished one of baseball's rarities Sunday: the 13th unassisted triple play in major league history.
``The season isn't made in one month, especially the first month of the season,'' Howard said. ``Like everybody says, it's not how you start, it's how you finish. You can get off to a slow start, but as long as you finish strong, then it's fine.''
AP Sports Writers Mike Fitzpatrick and Janie McCauley and AP freelance writer Amy Jinkner-Lloyd contributed to this report.
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