I didn't feel like writing anything over the weekend, so here are some random thoughts from the past couple days...
This is going all the way back to Thursday, but Roger Clemens had his worst start of his (short) season to this point in Colorado, giving up four runs in 4 1/3 innings. He struck out six and only walked one, but the two homers he allowed were the problem. I wouldn't be worried about this; I still think he ends up going something like 11-6 with an ERA in the low fours.
What I was more interested in was his splits; I noticed last time that he did poorly against lefties and when hitters put the first pitch into play. Well, hitters seemed to be more aggressive against Clemens this time, putting the first pitch in play three times in just over four innings, but it didn't help them a whole lot; they went just 1-for-3, with the lone hit being a Willy Tavares bunt single. (By the way, fast hitters have been taking advantage of Clemens' 44-year-old legs by bunting a lot off him; he's gonna have to get used to it, because it's not going to stop.) The lefties in the lineup - Kaz Matsui, Todd Helton, and Brad Hawpe - went a combined 2-for-6 with a walk; the righties were 5-for-14 with both homers, and that includes two at-bats by pitcher Rodrigo Lopez. Colorado's righties tend to be more dangerous than their lefties, however, as Garrett Atkins and Matt Holliday are two of the best hitters in the league, and rookie Troy Tulowitzki is hitting very well.
In other follow-up news...Justin Verlander threw again Saturday, and had another really good outing - seven innings, only one earned run, earning him his ninth win of the season. That run came via a homer, which isn't great news; Verlander has been giving up an increasing number of home runs as the season has brogressed. His 11:2 K-BB ratio, however, is excellent news. He was under 100 pitches in his last outing, but was back up to 110 this weekend, which probably isn't good for the Tigers. The one thing I noticed after his no-hitter was that his first-pitch strike percentage had been decreasing throughout the season, causing me to wonder if he was hurt and to predict that he would either get hurt or lose his effectiveness, although he made me look dumb by throwing 17 of 28 first-pitch strikes in his next outing. On Saturday? 15 of 27. He wasn't very effective with his pitches, throwing more than four pitches per hitter, which still isn't a good sign; but it does seem that his first-pitch strike woes were an aberration and not a sign of anything important.
One more pitcher to follow up on: Yovani Gallardo. I wrote about his debut last week, and I was pretty impressed. Well, he actually pitched better yesterday, thrwoing seven innings of one-run ball, although he didn't get a win out of it. Gallardo had eight strikeouts to just two walks and five hits, and kept his pitch count under 100. I wasn't watching the whole game, and I can't find a comprehensive recap online, but from the highlights it seems that Gallardo was using his fastball and slider more instead of relying too heavily on his outstanding curve. His fastball was hitting 93, too, and it would be great if he could eventually get that up into the 95-96 range.
As the calendar turns towards July, trade talk obviously begins to heat up; the White Sox remain the most powerful team on the market. There are some new rumors out that, in addition to Mark Buerhle, Chicago might move some starters who are not free agents at the end of the year, including possibly Jose Contreras and Jon Garland. The Mets are very interested in Contreras, and if the White Sox actually can get Lastings Milledge in return for Contreras or a package centered around him, I think they should definitely do it; Contreras is 35 and not getting any younger, and his ERA+ has gone from 123 in 2005 to just 98 this year (an ERA+ of 100 is league-average).
Meanwhile, the Mets had been the favorite for Buerhle for a while, but on Thursday Jayson Stark said the Braves were the favorite. Then, over the weekend, it became the Red Sox. I wouldn't say it's likely that any team gets him at this point; there are plenty of interested teams, and it's going to take a while for things to sort themselves out. I will say that at this point it doesn't seem likely that he goes to the Mets; the Red Sox and Braves both have more to offer in the way of second-tier prospects, and the Mets have made it clear they aren't including Lastings Milledge in a deal for a three-month rental. The Red Sox don't really make sense as a destination, as they will have five good starters when Jon Lester comes back, but it's possible that Curt Schilling's injury is more serious than people initially thought.
Nobody really seems to know where the top hitters - Adam Dunn, Jermaine Dye, and Mark Teixeira - are going to end up. People around baseball seem to think it's very likely that Dunn gets traded, although I personally don't think he'll leave Cincinatti. Teixeira's been rumored to the Angels, though he doesn't help that lineup all that much, and Bill Stoneman is a relatively conservative GM. The Yankees have had interest, but they aren't going to give up what it takes to get him. The Dodgers seem to be the most likely trade partner at this time, as they have plenty of good young players, but I think Teixeira stays in Texas. He's not a free agent until after the 2008 season, so they'll probably have more success trying to deal him this winter. Dye seems to be the most likely hitter to be dealt, and the Padres seem to want him pretty badly, but teams aren't going to give up too much for him when he's only hitting .230.