Around the Majors
It's been awhile since I did this, so I'm going to take a look around the league and mention a couple things about each of the 15 games that were played last night. Actually, I'm not going to talk about the games themselves as much as the players and teams involved in them.
ATL/CHC - Vinny Castilla plays third base and now has 15 home runs, but he's a below average offensive player. The first problem is that he's batting just .261. The second problem is that he had just 17 walks. The third problem is that he's grounded into 14 double plays. So, his .459 SLG is negated by the fact that he's made 249 outs in 336 plate appearances.
In case you haven't noticed, Sammy Sosa is back. He's now hitting .307/.407/.570 (.977) and his two homers yesterday give him seven already in July and 17 for the season. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him finish the season with at least 40 home runs.
FLA/MON - When you talk about the most underrated players in baseball, Derrek Lee has to be near the top of the list. He's only hitting .263, but his 54 walks give him a .372 OBP and his 18 homers and 18 doubles give him a .486 SLG for an .858 OPS. He's also stolen 14 bases in 18 attempts (77.8-percent success rate). Oh yeah, he gets killed by his home park. He's hitting just .216/.362/.345 (.707) at home, but he's hitting .301/.380/.601 (.981) on the road. Put him in a neutral home park and he'd be an All-Star. Put him in a favorable home park and he'd be an MVP candidate.
How great a season would Javier Vazuez be having if he could keep the ball in the park? He has a solid 1.19 WHIP, an excellent 9.98 K/9IP average and a very good 3.97 K/BB ratio. The reason he has a 3.95 ERA is that he's allowed 22 home runs (1.58 HR/9IP). After allowing two more homers yesterday, he's on pace to give up 39 home runs this season. His career high is 31 homers allowed, when he had a 6.06 ERA as a rookie. He's averaged 25.3 home runs allowed (1.02 HR/9IP) over the last three seasons.
BOS/DET - Jason Varitek is starting to get a little ridiculous. I expected him to have a good season now that he's finally healthy, but he hit his 16th home run yesterday. His career high is 20. He's now hitting .307/.372/.594 (.966) and he leads the Red Sox in SLG! That's right, the team that leads the AL in SLG by a considerable margin is led in SLG by a catcher who was not originally picked for the All-Star team.
Ramon Santiago is the most powerless hitter in the AL. His .059 Isolated Power is the lowest for anybody in the AL with at least 200 at-bats (former teammate Omar Infante had a .030 IsoP before being sent to Class AAA). After going 0-for-3 last night, Santiago's SLG is down to .283, but it's only that high because he's hitting .224. Of his 53 hits, only 12 have been for extra bases (11 doubles and one home run).
CWS/CLE - Ben Broussard raised his OPS 70 points yesterday by going 4-for-4 with two home runs and a double. He's now hitting .280/.348/.488 (.836) and has three home runs in his last two games after going 19 games without hitting one. Maybe the Indians have finally acquired an older prospect who will put everything together on a new team after trading away so many of them.
Carl Everett is now 6-for-31 (.194) with two doubles and two walks since being traded to the White Sox. Hitting .274/.356/.544 (.900) before the trade, he's now down to .267/.346/.517 (.863) after going 1-for-5 and leaving six men on base yesterday.
NYY/TOR - The top five hitters in the Yankees lineup each had two hits yesterday, going 10-for-24 with a walk, four doubles and a home run. That's a .417/.440/.708 (1.148) line for the top half of the lineup. Once everybody's fully healthy, the Yankees will have a very potent offensive attack.
Nice to see that some things don't change even if you throw a perfect game in the minors. The last time John Wasdin was in the majors, he had a 7.03 ERA in 24.1 innings for Colorado in 2001. Yesterday, he started for Toronto and was pulled before getting an out in the second after giving up eight hits and a walk in the game. He was charged with five runs to bring his career ERA up to 5.14 in 599 innings. I wonder how much longer it'll take him to get that 600th inning.
PHI/NYM - After being outscored 21-9 during their recent four-game losing streak, the Phillies have outscored their opponents 32-12 during their current four-game winning streak. Can this team just pick a consistent level of performance and stick with it for at least a month or so? Please?
Aaron Heilman earned run totals in order for his four big league starts: 1, 3, 5, 8. His innings pitched in order for his four big league starts: 6, 7, 4, 4.1. His ERA after each of his four big league starts: 1.50, 2.77, 4.77, 7.17. Not good. Not good at all.
PIT/HOU - If there's a less-talked about stud hitter in baseball right now than Morgan Ensberg (.316/.419/.627 for a 1.046 OPS), then I'm not paying enough attention. He already had five multi-hit games this month and seven games (out of 11) in which he's reached base safely at least twice.
How does a pitcher as dominant as Octavio Dotel (2.09 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 10.45 K/9IP) allow a home run to Abraham Nunez? Nunez only had five career home runs in 1,133 at-bats before yesterday and had a career SLG of just .297.
CIN/MIL - Ken Griffey Jr. has one hit in each of his last four games and they're all home runs. He now has 12 homers this year and he's hitting .247/.365/.557 (.922). He's 20 home runs away from the 500 Club and I have no doubt he'll get there before Fred McGriff (12 away).
Brooks Kieschnick pitched a scoreless inning yesterday to lower his ERA to 4.35 and drew a walk for his first plate appearance of the season that wasn't an at-bat. He's now hitting .341/.356/.636 (.992). How is this guy not getting more notoriety? How many pitchers can say they've hit more homers (4) than they've allowed (3)?
KC/TEX - Is there a better basestealer in baseball right now than Carlos Beltran? He stole his 24th base of the season last night and has only been caught once (that's a 96-percent success rate). For his career, he's stolen 133 bases in 150 attempts (88.7-percent success rate). Basestealing isn't that important in today's baseball ... unless you can steal bases like that.
What does it say about the Rangers that they intentionally walked a player (Jarrod Patterson) who has one hit in 11 at-bats in the majors this season and just 12 career hits in the majors? What does it say that they also intentionally walked a catcher (Brent Mayne) who was hitting .251/.316/.355 (.671) at the start of the day?
SD/STL - Where would St. Louis be without Woody Williams? After allowing two runs on two hits and two walks with two strikeouts in eight innings, Williams is now 12-3 with a 3.01 ERA. He's also third in the NL in WHIP and innings pitched.
Is it time for Jesse Orosco to hang 'em up? He now has a 7.78 ERA and has allowed five home runs in just 24.1 innings (1.85 HR/9IP).
LA/COL - How did Colorado score more runs than Los Angeles when LA had six more hits (13-7) and no errors to Colorado's three? The Rockies hit .250/.400/.571 (.971) for the game and the Dodgers hit .310/.326/.357 (.683) for the game. Yet another shining example of how overrated batting average is (and no, Joe Morgan, it's not because batting average doesn't tell you when the players are getting their hits). Also, if the Dodgers can't show patience and power at Coors Field, the Dodgers can't show patience and power anywhere.
Todd Helton is now hitting .390/.477/.743 (1.220) at home and .294/.399/.479 (.878) on the road. He's getting back to the formula that made him great the last few years: be a good hitter on the road and bash the everloving crap out of the ball at home.
BAL/OAK - Nine innings, no runs, three hits, one walk, nine strikeouts. Maybe now people will realize that Tim Hudson is the best of the Big Three this year. Well, they probably won't, but he has a 2.71 ERA and Oakland is 16-4 when he takes the mound.
Of course, one of the three hits came from Melvin Mora, who is hitting .356 and still has an OPS above 1.025. This can't continue, but I recently read that Baltimore doesn't want to trade him for minor leaguers (aka prospects). Nice to know the Orioles are still stupid.
MIN/ANA - At what point does Brendan Donnelly become a pitcher who should be considered when writers fill out the middle part of their Cy Young ballot this season? The man's allowed two earned runs in 47 innings! Just to put things in perspective, though, Donnelly has allowed 25 hits, 12 walks and 54 strikeouts in 47 innings and Eric Gagne has allowed 23 hits, 11 walks and 76 strikeouts in 44.1 innings. Somehow Donnelly has a 0.38 ERA and Gagne has a 2.03 ERA.
Johan Santana allowed three runs on five hits with four strikeouts in six innings in his first start as an official member of the rotation. His ERA is now 3.00 and I expect it to still be around there at the end of the year.
TB/SEA - Ichiro Suzuki is on a 10-game hitting streak, but in nine of those games he has exactly two hits. He's 19-for-43 over the streak and has raised his average from .340 to .352. Does anybody really think Ichiro won't win another batting title this year?
Rocco Baldelli now has 73 strikeouts and just 13 walks. He's hitting .305 and it's only a matter of time (a short time) before he dips below .300. Even worse, I think his OBP will fnid itself south of the .300-mark by the end of the season as well.
SF/ARI - Barry Bonds has homered in four straight games and has seven homers in July. He's hitting .316/.494/.712 (1.206) and is now, without a doubt, the MVP in the NL.
Shea Hillenbrand is doing his best to make the Red Sox look stupid for trading him. In 77 at-bats with Arizona, he has eight doubles (one every 9.6 at-bats), six home runs (one every 12.8 at-bats), five walks (one every 15.4 at-bats) and is hitting .364. In 185 at-bats with Boston, he had 17 doubles (one every 10.9 at-bats), three home runs (one every 61.7 at-bats), seven walks (one every 26.4 at-bats) and hit .303. Fortunately for the Red Sox, Byung-Hyun Kim is now doing his best to make the Diamondbacks look stupid for trading him.