Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
September 5, 2007
BASEBALL: Looking at the Breakdowns

Looking over the batting comparisons since July 1, a few things spring to mind:

*David Wright has been the toughest out in baseball, batting .356/.580/.449. Wright is not so much the kind of hitter who goes on weeklong tears as the kind who gets in a groove and stays there for half a season, as he did the first half of 2006 and the last two months of 2005. But Wright's not the only Met - consider Beltran (.287/.622/.385), Delgado (.297/.500/.383), plus Alou, who doesn't have the at bats but is batting .336/.568/.400 over the same period.

*Pat Burrell, just behind Wright in OBP and slugging .650, has also been a monster and should have quieted a lot of doubters.

*If you are looking for guys who really broke out in the past two months, Jeremy Hermida should be at the top of that list, batting .335/.555/.411 and thus answering those who wondered if his minor league plate patience would translate into an unduly passive, punchless major league hitter.

*By contrast, the jury is out on whether Jeff Keppinger, batting .362/.546/.426 with just 8 K in 152 at bats, is showing he's a legitimate major league hitter or just riding a crazy hot streak. The Royals somehow managed to deal Ruben Gotay for Keppinger and let the latter go in time to get nothing from either of them, although with Grudzielanek hitting .350 they have at least covered the short run.

*I really didn't expect Mike Lowell to be hitting .370 over this stretch.

*Hanley Ramirez has also only gotten hotter (.354/.650/.403, 21 steals in 26 attempts) - Jose Reyes (.262/.404/.322 but 35 steals) will only beat out Ramirez by being a better defender. And even now, as well as Josh Beckett is pitching, the Red Sox have to be hurting over that one.

*The Yankees hitters, of course, are just murder up and down the lineup.

*Freddy Sanchez batting .331/.568/.387 with 24 doubles (!) should resolve concerns that his batting title was a 1-year fluke. Sanchez isn't a great player but if you hit for a high enough average with enough doubles you can be valuable without doing a whole lot else.

*Billy Butler has been a breakout in the second half, hitting .321/.495/.385 at the tender age of 21. Teammate Alex Gordon has come alive as well but is still a work in progress at .267/.476/.303, having slowed his early-season pace for hit by pitches.

*Two other youngsters building on initial successes: Matt Kemp (.325/.558/.358) and Ryan Braun (following up an insane June by batting .326/.644/.373).

*Reggie Willits at .234/.266/.348 seems to be answering in the negative the question of whether he can do anything besides draw walks and run. And his 7 for 13 base stealing leaves the latter in question as well. Teammate Casey Kotchman has also hit pumpkin time (.271/.387/.333), as has Dan Johnson in Oakland (.185/.344/.301).

*Frank Thomas at .300/.493/.368 may, perversely, be bad news; if Frank can't slug .500 even when he's in a .300 hitting groove, he's old. Frank has helped the Jays but 2006 looks like his last hurrah as a star.

*Kevin Youkilis really cooled down: .237/.407/.356. But of all people, Julio Lugo has picked up the slack: .304/.435/.348. On the other hand, the combination of Crisp and Drew both slugging below .400 over that stretch doesn't inspire confidence in Boston's lineup entering October.

*Delmon Young continues to look like a talented kid who has no clue what he's doing - .322/.411/.350, 18 doubles but only 1 HR and 1 steal, 11/46 BB/K ratio. Young's high average and doubles numbers suggest that the power will come, whereas you generally don't learn to steal bases at the big league level, so the key factor will be whether he learns some plate discipline. Speaking of which, Alfonso Soriano has regressed (.277/.447/.295, 35/5 K/BB ratio).

*Travis Hafner has only gotten weaker as the season progressed: .256/.431/.344. Hafner's decline is a serious problem for the Indians.

*Sometimes, a player who hits above his head in his mid-30s is Barry Bonds. Sometimes, though, they come back to earth with a crash like Ray Durham (.169/.262/.270).

*Seattle's baserunner deficit in a nutshell: Sexson (.202/.356/.292), Lopez (.238/.291/.251), Betancourt (.291/.458/.311) and Johjima (.278/.433/.303). Even with Jose Vidro reclaiming his glory days (.337/.437/.412), that won't cut it.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:00 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

I'd still do the Beckett/Lowell deal for Ramirez/Sanchez in a second. Beckett has 17 wins and a low 3s ERA this year. He is still learning to pitch, is still only 27 and is starting to look a lot more durable than in the past. The book is still out on Sanchez despite his no-hitter last year. Just because we were boneheads and picked up Lugo as our SS does not mean that a viable alternative to Ramirez cannot be found or acquired. Guys like Beckett who possibly has another 150-200 wins in him are true rarities. Lowell has more than justified his "throw in" status in the deal.

Posted by: jim at September 5, 2007 2:39 PM

Run a pitcher comparison on ERA and you can see why the Tigers won't be defending their title in the post-season. Only so many starters with ERAs between 6 and 14 that you can take for 2 months.

Posted by: jim at September 5, 2007 4:48 PM

Slightly off topic, but some of your thoughts made me think of it: the Devil Rays, even more than the Royals, have a nice core of young hitters.

Even Pena is only 29.

If they could get some gloves at key defensive slots (SS, for instance), even their horrible pitching numbers would improve. Their DERs are the worst in baseball by a good margin.

* * *

And totally off-topic, I'm already preparing myself for the annual, "get-pissed because the voters chose the wrong guy" post-season award thing: Beckett is gonna win the Cy, even though he's about the 5th or 6th most deserving candidate behind the dude who should win -- Sabathia -- as well as Santana, Bedard, Haren, Escobar, and maybe a few others.

Posted by: Mike at September 6, 2007 6:53 AM
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