NL East Shaken Up: Part IV – Philadelphia Phillies

The Good:

As with the Mets, there is a lot on this team that is positive. Their 1-2-3-4 rivals the best in the league with Jimmy Rollins (.277, 36 SB, 25HR’s, 83 RBI), Shane Victorino (.287 BA, .346 OBP), Chase Utley (.309/.379/.527, 32 HR’s, 102 RBI, gorgeous), and reigning MVP Ryan Howard (.313/.425/.659, 58 HR’s, 149 RBI, Lennie hands). Their starting pitching had been significantly solidified this offseason, with the Phils acquiring Freddy Garcia from the White Sox for 1st rounder Gavin Floyd and prospect Gio Gonzalez, reupping Brett Myers for the next three years, resigning the real life Eddie Harris from Major League (Jamie Moyer) for the next two, and signing former Ranger and solid back end starter Adam Eaton. When healthy Tom Gordon proved he still has his stuff. Antonio Alfonseca or “El Pulpo” to you spanish folk, was signed to help bolster the bullpen with his 24 digits.

The Bad:

There are a host of questions that still sit with this team, most pressingly their bullpen. At the trade deadline last year the Phillies unloaded a large chunk of their then fairly successful bullpen, hoping to acquire assets for the rebuilding stage. What they weren’t counting on was the incredible late season surge, which ultimately was sabotaged by the lack of a bullpen. There is no defined setup man, and Tom Gordon isn’t getting any younger. Then there is Pat the Bat. Pat Burrell feels like the guy in an old company in which everybody got fired, but is still that one guy hanging around–his lack of the clutch hit adds no protection for Ryan Howard and has resulted in the Phils trying to unload him for quite some time (Burrell actually refused a trade to the Orioles last year at the trade deadline, citing he only wanted to be traded to the Yankees or Red Sox. Pardon me while I slit my wrists).

The Bottom Line:

“We’re the team to beat this year,” said Jimmy Rollins, and I have to agree with him. For the first time in many years the Phillies are the team to beat, and have the ability to fill their needs with some expendable assets in starter Cathy Bates (seriously, compare and contrast), and CF Aaron Rowand (A Scott Linebrink for Aaron Rowand trade is rumored to be ready to go). As long as the Phillies stay healthy they SHOULD win the NL East. But it’ll be close.

Prediction: 1st, 93-69

Doug Glanville: Reflections…What’s with his BA?

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7th Inning Stretch – Nothing to do with Baseball

Okay, so once in awhile there is a story that comes along, completely unrelated to baseball, which, just because, needs to be shared with our readers. Chimpanzees using spears is such a story.

Ozzie Canseco: I think Bush just found a way to get 20,000 able-bodies into Iraq without causing a domestic uproar

Ozzie Canseco: Bush vows: “as Iraqis stand up, our hyper-intelligent, spear-wielding chimps will stand down”

NL East: Shaken Up – Part 3: The Washington Nationals

The Good:

There are certainly SOME brightspots for DC: Nick Johnson is a very good player, putting up a .290 BA, 23 HRs, 77 RBIs, and posting 110 walks (second in NL). At third base Ryan Zimmerman has a very bright future (think David Wright but on a REAL bad team), with a 2006 of 110 RBI and a .287 BA in his first full season. The Nats have just resigned Austin Kearns and actually got pretty good value, considering the free agent market, and Chad Cordero’s a pretty good closer (former All-Star), converting 29 of 33 opportunities. John Patterson has nasty stuff, just ask his glove. Um…they’re not the Expos anymore?

The Bad:

Where to begin? This team has more problems then Marion Berry’s administration. How they managed to NOT trade Alfonso Soriano last year completely escapes me. After being a leadoff man and openly swinging for the fences everytime he was up to pump up his numbers, you think they might have gotten the idea. Their pitching without John Patterson is atrocious–anytime your “best” pitcher from ’06, Ramon Ortiz, is posting 11-16 with a 5.57 ERA, you know there’s problems. They had exactly three pitchers get more than twenty starts, none of them within a sniff of a winning record. Their bullpen is miserable. They were outscored last year by nearly 130 runs, and have now lost their best offensive player to free agency. This may be the worst team in the majors.

The Bottom Line:

To say the Nationals are in a rebuild mode is like saying Curt Schilling is a publicity whore. What they should be focused on doing is taking a page out of the Marlins’ playbook–know you’re going to suck but meanwhile stockpile assets for the next couple of years. Unfortunately, the Nationals team salary is 4x what the Marlins’ was last year, not to mention that the rest of the NL East is getting better, cramming Washington into baseball’s basement.

Prediction: 5th, 59-103

This Just In: Yadier Molina is a Craphead

Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina is refusing to part with the ball that struck out the final Tigers batter in the World Series, despite the fact that he promised to give it to Adam Wainwright, the pitcher who delivered the final strike.


“He [Wainwright] was trying to get that ball from me, I know,” Molina told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in Tuesday’s edition. “He deserves it. He does. But that’s the one thing I have from a long season. I hit .216. It was a tough year. I didn’t earn much else, but I have that ball. That’s my reward.”

Let’s break down the Molina line of reasoning piece by piece. Maybe then it will make more sense.

Molina concedes that Wainwright deserves to have the ball.

So why not give it to him?

Because Molina had an atrociously bad season at the plate and therefore deserves a reward.

Okay, I still don’t follow. I can only conclude that one of the following must be true:
1. Like Pujols’ comments about Ryan Howard winning the MVP, this English-language translation went horribly awry and Molina actually plans to give the ball to Wainwright.
2. Molina is feeble-minded, like, Flowers for Algernon feeble-minded, in which case it’s best just to let him keep it.
3. Molina was accurately quoted and is just a total craphead.

My gut says total craphead, as does the smug look on Molina’s face in his player card.

Been sick for a solid five days now, but a long post is coming soon. In the meantime, here are a few random thoughts to ponder:

Conventional wisdom dictates that, short of a god-like season, starting pitchers do not deserve MVP consideration because they only play in thirty to thirty-five games per season and thus are less valuable to their club than position players that play nearly every game. Why then, did clubs jump at the chance to throw 10 million dollars a year plus at mediocre pitchers like Ted Lilly and Gil Meche but paid-out less, substantially less in some cases, to All-Star calibur position players (see: Joe Mauer)? What does this say about “value” in baseball?

There hasn’t been a great two-sport athlete since Bo Jackson, or even a passably good one since Deion Sanders. Suppose there was one playing today. Suppose he was really, really good. Then suppose that it was discovered that he was a steroid-user. How would Americans react? That the NFL and its athletes gets a free pass from the press and public on performance-enhancing drugs while baseball players these days find themselves guilty until proven innocent is a disgrace. I have no idea how such a situation would play out, but I pray for one like it. Maybe then, we would all start to realize just how hypocritical the way we deal with steroid use in this country is.

Rumors of a Scott Linebrink for Aaron Rowand deal have died down in recent weeks, but I got to wondering: How does Mike Cameron feel about the prospect of playing alongside a guy like Aaron Rowand, a man known for smashing his face and running into teammates while in pursuit of flyballs? Cameron has to be thinking, “I am the unluckiest man in the world.” My advice to Mike: invest in one of those Richard Hamilton facemasks now, just in case. You can never be too safe.

NL East: Shaken Up – Part 2: The Atlanta Braves

The Good:

As it goes year after year, the starting pitching continues to be the strong suit for the Atlanta. Ace John Smoltz continues to dazzle, defying logic and age. Mike Hampton coming off elbow surgery for the first time in two years will be at 100% and hopes to return to his All-Star level. Rookie Chuck James impressed in 18 starts last year. The Braves will definitely be looking for a big year from Tim Hudson, hoping he returns the form he obtained in the first half of the decade. Additionally, Bob “Pass the Potatoes” Wickman proved to be an outstanding closer for the Braves, posting a very respectable 18 after his trade from the Indians.

Not only are the Braves solid on starting pitching, their youth movement is in full effect as well. Credit Ted Turner for keeping the team competitive while replenishing the ranks with the likes of C Brian McCann (.333/.388/.572), P Chuck James (11-4), 3B Scott Thorman, OF Jeff Francoeur (29 HR’s and 116 RBI), P Mike Gonzalez and Martin Prado.

The Bad:

2006 proved to be a season of incredible inconsistency, as the injury bug bit them hard. Chipper and Andruw Jones both saw considerable time on the DL, Hampton missed the entire season, and Tim Hudson was nicked up with various small injuries. The only thing really consistent about last year was the bullpen woes. The young, inexperienced bullpen was knocked around all year; the Braves will be counting on pen arms Blaine Boyer, Tyler Yates, and Macay McBride to be better. With acquisitions of Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez, they will be.

The Bottom Line:

They could have some young players develop and go on a ridiculous tear (ala 2006 Tigers) or they could simply be the inconsistent injury riddled team they were last year. The record of 79-83 does NOT reflect how good this Braves team is/can be. The Braves have assembled an impressive mix of skilled veterans and youngsters beginning to blossom. They have the potential (Andrew Jones contract year, if Chipper is healthy, if Hampton is healthy, if Smoltz is still Smoltz, youth develops) to be good, and in the past they could’ve slid into the wild card. But with the Phillies and Mets no longer just afterthoughts, this team doesn’t make it into the playoffs. But look out in 2008.

Prediction: 3rd, 86-76

The Should’ve Been-Will Be MVPs: Part Two

For a more comprehensive introduction and the AL portion please refer back to my last incredible post.

Now for Part Two of my stunning, brash, and possibly uncalled for look into the past season’s MVP decision. This time we set our sights on the big boppers of the NL. The NL side of things was quite different from that of the AL as there were a few members who set themselves apart from the rest of the contenders with almost obscene (and similar) numbers. Once again, it comes down to your interpretation of an MVP as the top three vote-getters were on teams that either make the play-offs or did make the play-offs, but did so with a worse record than 4 other NL teams.

Lance Berkman was an unfortunate slugger this past season as practically everything fell apart in Houston, even with a late push to try and take the weak NL Central from the Cardinals. No regular starting player was close to Berkman’s BA, and besides supersub, Mike Lamb, and late call-up, Luke Scott, no one finished above the .300 line. One-season wonder, Morgan Ensberg, missed some time with injury and couldn’t live up to his supposed ball-mashing talent. Along with Craig Biggio these two were the only others to eclipse 20 HR (just barely). Berkman, Ryan Howard, and Albert Pujols all had similarly successful seasons in terms of worth and output for their respective teams. Carlos Beltran is on this list for no other reason to show the drop-off from the top 3 guys to the 4th in MVP voting. Beltran, in my opinion, should have had a better season because of the lineup he had around him (said the Met fan, harshly), but it does show a remarkable improvement from his previous season (vomit) and he had an absolutely ridiculous middle of July. Miguel Cabrera and Alfonso Soriano were also in Beltran’s class, but failed to make the next grade due to lack of power and being surrounded by overachieving rookies (Cabrera) and horrible BA coupled with despicable plate discipline (Soriano). In the top three, Howard took advantage of his lineup and relished his new role post-Abreu, Pujols put up his usual MVP-worthy totals, and Berkman went fucking nuts.

Team – : Team’s stats without Player
Team + : Team’s stats with Player
%Team-Diff: % of team’s stats player accounts for OR how much he changed the team’s percentage in a stat

Lance Berkman 536 95 169 29 0 45 136 98 .315 .420 .621
Team – 4985 640 1238 246 27 129 572 487 .248 .322 .386
Team + 5521 735 1407 275 27 174 708 585 .255 .332 .409
%Team-Diff 9.7 12.9 12.0 10.5 0.0 25.9 19.2 16.8 +.007 +.010 +.023
Ryan Howard 581 104 182 25 1 58 149 108 .313 .425 .659
Team – 5106 761 1336 269 40 158 674 518 .262 .335 .423
Team + 5687 865 1518 294 41 216 823 626 .267 .347 .447
%Team-Diff 10.2 12.0 12.0 8.5 2.4 26.9 18.1 17.3 +.005 +.012 +.024
Albert Pujols 535 119 177 33 1 49 137 92 .331 .431 .671
Team – 4987 662 1307 259 26 135 608 439 .262 .327 .406
Team + 5522 781 1484 292 27 184 745 531 .269 .337 .431
%Team-Diff 9.7 15.2 11.9 11.3 3.7 26.6 18.4 17.3 +.007 +.010 +.025
Carlos Beltran 510 127 140 38 1 41 116 95 .275 .388 .594
Team – 5048 707 1329 285 40 159 684 452 .263 .329 .430
Team + 5558 834 1469 323 41 200 800 547 .264 .334 .445
%Team-Diff 9.1 15.2 9.5 11.8 2.4 20.5 14.5 17.4 +.001 +.005 +.015

Time to analyze the numbers: Forget Beltran for now and focus on those other three. All finished with similar percentages of AB and BB making it easy to interpret the rest of their percentages. Had Berkman a more reliable hitter behind him he would have finished with a better R total than even perhaps Pujols, but nevertheless his percentage was better than Howard. Same value on hits as we pass by doubles and triples. Homer-wise it is again very even, but Howard’s percentage suffered slightly due to the Phillies’ ability to go long. Berkman leads the way with RBI percentage, but it still is close. Berkman helped a weak BA lineup as much as Pujols helped a decent Cardinals team. Howard is king of OBP value to his team, even with Rowand screwing around. SLG value is pretty much even with Pujols leading the way. Now you see how difficult it is to differentiate between these three guys.

Howard was shifted from the 6th spot to the 5th early in the season and finally took over clean-up around the midway point. Keeping him company were Chase Utley, Bobby Abreu, and Pat Burrell with Jimmy Rollins starting things off. The order had some weak spots, but on the whole was pretty damn imposing and Howard was well aware of this; he carried this team following the Abreu for 4 Yankee prospects who weren’t Phillip Hughes trade. On the pitching front Brett Myers and Tom Gordon performed respectably, but that was the Phillies’ main flaw (which they have addressed admirably so far). Simply put, Howard was the MVP of this team and the only logical choice for the meaty #4 spot (if anyone utters the phrase ‘man-crush’ I will destroy them, besides, I like Utley better).

Pujols had it slightly harder in the Cardinals lineup, and as a result had slightly weaker numbers. Of course he still had a formidable Scott Rolen and off-but-still-decent-years from Jim Edmonds and Juan Encarnacion. Chris Duncan also put in about a month and a half’s worth of good production. Pujols batted 3rd because of his excellent plate discipline and hitting ability, thus setting the table for Rolen. Besides Chris Carpenter, there was nothing decent at all in the Cardinals’ pitching corps, until the postseason of course.

However hard Pujols had it, Berkman had it that much worse than him. As I loosely mentioned already the batting lineup was remarkably awful with Berkman putting up the only consistently good numbers from the 3rd spot as Ensberg failed repeatedly at clean-up. Besides Roy Oswalt and some bullpen members there is nothing good to say about the Astros’ pitching. I refuse to count Roger Clemens because of his half-season idiocy and the Astros don’t like to give him run support anyway. Brad Lidge pissed off every fantasy baseball owner in the world. Oddly enough, the Pythagorean Winning Percentage matches the Astros with the Cardinals in terms of W-L record (slightly under percentage-wise). What can be expected in 2007? Well, the Astros have addressed the need of a legitimate clean-up guy in Carlos Lee, and despite losing some pitching (Andy Pettitte), they have picked up Jason Jennings and Woody Williams in a move to become more alliterative. Look for Berkman to go berserk this coming season.

So, what have we learned? Besides the fact that Berkman got shafted in voting due to being on a non-playoff team that wasn’t better than a playoff team, there is a never ending list of reasons for you to say one player is more valuable to his team than another (assuming you don’t mention someone like Neifi Perez). Heck, I don’t even think there will ever be a reliable enough stat (every stat has its flaws) to predict who tops who in terms of value (suck it, VORP). All you can do is have a more convincing argument for Player A than your buddy has for Player B, even if the popular consensus is for Player C. Isn’t that wonderful? My article just boiled down to a vague inconclusive conclusion. No, it didn’t. Berkman and Hafner, blah MVP blah. I’m right, so sod off.

NL East: Shaken Up – Part I: The New York Mets

There are some constants in life; death, taxes, Chase Utley’s rugged good looks, Stuart Scott’s freaky left eye, and the Braves claiming the NL East title… that is, before last year. It was always a safe bet that the Braves would win the division (14 straight titles!), the Phillies/Mets/Nationals as also-rans, and the Marlins being atrociously bad for five years before following with a very good one.

But 2006 saw some drastic changes. The New York Mets emerged as the dominant force in the National League, owning the NL East and winning the division title by a startling 12 games, all the while in cruise control for the last third of the season. In Philadelphia, the Bobby Abreu deal sparked the lineup to life, jolted by Chase Utley’s 35-game hitting streak and MVP Ryan Howard looking like Roy Hobbs (after he gets back together with Glen Close, not while with Kim Basinger).

It appears age has finally caught up with Atlanta, not only not losing their division title, but also posting a sub-.500 record (79-83). Meanwhile, the Marlins, with a payroll so small Chan Ho Park makes more per season, put up an amazing fight yet fizzled late to finish fourth in the division right on the heels of the Braves. Finally, despite having one of the most fearsome offensive juggernauts in the league (Alfonso Soriano), the Nationals finished in the basement, with a paltry 71-91. The times they are a-changin’ in the NL East, so let’s take a closer look at the contenders:

Part I: The New York Mets

What’s Good:

Last season the Mets were clearly the class of the National League. With the offensive lineup they boasted, it’s easy to see how they had the division wrapped up by mid-summer. Even with Carlos Delgado in a huge funk from April-August, something clicked inside the big Dominican and he started on a fearsome hitting tear that continued well into the postseason. Former Marlin, Paul Lo Duca, enjoyed an All-Star caliber year, proving to be a steady singles hitter in the bottom third of the lineup and ended the year at a .318 average. After an injury-hampered 2005, Carlos Beltrain turned into the franchise player Omar Minaya had hoped in 2006, ripping 41 homers, .594 slugging, and 116 RBI’s all while stealing 18 and earning a Gold Glove in center field. Shortstop extraordinaire, Jose Reyes, proved to be a huge asset both in the field and at the plate. Reyes hit .300 with 81 RBI’s, while leading the league in stolen bases (64) and awesome handshakes. Rounding out the left side of the infield is 23-year old stud David Wright, whose knack for clutch hits and big numbers (.311, 116 RBI’s, 26 HR’s) have Mets fans downright giddy.

What’s Bad:

You can sum up the “bad” for the Mets in one word: pitching. With the lineup as potent as they had, even average pitching should have gotten them to the World Series against an inferior Cardinals team. 2007 doesn’t appear to be any more promising. Orlando Hernandez, Pedro Martinez, and Tom Glavine are a nasty top three…if it were 1998. Promising young starter Brian Bannister was dealt to the Royals for Amiorix Burgos, John Thompson decided he didn’t want to look at Paul Lo Duca anymore, Billy Wagner thought it’d be more fun to give up homeruns in the postseason, and Guillermo Mota took some steroids and will miss the first 50 games of next year.

The Bottom Line:

Omar Minaya has built a team with serious firepower and the ability to blow away teams. But this team reminds me of the Indianapolis Colts of 2003-2005; can stomp the crap out of opponents, but when it gets down to the nitty-gritty can they perform? Until they get some legit pitching, I say no.

Predicted finish: 2nd, 90-72

The Should’ve Been-Will Be MVPs: Part One

This is the first of a two part article on MLB’s MVP decision. Part One will convince you concerning matters AL related, while Part Two will do the same for all things NL. If you believe me to be an ignoramus or massively maniacal I am deeply sorry, but that is your problem, please leave all complaints in the comments section.

Let me begin by laying out a few facts before completely blowing your minds with some numbers:

1 Many believe that in order to garner any votes for MVP you must take your team to the playoffs. I say, tell that to the players who are stuck on teams that are forced to keep up with the big marketers or suffer thru a bout of the injury bug.

2 The MVP is generally not a pitcher; starters appear once every 5 games and closers get an inning roughly every other game. The last MVP pitcher was Dennis Eckersley in ’92. Since 1980 there have only been 4 pitchers to win the vote (all from the AL). Three closers and a Roger Clemens.

3 The MVP generally comes from the meat of the order (3-4-5), leadoff hitters get little love. Ichiro won in 2001 and Rickey Henderson in 1990. Back-to-back #2s in 1985 and ’84 were Willie McGee and Ryne Sandberg.

4 The DH also gets little consideration due to his status as a purely offensive player. In my opinion a player’s defense on the field should rarely have an effect on his MVP eligibility unless it happens to be the difference between something like 8 errors and 24 errors. On the reverse end, pitchers are the most defensive players on a team. Yet, while in the AL no pitcher gets any AB unless in the World Series pre-interleague or during interleague play, 6 AL pitchers have won the MVP since the last NL pitcher, Bob Gibson, did in 1968 (one of Gibson’s worst years swinging wood, however, he logged 33 H for a .303 BA in ’70, but with worse numbers from the mound). Understandably, the pitcher is not seen as a game changer due to his few AB and usually feeble batting percentages.

5 Voting is highly erratic (not erotic). A-Rod won in 2003 for a Texas team that was 71-91, in 2001 Texas was 73-89 and nearly all of A-Rod’s stats were better than those he had in 2003 (his BA was 20 points higher) yet he came in 6th in voting as Ichiro took the honors. Ichiro later had a career year in 2004 with a .372 BA and set the record for hits in a season, but finished 7th (Seattle was awful that year) as Guerrero walked off the winner. If a pitcher were to have won the award it would have been Santana that year as he set career bests in wins, ERA, WHIP, and Ks all while leading the Twins to the top of their division (he was also 3 for 8 with 2 RBI at the plate).

6 As the Yankees spend oodles of cash on players it should be realized that any Yankee should not win the award. On a team of superstars no one player will stand out from the rest unless he puts up completely ridiculous numbers (a stat line with 73 HR?) that happen to be so beyond the rest of the league you have to think that there is something else involved.

Now begins the sub-introductory paragraph (a defining moment in my writing career). You can decide for yourself whether the MVP should be the player with the best numbers that season, the player with the best numbers on a postseason eligible team, or the player who manages to set himself apart from the rest of his team so much that without him the team is kaput. It is not my place to tell you what to think, but I can show you why two players from separate leagues got undeservedly shunned for the award and why they will be setting their sights on righting that wrong in the coming season. Actually, I am going to tell you what to think, read everything I write and believe it with every ounce of your brains, because the two guys I am putting in the spotlight are baseball phenomenoms when they step up to the plate and tap their insoles with a bat.

Besides having one of the most bizarre nicknames in baseball (Pronk) just why is Travis Hafner better than those other ‘no-name’ guys from the cream of the AL? Well, Cleveland had no lack of capable hitting, their pitching can be attributed to their lack of success in the win department, yet Hafner’s numbers were beyond all of his teammates. Sure, Victor Martinez and Grady Sizemore put up great numbers, but even as he played fewer games his totals were on the whole much better. His projected totals for 550 AB are even more stunning. Some key numbers to think about in his case are his OBP (come on, Moneyball!) at a massive .439 along with his enormous .659 SLG. Now, another thing I don’t get is that Justin Morneau and Derek Jeter finished ahead of David Ortiz, who had a better season than both of them, not to mention he was king of the game winning HR. With all due respect to the Cleveland bats, these three men were surrounded with talent that helped their teams waltz across the .500 mark, while the Indians ended six games under.

Team – : Team’s stats without Player
Team + : Team’s stats with Player
%Team-Diff: % of team’s stats player accounts for OR how much he changed the team’s percentage in a stat

Travis Hafner 454 100 140 31 1 42 117 100 .308 .439 .659
Team – 5165 770 1436 320 26 154 722 456 .278 .339 .439
Team + 5619 870 1576 351 27 196 839 556 .280 .349 .457
%Team-Diff 8.1 11.5 8.9 8.8 3.7 21.4 13.9 18.0 +.002 +.010 +.018
550AB Proj. 550 121 170 38 1 51 142 121
Justin Morneau 592 97 190 37 1 34 130 53 .321 .375 .559
Team – 5010 704 1418 238 33 109 624 437 .283 .343 .409
Team + 5602 801 1608 275 34 143 754 490 .287 .347 .425
%Team-Diff 10.6 12.1 11.8 13.5 2.9 23.8 17.2 10.8 +.004 +.004 +.016
Derek Jeter 623 118 214 39 3 14 97 69 .343 .417 .483
Team – 5028 812 1394 288 18 196 805 580 .277 .356 .459
Team + 5651 930 1608 327 21 210 902 649 .285 .363 .461
%Team-Diff 11.0 12.7 13.3 11.9 14.3 6.7 10.8 10.6 +.008 +.007 +.002
David Ortiz 558 115 160 29 2 54 137 119 .287 .413 .636
Team – 5061 705 1350 298 14 138 640 553 .267 .343 .413
Team + 5619 820 1510 327 16 192 777 672 .269 .351 .435
%Team-Diff 9.9 14.0 10.6 8.9 12.5 28.1 17.6 17.7 +.002 +.008 +.022

Let’s read into these a little, in fewer AB Hafner had more R, HR, and BB than Morneau, more HR (3x more!), RBI, and BB than Jeter, and only managed more 2B than Ortiz. Now, obviously Jeter isn’t the power hitter that the other three are, but he has frequently managed to put up a better HR tally than the flimsy 14 he had this season. Jeter’s 1999 season was more complete across the board, surpassing all except his 2B and SB numbers from this season. With his 550 AB projections, which still places him below the AB of all the others, Hafner eclipses most, if not all, of his foes’ non-percentage stats.

In the Minnesota batting order Morneau was usually placed in the 5th spot, switching from the 6th spot in early June, which was around the time that he began transitioning his woeful numbers into superb ones. Michael Cuddyer (102 R, 109 RBI) and Joe Mauer (.347 BA, .429 OBP) also put up numbers that aided Minnesota’s late rise into the playoffs. However, much of the credit goes to Minnesota’s pitching staff. Led by Johan Santana, Francisco Liriano, and Joe Nathan, this crew gave the Twins the 3rd best ERA in MLB, behind the Twins and the Padres.

Jeter was a member of the absolutely ridiculous Yankees lineup. The team’s numbers without Jeter’s still are enough to put them ahead of most other teams and still leave them with an average runs/game of over 5. The Yankees also had several players who would have made decent #2 hitters in the order. Robinson Cano, Melky Cabrera, and, when he arrived, Bobby Abreu all featured BAs and/or plate discipline worthy of a #2. Mike Mussina, Chien-Ming Wang, and Mariano Rivera all had great seasons and were the exception to the Yankees awful pitching.

Ortiz had another mammoth season, but suffered from a slight dip in his BA. He was aided by Manny Ramirez (when he decided to play) and occasionally (though not exceedingly well) by Kevin Youkilis and Mike Lowell. Curt Schilling and Jonathan Papelbon were the only bright spots of an otherwise useless staff that clearly needed a Japanese (Nippon) import, even as Josh Beckett somehow managed to piece together a winning record with a 5.01 ERA.

As I stated before, Hafner was aided primarily by Sizemore and Martinez, but that was it. The Cleveland pitching was beyond abhorrent (besides Jake Westbrook and C.C. Sabathia, who had so-so seasons) and their bullpen was so bad that Danny Graves was a member (shortly). The Indians were unfortunate to have had a losing record, but they were in a stacked division to begin with. Their average score per game was 5.37 – 4.83 (difference of 0.54), which is better than the Chicago White Sox, who finished ahead of them, and the St. Louis Cardinals, who shouldn’t have won the World Series. Their Pythagorean Winning Percentage for exponents of 2 or 1.83 pegs them at records of 90-72 or 89-73 respectively. Look for Cleveland to take back the AL Central and for Hafner to show that he’s worthy of the MVP award this coming season.

Don’t forget to return for the NL side of life.