…And We’re All Tied Up!

September 28, 2007

As I mentioned the other day, the National League has been the exciting one to watch here in 2007. The hunt for October continues to throw new twists and turns at us, and in turn, has provided us some of the most exciting races in recent memory.

There are only three days left in the 2007 regular season and we still don’t have any NL teams that have locked themselves into a playoff spot. The Mets and Cubs thought they had it until recent meltdowns have stumbled both clubs allowing their division rivals (who have been nipping at their heels all summer long) to make things very interesting.

In the NL Central, the Chicago Cubs are reeling from their beat-down at the hands of the pesky Florida Marlins and have lost their last three. Unfortunately for the Milwaukee Brewers they too have run into some problems losing two straight and posting a 4-6 record over the last 10 games. They have had their chance to overtake the Cubbies but just have not pulled the trigger. Right now the Cubs hold a commanding (well, commanding for the NL divisions) 2 game lead. This is the largest division lead in the National League right now.

Now we move on to taking a look at how the NL West is doing. With what can only be described as the biggest surprises of 2007, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies have been battling the San Diego Padres all season for the division out West and not the Los Angeles Dodgers as everyone predicted. Right now the D-Backs hold a one game lead over the Padres and a two game lead over the Rockies. Despite losing two of their outfielders (Cameron and Bradley), the Padres continue to win when everyone (including myself) thought this would surely sink them. They have rattled off a crucial three game winning streak. But if you think that’s impressive, look no further than the Rockies and their current 11-game winning streak. Nobody can deny that this has by far been the most exciting race in all of baseball this season.

Which brings us to our closest race in all of baseball, the NL East. Last night the Philadelphia Phillies finally caught up and tied the New York Mets for the division lead. This is in large part to Philadelphia’s 7-3 record over the last ten games and New York’s current four game losing streak. What is even scarier for the Mets, is that despite being tied for the division lead, if for some reason the season ended right now, they wouldn’t even win the wild card (excellent segue).

Rather than explaining the wild card race, I’ll leave you today with a look at the current situation. Because nothing I say can properly describe just what an intense battle this weekend will be for this handful of teams…

2007 WILD CARD RACE
San Diego Padres (88-71) GB: –
New York Mets* (87-72) GB: 1
Colorado Rockies (87-72) GB: 1
Philadelphia Phillies* (87-72) GB: 1

* = Division Leader (tied)

Catch my column “Twins Killings” every day only on the Most Valuable Network.

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Rollins vs. Reyes

September 26, 2007

Not too long ago one of my colleagues over at the Most Valuable Network posted an article comparing Jimmy Rollins to Jose Reyes and who he would rather have on his team. Being a Phillies fan he obviously chose Rollins, but he did bring up some excellent points about Rollins’ stats and leadership skills and why he thinks Rollins is the better player.

My initial response was, well yeah, we have heard Rollins’ name thrown around a lot more in 2007 than Reyes’ so he must be having a better year. Sure in some categories he has, but after a closer look, we can see how they are closer than you may realize:

NAME AVG R H BB SB OBP SLG
Rollins .293 134 204 48 37 .342 .529
Reyes .287 118 189 76 78 .361 .432

And now a look at their extended stats:

NAME PA AB ISOP BB% K% BABIP LD%
Rollins 761 696 .236 7.0% 11.0% .299 20%
Reyes 754 658 .145 11.8% 9.8% .309 17%

While Rollins has placed himself in the top four men up for the MVP award this season due to his impressive statistics and commanding leadership, Reyes hasn’t exactly been a slouch. Reyes has the edge on categories that are crucial to lead off hitters and, in his own way, has been just as crucial to his team’s success as Rollins. So what role does Reyes’ leadership skills play into this?

Considering Reyes is only in his third full season, I’d say he still has time to develop into a leader. And so what if he doesn’t? The Mets have plenty of on-the-field leaders like David Wright (an MVP candidate himself) and Carlos Beltran. Does that mean if Reyes doesn’t become a dominant presence in the locker room but still continues to put up impressive numbers that he is any less of a player? I don’t think it does. So the question still remains on who you would rather have as part of your franchise?

While Rollins has been a clutch hitter for the Phillies this year, I think I am going to have to go with Jose Reyes for the long run. This kid’s on base trend is going up year after year while Rollins pretty much stays at a constant. This is incredibly important for a lead off hitter. So despite Rollins’ edge in power (even though I think Reyes will have the potential to be a 20 homer guy as he continues to grow), I think Reyes will overall be the better player when it’s all said and done.

This is a very tough comparison to make so it really comes down to what you think a lead off hitter should be. Just stop and think for a moment all the players in the Majors who are capable of hitting 30+ home runs. Now try and think of all the legitimate lead off hitters there are in the game. It’s not easy as there aren’t many true number one guys.

For me a guy who gets on base a lot and is a constant threat to steal is more valuable than someone who is more of a threat to go deep. Not that Rollins’ power is a bad thing, but when I think of a top of the order guy I always think back to the movie “Major League” and Willie Mays Hayes.

We don’t pay you to hit the ball out of the ball park, we pay you to hit the ball on the ground.

I vote Reyes.

Catch my column “Twins Killings” every day only on the Most Valuable Network.

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National League: Must See TV

September 25, 2007

So they can’t ever beat the American League at the annual All-Star game, who cares? The fact of the matter is, they have been the most exciting league all season long. This has been even more apparent ever since we flipped that calendar to September. Playoff races, MVP races, Cy Young races, there doesn’t seem to be anything available to win that isn’t still up for grabs.

Well except for the Rookie of the Year award as Ryan Braun has easily mashed his way to that award. But I promise you, other than that one, everything else is fair game.

To start off with, let’s take a peek at the division and wild card races as all four of those races have been as entertaining as any we have ever seen. Here’s the current break down:

NL EAST
New York Mets (87-69) GB: –
Philadelphia Phillies (85-71) GB: 2

NL Central
Chicago Cubs (83-73) GB: –
Milwaukee Brewers (80-76) GB: 3

NL West
Arizona Diamondbacks (88-68) GB: –
San Diego Padres (85-71) GB: 3
Colorado Rockies (84-72) GB: 4

NL Wild Card
Philadelphia Phillies (85-71) GB: –
San Diego Padres (85-71) GB: –
Colorado Rockies (84-72) GB: 1
Atlanta Braves (82-74) GB: 3

As you can see all the races are still very close this is despite a very big weekend for some teams and a very bad weekend for others (such as Colorado sweeping San Diego). It is looking more and more like Chicago and Arizona will end up with their divisions (minus any complete collapses) with the NL East still anyone’s to take especially considering New York’s recent troubles.

I am going to step away from my “unbiased baseball reporter role” for a minute (part of the reason I am so happy to be back writing this blog) and share how I hope the race ends. I’d like to see Chicago, Philadelphia, and Arizona win the divisions with Colorado sweeping in for the wild card spot. I think that would make for a very exciting and entertaining fall.

Next we take a look at the MVP race which is also anyone’s for the taking. Right now there four men who all deserve heavy consideration. Here’s how they match up with the number in parenthesis where they rank in the NL (in alphabetical order):

Prince Fielder: .289 AVG, 105 R (8), 48 HR (1), 115 RBI (t-3), 388 OBP, .613 SLG (1)

Matt Holiday: .337 AVG (2), 113 R (4), 36 HR (4), 131 RBI (1), .400 OBP (t-8), .609 SLG (2)

Jimmy Rollins: .293 AVG, 132 R (1), 29 HR, 90 RBI, 37 SB (5), .343 OBP, .526 SLG

David Wright: .323 AVG (7), 107 R (6), 30 HR, 105 RBI (9), 34 SB (7), .416 OBP (4), .553 SLG

Talk about a tough, tough choice. You really can’t go wrong with any of them as they have all had sensational seasons. Not only are all four of them on contending teams, but they are also the main reasons for those team’s success in 2007. Take any of them off their respective clubs and that team immediately falls out of contention. So with such a compelling case for all four of these men, who do we pick?

I wanted to start by using the process of elimination. This didn’t work. Then I tried using the method of who is MOST important to their team. This didn’t work as they all are the keys to their team this season. With all this being said, I am going to hold off on picking someone. I know this is a cheap way out, but I am going to wait and see how this final week plays out and write a separate column about it. Sorry folks, you’ll have to wait until then.

Finally we have the Cy Young race. This one really comes down to four guys who deserve it most: Jake Peavy, Brandon Webb, Brad Penny, and Aaron Harang. I know I have left out some big names, so if you disagree, please comment and let me know. Now depending on how you view the Cy Young (similar to the MVP), you can go different ways. But really, it doesn’t matter if you take the best pitchers this year or the best pitchers on the playoff contending teams, because either way your finalists are Jake Peavy and Brandon Webb. Here’s a snap shot of their impressive seasons:

Jake Peavy: 18-6 (1), 2.36 ERA (1), 210 IP (5), 233 SO (1), 3.7 K/BB, 1.03 WHIP

Brandon Webb: 17-10 (2), 3.02 ERA (4), 229.1 IP (1), 192 SO (3), 2.7 K/BB, 1.18 WHIP

With those numbers and what they have meant to their teams, it’s pretty close. But since I’m not going to hand out a co-Cy Young, I will have to give the edge to Jake Peavy. While he may pitch in a pitcher’s park, he has dominated hitters this year and is about to win the Triple Crown of pitchers has he leads the National League in wins, ERA, and strikeouts. How can you argue with that?

After all of that, when you put the American League next to the National League, you can see who the exciting league has been all year. With the divisions all wrapped up already and Alex Rodriguez ready to accept his MVP hardware, there really isn’t too much in the way of excitement in the AL right now.

So over the next week, if you have a chance to catch any of these National League teams in action, by all means stop what you are doing and pay close attention.

Because you are in for a special treat.

Catch my column “Twins Killings” every day only on the Most Valuable Network.

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Padres’ Hopes: Day-to-Day

September 24, 2007

In what can only be described as an “odd” situation yesterday in San Diego, outfielder Milton Bradley hurt his knee in an altercation with a first base umpire (You can read the entire story here and here Bradley’s explanation here.)

While the big story everyone is focusing on today is the actions of the umpire and what he did or did not say to Bradley, the piece everyone is overlooking is Bradley’s knee injury. He is currently listed as day-to-day, but to have someone as important as Bradley out of the Padres’ lineup could be crucial.

Entering today, the Padres only have a ½ game lead on the Philadelphia Phillies for the Wild Card lead. While Bradley can be emotional, he is still an important leader on the field and the Padres can not afford to have his bat absent from their lineup for very long. Bradley is hitting .306/.402/.545 this season between Oakland and San Diego with 13 homers and 37 RBI. With a Padres lineup that at times can struggle to score runs, losing Bradley for an extended period of time could influence their playoff hopes.

To see how valuable Bradley is to the Padres, I took a look at how the Padres team has done this season on offense. They have scored 688 runs on the season (4.4 runs per game) which is currently 14th (out of 16 teams) in the National League in runs scored with only San Francisco and Washington below them. The team is hitting .248/.320/.407 on the season so as you can see, Bradley’s on-base percentage alone is over 80 points higher than the team’s average making him incredibly valuable to a team that doesn’t get many base runners to begin with.

So while everyone is busy worrying about what the umpire said to Bradley, I’m more worried about a team that is hanging on by a thread in the hunt for a playoff spot that just lost one of the biggest catalysts their offense has. To me that’s a whole lot more interesting and could change the playoff picture all together.

UPDATE: Word has come down here that Bradley has torn his ACL and will miss the remainder of this season and part of next. This is a HORRIBLE turn of events for the Padres and will make the fight for the playoffs that much more difficult. It’s too bad something this ridiculous had to happen this late in the season.


Back and Better than Ever!

September 23, 2007

I just wanted to make the announcement that I will be back here at “The Diamond Cutter” writing about the great sport of baseball. While I do have my hands full writing my two columns over at MVN.com, “Twins Killings” and “Twins in the Hole,” I am limited to writing about my favorite team, the Minnesota Twins.

While writing about my hometown team has always been my ultimate goal, I am still first and foremost a fan of the game of baseball. So when I have something to say about anything else baseball related, I will be coming straight here.

One of the big reasons I am coming back in my top prospects coverage. I have been receiving a lot of emails from readers who used to come here and my old column at MVN.com “Minor Details” for my prospect coverage. Since I don’t want to take on any more at Most Valuable Network, I decided to bring it back here at “The Diamond Cutter” where it all began. Not only because I owe it to the blog that got my name out there, but also because if I’m not able to churn out a column everyday here, I won’t have one of my bosses pressing me to hit a deadline!

While I’m not sure the amount I will be writing on here, rest assured it will be about 3-4 times a week at least. Also as I state on the “Top Prospects” section (the tabs at the top of the page) I plan to roll out my new and improved list of the top 25 prospects in all of baseball after the final pitch of this year’s World Series. While I will continue to update the rankings weekly, all of it will be even more in-depth than every before. I also hope to add a section of future prospects where I will dab a little into the world of college baseball to see what we have coming down the pipeline.

I’m very excited to dust off this old baby and get my hands dirty in the world of baseball and prospects again. Like the old saying goes, always remember who brought you to the dance.