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MLB Playoffs 2010: Hope Survives, Teams That Came Back Down Two Games To None

Three of this year’s division series seem all but over. 

The Yankees, Phillies, and Rangers lead their best of five division series by two games to none.  Only a late inning rally by the Atlanta Braves prevented all four baseball series from being two games to none affairs and feeling all but over.

Baseball has been playing five game series since 1969.  In that year baseball added four new teams and expanded each league to two divisions. 

From 1969 to 1984 the winners of the Eastern and Western divisions in each league faced of against each other in a five game set to determine who would go to the World Series.

Starting in 1985, baseball changed the five-game format of the league championship to the current best-of-seven.

When the Wild Card was introduced in 1994 and four teams from each league began to make the playoffs, baseball again used the five-game series to determine the two winners in the divisional round. 

In all there have exactly 100 best-of-five playoff series in baseball since 1969.  In seven of them, a team has trailed two games to none and come back to win the series.

This slide show is a look at the seven ball clubs who accomplished the feat. 

For those in Minnesota, Cincinnati, and Tampa Bay, this is a reminder that there is still hope. 

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Long Gone, Long Shots: Jose Bautista And The Most Surprising 50 Home Run Seasons

One upon a time the 50 home run mark was a milestone for only the very best power hitters in baseball.

The feat has only been accomplished 42 times in baseball history by 26 different men.

Recent history has sadly diminished this feat.  Between 1995 and 2007, the feat was accomplished 23 times (four times each by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa).

Despite the intervention of the steroid era, baseball fans should still remember the significance of the 50 home run club. 

On September 23rd, Jose Bautista hit his 50th home run of the 2010 season. 

That home run made him one of the most unlikely members of this exclusive baseball club. 

Here’s a deeper look at the most unlikely and surprising 50 home run season in baseball history. 

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Robbie Cano Should Win the American League MVP, Don’t Ya Know?

Dustin Pedroia won the 2008 AL MVP.  Based on that victory, Robinson Cano should run away with the AL MVP this year. 

It’s important to compare Cano’s year to Pedroia‘s and expose some truths about baseball, position scarcity, and the real value of players.

First off, Pedroia and Cano are good comparisons because they both play second base for strong AL East teams.  They play(ed) in the same road ballparks, in the same division and they both played in strong lineups, in hitter friendly home parks

Here’s a quick comparison of their stats.

Pedroia (2008) 54 doubles, 118 runs, 17 HR, 83 RBI, 20 SB 50 BB 322 TB .326/.376/.493 122 OPS+ 5.2 WAR  4.63 range factor, .982 fielding percentage

Cano (2010)    36 doubles, 93 runs,  26 HR, 95 RBI, 2  SB 50 BB 289 TB .318/.381/.544 151 OPS+ 6.2 WAR  5.00 range factor, .996 fielding percentage

Cano and the Yankees have 22 games left this season.

Cano can already lay claim to having a better season than Pedroia.  His OPS+ is significantly higher and his WAR is currently a win better. 

With another month of games to go Cano can easily pad that lead.

Pedroia does have an advantage in some of the counting stats. 

Cano is unlikely to match his run total and he won’t approach Pedroia‘s 20 stolen bases or his 54 doubles. 

But other counting stats favor Cano. 

He has significantly more home runs, more RBI, and more walks.  His margin in these categories will only grow over the final 22 games.  Cano can probably catch Pedroia in total bases seeing as he’s averaged 57 per month and he’ll probably finish around 10 runs short of Pedroia.

A small indicator that speaks to each player’s hitting prowess and level of respect from pitchers is the difference in intentional walks.  Pedroia had one in 2008. Cano has 12 so far this year.

Pedroia won his MVP easily, collecting 16 of 28 first place votes and a 317 total points.  Justin Morneau finished second, 60 points behind. 

Like Cano, Pedroia played on a team competing with the Tampa Bay Rays for first place in the AL East.

The 2008 Red Sox won 95 games and finished second, two games behind the surprising Rays.  The Red Sox qualified for the wild card and later lost to Tampa Bay in the ALCS.

This year Cano has helped propel the Yankees to a one game lead over Tampa Bay.  The Yankees are nearly assured of a playoff berth. They currently boast an eight game advantage over Boston, the second place team in the AL wild-card standing.

Like the 2008 Red Soxs, this year’s Yankees will duel with the Rays for the division title over the wild-card.  The Yankees and Rays are both on target for 95-100 wins.

If Dustin Pedroia can win an MVP with the season he had in 2008, Cano should be in serious contention this season.

That being said, there are other players in the mix for the AL MVP.

Josh Hamilton is having an amazing year.  He’s helped the Rangers to a commanding lead in the NL West by hitting a MLB high .361. Jose Bautista has emerged from nowhere to slug .623 and threaten the 50 home run plateau. Miguel Cabrera is leading the AL in .OBP, .SLUG, .OPS+, and the category MVP voters adore the most, RBI.

The difference between Hamilton, Bautista, Cabrera, and Cano comes down to position scarcity. 

Hamilton and Bautista are outfielders.  Cabrera is a first baseman.

It’s much easier to find good hitters at these positions than it is to find one at second base.

For example Hamilton leads all outfielders with a 1.050 OPS, drop down 200 points (or a little less than 20 percent) and you still have quality hitters like Torri Hunter, Shin-Soo Choo, Delmon Young, Vernon Wells, Carl Crawford, Alex Rios, and Carlos Quentin. There are 10 AL outfielders within 250 points of Hamilton’s OPS.  (Hamilton recently hurt his ribs and has not played since September 4th.  The Rangers have not given a date for his return.)

The same thing happens at first base. 

Cabrera’s OPS is 1.077.  If we drop down 200 points we find all-star first basemen like Mark Teixeira (.880), Kendry Morales (.833), and Billy Butler (.831). Besides Cabrera, there are three other AL first basemen with an .OPS over .975. 

Cano at second base is an entirely different story.

Second base is a premium defensive position, not known for producing players who are strong offensive contributors. Offense from a second baseman is more important than offense from a corner outfielder.  It is even more important than strong contributions from a first baseman.

This is where Cano stands out.

Cano currently has an OPS of .951.  No other AL second baseman is within 91 points of this mark (among ones with at least 300 plate appearances). 

Only four second basemen are within 20 percent of Cano’s mark.  (Orlando Hudson barely makes it at .760). 

The AL second baseman with the sixth highest OPS is Sean Rodriguez (.711). 

The sixth highest outfielder is Torri Hunter (.845) and the sixth highest first baseman is Billy Butler (.831).

Hamilton is the leading contender for MVP.  His numbers are fantastic and his team is running away with the division.  But his injury limits his ability to pad his numbers down the stretch.

The advantage that Robinson Cano gives the Yankees through his production at second base is greater than the contribution made by Hamilton and other MVP candidates at their position.

This argument is sealed by the statistic of WAR or wins above replacement.  WAR not only factors in fielding, it also factors in position scarcity or the value of production from that position.

Here are the AL leaders:

Robinson Cano   6.5

Miguel Cabrera  6.4

Evan Longoria   6.2

Josh Hamilton   6.0

Justin Morneau  5.4

Jose Bautista   5.2

Joe Mauer        5.2

Shin-Soo Choo   5.2

When Pedroia won the 2008 MVP he finished tied for eighth in WAR.

Cano is having a better season than Pedroia did in 2008.  He is having arguably the best season in the AL.  If Pedroia can win the MVP in 2008, Cano should certainly win it in 2010 if things remain the same for the reminder of the season. 

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Atlanta Braves’ Batting Champ? The Unlikely Success of Omar Infante

It’s one of the most amazing stories of the 2010 baseball season. Omar Infante, a career utility player, has stepped into a starting role with the Atlanta Braves and is threatening to become one of the most unlikely batting title winners in baseball history.

On July 30th, the Braves All-Star second baseman, Martin Prado, broke his finger sliding into home plate.   Prado landed on the 15-day DL and Infante was inserted into the starting lineup at second base.

Since that day Infante has hit .363 with a .400 on-base and a .513 slugging percentage. 

He’s scored 29 runs, hit five home runs and thrown in three stolen bases to boot.  Since July 29th, he’s had 23 multi-hit games and at one point, hit safely in 14 straight. 

On August 10th, Chipper Jones was lost for the season when he tore his ACL making a dazzling play at third base.  The injury assured that Infante would remain at second base and Prado would play third upon his return. 

Infante has been an absolute life-saver for the Braves, playing in every game since that July 29th date.  In all but two of those games he’s batted lead-off and helped Atlanta maintain their NL East lead.   

Even before Prado and Chipper’s injury, Infante was a valuable asset for the Braves.  In the 73 prior games, Infante started 40 of them, playing five different positions: 2B, SS, 3B, LF and RF.  He hit .330 in those games, including a .429 mark in July.

With Infante‘s insertion into the starting role and his continued prowess at the plate, his chances of winning the batting title have become a distinct possibility.

In order to qualify for the batting title, a player must record 502 plate appearances.  Infante is presently hitting a NL best .343 and  stands at 393 PAs with 25 games remaining on the Braves schedule.  If he continues his pace of 4.6 plate appearances per game, achieved since he became a full-time starter, Infante will finish with 512 plate appearances.  He’ll obviously have to play every game to make this mark, but even if he doesn’t he can still win the batting title.

How you ask? 

Well it’s simple.  If Infante finishes with say, 490 appearances, Major League Baseball will add 12 at-bats to his total and recalculate his batting average. These at-bats are considered hitless ones.

Tony Gwynn won a batting title in this manner in 1996 when he recorded 498 plate appearances and 451 at-bats.  His average of .364 was reduced to .359 and he still led the National League. 

Prior to this season, Infante was only a .264 career hitter (though he did hit .305 last year).  The important fact to remember with Infante though, is that he is only 28 years old.  Players often reach their peak around that age, a fact that’s even more true for Infante, who’s body has less wear than others because of his reduced role in prior seasons. 

Carlos Gonzalez, with an assist from Coors field, is Infante’s main competition.  He’s hitting .337 to Infante’s .343.  Joey Votto is a distant third at .321. 

It’s difficult to determine who the most unlikely batting title winner in NL history is. 

Al Oliver, a name few know, won the title with Montreal in 1982.  But he hit over .300 eleven times in his career.  Another Atlanta Brave, Ralph Garr won the title in 1974 (Garr was also 28 when he accomplished the feat).  Rico Carty also did it for the Braves in 1970.  Very few people outside of Atlanta, remember these names. 

In the American League, Bill Mueller hit .326 in 2003.  He was a .286 career hitter before that.   Mueller was also out of baseball three seasons later. 

The only distant comparison for Infante is Snuffy Stirnweiss.  Stirnweiss played for the Yankees in 1945 when baseball was severely depleted by the departure of players to World War II.  Stirnweiss hit .309 in 1945. He never hit above .256 again and hit only .268 for his career. 


With Infante‘s hitting showing no signs of slowing down and a decent shot at 502 plate appearances, he has a very real chance to become one of the most unlikely batting champions in baseball history 


I’d love to hear some readers thoughts about whether or not Infante might be the most unlikely batting champ in the long history of baseball and whether or not he has a legitimate chance at the feat.

You can view the history of NL and AL batting champs, going all the way back to when Levi Meyerle hit .492 in 1871, here

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MLB Triple Crown Race: Probabilities and Projections With One Month To Go

As the final month of the 2010 baseball season gets under way, the imaginations of baseball fans everywhere are alive with the possibility of a triple crown winner in the National League.  With statistics and probability we can put hard projections to that amazing possibility. 

Albert Pujols, Joey Votto and Carlos Gonzalez all have an opportunity to win the first National League triple crown since Joe Medwich of St. Louis did it 1937 (interesting note – three of the four NL Triple Crown winners since 1900 have played for St. Louis). 

What this article will attempt to do is examine the probability of each player winning the triple crown.  Using past performance as an indicator of future performance, we’ll examine what Pujols, Votto and Gonzalez have done in past Septembers and see if we can project what they will do this September. 

We’ll also weight that historical data against their performances this season to give us a better estimate of where they’ll finish the season. 

We begin with showing where each player stands on September 1st.

Albert Pujols     35 HR, 95 RBI, .316 AVG
Joey Votto       32 HR, 97 RBI, .327 AVG
Carlos Gonzalez 29 HR, 91 RBI,  .326 AVG


After a slow start to the season, for Pujols standards, the great Albert has been on fire since the All-Star break.  In the second half he has slammed 12 home runs, driven in 28 base runners and hit .342.

Pujols is first in HR, second in RBI and fourth in batting average.

Pujols is in the midst of his 10th major league season.  As a result we have a lot of data showing how he has performed in the month of September. 

Here are his last four years, all of them occurring since he and the Cardinals moved into new Busch Stadium.

2009: 30, games, 134 PA (17 walks), 6 HR, 25 RBI, .357 AVG
2008: 25 games, 103 PA (17 walks), 8 HR, 27 RBI, .321 AVG
2007: 28 games, 109 PA (18 walks), 2 HR, 19 RBI, .386 AVG
2006: 29 games, 129 PA (19 walks), 10 HR, 28 RBI, .373 AVG

The average is the most important because it’s the category Pujols has to make up the most in.  He can certainly do it.  In four of the last six seasons Pujols has hit over .350 in September.  For his career he is a .343 hitter in the season’s final month.  That’s 10 points higher than his career mark of .333. 

Here are his total stats in September and October. 

1055 PA  884 AB  51 HR  192 RBI  .343 AVG
16.5 AB/HR
5.5 PA/RBI

Now just because Pujols has performed at a certain level in the past doesn’t mean he’ll do the same this year.  It’s important to consider how he’s been doing recently in 2010.  Since he has 32 games left in 2010, we’ll look at this last 32 games played.

143 PA 129 AB  13 HR  26 RBI  .364 BA
9.9 AB/HR
5.5 RBI/PA

If we add in his recent performance with his average performance over the last nine years (giving a little bit more weight towards his recent performance), we get the following projections for the rest of the season:

7.5 HR(+/- 1) 24 RBI(+/- 2)  .344 AVG

Which added to his totals as of September 1st, give him a final projection of: 

43 HR, 119 RBI, .323 AVG

As indicated above there is a margin of error.  However the projections should be 95 percent certain within the margin of error.


Votto has only been a full-time baseball player for his three years.  In 2007 he was a September call-up for Cincinnati. He made his major league debut on September 4th of that year. 

Here are his performances in September since 2007:

2009: 30 games, 126 PA (22 walks), 5 HR, 19 RBI, .385 AVG
2008: 25 games, 110 PA (15 walks), 9 HR, 20 RBI, .309 AVG
2007: 24 games, 89 PA (5 walks) 4 HR, 17 RBI, .360 AVG

For Votto we get totals of 325 plate appearances and 298 at-bats.  This gives him an AB per HR of 15.6, an PA per RBI of 5.8 and an average of .340.  If he can duplicate that line this year, he’ll win the batting title and have an excellent shot at the triple crown. 

Votto and the Reds have 30 games left this year.

Based on his history, weighted with his recent performance, Votto is projected to hit seven or eight home runs,  produce 24 to 26 RBI and hit around .345.  I have weighted his 2009 and 2008 seasons more than his 2007 season in this calculation.  

For Votto I have also factored in the increase in walk rate, which could reduce his home run and RBI potential, but help his batting average (as it did in 2009).

This gives him a final line of:

40 HR, 123 RBI, .333 AVG

Like Pujols, Votto’s projection is based on him starting all of the Reds remaining games.  Also like Pujols, this is a safe assumption considering the Reds pursuit of a playoff spot.  The only difference with Votto is that the Reds have a better chance of wrapping up a playoff spot with a few games remaining.  If this happens, Votto might receive some days off before the playoffs. 


Gonzalez is the hardest to predict.  Since he only has one season in Colorado, and the National League, there is a large margin of error in estimating his performance over Colorado’s final 31 games. 

Here is Gonzalez’s performance over the last month of the season (almost all of this was compiled in 2009):

136 PA  121 AB  5 HR  13 RBI .273 AVG
24.2 AB/HR
10.5 PA/RBI

And more importantly his performance over his last 31 games of 2010:

135 PA  121 AB  12 HR  29 RBI  .388 AVG
10 AB/HR
4.65 RBI/PA

Gonzalez really wore down in September and October last year.  Like this year he had been scorching hot in August (.317, 6 HR, 13 RBI).

To get an accurate projection for Gonzalez we’ll weight his performance this year more than his performance last year.  This gives us a projection for September 2010 of:

8 HR (+/- 3), 19 RBI (+/- 7) and a .342 AVG

Gonzalez’s margin of error is huge because we have so little data to go on.  If he sticks to the data in the middle he’ll finish with a line of:

37 HR, 110 RBI, .326 BA

Other Players to Consider

We have to give attention to Adam Dunn’s chances of leading the NL in home runs.  Dunn is second in home runs with 33, that’s two behind Pujols. 

Here are Adam Dunn’s September homerun totals over the past six years:

2009: 27 games, 3 HR in 99 AB – Played for the Washington Nationals
2008: 26 games, 6 HR in 88 AB – Played for the Arizona Diamondbacks
2007: 20 games, 4 HR in 62 AB
2006: 28 games, 2 HR in 87 AB
2005: 30 games, 5 HR in 104 AB
2004: 31 games, 6 HR in 110 AB – Played for the Cincinnati Reds through 2007

That’s 26 home runs in 550 at-bats or about 21 at-bats per home run.  The evidence suggests that Dunn fades as the season wanes.  This probably explains why he has never lead the NL in home runs but has finished second twice and third once. 

History suggests we can discard Dunn as a threat to overtake the home run lead by season’s end.

The Atlanta Braves have two hitters which could spoil the triple crown pursuit, Martin Prado and Omar Infante. Prado is hitting .317 and Infante is hitting .341. 

Infante only has 370 plate appearances this year.  He needs 502 to qualify for the batting title.  Since being inserted into the Braves everyday staring lineup on July 29th, he has averaged 4.6 PA per game, most of them from the lead-off spot. 

The Braves have 31 games left.  If he starts everyone of them and maintains this pace, he’ll finish with around 512 PA.

It’s going to be close with Infante.  He’ll have to play everyday and keep hitting.  Infante is only a .275 career hitter, so how he’s doing it this year is a complicated mystery for another article.  It’s hard to predict if he’ll keep it up and stay ahead of Votto and his projected final average of .333

Prado is a career .311 hitter with an career average of .276 in September.  There’s little chance he wins the batting title, unless he significantly outperforms his past history. 



Based on this projection system the final lines for these three players are:

Pujols     43 HR (+/- 1), 119 RBI (+/- 2), .323 AVG
Votto     40 HR (+/- 0.5) 123 RBI (+/- 1) , .333 AVG
Gonzalez 37 HR (+/- 3) , 110 RBI (+/- 7) , .326 AVG

Joey Votto has the best chance to win the NL triple crown.  He has a 95 percent chance to win the batting title and the RBI title.  He has a 22% chance to win the HR title. 

Albert Pujols has a 68 percent chance to win the HR title, about a 40 percent chance to win the RBI title and only a 2.5 percent chance to win the batting crown.

Gonzalez’s chances are lower than 34 percent in each category.  His total chances of winning are about 3%.  Albert Pujols has a 36 percent chance of winning the National League Triple Crown. 

Remember that all of these are a projections based on past performances in the season’s final month and recent performances in 2010.  Many other factors will come into play in September (injuries, home/road splits, lineup strength, days of rest or another hitter emerging in one of the three categories). 

If the past and present hold true though, Joey Votto has an excellent chance to win the NL Triple Crown. 

I’d put Votto’s chances at about 64 percent as of September 1st.

For a look at the data and methodology used in this study click here.

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10 Athletes Who Made Major Political and Social Statements

On Saturday Albert Pujols and his manager, Tony LaRussa, attended the “Restoring Honor,” rally held on the Mall in Washington D.C.  The rally was organized by popular radio and television host Glenn Beck.

The rally was exceedingly well attended with estimates placing the crowd between 300,000 and 500,000.  Beck and his organizers stated goals were to raise money for the families of fallen special forces soldiers and make a public expression of faith and patriotism.

The rally was not without its critics.

Beck, himself, is a brutally harsh, often brash critic of President Obama and the current American progressive movement.  As a result he has inspired incredible vitriol towards himself and his causes.

By stepping out, perhaps even tangentially, with something Beck supported, Pujols and LaRussa have come under mild criticism for their appearances.

They are not the first athletes to embroil themselves in a political controversy.  Many atheletes have stepped out in support or opposition to many different social, religious and political issues. 

No sport has been free of these displays.

This slide show is a look at some of the most famous, infamous and important displays of an athletes personal political and social preferences. 

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Carlos Gonzalez Is Having The Best Season No One is Talking About

In the mile-high city, there is an outfielder having the best baseball season you haven’t heard about. 

His name is Carlos Gonzalez, and he has been a menace to National League pitching this season.

Gonzalez, 24, is a tall, lean lefty with a sweet swing. 

Originally from Venezuela, Gonzalez is in his second full year with the Colorado Rockies. He came to the Rockies in the Winter of 2008 when the Rockies dealt Matt Holliday to the Oakland A’s. 

Gonzalez has made A’s general manager Bill Beane regret this trade. 

In 2009, Gonzalez spent the first two months of the season dominating the Pacific Coast League for the Rockies Triple-A affiliate in Colorado Springs. 

On May 29, the Rockies fired manager Clint Hurdle and replaced him with Jim Tracy. A week later, Gonzalez got the call to the majors.

Gonzalez struggled at first, posting a .607 OPS in June. He quickly improved that to an .860 mark in July. Since August 1, 2009, he has been one of the best hitting outfielders in baseball. 

Gonzalez hit 11 home runs and batted .330 over the last two months of 2009. In the playoffs, he hit .588, homered, stole two bases and scored five runs as the Phillies defeated the Rockies in four games.   

This season, he has continued to hit at almost the same astounding level. 

Consider his numbers: 135 hits, six triples, 25 home runs, 77 RBI, 75 runs, 18 stolen bases, 239 total bases .327 BA, .355 OBP, .579 SLUG, 136 OPS+.

These numbers equate to him being second in hits, sixth in triples, fourth in home runs, third in RBI, fourth in runs, first in total bases, first in average, third in slugging, and sixth in OPS among National League hitters.

Among outfielders, his numbers demonstrate why he is now one of the finest hitters in baseball.

Gonzalez leads all NL outfielders in average, home runs and RBI—winning the outfielder batting triple crown. 

He is also first in slugging and OPS. Among all major league outfielders, he is second in home runs, tied for third in RBI, second in batting average, third in slugging, and third in OPS.

Among all outfielders, Gonzalez trails Josh Hamilton and Jose Bautista in most of those categories—two players whose fantastic seasons have drawn them plenty of notice. However, Gonzalez easily trumps Bautista in batting average (by 67 points) and speed (four more triples and fifteen more stolen bases). 

The title of, “Best Outfielder in Baseball” is a debate between Gonzalez and Hamilton.  

Since July 1, Gonzalez has staked his claim to the title by playing out of this world baseball. 

In the six weeks since that date, he has stroked 12 home runs, hit .388, posted a 1.170 OPS and swiped six bases. On July 31, Gonzalez hit for the cycle against the Chicago Cubs. He saved his best for last, smashing a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Gonzalez has also been one of the most versatile outfielders in baseball. He’s played 52 games in center field, 35 in left, and 24 in right. He’s made only one fielding error this year. 

The only thing Gonzalez doesn’t do well is take walks—he has 19 on the season.  

Despite all this success, Gonzalez has received little attention.

Gonzalez barely made a blip in the NL All-Star voting, and was not named as a reserve by the players or NL manager Charlie Manuel. He was chosen as one of the five players for the “Fans Final Vote,” but he finished third.

As previously demonstrated, Gonzalez has maybe the best all-around numbers of any outfielder this season, yet he doesn’t even get total recognition from fantasy baseball players. In Yahoo! fantasy leagues his ownership is 93 percent.   

However, ESPN’s Fantasy Player Rater ranks Gonzalez as the best player in all of baseball (for the standard fantasy categories). But, he still isn’t owned in all ESPN fantasy leagues.  

Carlos Gonzalez should be getting a lot more attention.

His statistics clearly demonstrate why he’s having one of the best offensive seasons in baseball. 

Joey Votto has had an MVP-type season for the NL Central-leading Reds, but Carlos Gonzalez should not be forgotten in the discussion about the National League’s Most Valuable Player. 

In fact, Gonzalez should be at the top of that list.

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Matt Diaz Deserves More Love from the Atlanta Braves

Matt Diaz deserves to be the every day starting left fielder for the Atlanta Braves.  His batting skills have earned it for him.  If he plays everyday in left, the Braves have a better chance to win the NL East. 

The Braves haven’t had a regular left fielder since the days of Ryan Klesko.  That’s so long ago Jason Heyward was in the second grade. Being a left fielder in Atlanta is about as safe as being the defense against the dark arts teacher at Hogwarts. No player has held down the starting position in left for 13 seasons. 

The one-and-done fill-ins have included the immortal likes of Garrett Anderson, Gregor Blanco, Ryan Langerhans, Kelly Johnson, Charles Thomas, B.J. Surhoff, Reggie Sanders, and Gerald Williams.  The only pseudo-stability occurred when they put a third baseman, Chipper Jones, in left from 2002-2003.  This was a complete disater, not only because of Chipper’s fielding but because Vinny Castilla provided nothing in his stead at third base.

Matt Diaz had the job for a spell in 2007, but injury prevented him form securing it again in 2008.  He deserves a second chance. 

The Braves acquired Diaz from the Royals in December 2005. Up to that point, Diaz had only played in 58 career games.  No one really knew what he could do.  Bobby Cox gave him a chance as a platoon player in the outfield.  Since then Diaz has done nothing but hit. 

In 470 games as a Brave, Diaz has produced a .314/.361/.466 batting line.  This includes two seasons in which he was injured and his production severely decreased.

In his three full seasons, Diaz produced an OPS+ of 114, 123 and 133 (OPS+ is a measure of how far above the league average OPS—set at 100—a player is). 

Diaz is clearly an improving, above average hitter.  He is certainly better than the Braves’ other left field prospects at this time, Melky Cabrera (.259/.319/.355) and Nate McLouth (.169/.282/.268).  Putting these two players in the lineup is not much better than having another pitcher hitting in the eighth spot. 

Since returning form the disabled listed on June 29th, Diaz has hit .378 with an OPS of 1.182.  He hit home runs in three straight games and has a hit in every game he’s started since returning. 

One knock against Diaz has been his fielding.  But Diaz has actually shown improvement in his fielding for four straight years. 

Baseball-Reference uses a formula to calculate the number of runs a player is better or worse than an average fielder.  Diaz’s last four years (staring in 2007) are -5, -2, 0 and 2.  The evidence suggests Diaz has worked diligently to improve his defense.

Bobby Cox uses Diaz in a platoon split, only allowing him to start against left-handed pitchers.  But in 2007, when Diaz got to play more in left because of injuries, he hit .318 against righties.  Diaz simply hasn’t had enough of a chance to establish himself against right-handers.  If given a chance to face them and adapt, he may well increase his batting prowess against right-handed pitching.

The same thing happened to Ryan Klesko in Atlanta.  He platooned and never started against lefties.  Then he was traded to San Diego, started everyday, hit just fine against lefties, and became an All-Star.

Allowing Matt Diaz to start everyday in left field gives the Braves the best chance to win.  He is much better than the current versions of Cabrera and McLouth.  Over his five seasons in Atlanta he has proven himself to be an accomplished hitter and an improving fielder.  He has earned the opportunity to provide Atlanta with some stability in left field.

I appreciate all feeback in the comments section or on “The Twitter” at

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Crazy Fun Numbers, Stats and Projections From MLB’s First Half

This article is a look at the fascinating numbers, unexpected performances, and season projections from the first half of Major League baseball’s 109th season. 

.454 – Josh Hamilton’s batting average in the month of June.

18 – Days the NL West leading San Diego Padres have spent out of first place. Since April 19, they have been in first place for 70 out of 74 days.

82 – The number of All-Stars this season. 

.143/.238/.286 – All-Star David Ortiz’s batting line in April. Since May 1 it is .297/.420/.630

103 – Projected wins for baseball’s top team, the New York Yankees.

52-110 – Win/loss pace of the Baltimore Orioles after they ended the first half on a four game win streak. 

17 for 30 – The success rate of Oriole closers this year.

24 – Number of losses separating the Pittsburgh Pirates from their 18th consecutive losing season.  This would extend their own dubious, American professional sports record.

135 – League leading number of home runs smashed by the Toronto Blue Jays thus far (19 more then second place Boston).  The 1997 Seattle Mariners hold the single-season record with 264 home runs.  The Blue Jays could easily have eight players hit 20 or more home runs.  That would also be a major league record.

97-63 – The record of the NL East leading Atlanta Braves since they traded Jeff Francouer on July 10, 2009.

9.5 – Number of games out of first place the Chicago White Sox were on June 9.  Thirty-two days later, on the last day of the the season’s first half, they moved into first place in the AL Central. 

.990 – Tigers’ rookie sensation Brennen Boesch’s OPS.  This would be the highest OPS posted by a rookie since some guy named Albert Pujols in 2001.  Giants rookie Buster Posey, who does not yet have enough plate appearances to qualify, currently has a .959 OPS.

4.46 – Runs per game during the season thus far, which would be the lowest since 1992.  1992 is also the most recent year with a ERA lower than this season’s 4.16.

7  – Combined number of games separating first from second for the three divisions in both the American and National League. 

4.5 games – The largest division lead in baseball; held by the surprising Texas Rangers.

28 – Ubaldo Jimenez’s projected win total, which would be the highest total since Denny McLain famously won 31 games in 1968. 

16 – Wins for the Atlanta Braves in their final at-bat.  (Read about them here —warning shameless self-promotion contained within)

2112 – League high number of pitches thrown by Diamondbacks ace Dan Haren.

16.8 – Strikeout per nine rate of Cubs reliever Carlos Marmol.

12 – The number of teams with payrolls lower than this year’s combined salaries of Alex Rodriguez (33m), Derek Jeter (22.6m), and Mark Teixeira (20.6m).  The division leading Rangers, Padres and the wild-card leading Tampa Bay Rays are among them.

148 – Projected RBI total for Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera.

5.3 – Wins above replacement (WAR) of Justin Morneau, the highest in baseball during the first half.  Josh Johnson and Roy Halladay lead all pitchers with a WAR of 4.9 each. 

-1.7 – Pedro Feliz’s wins above replacement and the worst in all of baseball.

72.9mph – Average speed of Tim Wakefield’s pitches, the lowest in baseball.  Jamie Moyer’s pitches are 8.1 mph faster.

11 – Number of times the Cleveland Indians have drawn fewer then 12,000 fans this year.  They are last in the league in attendance.

8 – Number of home runs Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista has already exceeded his career-high by (24 to 16).   

15.167 – Cliff Lee’s strikeout to walk ratio.  The record is 11.0, set by Bret Saberhagen in 1994.

3 – Home runs Alex Rodriguez needs to hit in the second half to join Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Sammy Sosa and Ken Griffey Jr. in the 600 home run club. 

.152 – Carlos Pena’s batting average if you subtract his 18 home runs from his hit total.  He’s hitting .203 this year with a .738 OPS. 

20,500 – Average increase in attendance for the Washington Nationals during Stephan Strasburg’s five home starts. 

61 – The highest number of strikeouts for any pitcher on the Washington Nationals.  The pitcher leading the team—Steven Strasburgh (a feat accomplished in only 42 2/3 innings).

26 – Number of players who have already stolen 15 or more bases in 2010. 

278 – League leading number of outs produced by the Mariner’s Jose Lopez (Derek Jeter is second with 276 outs).  

1.055/.799 – Adrian Gonzalez’s home/road OPS split in the first half.  For his career Gonzalez has produced an OPS 152 points higher on the road than at Petco Park.  Somebody needs to rescue this guy and allow him to be recognized as the major star he is.

1.29 – Josh Johnson’s ERA since his third start of the season, a span of 16 starts. 

10 – Seasons Mariano Rivera will have recorded a sub-2.00 ERA if he maintains his 1.05 ERA.

15.9 – Percentage of pitches Bobby Abreu has swung at outside of the strike zone.  The percentage makes Abreu the hitter with the best batting eye in the game. 

.071 – The National League’s batting average against Ubaldo Jimenez’s fastball.

9,000,000 – Number of dollars the normally cash-strapped Tampa Rays are paying Pat Burrell not to play for them this season. 

103.5 – Percentage of seats sold at Philadelphia Phillie home games this season. I’m not sure how this is possible. 

228 – Mark Reynolds’ projected season strikeout total after fanning 122 times in the first half.  This total would break Reynolds’ own record of 223, set just last year, and give Reynolds 663 strikeouts in the last three seasons. That’s more then Albert Pujols has in his entire career.

74 plus playoffs (if applicable) – Number of games left in the career of Hall of Fame Braves manager, Bobby Cox.  Cox has announced this will be his final season on the bench.  He is baseball’s longest tenured manager at 21 years.

3 – Number of perfect games we should acknowledge and remember as being hurled in first half of 2010.

Also if you had the Chicago White Sox, Texas Rangers, Cincinnati Reds, and San Diego Padres leading their divisions at the midway point of the season, please post some stock picks in the comments, you’re a prophet.

Thanks for reading.  Enjoy the second half.

Please feel free to post one of the thousands of other fascinating stats from the first half which I overlooked.


Read more MLB news on

Every 2010 Atlanta Braves Walk-off and Last AB Win (w/video links)

The Atlanta Braves have won 16 of their 50+ wins this season in their last at-bat, and a number of those have been dramatic walk-off wins.

This is an ongoing chronicle of those wins, with video from

Please check back as the season progresses.

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