Who’s this Berkman character?

Who in their right mind thought Lance Berkman would be leading the NL in OPS and SLG through the first 30 games of the season? I honestly thought it was a horrible signing for the Cardinals. I thought the 35-year-old had nothing left after watching him at the plate last year, plus I couldn’t imagine his legs being back in the outfield after a couple of years at first base and DH. Turns out, he’s been the best hitter for the Cards. Heck, for the entire NL and may also just be one of the best free agent signings of the year. I would have never of thought that prior to the season.

Berkman enters Friday’s game hitting .392/.462/.775 slash line with 10 home runs and a league-leading 32 RBIs in just 29 games. To put this into perspective, he hit 14 home runs total in 122 games with the Astros and Yankees combined. Even in the homer-friendly Yankee Stadium, he connected for just one longball in 106 at-bat with the Yanks. Overall in 2010, he hit a homer about every 29 at-bats. But this season, he’s belting one dinger about every 10 at-bats. What a difference a year makes.

Obviously, I think Berkman is just more comfortable in the NL, especially in the NL Central where he knows a lot of the pitchers. Not to mention that hitting in the lineup around Albert Pujols doesn’t hurt matters. His home run total last year was the lowest of his career besides his rookie year and he last blasted 20+ home runs in 2009 (25 with Houston), he’s well on his way to eclipsing that total. Of course if he can stay healthy, which is always the question mark for an aging veteran.

Yankees fast start

The Yankees are tearing the cover off the ball so far this season, propelling them to an early one-game lead in the AL East. The offense easily leads the league in home runs with 46 while ranking fourth in runs scored. That’s all fine and dandy, it’s the Yankees and we have come to expect that from them. But at some point this year (playoffs or before during pennant races), the bats will cool off or run into better pitching and will the Yankees be able to rely on pitching?

They are currently getting by with AJ Burnett, who’s having a bounce back year so far, Ivan Nova, Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon. Phil Hughes has been horrendous (13.94 ERA), Nova is posting an ERA above 5.00 and Colon has been a nice story in April, but I don’t see him staying right for the entire season. CC Sabathia has  been solid and he’s their ace no question, but their pitching depth is very thin and they can’t afford a midseason injury or a Hughes type blowup again if they are going to compete in the AL East come September and beyond.

Runs at a premium

I shouldn’t have surprised to find out that two teams are actually scoring fewer runs than the A’s. The A’s are scoring 3.4 runs per game while hitting a slash line of .237/.304/.355. I thought that was bad, but can you name the two teams that are worse? It’s the Twins and the Padres. One playoff team from a year ago and the other a division leader for most of the season before falling behind the Giants yet still winning 90 games.

The Padres are scratching out runs at a 3.34 per game with a .218/.299/.327 slash line, but the Twins take the cake with 3.1 runs per game and a pathetic .230/.292/.323 line. When you are getting on base at a .292 clip, that is awful. With those numbers, it shouldn’t surprise anyone of the Twins 11-18 record and the Padres 12-19 record. The 16-16 A’s are getting by on stellar pitching, something the Padres and Twins (minus Liriano’s no-hitter) lack this season. How bad has it been for the Twins? Liriano’s no-hitter dropped his ERA to a 6.61 mark.

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Don’t look now, but pitchers and catchers report next week! With the start of spring training right around the corner, I thought we’d take a look at some of the prominent free agents who will be changing uniforms this year…

Yankees
The Yankees are having a bit of a rough offseason. They lost out on ace Cliff Lee at the last minute to the Phillies, their longtime steady All-Star pitcher Andy Pettitte decided to retire and then they were raked over the coals by Derek Jeter to sign him to an extension. Meanwhile, the Red Sox went out and brought in a ton of talent mainly Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Bobby Jenks to name a few.

So what did the Yanks do to compensate? Well besides locking up Rivera and Rafael Soriano for their bullpen, they went out and signed Andruw Jones, Bartolo Colon, Mark Prior and now Eric Chavez. These pickups would have been great if the year was 2004 and not 2011. Three of these deals are minor league deals, but wow could they be anymore desperate for starting pitching. If one of the following, Colon-Prior-Chavez, stick I would be shocked.

Rays sign some idiots
The Rays reunited outfielders Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez from their days in Boston, signing them both two one-year deals. Both players are winding down their careers and are not the same players they once were, but it will be interesting to see how their veteran presence will be on a young team that lost Crawford, Garza and Soriano in the offseason. They don’t have the power they used to process as Manny hit nine total compared to Damon’s eight last year. If one of the two can rebound from a mediocre 2010, it’ll pay dividends for Tampa.

Rangers give six years to Beltre
Texas used the money saved for Cliff Lee to pickup Adrian Beltre in a six-year, $96M deal. Didn’t the Rangers learn their lesson on the A-Rod deal that strapped them for years down the road. Beltre had a sterling season last year (.321/.365/.553), there’s no doubt about that. But it was a big improvement from 2009 when he struggled with the Mariners. Plus, Beltre will be 32 in early April, and I’m not so sure giving a 32-year-old with Beltre’s track record a six-year deal is a great idea. Besides the Rangers need pitching, not hitting at this point.

Dunn to White Sox
Adam Dunn signed with the Chi Sox for a four-year, $56MM deal. Dunn’s a player that has hit an average of 40.3 home runs each year since 2004. Now, he moves to an extreme home run hitter’s park in Chicago at the age of 31, Dunn may absolutely rake in the lineup that features Paul Konerko and Carlos Quentin.

Quick hits:

Vlad and Lee sign with the Orioles: Minus the postseason, Vladimir Guerrero had a terrific 2010 season with the Rangers, hitting .300/.345/.496 with 29 home runs. His decline in the postseason is a worry for the O’s, but I think Vlad will at least be productive this year though not to 2010’s standards. As for Derrek Lee, he will be looking for a bounce back year in new scenery in Baltimore after seeing his home run total drop from 35 in 2009 to 19 in 2010, including just three dingers after being dealt to Atlanta in August.

Matsui lands in Oakland: Hideki Matsui ended up being one of the most consistent producers for the Angels last year and should provide some much-needed power and experience for the A’s in 2011. If he stays healthy, 20-25 home runs shouldn’t be a problem.

Cubs land Pena: Along with upgrading their rotation with a trade for Garza, the Cubs signed Pena to a one-year, $10MM deal. Pena will provide some power the Cubs need, but I don’t care how many home runs he hits, he better cut down some strikeouts and improve that .198 average.

Javier Vazquez returns to the NL: Vazquez is coming off probably his worst season in the majors since his rookie year. He posted a 5.32 ERA while his strikeouts decreased and his walks went up with the Yanks. Signing a one-year, $7MM deal with Florida, he hopes to turn some magic back in the NL where he’s been extremely more effective throughout his 13-year career.

With one week remaining in the 2010 regular season, the majority of fans are geared up to see who earns a playoff berth with five playoff spots still up for grabs. I’m obviously interested in that, but I’m also looking forward to those second place finishers that do not qualify for the playoffs. And why is that exactly? Because MLB awards teams for not making the playoffs as well! According to MLB’s postseason bylaws, it states that the four 2nd place teams (the non-wild card clubs) who do not make the postseason still receive 1% of the playoff shares.

I honestly didn’t even know this myself until a friend emailed me about it the other day. So even with some teams being out of the pennant race, they can still battle it out for a decent bonus paycheck at the conclusion of the regular season.

Take a look at 2008, where the Minnesota Twins received $511,593 for finishing in second place, which each player that received a share pulled in $11,078.97. Not a shabby bonus for finishing as the runner-up in the division.

So with the final week upon us, people will be excited to see who pulls the AL East out. Please. I’ll be watching the Tigers-White Sox in the AL Central to see who gets the 1 percent shares. Or how about the AL West where the A’s lead the Angels by two games. Suddenly that battle for second place doesn’t seem as pointless. Hey, there’s money on the line. Hang on Oakland!

After a short hiatus, let’s jump into an update on each pennant race going on around baseball. There are only two divisions pretty much wrapped up out of the six total, so it should be a very entertaining final month in Major League Baseball.

NL Central: A month ago I was pretty confident that the Cardinals would eventually beat out the Reds for the NL Central division title. Well, scratch that. Suddenly the Cards can’t win and the Reds can’t lose. The Reds 6-1 victory over the Red Birds Saturday gave them a nice eight game lead over St. Louis. Eight games?? Forget it, this race is OVE-VA! Who in their right mind had the Reds winning this division prior to the season? Oh wait, I had them as a surprise team in our 2010 outlook series. I need to take credit for something because I also had Baltimore in that list…whoops.

NL West: Another surprise team I had was the San Francisco Giants, who are currently just two games back of the sinking Padres. It’s actually amazing to think that the Padres have dropped nine straight and still lead the NL West by two games. The Giants stable of arms may have enough to leap past the falling Padres in this final month of the season. Plus, the Rockies are still hanging around as usual…5.5 games back in the division. A five-plus game difference is tough to make up in the final month, but the Rockies seem to find ways to go on a ridiculous run late in the year. This could be the closest race between more than two teams to watch in September.

AL East: Let’s head over to the AL East, where the Yankees are doing their thing—becoming a machine down the stretch that is immensely difficult to catch. The Bombers have won eight straight, and despite the Rays doing everything they can to keep pace, they remain 2.5 games behind New York. The Rays still have seven games this month against the Yankees, and if they don’t win five out of seven, we could be looking at another Yankees division title. In the end, it really doesn’t matter a whole lot because the runner-up in this division will end up with the wildcard.

AL West: Here’s how good it looks for the Rangers to be playing postseason baseball come October. Even if the A’s went on a tear and played .700 ball the rest of the way (19-8), the Rangers would have to go 10-17 in their final 27 games to lose the division to Oakland. Considering Oakland isn’t that good and the Rangers are pretty good, this isn’t going to happen. I’m excited about seeing what Cliff Lee/CJ Wilson tandem can do in the playoffs with this hitting behind them.

AL Central: Last year, it was a three-team race in September, but this year it’s only the Twins and White Sox battling to the end as the Tigers fell out of it a while back. The Twins are up today 3.5 games on the White Sox, but Chicago has been hot, winning five straight and seven of their past ten games. These two teams only meet up three more times this month in Chicago, but the Twins schedule is set up for them to win this thing. In their final 22 games that don’t include the White Sox, the Twins face the Royals six times, the Indians six times, the Tigers three times, the A’s three times and the Blue Jays three times. The Royals and Indians six times?? What a nice way to end it. If they end up blowing this 3.5 game lead, they only have themselves to play.

NL East: The Braves are clinging to a one-game lead as the Phillies are turning red-hot with their team getting healthy at the right time. This division looks like a clone of the AL East where the runner-up may be in the playoffs no matter what by earning the wildcard. If I had to pick a team to win the division though, I think the Phillies will still pull it out for another division title. The teams have six games remaining against each other with what could be a huge three-game series to end the season in Atlanta.

MLB fans, GMs and players can now breathe again—the trading deadline has officially passed. Need a recap on everything went down? Here are some trade links to do just that…

MLB Trade Rumors is the authority on the trading deadline, and the folks over there put together a nice rundown of all the trades from the past couple of days.

MLB.com also runs down the plethora of trades today.

Jayson Stark of ESPN gives his winners and losers of the trading deadline.

Big League Stew of Yahoo! ranks the top 10 notable trades from this July.

I had to get my hometown Pirates in here as they were busy as usual on the deadline. Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recaps the three trades the Buccos made today. From my viewpoint, the Pirates made some low-risk free agent pickups in the offseason and flipped most of them for some decent, young talent today. Not bad in my book.

Am I the only one who didn’t like the Jake Westbrook deal for the Cardinals? I mean parting with young hitter Ryan Ludwick for Westbrook when they also went after Oswalt and Lilly and end up with Westbrook. Seems like they panicked to me and settled for the lesser of three pitchers. I could see Westbrook find his groove against NL hitters, but it’s still a downgrade after losing out on Oswalt and Lilly.

Speaking of the Indians, they found a taker for Kerry Wood!?! The Tribe sent the struggling closer to the Yankees for a player to be named later or 500k. Uh, I’m pretty sure that cash will work just fine. I could see the Indians going to the Yankees in the offseason and say, “You know what, don’t bother sending anyone for the deal. We’re good.”

FanGraphs breaks down the Octavio Dotel trade to the Dodgers and wonders, along with many, what the Dodgers are doing giving up too much for bullpen arms, including a top prospect in Andrew Lambo now with Pittsburgh.

Also, the Reds stood pat and made zero moves. Interesting. After trading for Yunel Escobar earlier this month, the Blue Jays also were quiet at the deadline along with the Tigers, Mets, A’s (Billy Beane must have been sick), Brewers (they’re in contention though, that’s it), Red Sox and Rockies.

Well the non-waiver trade deadline gone, tomorrow is August 1 and back to our regularly scheduled program of baseball while teams battle for pennants the last two months of the season.


Everyone can always use a little Calvin and Hobbes, especially on a Sunday. This is just one of my favorite baseball comics in the series. Anyway, let’s get into some links on this lazy Sunday.

In what was looking like a must-win game for the Angels, Ervin Santana mowed down the Rangers for a huge Halos win. I’m not sure the Angels will have enough in them to catch the Rangers at this point, currently down six games in the AL West, but they certainly couldn’t afford another loss to drop eight back. You can consider tonight’s game just as big.

The Braves rallied to defeat the Marlins 10-5 Saturday and hold a 6.0 game lead on the Phillies in the division. I guess it’s only fitting that in Bobby Cox’s last hurrah and what is probably Chipper Jones last year of his career, the Braves would find themselves making one more run at the NL East pennant and postseason. Six games or more leads just don’t get blown very often once you reach August, so we’ll see if the Braves continue to roll on ahead of the Phils and Mets.

Speaking of pennant races, this could be the straw that broke the Tigers back. Magglio Ordonez broke his ankle sliding into home plate tonight and is out 6-8 weeks. Magglio has been a Godsend to the Tigers offense this year as he was enjoying a great bounce back year. First, it was Joel Zumaya, then Brandon Inge and now Ordonez. This loss will  hurt immensely, leaving only the rookie Brennan Boesch to protect Miguel Cabrera in the lineup. I’m not sure that’ll work too well. The Tigers are in the thick of a three-team race in the AL Central, and I just don’t see how they continue to keep up with the Twins and White Sox. Also, it will be interesting to see what Dave Dombrowski does at the deadline and see if he panics and trades away too much to acquire a hired gun in the outfielder. This is obviously bad news for the Tigers, but even worse for Mags, who is on the hook to lose his $15 million option.

Rolling right along in the terrible time for an injury department, it’s time to go ahead and mark down the A’s pick up of Ben Sheets in the offseason for $10 million a horrendous idea. Sheets, whose name was swirling around in trades this past week, will miss the rest of the season for elbow surgery. The only fallback investment for Billy Beane in the Sheets signing was that they weren’t in contention, they could deal him at the deadline for a couple of prospects. Well, scratch that idea. The A’s will just have to eat this move. Sheets didn’t provide much help all year, going 4-9 with a 4.53 ERA in 20 starts for the A’s.

Before you Cubs fans out there jump on the “We’ll have to win when Cubs legend Ryne Sandberg is managing the team” train, consider what could go wrong and already has for that particular scenario via Big League Stew.

And last, but not least—ladies and gentlemen, your 2010 Hall of Fame inductees. John Kekis writes about the Class of 2010 on Yahoo Sports as well.

We’ve hit the halfway point in 2010 with most teams playing their 81st game of the season this past weekend. So let’s take a look at the weekly recap, full of All-Star news and a managerial change in the desert.

Moneyball in Hollywood
Eight years ago, the Oakland A’s were featured in Michael Lewis’ hit book “Moneyball.” The popularity of the book over the years has reached the Hollywood level where a movie is apparently necessary. With parts of the movie being filmed at the end of this month, it’s bringing back memories for the players and fans. I haven’t researched enough info on this film, but I’m wondering how well it will be done. Should be an interesting baseball movie nonetheless.

Changing of the guard in Arizona
AJ Hinch out, Kirk Gibson in as manager of the Diamondbacks.

July 1st division leaders
Good news for the respective division leaders according to this MLB.com article as the majority of the leaders on July 1st have clinched a playoff berth in the past 15 years. Very interesting article.

What you taking about, Willis?
Dontrelle Willis was designated for assignment for the second time this season this time via the D-Backs. Big League Stew writes about the quick and sad descent of Dontrelle Willis‘ career. No matter what happens now for the D-Train, he’ll always have those couple of seasons where he dominated in Florida along with a World Series ring over the Yankees in his rookie year of 2003.

Show me the money
In case you missed it, the All-Star rosters were unveiled Sunday. I had a problem with part of it, but see the post below if you’re interested. But who gets the extra bonus money for earning the All-Star honor? MLB Trade Rumors breaks it down.

How Rivera Dominates
The New York Times put together a fascinating two-minute video on how Yankees closer Mariano Rivera has been able to dominant for the majority of his career. I found this link via Baseball-Reference.com, and they were right—this video is a must watch for baseball fans.

Miguel Cabrera
Need any additional evidence that the Marlins-Tigers deal for Miguel Cabrera was one of the most lopsided trades ever? The Baseball Analysts breaks down Cabrera’s career so far, and given his age, how he should be hitting his prime over the next couple of years and where he stands on the list of great hitters in the past 50 years.