Episode 6: July 8, 2010
There have been some surprising performances in the first half of 2010. Are they flukes or for real? A closer look at all-stars Martin Prado, Arthur Rhodes, Yovani Gallardo, Corey Hart, and Jose Bautista.
Please note: this is not an exact transcription of the episode.
Trivia question: who won the National League batting title in 2006? Matt Holliday? Derrek Lee? Albert Pujols? Miguel Cabrera? C'mon, it was only 4 years ago.
I'm Alex Reisner...
So, congrats to first time all-star Atlanta Braves second baseman Martin Prado. Prado is leading the NL in batting average. Is he this year's Freddy Sanchez? That is, will we remember his name 4 years from now?
* Basically both solid utility infielders who are best at 2B
* Prado can only play 2B and 3B, not SS
* Sanchez is probably a slightly better and more versatile fielder
* Both strike out around the same rate (every 9 PA)
* Prado walks more (every 13 PA, Sanchez every 22).
* Neither has speed to hit triples or steal bases.
* Neither has much HR power.
* Both achieve .400+ SLG by hitting doubles
* Prado slightly more (every 13 AB, Sanchez every 15)
* SLG: Prado .458, Sanchez .413
There's not much question that Prado is the better player. Sanchez was 27 in his first actual season (132 G), at 28 he had his big year, and he's been declining ever since. He still hits doubles, but his days as a regular are probably close to over.
Prado is 26 and had his first full season last year (128 G) when he batted over .300 (.307) and slugged .464 with 11 home runs.
So, is Martin Prado the next Freddy Sanchez? No. I don't think Prado will win the batting title this year (though there's not a lot of serious competition in the league), but nor will he fade immediately into obscurity. He's a good step up from Sanchez and he should serve the Braves well for the next several years.
Let's take a look at another first-time All-Star, a guy who's making it for the first time at the age of 40: relief pitcher Arthur Rhodes. This is Rhodes' 19th major league season and it's really great to finally see him on an all-star roster. Middle relievers don't always get a lot of recognition and in this case Rhodes deserves it. He was a big part of Seattle's great 2001 season, going 8-0 with a 1.72 ERA in 71 appearances. His career strikeout rate is almost the same as Mariano Rivera's (both one every 4.3 PAs). He's had a lot of injury problems throughout his career so it's great to see that he's made it this far and is having a great start to the 2010 season, with an ERA just over 1 and almost a strikeout per inning. Plus he's only allowed one home run in 34 innings while pitching in one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the majors. Watch for him to get a big ovation at the all-star introductions.
Another exciting first-time all-star is pitcher Yovani Gallardo. Unfortunately he's on the disabled list until late July so he won't be playing but he's just 24 years old and if you haven't heard of him it's because you don't live in Milwaukee. He hasn't gotten the national recognition yet but he's in the same category as guys who have like Phil Hughes, Matt Cain, and Tim Lincecum. Last year he struck out 204 batters in just 185 innings. This year:
* he's already pitched 2 complete game shutouts (in his last one he struck out 12 against the Twins, one of the toughest lineups in baseball)
* 2.58 ERA
* among league leaders in strikeouts, on pace for almost 250 (averaging 9.8 per 9 innings)
He's also hit 7 home runs in just 145 major league at-bats over the past 4 years, which is a home run in 4.8% of his at-bats, a rate comparable to Chase Utley, Matt Holliday, and David Wright. All his home runs have been on high fastballs so obviously it shouldn't last, but it's interesting, and one more reason to watch him play.
Another all-star from the Brewers, playing in his second game, is Corey Hart, who's off to a great start with 19 home runs and 19 doubles already. Hart is a tricky case: he's a great athlete who, even at 6'6", is fast enough to have stolen 20 bases in a season twice (only the third after Strawberry and Winfield), and is an above average outfielder. He had a nice year in 2007 when he hit 24 home runs with a .295 average, and he made the all-star team the next year with a .298 average and 15 home runs in the first half, but he was nowhere near as good for the rest of 2008, or any of 2009. This year his swing looks better, he seems to be hitting the ball where it's pitched rather than clubbing at everything. His strikeout rate is also continuing its consistent upward climb...
* MLB-leading 22 HRs
* .238 BA
Will their production continue past the all-star break? I have no idea. At least with Hart the athletic ability is there, without a doubt, but you never know. In baseball, you never know. I think Corey Hart's been a little lucky in the first half, I think Bautista's been *really* lucky, but that doesn't necessarily mean either one is going to tail off in the second half. Luck can stay with you for a while, just look at:
* Brady Anderson's 50 HRs in 1996
* Kevin Mitchell's charmed MVP season in 1989 (47 HR, barehanded catch)
* Tom Herr's 110 RBIs in 1985
* Freddy Sanchez's batting title in 2006
I can sit here and make all the predictions I want about Martin Prado and Corey Hart and try to evaluate their skills based on statistics and watching them play, but you can never underestimate the influence of luck in a game as hard as baseball. I think it's part of what makes baseball so interesting. Like it or not, it can cripple the best, and it can turn average players into all-stars. It's what keeps us guessing all the time and never leaving a game before it's over. You just never know what's going to happen.
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