Thursday, July 15, 2004

Second (Half) Thoughts
I never got around to completing an encompassing look at the first half. And now that the second half of the season is underway, tallying first half statistics (some of which have already changed) seems a bit pointless. So while I'm enjoying my first real baseball night in what seems like quite some time, here are some random tidbits and things I found interesting when I was working on the column that never happened.
The leading hitter at the All-Star Break was Pudge Rodriguez. Besides the fact that Pudge would be the first catcher to win the American League batting title, he's clearly having his best offensive season in his 14th year.
His batting average, which stands at .365 after tonight, would be his highest of his career by 18 points; he hit .347 in 91 games in 2000. His .408 OBP would better his previous career high by 33 points, and his .559 SLG would also be the highest mark of his career.
Coming into tonight, the Red Sox are getting on base at the exact same pace that they did last year: .360. They lead the majors in that category.
They're slugging at .468, good for 2nd in the AL behind the Rangers, and down 23 points from when they set the major league record for a season.
They're pitching to a league-best 3.89 ERA, down from 4.48 last year.
For all the angst and anxiety that has hovered about the Nation like soot over a mining town, these numbers are just too good to look beyond. They will be the Wild Card winner out of the AL.
As far as players and OBP go, I think it’s safe to say that Bonds is going to hold on to lead baseball in this category, considering he has a 165 point lead over the runner-up! Bonds is getting on base at a .629 clip. Todd Helton is second in baseball at .464.
Bonds has led the NL in OBP seven times, including the last three years: .515/.582/.529. However, this would be his crowning achievement in this category, going where no player has even gone before: over .600 for a season. That .582 mark he posted in ’02 is the major league single season record.
Of course, he also leads the majors in SLG at .795, 113 points better than the runner-up, Manny Ramirez.
Here's where all these goofy stats would rank all-time in major league history:
.629 OBP: 1st. As I mentioned, no player has ever gotten on base 60 percent of the time for a full season. Bonds' 2001 OBP mark of .5151 would get knocked out of the Top 10, but Bonds would retain three in the Top 10 and the two best.
.795 SLG: 5th. This mark would actually knock one of Ruth's marks out of the Top 5, his .772 from 1927. And it would give Bonds three of the Top 5 SLG marks in history.
1417 OPS: 1st. This would put him as the first player to crack the 1400 OPS barrier, and would knock a Ruthian mark out of the Top 5 in this category.  Bonds would have three of the Top 5 marks.
Jim Thome leads the majors in homers at the Break with 28. It’s his 11th consecutive season with 20 or more home runs, 10th consecutive with 25 or more. He’s on pace for 52 at this point, which would tie his career high from his last year in Cleveland.
Thome’s Top 5 Season Home Run Totals
52 – 2002, 2004*
49 – 2001
47 – 2003
40 – 1997
38 – 1996
*projected as of July 11, 2004
The Detroit Tigers are one win away from equaling their total from all of last year. I'm not sure what the greatest turnaround is in one year (please post if you do...), but I am absolutely amazed by what Detroit has done this year. Even conceding that they had to better with the additions of Pudge and Guillen, I still expected them to be awful. I mean, this was one of the worst teams in modern baseball history over the last two seasons. I mean historically putridly bad.
Looking at these mid-season rankings illustrate just how far they've come:
Runs Scored: 466, 5th in the AL. How much of an improvement is this? Last year, the Tigers scored 591 runs all season, worst in the American League and 108 runs behind the next team in line, the Indians.
Batting Average: .282, T-1st. There are a lot of amazing things going on baseball right now, as there always are. But the Tigers leading the league in hitting??? Are you kidding me?
Last year, Detroit hit .240, worst mark in baseball. The year before? .248. The last time the Tigers hit .280 for an entire season? 1950.
Along these same lines the Tigers have gone from a .300 OBP (worst in baseball) to .346 (5th in the AL), and from a .375 SLG (worst in the AL) to .453 (5th in the AL).
There's a few places writers will be able to go with their AL MVP vote; Vladimir Guerrero seems to be the most popular choice at this juncture. I look at these stats, and I have hard time getting past the fact that Pudge Rodriguez has spearheaded one of the great turnarounds I've ever seen a franchise have in a short amount of time.
The Mets and Phillies are tangled up in an excellent game at Shea tonight. It's reached the top of the 11th tied at two. I'll try and stick with this post through the rest of this game, and then drift off to sleep with the Sox-Angels game going in the background. It's starting to get late, approaching 11:00, and my eyes are feeling it.
Pizza just walked to start of the 11th. Vance Wilson pinch running.
Angels have two on with two outs in the 3rd against Derek Lowe, who gave up a bunch of runs against Texas in his last start (6), but none that were earned. He went seven innings for the first time since June 23.
Cliff Floyd single to center, Wilson holds at second. One out.
It seems like the Mets have played in a ton of tight, exciting ballgames so far this year. They have some amazing wins, and some killer losses.
Lowe just struck out Erstad to strand the two runners on a nasty breaking ball that dropped out of the zone. Not that hard sinking fastball of his. More like a 12-to-6 curve.
Bases loaded for the Mets with 1 out. Ty Wiggington up.
Not sure how to explain that play in writing. Hard shot back to the mound. Roberto Hernandez stuck out his meat hand, knocked the ball down, staggered, recovered, picked up to throw home for the force ... and Lieberthal couldn't handle it. The ball short-hopped him; he really didn't have a chance. Mets win 3-2. That's a helluva win to start the second half. And the Phillies continue to under-achieve.
That's it for me for tonight.
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