Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend Series- Part 16 of 16

No. 1 Willie Mays

Cobb or DiMaggio would likely be considered the greatest center fielders in the history of baseball had Willie Mays not come along. The "Say Hey Kid" was the consummate five-tool player and is widely considered the second greatest player of all-time behind only the legendary babe Ruth.

Mays broke into the "Bigs" with the New York Giants in 1951 at the ripe old age of 19 with an NL Rookie of the Year campaign that was modest in comparison to what he would do later in his career.

Early in his sophomore season, Mays was drafted by the U.S. Army to serve in the Korean War. Although he did not go into active combat, Mays missed most of the 1952 and all of the 1953 seasons.

He returned to the playing field in 1954 seemingly an even better player. "Say Hey" promptly won the NL MVP Award by hitting a league leading .345 with 41 HRs and 110 RBIs. He also led the Giants to a World Series Championship that was marked by "The Catch"— often considered the greatest play in the history of the national past-time.

Mays went onto to win another MVP, 24 All-Star selections, 12 Gold Gloves, two All-Star Game MVPs, four HR crowns, and four stolen base titles. His 660 HRs rank 4th, 6,066 total bases rank 3rd, 2,062 runs rank 7th, 3,283 hits rank 11th, and 1,903 RBI rank 10th all-time in major league baseball.


10881 2062 3283 660 1903 338 .302 .384 .557

A Special Tribute and Thank You

So there you have it— the best of the best. We salute these 15 great Major League Baseball players who gave themselves to their country along with the approximately 40 million other United States Veterans.

And, as we approach Memorial Day, please let this serve as a humble and very special thank you to all Veterans of the United States Armed Services— past or present, living or deceased— who have served so bravely and selflessly.

A Salute to the 15 Greatest U.S. Armed Forces Veteran MLB Players

Memorial Day Weekend Series- Part 15 of 16

No. 2 Ted Williams

No matter whether he was called "The Kid", "The Splendid Splinter", "Teddy Ballgame", or "The Thumper"— one thing was certain— Ted Williams was arguably the greatest pure hitter in the history of the game.

Williams enjoyed a phenomenal career that spanned 19 seasons, but it was twice put on hold to serve in the U.S. military. He first enlisted in the Navy to serve in World War II in 1942 and did not return to baseball until 1946.

Then, at the age of 34, he was recalled to active duty in the Korean War. This time he served as a pilot in the Marines and received an "Air Medal" for a heroic act in battle.

While on the baseball diamond, Williams accumulated recognitions like base hits during a batting streak. Besides earning All-Star honors 19 times, he won five Major League Player of the Year Awards, two AL MVPs, and two AL Triple Crowns.

The Boston Red Sox left fielder batted .344 (8th) with a .482 OBP (1st) and .634 SLG (2nd) over his career. Williams spanked 521 HRs (18th) and drove in 1,839 RBI (13th) to place high in the career rankings, but had he not given away five years to serve his country he undoubtedly would have placed much higher.

Perhaps his best season was 1941 when he hit a league best .406 and 37 HRs to go with an incredible .553 OBP and .735 SLG. For his efforts, though, he placed second to Joe DiMaggio in the MVP voting.


7706 1798 2654 521 1839 24 .344 .482 .634

A Salute to the 15 Greatest U.S. Armed Forces Veteran MLB Players

Memorial Day Weekend Series- Part 14 of 16

No. 3 Ty Cobb

Interestingly, baseball's all-time batting leader served in the U.S. Army Chemical Corps with Christy Mathewson and George Sisler under the direction of Major Branch Rickey. Ty Cobb, who had enlisted in October of 1918, was given an honorable discharge after a short stint and avoided missing playing time.

Cobb played 24 seasons (mostly with the Detroit Tigers) that were marked with amazing statistics and considerable controversy. His highly aggressive style and surly personality did not always win him friends, but the 90 records that he set certainly gathered a great deal of attention.

He remains the all-time leader in batting at .366 and in batting titles with eleven. Cobb places second in four other major categories— runs (2,246), hits (4,189), triples (295), and singles (3,053.)

"The Georgia Peach" won his only MVP trophy when he hit a staggering .420 with 248 hits and 24 triples in 1911. He followed that up with a .409 season that placed him a "ho, hum" seventh in the MVP balloting. Overall, Cobb eclipsed the .400 mark three times in his career.

The mercurial center fielder won the AL Triple Crown in 1909 when he batted .377 with 9 HRs and 107 RBI. He also stole 76 bases that season, the third highest total in his career (83 in 1911 and 96 in 1915.) Cobb's 897 steals rank him 4th all-time.


11434 2246 4189 117 1938 897 .366 .433 .512

A Salute to the 15 Greatest U.S. Armed Forces Veteran MLB Players

Memorial Day Weekend Series- Part 13 of 16

No. 4 Christy Mathewson

In an unusual twist, Major League Baseball's third most winningest pitcher served in the armed forces after his playing career was over. Christy Mathewson accumulated a 373-188 record over 17 seasons with the New York Giants at the outset of the 20th century.

Mathewson registered 30-win seasons four different times and 20-win seasons another nine times in his career. His 2.13 ERA and 79 shutouts rank him 9th and 3rd all-time.

The tall right hander's best campaign was 1908 when he went 37-11 with a 1.43 ERA. Of course, 31-9 with a 1.28 ERA three years earlier was not too shabby, either.

After retiring from baseball, Mathewson enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War I. He served as a Captain in a newly formed "Chemical Service", and fell victim to an accident that would ultimately lead to his untimely death in 1925 at the age of 45.


636 373 188 .665 2.13 2507 79

A Salute to the 15 Greatest U.S. Armed Forces Veteran MLB Players

Memorial Day Weekend Series- Part 12 of 16

No. 5 Stan Musial

"Stan the Man" Musial earned his famous nickname through 22 years of excellence with the St. Louis Cardinals. Despite being one of the all-time greats, Musial was known throughout baseball for his modesty and excellent sportsmanship.

His stature was further increased when he left his Hall of Fame career to join the U.S. Navy during World War II. Just one campaign removed from winning the N.L. MVP Award, Musial missed all of the 1945 season to serve his country before getting an honorable discharge.

Clearly his time away did not diminish his tremendous skills as he claimed his second MVP trophy when he returned to action in 1946. He lead the league in 12 offensive categories, inclduing batting (.365), doubles (50), triples (20), runs (124), and slugging (.587.)

Two years later, Stan the Man was at it again with perhaps his best campaign, this time leading the league in 11 categories. Musial hit a career high .376 along with a phenomenal .702 slugging percentage— and missed a Triple Crown by one home run. He was recognized with his third MVP Award.

The outfielder/ first baseman was elected to 24 All-Star games (baseball had two in a few seasons) and places high in many all-time rankings. Some of those include batting average .331 (32nd), on base percentage .417 (23rd), slugging .559 (20th), hits 3,630 (4th), runs 1,949 (9th), total bases 6,134 (2nd), doubles 725 (3rd), triples 177 (19th), HRs 475 (28th), and RBI 1,951 (6th.)

Musial's exploits helped the Cardinals win three World Series Championships during his career.


10972 1949 3630 475 1951 78 .331 .417 .559

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Marlins Mastery: Phillies Roy Halladay Fires 20th Perfect Game in MLB History!

Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay in Washington
Coming off his worst outing of the season and surrounded by a team struggling to score runs, Roy Halladay was determined to get things righted tonight with a strong performance against the Florida Marlins.

Although his Phillies teammates could scratch out only one run, Halladay etched his name in the baseball annals by hurling the 20th perfect game in Major League Baseball history.

27 up, 27 down!

The big right-hander added his name to the prestigious list in convincing fashion. Halladay pounded the strike zone, relying heavily on a 93-94 mph fastball with heavy action from start to finish.

Marlins hitters were largely overmatched throughout the contest, with very few balls even having a chance to be a hit. On the few occasions they did, Halladay's defense was up to the challenge.

Phillies shortstop Wilson Valdez ranged deep into the hole in the bottom of the sixth inning and gunned out speedster Cameron Maybin at first by half a step. In the eighth inning, it was third baseman Juan Castro stabbing a sharp one hopper with a dive to his left and spinning to nail Jorge Cantu to end the frame.

Then, with two outs in the ninth, Marlins pinch-hitter, former Phil and reigning Phillies killer Ronnie Paulino struck a bouncer that initially appeared that it might be headed through the hole on the left-side of the infield. Again, Castro ranged far to his left to make the grab, wheeled and fired to Ryan Howard for the final out.

Interestingly, the biggest plays on defense were made by two offseason free agent pick-ups filling in for two reigning Gold Glovers shelved by injuries.

Castro was making his first start of the season at third with regular Placido Polanco sidelined with a sore elbow. Valdez was making his second consecutive start at shortstop for the injured Jimmy Rollins.

Overall, Halladay retired eight Marlins on ground balls and the same number on fly balls. The other eleven he set down via strikes, primarily by painting the corners with hard sinking fastballs.

After the game, Halladay proved himself to be almost as eloquent off the field as he was elegant on the field.

He praised catcher Carlos Ruiz for a superb job behind the plate and indicated that he followed his lead on pitch selection. Halladay also credited Castro, Valdez, and Chase Utley with making fine plays behind him.

He even passed credit to Jamie Moyer for helping him right his mechanics in a bullpen session yesterday.

As much as he wanted to share the credit, make no mistake about it though— this night belonged to Halladay. With the aid of one unearned run and a few nice plays, arguably baseball's best pitcher further cemented his legacy with a truly masterful game for the ages.

A Salute to the 15 Greatest U.S. Armed Forces Veteran MLB Players

Memorial Day Weekend Series- Part 11 of 16

No. 6 Joe DiMaggio

A three-time MVP and 13-time All-Star, Joe DiMaggio was one of the most revered players in the history of the game. Playing a starring role in the Big Apple on a perennial Yankees powerhouse team along with a high profile marriage to Marilyn Monroe surely kept in the limelight.

At the peak of his brilliant career, DiMaggio enlisted in the United States Army Air Force and served from 1943-1946. He returned to the ball field and an adoring nation, with perhaps a little bit less magic than he displayed prior to his tour of duty.

"The Yankee Clipper" was known as an excellent center fielder capable of roaming the vast Yankee Stadium territory— with the arm necessary to gun down runners on the base paths. He collected 20 or more assists three different seasons and usually placed at the top of league rankings.

DiMaggio and winning became synonymous. In his first four seasons, the Bronx Bombers emerged as World Series Champions and were victorious nine of his 13 campaigns.

One of his most amazing feats— a 56-game hitting streak— still stands as a Major League record. Overall, DiMaggio batted .325 in his career and ranks high in many categories, but his sacrifice to serve his country during his prime playing days likely prevented him from dominating the top 10 places.

His second big league season may have been his greatest when he smacked 46 HRs, 167 RBI, batted .346, and complied a .673 slugging percentage. Two seasons later, DiMaggio hit a career high .381 with an amazing 1.119 OPS to earn his first MVP.


6821 1390 2214 361 1537 30 .325 .398 .579

A Salute to the 15 Greatest U.S. Armed Forces Veteran MLB Players

Memorial Day Weekend Series- Part 10 of 16

No. 7 Grover Cleveland Alexander

Grover Cleveland Alexander's baseball career was interrupted by one year of combat duty in World War I in 1918 on his way to becoming the third winningest pitcher in Major League history. Over 20 seasons, Alexander accumulated a 373-208 won-loss record with a sparkling 2.56 ERA.

"Old Pete" began his career with the Philadelphia Phillies, but was sold to the Chicago Cubs after seven dazzling seasons when the team feared that he would be drafted. The Phillies speculation turned out to be reality, but the Cubs got several fine seasons from the right-handed hurler once he returned from active duty.

Alexander's one-year of combat in France did take its toll on him, though. He suffered shell shock, partial hearing loss, ongoing seizures, and resorted to alcohol for relief. Although he was very good after returning, the pitcher was not the same player who dominated the National League prior to his departure.

Immediately prior to be drafting, Alexander recorded three consecutive 30-win seasons. He accumulated a staggering 190-88 in those first seven Phillies seasons— more than half his ultimate win total.

His 1915-1917 body of work are undoubtedly three of the best campaigns ever complied by a big league pitcher. A 31-10, 1.22 ERA season was followed by a 33-12, 1.55 ERA and 30-13, 1.83 ERA. It doesn't get much better than that.


696 373 208 .642 2.56 2198 90

A Salute to the 15 Greatest U.S. Armed Forces Veteran MLB Players

Memorial Day Weekend Series- Part 9 of 16

No. 8 Warren Spahn

Warren Spahn got a late start in baseball due to enlisting in the U.S. Army, but made up for it by extending his career to the advanced age of 44. His remarkable baseball accomplishments were rivaled only by his distinctive military service.

He was awarded a "Purple Heart" and the "Bronze Star" for bravery during his three year stint. The Buffalo native also saw action in the "Battle of the Bulge" and at the "Ludendorff Bridge" and was awarded a battlefield commission.

When he returned to baseball during the 1946 season, he quickly established himself as one of the game's finest pitchers. Over the next 17 years, Spahn recorded an astounding 13 20-win seasons.

During that period, he was elected to 14 All-Star squads and won the MLB Cy Young Award in 1957. And, three other seasons he finished as the runner-up.

Spahns' 363 career wins rank him sixth all-time amongst major league pitchers, but first amongst left-handers. Besides being inducted into the Hall of Fame, MLB recognizes his excellence by awarding a trophy bearing his name to each season's top left-handed hurler.


750 363 245 .597 3.09 2583 63

A Salute to the 15 Greatest U.S. Armed Forces Veteran MLB Players

Memorial Day Weekend Series- Part 8 of 16

No. 9 Eddie Collins

Another player from the same era, Eddie Collins is considered by many as baseball's second best second baseman behind the legendary Rogers Hornsby. He played a remarkable 2,826 games spanning 25 big league seasons.

Collins graduated from prestigious Columbia University and served in the United States Marines before launching his long major league career. Like Speaker, you can find Collins' name at the top of a variety of baseball's all-time batting categories.

He ranks 10th in hits (3,315), 14th in OBP (.424), 12th in triples (187), 18th in bases on balls (1,499), 8th in stolen bases (741), 3rd in singles (2,643), and 1st in sacrifices (512.) Overall, "Cocky" accumulated a .333 career batting average, including a .372 mark in 1920.

Seven separate seasons, Collins finished in the top six of MVP voting, including 1914 when he won the AL trophy. His playing career was split between the Philadelphia Athletics and Chicago White Sox— that included eight trips to the "Fall Classic" and six World Series Championships.


9949 1821 3315 47 1300 741 .333 .424 .429

A Salute to the 15 Greatest U.S. Armed Forces Veteran MLB Players

Memorial Day Weekend Series- Part 7 of 16

No. 10 Tris Speaker

Although he played in the days of baggy flannel knickers, Tris Speaker displayed an elegance playing the game that earned him an early entrance into the Baseball Hall of Fame. "Spoke" also served in the U.S. Navy during World War I prior to becoming one of the most famous baseball players in the "Dead Ball" era.

Speaker played a superb center field to go along with his superior offensive skills— playing primarily in an period before the long ball became a big part of the game.

He ranks in the top 15 in several career categories, including a .345 batting average (6th), 3,514 hits (5th), 792 doubles (1st), 222 triples (6th), .428 OBP (11th), 1,882 runs (11th), and 5,101 total bases (15th.)

Speaker won the AL MVP when he hit .383 and recorded a 1.031 OPS. He also stole 52 bases that season while leading the league with 53 doubles and 10 HRs.


10195 1882 3514 117 1529 436 .345 .428 .500

A Salute to the 15 Greatest U.S. Armed Forces Veteran MLB Players

Memorial Day Weekend Series- Part 6 of 16

No. 11 Hank Greenberg

The original "Hammerin' Hank" anchored the Detroit Tigers lineup for 12 of his 13 seasons in the bigs. The slugging first baseman/ outfielder had a remarkable career, especially when considering that he served over four years in World War II during the prime of his career.

Although he posted spectacular numbers and eventually was elected to the Hall of Fame, there is no telling what he might have accomplished playing the national past-time had he not selflessly enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1941.

Over the seven full seasons that he played from 1934 to 1946, Greenberg averaged 40 HRs and 147 RBI. He earned AL MVP honors in 1935 when he banged 36 HRs, drove in 170 RBI and hit .328.

After missing a year with injury, Greenberg followed that up with sizzling 40-183-.337 and 58-146-.315 stat lines the next two seasons. He was recognized with a second AL MVP in 1940 when he smacked 41 HRs, 150 RBI and batted .340.

The five-time All-Star ranks seventh all-time in both slugging percentage (.605) and OBPS (1.017.) Some other remarkable numbers that he posted included 63 doubles in 1934, 144 runs scored in 1938, and 103 RBI at the All-Star break in 1935.


5193 1051 1628 331 1276 58 .313 .412 .605

A Salute to the 15 Greatest U.S. Armed Forces Veteran MLB Players

Memorial Day Weekend Series- Part 5 of 16

No. 12 Bob Feller

Like Greenberg, "Bullet" Bob Feller enlisted to serve in World War II during the prime of his career. Coming off three spectacular seasons, he dutifully joined the U.S. Navy in 1942 and volunteered for combat where he earned five campaign ribbons and eight battle stars.

Feller, also know as "Rapid Robert" for his dominating fastball, played his entire 18-year career for the Cleveland Indians. Although he played in an age without "JUGS" guns, baseball historians consider him the hardest throwing pitcher in the history of the game. Equipment used at the time once recorded his fastball at an astonishing 107.6 mph.

In the period from 1939-1941, Feller recorded a staggering won-lost record of 76-33. The work horse also compiled 767 strikeouts in 960 innings— obviously before the age of pitch counts and five-game rotations.

After returning from active duty to toss nine games in 1945, Rapid Robert picked up where he left off five years earlier. He recorded 26 wins, 36 complete games, a 2.18 ERA, and 348 strikeouts in an amazing 371.1 innings of work.

Feller is 36th on the all-time win list with 266, but he might have exceeded 350 for his career had he not chosen to nobly serve his country rather than further his baseball career. He was a seven-time All-Star and the 1940 MLB Player of the Year.


570 266 162 .621 3.25 2581 44

A Salute to the 15 Greatest U.S. Armed Forces Veteran MLB Players

Memorial Day Weekend Series- Part 4 of 16

No. 13 George Sisler

George Sisler played 15 seasons primarily for the St. Louis Browns and Boston Braves from 1915-1930. "Gorgeous George" also served in the U.S. Army during World War I prior to his baseball career.

The first baseman was not a slugger, but made his mark on the game with superb hitting and excellent speed. Sisler's .340 career batting average ranks him 16th all-time.

Twice in his career, Sisler exceeded the extremely rare .400 mark. In 1920, he set a major league record by collecting 257 hits (later broken by Ichiro Suzuki in the current extended season format) on his way to topping the league by hitting .407.

After batting "only" .371 the following season, Sisler topped himself with an astounding .420 average in 1922 to win a second batting title. He augmented that by amassing 134 runs, 246 hits, 42 doubles, and 18 triples— resulting in AL MVP honors.


8267 1284 2812 102 1175 375 .340 .379 .468

A Salute to the 15 Greatest U.S. Armed Forces Veteran MLB Players

Memorial Day Weekend Series- Part 3 of 16

No. 14 Ernie Banks

Ernie Banks served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War before beginning an illustrious 19-year career with the Chicago Cubs.

After joining the Cubs for a proverbial cup of coffee in 1953, Banks became a fixture at shortstop the following season and then first base for almost two decades. His body of work, demeanor, work ethic and popularity earned him the title "Mr. Cub."

A banner flies high above Wrigley Field displaying his now retired No. 14 jersey in recognition of his playing excellence. Banks currently ranks 21st in HRs with 512 and 28th with 1,636 RBI all-time.

He also collected considerable accolades during his career, including 2 NL MVP trophies, 1 Gold Glove at shortstop and 11 All-Star selections. Mr. Cub was ultimately inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977.


9421 1305 2583 512 1636 50 .274 .330 .500

A Salute to the 15 Greatest U.S. Armed Forces Veteran MLB Players

Memorial Day Weekend Series- Part 2 of 16

No. 15 Jackie Robinson

Despite a life cut far too short by medical issues at just 53, Jack Roosevelt "Jackie" Robinson was a remarkable individual who has left a lasting legacy.

Although his on the field contributions were amongst the best in history, Robinson's impact on Major League League baseball and the country as a whole extended well beyond the white lines and his relatively brief 10-year career.

After graduating from UCLA in 1942, he was drafted by the U.S. Army and went on to be commissioned as a second lieutenant. Upon receiving an honorable discharge in 1944, Robinson briefly coached college athletics before starring in the "Negro Leagues."

Branch Rickey of the Brooklyn Dodgers signed Robinson in 1946 and he made history one year later by breaking the "color barrier" as the first African-American to play Major League Baseball.

Jackie spent most of his career playing second base, where he excelled with the glove. He also provided a well balanced offensive threat— combining speed, power and hitting to help the Dodgers reach the World Series a remarkable six times over his 10 seasons.

Honors included six All-Star appearances, MLB Rookie of the Year, and the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1949. Overall, he batted .311, hit 137 HRs and stole 197 bases while amassing a .409 OBP and .474 SLG in his career.


4877 947 1518 137 734 197 .311 .409 .474

A Salute to the 15 Greatest U.S. Armed Forces Veteran MLB Players

Memorial Day Weekend Series- Part 1 of 16

As we prepare to honor all the United States Veterans who have served our great country, we take a look at a special subset of these selfless patriots.

Some of the greatest players in the history of Major League Baseball have served their country and then gone on to become inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

A total of 64 members honored in the prestigious Cooperstown venue are officially classified as Veterans, having served in the U.S. Armed Forces during wartime.

Additionally, one of the all-time legendary players in the game served in both World War II and the Korean War. Ted Williams was a Navy pilot from 1942-1946 and then flew 39 combat missions as a Marine Corps fighter pilot from 1952-1953.

Without intent to in anyway diminish the richly deserved honor, praise and collective gratitude owed to all our brave Veterans, the following is a tribute to the best of the best within the baseball fraternity.

Here are the 15 greatest Major League Baseball players with the additional proud distinction of U.S. War Veteran:

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Philadelphia Phillies Finding Ways to Stay On Top of Competitive NL East

MLB: Brewers vs Phillies MAY 15

As the Phillies prepare to open a nine game road trip against NL East rivals tonight in New York, it seems a good time to check in on the division race.

With the season just past the quarter mark, its early— but there are enough data points and trend lines to get a feel for what to expect over the balance of the year.

It is not surprising to see the Phillies leading the pack with a 26-17 record considering they have been the consensus favorites to not only win the division— but also the National League pennant.

What is a little surprising, though, is the manner in which they have done it— especially considering the rash of injuries they have had to endure in the early going. Brad Lidge and Jimmy Rollins have served two stints on the DL, while J.A. Happ, Joe Blanton, J.C. Romero, and Ryan Madson have landed there as well.

All are considered key players in General Manager Ruben Amaro's formula for success in 2010. Blanton and Romero have returned to action, but have yet to hit their stride— while the others remain in various stages of rehab.

Overall, the team has shaken off the injury bug through players on the depth chart stepping up to make solid contributions and starting pitchers working deep into games.

On offense, batters have displayed improved plate discipline and hitting. As a team, they are currently second in the NL with a .269 batting average— 11 points higher than a year ago. And, they have morphed from one of the easiest to fan in 2009 to the most difficult in the NL this season.

Ryan Howard and Chase Utley have played like the universally recognized stars as they are now regarded. Meanwhile, Jayson Werth and Carlos Ruiz have elevated their games to another level- with the former looking like an early MVP candidate and the latter looking like an All-Star.

Two of Amaro's offseason free agent acquisitions— Juan Castro and Wilson Valdez— have turned out to be important additions, especially with Gold Glover J Roll shut down with a troublesome calf injury. Both are a significant upgrade over Eric Bruntlett at shortstop and at the plate.

Another free agent pickup has turned out to be a revelation so far. Veteran Jose Contreras has proven Amaro and Phillies scouts astute as he appears dominant in his newly found relief role airing out his mid- to high-90's splitter.

In fact, Contreras has been so good, there has been speculation that he could remain as the closer even after Lidge returns to the playing field. Considering Skipper Charlie Manuel's sense of loyalty, it seems more likely that he will give Lidge every opportunity to resume his former job, but its great to know that an insurance policy is waiting in the wings.

The spring training conundrum of six pitchers vying for five starting slots has turned out to be a fortuitous situation for the club. After getting roughed up early, Jamie Moyer and Kyle Kendrick have been solid over the past month while Happ remains on the mend.

Importantly, Cole Hamels is projecting positive. After looking a lot like the 2009 edition in April, Hamels has more resembled the 2008 ace in May. With his fastball touching 94-95 mph, and better command of his curveball, Hollywood could yet be the strong No. 2 that Amaro and Manuel envisioned.

The No. 1, of course, is ace Roy Halladay— who has been everything as advertised. Although he is coming off a rough outing Sunday (which might have turned out differently with a couple plays behind him), the big right-hander is destined to resume his dominant ways and finish the year somewhere north of 20 wins.

The rest of the division is bunched up behind the Phillies, separated by just 1.5 games. The Mets fell on some hard times recently, but with two big wins against the World Champions from across town, they appear poised to compete hard in the three game series that opens tonight. With big name talent such as David Wright, Jason Bay, Johan Santana, "K-Rod", and Jose Reyes— along with high ceiling rookie Ike Davis— New York is capable of making some noise.

After a slow start, the Atlanta Braves look to be finding their legs. They are back in second place after recording 15 wins in the past 22 games.

The Washington Nationals continue to be one of the surprises of 2010— and should compete all season long. With one hot pitching prospect already elevated to the big club and a flame throwing phenom soon to follow, the Nats have the look of a contender.

The Phillies head to Florida for the weekend to face a Marlins team that seems to perennially have enough young talent to hang around.

The current trend line projects to a 98-win season for the Phils, a number that should be enough to take a competitively balanced division. Of course, pennants are not won by mathematicians and many factors will influence the actual outcome.

In order to remain on the current trend line, the Phillies would seem to need meaningful contributions by Rollins, Lidge, Madson and Happ. Meanwhile, expect the rest of the NL East rivals to up the ante— starting this week.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Free Agent Outfield Debate: 10 Reasons Jayson Werth Would Be More In Demand Than Carl Crawford in 2011

New York Mets at Philadelphia Phillies

Two All-Star outfielders playing on the top team currently in each league share something else in common. Both the Tampa Bay Rays Carl Crawford and Philadelphia Phillies Jayson Werth are in the final year of their contracts and could be amongst the biggest names in the 2011 free agent market.

Each player is off to a strong start in 2010, seemingly stating his case to other team's around Major League Baseball. Considering the history of Crawford and Werth, it is not surprising that both are coming up big under the pressure of what amounts to a salary drive.

Of course, it is doubtful that either player is focused on economics right now. Instead, they are simply concentrating on doing their job and winning games— letting the rest take care of itself down the road.

2010 Performance

Crawford is currently hitting .313 with 3 HRs and 17 RBI. As usual, he is also amongst the league leaders in stolen bases with 10 and triples with 4.

In the NL, Werth's name can be located in the top 10 of many offensive rankings— including fourth in batting (.336), fifth in OBP (.414), first in doubles (20), second in SLG (.664), eighth in HRs (8), fourth in RBI (31) and fourth in runs (28.)

Here's how the two stack up against each other:


Crawford 170 35 55 14 4 3 21 .324 .381 .506 .887

Werth 153 31 50 22 0 9 33 .327 .401 .647 1.048

Considering their current and past success as well as each player being in his prime (Crawford 28, Werth 30), both players will be highly pursued if their current clubs do not lock them up with an extension.

Any team would be lucky to have either player, but the vantage from here is that Werth would be the biggest prize. Here are 10 reasons why the Phillies right fielder will be more in demand than the Rays left fielder should they both hit the market.

1 Right fielders are more valuable than left fielders.

Although a center fielder has the most impact, right field is largely considered the toughest of the outfield posts. Besides dealing with more spin on batted balls and inferior sight lines than center field, the throws are longer.

In order to be an effective right fielder, athleticism is required to get to balls quickly and a strong throwing arm is essential to keep runners from taking extra bases.

Simply put— fewer players have the necessary tools to play right, so the supply is smaller. Many teams have been known to hide their less mobile, less athletic players in left.

Position Ranking (1-10 easiest to toughest):

Crawford 3

Werth 6

2 Werth has a better arm.

Both players have excellent range, but not surprisingly, Werth has the much superior throwing arm.

Each player ranked first in putouts at his position last season. Conversely, Werth's 11 assists in 2009 were as many as Crawford recorded over the previous three seasons combined.

The impact of his strong throwing arm extends beyond assists, though. He saves countless runs by limiting opponents to advancing one base at a time for fear of being gunned down.

Arm Ranking:

Crawford 6

Werth 9

3 Power is King.

Power has long been "King" in Major League Baseball.

Fans pay to see "bombs" and teams pay top dollar for the players who hit them.

This is probably the largest point of differentiation between the two All-Stars.

Crawford has some pop in his bat and uses his blazing speed to stretch hits into doubles and triples. His .452 slugging percentage and 15 HRs in 2009 are respectable numbers, especially for a speed burner— but they pale in comparison to Werth's numbers.

The Phillies slugger banged out 36 "Big Flies" while registering a .506 slugging percentage. His .643 SLG in 2010 ranks behind only Andre Ethier and Ryan Zimmerman.

Power Ranking:

Crawford 5

Werth 9

4 Better run production.

Run production often goes hand in hand with power numbers. Other key factors include how much a player gets on base, raw speed and base running ability.

Like Crawford, Werth is an excellent base runner despite not being quite as fast. However, because Werth has had a superior OBP throughout his career to go along with his substantially greater power output— his overall run production is much better.

In 2009, Werth totaled 197 runs and RBI versus 164 for Crawford. The gap is on a pace to widen in 2010.

Run Production Ranking:

Crawford 6

Werth 8

5 Superior On Base Percentage

Batting average has long been a major measuring stick for baseball hitters. Since Money Ball was a hot read, though, On Base Percentage has been highlighted as a more comprehensive metric.

Over his eight-year career, Werth has accumulated a 28-point higher OBP despite a 27-point lower batting average. The reason is simple. His keen eye and plate discipline has allowed him to accumulate more base on balls despite having less than half the number of plate appearances.

With continuing maturation as a hitter this season, Werth has been a model of consistency. Taking a page from All-Star teammate Chase Utley, Werth has incorporated a shorter swing plane that should lessen slumps and raise his average.

OBP Ranking:

Crawford 6

Werth 8

6 Post Season Heroics

Crawford performed well in the Rays 2008 run to the World Series against the Phillies, pretty much mirroring his regular season numbers. Conversely, Werth has raised his game to a different level when the leaves have turned colors.

Over four seasons and a total of eight postseason series, Werth has come up big. He has hit a solid .285 and accumulated an outstanding .393 OBP, but has opened eyes with a spectacular power display.

In 123 postseason ABs, Werth has smacked 11 HRs and amassed a fabulous .650 SLG. And, on the biggest stage of them all, he has hit .351 with a .676 SLG in the previous two World Series.

Big Game Ranking

Crawford 7

Werth 9

7 Bigger upside

To his credit, since becoming a regular in 2003, Crawford has been a model of consistency. He has generally hit around the .300 mark and recorded 50-60 steals per season.

A prospective employer would feel secure in pursuing him knowing what type of production to expect each season. On the other hand, they also know not to expect a whole lot more.

In pursuing Werth, teams might expect even better performance over time. He is a late bloomer held back by injury earlier in his career and has a trend line that suggests the best is yet to come.

At a price of around $15 million a year, the prospect of a free agent outperforming his contract could be very enticing.

Upside Potential Ranking

Crawford 6

Werth 8

8 Intangibles

Crawford is a quiet leader on the Rays, commanding respect from years of performing at a high level. He also makes others behind him in the order a little better due to the distraction he provides as one of baseball's best base stealers.

In Philadelphia, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Jimmy Rollins are the clearly established leaders. As a more recently emerged star, Werth has assimilated well with a lead-by-example approach.

He is a "gamer"— smart, instinctive and always hustling— who routinely incorporates the small things that help win games. Werth sees more pitches than any other hitter in baseball, forcing pitchers to work.

He runs the base paths aggressively, hustling to take extra bases. And, he rarely gets thrown out stealing, having recorded 20 stolen bases each of the past two seasons while being tossed out only four times combined.

Intangibles ranking

Crawford 8

Werth 9

9 World Series ring

The fact that Werth wears a World Series ring serves to reinforce that he is a winner. He has been an integral part of a Phillies team that has a growing reputation as a model organization with superb chemistry.

This affiliation only enhances Werth's image and value with potential suitors. Tampa had sudden success in 2008 and is having a fine season thus far in 2010, but the organization does not yet enjoy the same stature.

10 There is no time more important than the present

As mentioned, both players have gotten off to strong starts in 2010. For Crawford, he appears destined to replicate what he has done over the past seven seasons.

Werth's season has the look of a monster year. Reaching base in 36 of 37 games highlights his improved consistency. If his power production increases with the temperature as it normally does, Werth's 2010 numbers have the potential to be truly special.

There is no season more important than the most recent to establish a free agent's value.

2010 Projection

Crawford 7

Werth 8

The Final Tally

Category Crawford Werth

Position 3 6

Arm 6 9

Power 5 8

Run Production 6 8

OBP 6 8

Big Game Performance 7 9

Upside Potential 6 8

Intangibles 8 9

2010 Projection 7 8

Hitting for Average 8 7

Running 9 7

Range 9 9

Total 80 96