The always interesting Major League Baseball trade deadline came and went at 3 p.m. central time today as some big names were added to contenders and stellar prospects will now call someplace else home. Since the Matt Holliday trade between the St. Louis Cardinals and Oakland Athletics, there have been ___ trades. While some of these deals can not fully be evaluated until it is seen how prospects pan out, we’ll go ahead and try to do it anyways.
Trade: (July 27th) Cleveland Indians trade Ryan Garko to the San Francisco Giants for Scott Barnes
Who Wins: The Indians officially began their firesale by shipping away their starting first baseman to the Giants who were in much need of a replacement for Travis Ishikawa. Garko gives the Giants a solid fifth hitter in the lineup as they make a run at the NL Wildcard this season. His contract is up at the end of the year but the Giants are expected to at least make an offer to him.
Barnes was 12-3 with a 2.85 ERA for Class A San Jose and was ranked by Baseball America as the Giants’ ninth best prospect in 2009. The lefty has an excellent changeup and projects to be a number three starter in the big leagues.
If Garko re-signs with the Giants it would be a great deal for the them but I believe Barnes can be something special. Still, the Giants got what they needed and take this deal by a small margin. WINNER: GIANTS
Trade: (July 28th) Boston Red Sox trade Mark Kotsay to the Chicago White Sox for Brian Anderson
Who Wins: It was clear that Brian Anderson’s time in Chicago was up as he had been optioned to Triple A and was not in the plans for the future of the White Sox.
He demanded a trade and was given his wish by trading places with the veteran Kotsay. Clearly the Red Sox felt as though they had enough outfield depth on the team and could spare Kotsay to pick up a potential player in Anderson.
Kotsay will be great off the bench for the White Sox as they make a run at the AL Central this year. WINNER: WHITE SOX
Trade: (July 29th) Seattle Mariners trade Wladimir Balentein to the Cincinnati Reds for Robert Manuel
Who Wins: Neither of these players project as much in the big leagues but give both teams some added depth at a few spots. Balentein has more Major League experience and has a better shot at contributing in the near future. WINNER: REDS
Trade: (July 29th) Seattle Mariners trade shortstop Ronny Cedeno, Jeff Clement, Ben Prebanic, Brett Lorin, and Nathan Adcock to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Jack Wilson and Ian Snell
Who Wins: This is a very interesting trade for both squads because the Pirates were in a no-win situation with the two players they gave away. Wilson had already denied a contract extension with the team and Snell was very unhappy with his situation in Pittsburgh.
What they got in return was about as much as they could have asked for, including slugger Jeff Clement.
Cedeno was thrown in the deal because the Pirates will need to fill a void at shortstop but is hardly the long-term solution. Clement has a great bat but does not have a true position, seeing time at catcher and first base. He projected as a designated hitter but now will not have that chance in the National League. Pitcher Nathan Adcock sports a great curveball and could be a starter in the future.
Seattle is buying for the future and got one of the best defensive gloves in the game in Wilson, as well as a pitcher with a ton of skill in Snell. While the results have not been there, Snell has potential if he can stay focused and work on his problems.
It’s tough to say that the Pirates could have won this deal because they were dealing with two disgruntled players, so I’ll give this one to the M’s. WINNER: MARINERS
Trade: (July 29th) Pittsburgh Pirates trade Freddy Sanchez to the San Francisco Giants for Tim Alderson
Who Wins: Sanchez adds another much needed bat to the lineup and puts the Giants in great shape to find a spot in the National League playoffs. Along with Garko, Sanchez improves the offense with a .300+ batting average and some power to go around.
However, Alderson is showing a ton of potential and could be an outstanding pitcher in the near future. In three seasons of professional ball, he is 20-6 with an ERA just over three. He sports an excellent curveball and was projected to be a back-end starter in the outstanding Giants’ rotation that includes Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and number one prospect Madison Bumgarner.
Sanchez is a great hitter and an average fielder that puts the Giants in contention. The Pirates were in a no-win situation with Sanchez who, like Wilson, refused to sign a contract extension. What they got is a 20-year-old starter with a ton of potential. WINNER: PIRATES
Trade: (July 29th) Cleveland Indians trade Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco to the Philadelphia Phillies for Jason Knapp, Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, and Lou Marson
Who Wins: The Indians are clearly in selling mode and traded away their second straight Cy Young Award winner to the Philadelphia Phillies who are all of a sudden huge contenders in the National League.
What they got in exchange was a ton of young and talented players that are sure to make a splash in The Bigs in the future.
For the Phillies, they filled up their starting rotation by adding Lee, who is 9-7 this year with an even 3.00 ERA. He will go to a staff that was desparately looking for good pitching and becomes the ace.
They did not have to give up their two best pitching prospects in Kyle Drabek and J.A. Happ, which they would have if they had gone after Blue Jays pitcher Roy Halladay.
For the Indians, they get two very solid pitchers in Knapp and Corrasco as well as good position players in Donald and Marson. Baseball America ranked the Indians’ return players as the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 10th best players in the Phillies’ farm system.
Still, the Phillies become legitimate contenders with this move and win the deal as well. WINNER: PHILLIES
Trade: (July 30th) Baltimore Orioles trade George Sherill to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Josh Bell and Steve Johnson
Who Wins: The one knock on the team with the best record in baseball was that the bullpen was extremely shaky. Outside of Jonathon Broxton, no one really had the makings up someone you’d like to rely on late in games. Enter George Sherill and that is no longer the case.
Sherill gives the Dodgers a great 1-2 punch in the bullpen and they did not have to give up much to get it. Bell is a solid prospect at third base and projects to be a starter in the big leagues one day, but the Dodgers are completely in win-now mode and were going to do anything possible to pick up a reliever. WINNER: DODGERS
Trade: (July 30th) Pittsburgh Pirates trade Tom Gorzelanny and John Grabow to the Chicago Cubs for Kevin Hart, Jose Ascanio, and Josh Harrison
Who Wins: This trade was probably one of the fairest deals of the deadline and it is hard to pick a winner.
For the Cubs’ sake, they received a much needed lefty arm out of the bullpen in Grabow. Gorzelanny had a great 2007 but has not showed much since and is pretty comparable to Hart.
The Pirates free up more cap room and get a decent young pitcher in Kevin Hart. Time is against him as he is already 26 years old, but if he can keep up his solid numbers he will be a steal.
Ascanio still has a lot to prove and Harrison was stuck behind Josh Vitters at third base in the minors so it isn’t a huge loss for the Cubs.
I’ll give the Cubs the win on the trade because it helps them right now (Grabow) and potentially in the future (Gorzelanny) but both sides come out on top here. WINNER: CUBS
Trade: (July 30th) Detroit Tigers trade Josh Anderson to the Kansas City Royals for cash considerations.
Who Wins: No, cash considerations is not a player on the Royals. This trade occurred to shore up a little bit of money before trading for pitcher Jarrod Washburn, so the Tigers make out well here.
The Royals get an average prospect in the outfield that has seen some at bats in the big leagues. For a team to not get a player in a trade makes it hard for them to win the trade, so the Royals get the nod here. WINNER: ROYALS
Trade: (July 31st) Seattle Mariners trade Jarrod Washburn to the Detroit Tigers for Luke French and Mauricio Robles
Who Wins: Both of the prospects that the Mariners received in return have pretty low ceilings and do not project as much in the future.
French is 23 years old and has not produced much, with a 35-43 record as a pro. Robles has more upside than French but is still a pretty big project as he is just in Single A.
Many Tigers fans seemed to be upset to have to part way with Robles, especially with Washburn being a three month rental. Washburn’s contract is up after this season so the Tigers are clearly making their run at the division right now.
If Robles becomes something big, the Mariners will have the advantage but for now it looks as though the Tigers came out on top. WINNER: TIGERS
Trade: (July 31st) Oakland Athletics trade Orlando Cabrera to the Minnesota Twins for Tyler Ladendorf
Who Wins: The Twins must feel that they are contenders in the AL Central by trading for a rental at shortstop in Cabrera. Batting .280 and playing solid defense, Cabrera will help the Twins fight for the top spot.
They gave up very little in Ladendorf who has potential but is struggling in Low A ball. I have always thought that Cabrera was underrated and believe the Twins come out big winners here, especially if they can pull off the upset of winning the Central. WINNER: TWINS
Trade: (July 31st) Milwaukee Brewers trade Vinny Rottino to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Claudio Vargas
Who Wins: Vargas was seeing very little action with the Dodgers but will now be thrown into a Brewers starting rotation that is badly looking for starters who can throw a lot of innings.
His second stint with the Brewers will hopefully see him throw those much-needed innings and keep the Brewers in contention in the NL Central.
Rottino was the starting catcher on Italy’s team in the World Baseball Classic, but at 29 years old was stuck in Double A. With Angel Solome considered to be the future of the Brewers behind the plate, Rottino was expendable.
Both teams made out well on this trade but it will definitely help the Brewers more. WINNER: BREWERS
Trade: Boston Red Sox trade Justin Masterson to the Cleveland Indians for Justin Masterson, Bryan Price, and Nick Hagadone
Who Wins: Martinez is a huge addition to the already powerful Red Sox and probably put them as the front-runners to win it all. He will play first base and enter a very dangerous lineup.
Martinez is signed for this year and has a club option for next year that will most surely be picked up. After that, the Red Sox will obviously have enough money to re-sign him and he should be the first baseman of the future.
He did not come cheap, however. Masterson is already Major League-ready and the other two prospects have a ton of upside.
Hagadone, when healthy, has great stuff and should see the Majors sometime soon. The one question mark is that he is coming off of Tommy John surgery and, as is always the case, he might not stay healthy.
Price is further away in terms of progress but is also younger.
Martinez was sad to leave Cleveland but all the wins he will soon rack up in Boston should put a smile back on his face. Huge win for the Bo Sox. WINNER: RED SOX
Trade: (July 31st) Cincinnati Reds trade Jerry Hairston Jr. to the New York Yankees for Chase Weems
Who Wins: I researched Weems and he does not seem to be a huge talent and Hairston Jr. will provide some good outfield depth and is a good bat off the bench.
He has never been much in the field but has a little bit of pop in his bat. For the Reds, they get rid of some cap room and have a young catcher in the minors potentially for the future. WINNER: YANKEES
Trade: (July 31st) Boston Red Sox trade Adam LaRoche to the Atlanta Braves for Casey Kotchman
Who Wins: I am having trouble figuring out why the Braves would want any piece of this deal. Kotchman is four years younger than LaRoche and has a ton more upside. Past that, he is playing better baseball at this point and is the better player.
The Red Sox somehow dumped a player and got better. For the Braves, they get LaRoche for the second time and now have a decent glove and a power bat to compliment Chipper Jones.
In the end, Kotchman has a ton of upside and is only getting better. WINNER: RED SOX
Trade: (July 31st) Washington Nationals Joe Beimel to the Colorado Rockies for Ryan Matheus and Robinson Fabian
Who Wins: Beimel will help the bullpen out for a Rockies team that feels as though they have a legitimate shot at winning the wild card this season.
For the Nats, it’s more prospects that are more than likely going to fade out. Neither have a ton of upside and do not project as big leaguers. WINNER: ROCKIES
Trade: (July 31st) Cincinnati Reds trade Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Roenicke and Zach Stewart to the Toronto Blue Jays for Scott Rolen
Who Wins: I am a little confused by this deal as Encarnacion is really coming into his own as a big leaguer right now. His stats do not really tell the story, but he is batting .276 in July after coming back from injury.
The Reds are not contenders for anything this year and would have been wise to keep Encarnacion around for a while.
Rolen is having a pretty good year both with the bat and, as always, in the field.
The two prospects that the Reds gave up are both big league material, so this trade is a tad bit confusing. WINNER: BLUE JAYS
Trade: (July 31st) San Diego Padres trade Jake Peavy to the Chicago White Sox for Aaron Poreda, Clayton Richard, Adam Russell, and Dexter Carter
Who Wins: Poreda and Richard are two very highly-rated prospects and Richard has already burst on to the scene. Both are young and talented and should be in the Padres’ rotation for quite some time.
Russell and Carter also have some upside, so it was a lot to give up for the White Sox.
However, if they truly believe that they received one of the best five pitchers in the game today (which I do), then it was the right trade to make.
Peavy will be making boatloads of money over the next five years but the White Sox have a lot of money to spend. He will anchor the rotation and move Mark Buehrle back to the number two spot, with Gavin Floyd going third.
Kenny Williams always seems to be making deals, and this one is a huge one, but I believe he made out good on this deal. Peavy had been stuck with a terrible offense for so long but will now get the chance to truly shine.
Poreda and Richard have superstar potential, but any time a talent like Peavy is being dangled in front of you, it’s hard to pass up on it. WINNER: WHITE SOX
While today’s date of July 21st means that there are over ten weeks left in baseball’s regular season and that division races will not heat up for about another two months, the Milwaukee Brewers’ most important stretch of the summer is starting right now. Over the course of the next five weeks, the Brewers will face the Pirates nine times, the Nationals eight times, the Braves three times, the Padres six times, the Astros six times, the Reds three times, and the Dodgers three times.
Do you know what the similarity between all those teams is, outside of the Dodgers?
As of last night, none of them had a record over .500.
It’s an outstanding chance for the Brewers, who have the easiest schedule of any National League team, to gain ground on the rest of the division and have a solid cushion come September.
Over this span of a month and a week, the Brewers’ lackluster pitching staff will have a chance to dominate against some of the worst offenses in the National League. The best offense they will face is the Atlanta Braves, who rank just seventh in the National League in runs scored.
The Brewers’ offense will need to come around and give the pitching staff extra run support if they want to succeed in this stretch. In that span, they will face four pitching staffs in the top ten in ERA in the National League, but also face the Padres (15th) and the Nationals (16th). Let’s take a look at each of the matchups the Brewers will be taking on and how they can fare.
Pittsburgh Pirates: 41-51
The Brewers lost last night’s game to the Pirates, which ended a drought of over a year that the Bucs had not come out on top. In the remaining eight games, five will be played at PNC Park and the other three will be at Miller Park. I believe the Brewers should be able to take three of five on the road from the struggling Pirates and should be able to sweep one of the worst road teams in baseball at Miller Park. Six out of eight wins is easily doable for a Brewers team that has had the Pirates’ number for quite some time.
Washington Nationals: 26-66
The Brewers will play a pair of four-game series against the worst team in baseball in this span and I do not think it is a stretch to say the Brewers can take seven of these games. There is nothing positive going for this ballclub right now and they do not do anything well. The Brewers will send their top four in the rotation at the Nationals when the two teams meet at Miller Park. Washington has been swept an unbelievable ten times this year and has won a series just six times all year. Seven out of eight wins might sound crazy for the Brewers right now, but it could happen pretty easily.
Atlanta Braves: 47-46
The Braves are playing very well right now and are trying to catch up to the red-hot Phillies in the NL East. Unfortuantely for the Brewers, the Braves will send their three best pitchers to the hill in Miller Park next week in Tommy Hanson, Derek Lowe, and Javier Vazquez.. Atlanta has been decent on the road this year and they are a team the Brewers have had trouble with this year. I’d like to see two wins here but think the Brewers will come out with just one.
San Diego Padres: 37-56
Had it not been for the Nationals’ historically bad season, the San Diego Padres would be the laughing stock of the National League. They currently sit 22 games out of first place and, despite playing average baseball at home, can not do anything on the road. For the three games at Miller Park, look for the Brewers to come out playing great baseball against one of the worst pitching staffs in baseball. Four of six games going to the Brewers looks to be a good estimate against a pretty bad Padres team.
Houston Astros: 47-46
The Astros are playing very good baseball right now and are tied with the Brewers in third place as it stands right now. After taking four out of six games in Houston, the Brewers will play the Astros three times at Miller Park and go back to Minute Maid Park again for three. With the ‘Stros playing good ball right now, I could see a split coming in the six games these two teams will play. Houston pitching has been picking it up lately and will keep them in close games.
Cincinnati Reds: 44-48
The three games the Brewers play against the Reds in this span will all come at home, which should bode well for the hometown Brewers. Milwaukee was 4-2 against the Reds at Miller Park and should be able to take two of three from the Reds when they come to town.
Assuming the Brewers are able to take one game from the Dodgers in their three game set, I can see the Brewers going 24-13 in this span, give or take a game. Just because the talent level is down does not mean the Brewers will be able to sit back and relax. They are playing terrible baseball at the moment and will need to pick things up if they want to have a chance. However, when they play their brand of baseball and are on, runs like these are more than capable of happening. 24 wins over this five week span would put the Brewers at 71-59 and likely in first place.
The Cubs will play the Phillies six times, the Dodgers four times, the Rockies four times, and the (hopefully healthy) Mets three times before September. The Cardinals will play the Phillies three times and the Dodgers seven times in that span as well.
The race should be tight because it seems like none of the three teams wants to gain any ground on the other. But the Brewers need to strike now while the competition is not hot because in September, things heat up quickly. In the season’s last month, Milwaukee will play 29 of their last 32 games against teams with a record currently over .500.
If the Brewers are not up at least two games by the end of August, there will be no point in watching in September.
As of today, the National League Central is the closest division in all of baseball as all six teams are within four and a half games of first place. Leading the way are the Milwaukee Brewers with a 35-29 record followed by the Cardinals, Reds, Cubs, Pirates, and finally the Astros. As we are about a third of the way into the season, each team in the division has a flaw that will need to be fixed if they are to have a shot at winning the division.
Milwaukee Brewers, 35-29, First Place
Flaw: Starting Pitching
What’s Wrong: Yovani Gallardo has pitched very well this year and has picked up the slack that the rest of the rotation has failed to do. With a 6-3 record, the 24-year-old has the best record on the staff and has been dubbed the team’s ace.
However, after Gallardo things become extremely foggy as to who will step up for the Brewers. The rest of the rotation (including the recently demoted Manny Parra) has a 16-18 record with a 5.42 ERA. As a whole, the rotation ranks 22nd in innings pitched and 23rd in ERA. While some of the blame for the fluctuated stats can be blamed on Parra, the starters have not been good at all as of late.
Dave Bush started the year off very well and looked like a number two pitcher the Brewers could rely on, but recently has struggled mightily and not given the innings expected of him.
The Brewers’ bullpen ranks third in ERA and if it were not for their lights out performance this year, the Brewers would be a .500 team at best. Also, their offense continues to be led by Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, who leads the National League in RBI.
How To Fix It: The Brewers sent Parra to AAA Nashville last week and, with two off days in the near future, will not need a fifth starter until June 27th. It is not clear whether or not he will rejoin the team when his turn in the rotation comes around, but he is just the beginning of the problem.
Trade rumors have been swirling all over the place involving J.J. Hardy or Corey Hart going to the American League for pitching, but that is more than likely not going to be the case. As for the starters on the team, they need to start throwing strikes and pitching longer. Their starters rank fourth in the league in walks allowed and, as said above, are not pitching late into ballgames.
Jeff Suppan has settled down after a rough start and Braden Looper is slowly becoming more consistent. It is almost a matter of time before the bullpen can not keep covering up the below-average starting pitching.
Seth McClung might be asked to move to the rotation when a fifth starter is needed, and last year he fared decently in his new role. With no option in the minors (other than Parra), it will be very interesting to see which route general manager Doug Melvin takes to fixing the fifth spot in the rotation.
Can It Be Fixed?: Fortunately, the woes of the starting rotation look like they can be fixed. Gallardo continues to impress and give the Brewers a great chance of winning every five days.
The rest of the rotation will need to continue to throw strikes and not give up free passes, something that every starter (OK, maybe not Parra) is capable of doing. If a trade were to occur, it would almost certainly fix the problems for the rotation, but Milwaukee’s top offense might suffer.
St. Louis Cardinals, 34-30, Second Place
Flaw: Offense outside of Albert Pujols
What’s Wrong: For as many years as slugger Albert Pujols has been in the majors, he has been one of the top hitters in the game. Many argue he is the best and I would be one in his corner on that argument. This year has been no different, as the 29-year-old has a .324 batting average, 22 home runs, 57 RBI, 50 runs scored, and an OPS of 1.131, all leading the team.
Manager Tony LaRussa has never had to worry about the third spot in his lineup, but the rest of the order has been an issue this year. As a team, the Cardinals rank 22nd in batting average with a .254 mark. Not counting Pujols, they have one everyday player hitting over .280 and just two players that have hit more than four home runs.
Even with Pujols in the lineup, the Cardinals’ offense has been average at best this year.
How To Fix It: From an offensive standpoint, no team in the league has been hit harder with injury than the Cardinals. Ryan Ludwick and Rick Ankiel, two of St. Louis’ best hitters, have both missed significant time with injuries and the offense has clearly struggled because of it. Both have since returned to action but still do not seem fully comfortable in the lineup just yet.
In other spots, Troy Glaus has yet to play this year recovering from shoulder surgery and Khalil Greene has done nothing while battling anxiety-related problems. The Cardinals need to fix this problem by getting and staying healthy because, as good as their rookies have been filling in, the offense (and no offense for that matter) can not survive with all these injuries.
Pujols will continue to hit like he always has but the rest of the lineup will need to step up. This also means being more selective at the plate, as the Cardinals rank 22nd in walks and 21st in on-base percentage.
Can It Be Fixed?: Last year’s Cardinals team was pretty much the same and ranked 12th in runs scored, so the ability to score runs is there. Ankiel and Ludwick need to start hitting and get the Cardinals back to last year’s form.
As good as the Cards’ pitching has been, the lack of support from the offense has kept them from pulling away in the division. Glaus, who hit 27 home runs and drove in 99 runs last year, could be the X-factor in the lineup when he eventually comes back.
Cincinnati Reds, 31-31, Third Place
Flaw: Hitting for average
What’s Wrong: On paper, the Reds have a very good ballclub and were the darkhorse to contend for the NL Central this year. However, very little of that potential has carried over and the Reds stand at .500, a place that they should be very happy to be at. Their pitching has been outstanding this year as they hold a 3.89 team ERA, but the offense has struggled mightily.
As a rookie, Jay Bruce enjoyed a fantastic season hitting 21 home runs and driving in 52 in just 108 games last year. This year, the story has been much different as Bruce is batting just .213 with an on-base percentage of .298. While he has 15 home runs already, the Reds were expecting him to be more than an Adam Dunn replica (Bruce has 49 strikeouts in 60 games).
Paul Janish and Ryan Hanigan are the only position players batting above .275, but neither have an on-base percentage over .400. If the pitching falters even just a hair in games, the Reds have a tough time staying in ballgames.
How To Fix It: The main problem for the Reds has been the loss of second-year first baseman Joey Votto. On the year, Votto is hitting .357 with 45 hits in just 32 games. However, he has missed the last 15 games for the Reds while he battles stress-related problems.
Because of the seriousness of his condition, there is no timetable for his return and the Reds have moved on without him for now. At the time of his injury, he led the National League in hitting and was a huge key to the Reds’ success. Without him, their offense has struggled mightily and will continue to do so until he comes back.
The Reds have to hope that Jay Bruce can turn things around and that leadoff man Willy Taveras, who is mired in an 0-32 slump, can begin to hit again and help a pitching staff that has carried the team thus far.
Once Votto comes back, the lineup should be manageable and the number in the hit column should increase.
Can It Be Fixed?: Unlike the first two teams, it doesn’t seem like the Reds are ever going to hit for average. They place in a big-time hitter’s ballpark, so power numbers will always be up.
Unfortunately, for a team batting .243 on the year, it doesn’t matter how many home runs they hit. If the pitching continues to be stellar, they might be able to stay in the NL Central race, but I am not counting on it.
Chicago Cubs, 30-30, Fourth Place
What’s Wrong: Heading into the year, the Cubs were the sure-fire frontrunners to win the NL Central. Not only did they score more runs than anyone in the National League, but they were also bringing in a big bat in Milton Bradley that was only going to add to the offense.
Fast forward two and a half months and the Cubs’ hitting coach has been fired, the Cubs rank 26th in batting average, 28th in runs scored, 21st in slugging, and 8th in strikeouts. Not exactly what fans pictured entering the year to say the least. The Cubs’ starting pitching has been as good as anyone’s over the last month but the offense has failed to give them any help.
The Cubs have a 2.08 team ERA in the month of June and their record is 5-6…something is wrong with that. No starter on the Cubs has a batting average over .285 and Derrek Lee leads the team with 27 RBI.
To put that in perspective, Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder had 31 RBI in the month of May. Simply put, the team is not hitting and until they do, they will struggle as a team.
How To Fix It: Like Cincinnati, the Cubs are also missing their best hitter in Aramis Ramirez. When he was injured May 8th against the Brewers, he had a team-high .364 batting average with four home runs and 16 RBI’s in 18 games. He is expected to miss time up until the All-Star Break and a week or two after that, but the Cubs desperately need him back.
Leadoff hitter Alfonso Soriano has seen his batting average drop to .229, Kosuke Fukudome’s is down to .266, and Geovany Soto, last year’s Rookie of the Year, is batting just .223.
There really is no remedy or something that the Cubs can be doing to improve their hitting other than putting the ball in play. Soriano will come around soon enough and Lee has heated up in a big way to keep the offense alive.
Fukudome should see his numbers stay around where they are right now and as for Soto, the sophomore slump has hit him extremely hard.
The Cubs proved that they are not deep enough to survive an injury like Ramirez’s and until he comes back, the offense will struggle. When he comes back, hopefully the protection he gives to hitters in front of him will pay off.
Can They Fix It?: The Cubs offense is not getting any younger and it seems like their offense’s window of opportunity is closing faster than general manager Jim Hendry expected it to. Slumps will happen over the course of a 162 game season but there might be reason to worry in Chicago if this constant struggle continues.
A re-evaluation will be necessary when Ramirez comes back, because the offense is completely different with him in it.
Pittsburgh Pirates, 30-33, Fifth Place
Flaw: Batting for Power
What’s Wrong: Most of the time, a team that whose main problem is hitting for power would not seem like a huge deal. However, with the Pirates it is a definite problem and one that needs to be addressed.
On the year, the Pirates have hit just 36 home runs as a team and are slugging .392 as a team. They actually rank 15th in the league in extra-base hits, but power is still an issue. Adam LaRoche leads the team with eight home runs and only one other player, Freddy Sanchez, has hit more than five homers.
The Pirates also recently traded away their best power hitter in Nate McLouth who has nine home runs on the year. While it seems that the Pirates are below average in just about every category, their inability to hit the long ball makes it very hard for them to come back in games when they trail.
They rank 11th in the majors in batting average but just 18th in runs scored.
How To Fix It: For a team that is having trouble hitting for power, trading away your team leader in home runs was an interesting start. As always, the Pittsburgh front office explained how they were trying to build a championship team and not a .500 team.
After a while, fans get tired of hearing this because nothing ever pans out for the Pirates. A way to fix this power outage would be to make a trade at the deadline that would provide a big bat in the middle of the lineup, but it seems like there is no way that happens.
It’s hard to think of the last time the Pirates were buyers, not sellers, at the trade deadline.
Can They Fix It?: Pittsburgh ranked 21st in home runs last year with 153 round trippers, but that was also including McClouth’s 26 homers.
Last year’s rank does indicate that there is room to believe this team can start hitting for more power, but the question is whether or not that will be enough to compete in the NL Central. There are more flaws here than just power that also need to addressed.
Houston Astros, 29-32, Sixth Place
What’s Wrong: The Houston Astros, at 30.4 years old, have the oldest team in the major league. While it might be confusing to see this as a flaw, it’s more of a problem than a flaw.
Year in and year out, the Astros have a great team on paper with a lineup that includes Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee, Miguel Tejada, and Hunter Pence. Even Michael Bourn has done an excellent job this year and stepped up into a lineup that should produce. In the rotation, Roy Oswalt is always a reliable starter and Wandy Rodriguez has finally broken through as a top lefty in the game.
However, the pitching staff ranks 23rd in innings pitched and, outside of Michael Bourn, they have stolen just 21 bases.
How Do They Fix It: It’s impossible to fix being the oldest team in the league without trading for younger players, but that is what the Astros have been rumored to be doing. Tejada has been rumored to a few teams including the Cardinals, who have some of the best young players with a ton of potential.
The ‘Stros need some youth and rejuvenation to their team that they clearly are not getting with their current lineup. Until they do that, they will always be in the mix but run out of gas at the end of the year.
An old team will do that to you and that is exactly where the Astros stand.
Can They Fix It?: The Astros realize that, despite being just 4.5 games out of first place, they probably are not contenders in the NL Central this year.
Because of that, they are looking to get younger by putting Tejada on the trading block in return for some youngsters. If they can hit on a few draft picks and develop some young pitchers, the outlook is bright for them.
As for this year, Tejada has been their best hitter so getting younger will come with a price in that sense. Still, depending on who they get back it might give them that energy that they need to make a push.