June 18, 2008
Wednesday's Games to Watch
Matchup: Tigers (33-38) at Giants (31-41), 12:45 p.m. PT
If Renteria manages to beat those odds and get to 3,000, he would likely become the fourth shortstop to do so--Cal Ripken Jr. and Robin Yount are the only two that have reached the milestone, while Derek Jeter (2,427 hits) is a near-lock to get there barring injury or early retirement. Renteria might even be the fifth: his counterpart in this series, Omar Vizquel, is currently the active leader in hits among shortstops, with 2,616. At 41 years old, however, PECOTA sees Vizquel falling short of the mark. Renteria reached the majors at the age of 21 and played full-time right away, collecting 133 hits in his rookie campaign, and he has had at least 128 hits in every season since then. Renteria has never had a 200-hit season, however. Just five of the 27 players with 3,000 hits reached that figure without notching 200 hits in a year at least once: Carl Yastrzemski, Cap Anson, Eddie Murray, Dave Winfield, and Rickey Henderson.
Matchup: Blue Jays (35-37) at Brewers (37-33), 7:05 p.m. CT
Hitter HR Years Joe DiMaggio 75 1936-37 Ralph Kiner 74 1946-47 Eddie Mathews 72 1952-53 Albert Pujols 71 2001-02 Frank Robinson 67 1956-57 Mark Teixeira 64 2003-04 Dan Uggla 58 2006-07 Jimmie Hall 58 1963-64
Braun started the season off slowly, but since May 11 has 15 home runs and is slugging .721. Braun now sports a .615 slugging percentage for his career, which if maintained throughout the rest of the season would be the third highest mark for a player after the first two years of his career (minimum 750 plate appearances), behind DiMaggio and Phillies star Chuck Klein, who put up a .634 figure from 1928-29. Notable names right below Braun include Ted Williams, Johnny Mize, and Albert Pujols.
Both of Braun's homers yesterday came against right-handers, and now for the season Braun has hit 17 of his 20 off of righties. That's noteworthy, because last year Braun showed himself to be a lefty-masher of the highest order--he put up a .450/.516/.964 line against them with 15 homers in 128 PA--but struggled at times against righties (.282/.319/.526). That led PECOTA to forecast for Braun this season a batting average 24 points higher, on-base percentage 36 points higher, and slugging percentage 60 points higher against southpaws than against righties, one of the more extreme splits it doled out. So far, however, Braun has turned around his profile from last season, putting up a 942 OPS against righties in 229 PA, and 797 against lefties in 72.
Matchup: Royals (29-42) at Cardinals (42-30), 7:15 p.m. CT
The winning run last night was provided in the top of the eighth inning by a home run from Royals rookie Mike Aviles, who was called up from Triple-A Omaha on May 29 and has since taken over the starting shortstop job from Tony Pena Jr., Alberto Callaspo, and Esteban German. Aviles has now started the last 11 games at shortstop for the Royals, and with his third home run is now up to .333/.362/.689 in 47 plate appearances. Aviles began the 2008 season as a 27-year-old veteran of five minor league campaigns slated to spend his third straight year in Omaha. He carried with him a line of .293/.334/.448 in 2,369 career plate appearances into this season, underwhelming enough for him to not receive a PECOTA projection. One of the major roadblocks between Aviles and the show before this year was his sub-standard defense, but the Royals have looked past that in order to inject some desperately-needed offense into a position that has produced a lower OPS (497) than any other non-pitcher position of any team in the majors. Aviles has indeed been quite poor in the field during his limited trial, with a 3.09 Range Factor, the lowest of any player with 25 or more innings played at the position this year, so he won't be able to stay at the position long-term. His bat, however, has proved a significant boon for the moribund KC attack, which has scored 4.6 runs per game with a 762 OPS since Aviles' arrival, as compared with 3.6 with a 673 beforehand.
Matchup: Athletics (39-31) at Diamondbacks (37-34), 6:40 p.m. MST
Oakland received two-fifths of its current starting rotation in exchange for Haren--Dana Eveland and Greg Smith--as well as outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, who has started all 16 of Oakland's games in center field since getting called up. Gonzalez has hit eight doubles in 65 plate appearances, but has an overall line that serves as a reminder of his age (22) and rookie status. Joining Gonzalez in the outfield the past four games has been right fielder Ryan Sweeney, another rookie acquired in an off-season trade, and who has hit well thus far after disappointing the White Sox. The Diamondbacks have a very young center field/right field combination of their own in the 24-year-old Chris B. Young and 20-year-old Justin Upton, a pair whose struggles the past month have mirrored Arizona's fall from the top of the NL. Young has not experienced the breakout that seemed so surely in his future after he hit 32 homers in his first full season last year. He has been striking out at about the same rate he did last season, keeping his average low, and has also not been running like he did in 2007: just two steal attempts in his past 53 games and five on the season, after stealing 27 out of 33 in 148 games last year.
Matchup: Mets (34-36) at Angels (43-29), 7:05 p.m. PT
Somewhat lost in the shuffling of Mets coaches was the transfer of Sandy Alomar Sr. from third base to bench coach, to be replaced by Luis Aguayo, formerly the Mets' field coordinator. There is some evidence to support the assertion that bringing in a new man to direct runners home will benefit the Mets; Alomar has made several noticeable mistakes this season, chief amongst them sending catcher Brian Schneider to the plate on a medium-depth fly ball to right fielder Milton Bradley in the bottom of the eight inning in the first game of Sunday's doubleheader with the bases loaded, one out, and the Mets down 8-5. Bradley gunned down Schneider at the plate by a healthy margin, a play which ended the inning and increased Texas's win probability from 76 to 97 percent.
Caleb Peiffer is a contributor to Baseball Prospectus. He can be reached here.