Lance Berkman was nice enough to stop at two home runs yesterday, so we'll complete our look around the majors with some notes on National League performances to date.
The best position player on your World Champion Arizona Diamondbacks? Second baseman Junior Spivey, who only got his job thanks to injuries to Jay Bell and Matt Williams. Spivey is hitting .342 with good doubles power and enough walks to keep his OBP above .400. Even if he doesn't keep up this pace, he's played well enough to keep Bell on the bench after the veteran returns.
Once everyone gets healthy, the Diamondbacks are going to have seven players for four infield spots, with the three guys most deserving of bench time also the most expensive of the bunch. How Bob Brenly apportions playing time will be one of the factors than determines the outcome of the NL West race.
As long as we're talking about underexposed second basemen, how about the Braves' Marcus Giles? He's at .272/.367/.485, and while he's been erratic in the field–six errors–he's behind only Spivey among second sackers in the NL this season.
Giles is just 24. His brother Brian was still in the minors at that age, and would need another four years to get a regular major-league job. The two player have similar offensive profiles, and while it's odd to think of a second baseman who hits like Brian Giles, it's clear that Marcus Giles has that kind of offensive upside.
Sammy Sosa keeps getting better. He's at .355/.452/.794, with a league-leading 13 home runs (tied with Berkman) and almost as many walks as strikeouts.
He's also not within shouting distance of the best hitter in the league.
Sosa's career path is going to be one of those things that gives us reason to doubt ourselves for years to come. It's hard now to look at players like Alfonso Soriano or Shea Hillenbrand and be extremely negative about their walk rate, because Sosa sticks out as an example of a player with good physical tools who went from one end of the plate-discipline spectrum to the other in about six years, moving from decent outfielder to Hall of Famer in that time.
The light doesn't go on for everyone, but we're going to have to remember that if it can go on for Sosa, it can go on for Soriano, or Miguel Tejada, or Paul LoDuca.
- Freak stat of the day: teammates Jon Lieber and Kerry Wood have each thrown 34 innings. Wood has walked 27 men. Lieber has walked three.
No, maybe this is the freak stat of the day: Adam Dunn has 21 walks and no doubles.
By the way, the Dunn/Ken Griffey, Jr./Austin Kearns outfield should make its debut sometime this week. If you're within driving distance of Cincinnati, you really should go, because to be able to say you were there the first time those three played together would be something very cool. Bring your kids.
- Jeffrey Hammonds has a .389 OBP, with 17 walks against 91 at-bats. He hasn't gone on the DL yet, and in fact, has missed just four games. Wow.
- Here's a fun game: pick the date when the Expos pass last year's walk total. They're at 139 now, and had 478 all of last season. I'll take August 13.
I wonder if Brad Wilkerson could go back to center field. The Expos are going to have to do something about Peter Bergeron (.187/.310/.244), and one idea would be to acquire Rickey Henderson and play him in left, with Wilkerson moving to center. It's a defensive hit, to be sure, but the idea of a three-man rotation, with Bergeron coming in early as a defensive replacement and starting against some right-handers, has some merit.
The other idea is to acquire a center fielder, perhaps Gabe Kapler. The Expos definitely have to address the problem, though.
Aw, heck, it's just fun to speculate on the Expos making moves to improve their chances of being a contender.
Had anyone ever heard of Jason Simontacchi before Saturday?
The Cardinals, by the way, have used 18 pitchers already. No, not all in one game.
- The Padres have dropped just one series since the season's opening week, a week in which they effectively played without Ryan Klesko. They may not win the West this year, but they'll be a part of the race, and better for it in 2003 and beyond.
I'll do an entire column on Barry Bonds later this week, but he's really gone off the reservation. He has a .628 OBP, a figure I'm certain I've never seen any player reach for more than a week or so at a time. He has 40 walks and five strikeouts. Hell, he has 40 walks and 69 at-bats.
I'm really not sure how the rest of the Giants' hitters look Bonds in the eye. Jeff Kent and Reggie Sanders have a combined slugging average of .401, even though they bat against pitchers throwing from the stretch half the time.