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In the Zone: Mid-season MLB Report

By Tyler Fulghum, Sports Director, tylerf@kmiz.com
Published On: Jul 02 2013 08:53:42 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 02 2013 09:05:44 PM CDT
Max Scherzer

DETROIT

Former Mizzou pitcher and current Detroit Tigers star Max Scherzer

COLUMBIA, Mo. -

We’re at the halfway point of the Major League season.  Small sample sizes no longer exist.  The numbers in the win-loss column, the numbers on the back of the baseball card, they are no longer a trend.  They are the truth.

We know who is good.  We know who is bad.  We know who is somewhere in between.

1) The St. Louis Cardinals are good. 

For most of the 2013 calendar year, the Redbirds have had the best record in baseball. 

St. Louis owned the best record in the National League from May 2 until June 28.  They owned the best record in Major League Baseball from May 21 to June 28. 

As Bill Parcells famously said, “You are what your record says you are.”

Of course, the Cardinals record now says they are only the second best team in the majors behind the NL Central leading Pittsburgh Pirates.  That’s fine.  Standings will fluctuate over the course of 162 games.  As long as a team is consistently near the top, it’s not a fluke. 

St. Louis has only lost more than two games in a row twice this season (both losing streaks ended at three games).  Their longest win streak this season is a modest six games.

Plus, St. Louis ranks in the Top-5 in all of Major League baseball in these pertinent categories:

 

  • 401 runs scored – 3rd (1st in NL)
  • 289 runs allowed – 3rd
  • 4.95 runs/game – 2nd (1st in NL)
  • 3.57 runs allowed/game – 3rd
  • +112 run differential – 1st
  • .334 on base percentage – 3rd (1st in NL)
  • .274 batting average – 3rd (1st in NL)
  • 3.32 ERA – 3rd
  • 6 complete games – 1st
  • 9 team shutouts – 3rd (2nd in NL)
  • 1.192 WHIP – 4th
  • 0.6 HR/9 innings – 1st
  • 3.16 K/BB ratio – 2nd (1st in NL)

 

Basically, they pitch and hit well.  That will win you ball games all summer long. 

 

2) Cardinals 1st Half MVP = C Yadier Molina

Seamlessly, Yadier Molina took the torch that Albert Pujols left in the Gateway City and laid claim to best player in the organization.  Molina has also raised his level of overall play to “St. Louis Pujols-ian” levels. 

He’s a legitimate MVP candidate, not just because of his defense, but because he is also a feared hitter.  He leads the National League with a .345 average and 26 doubles.

You don’t need me to tell you that he’s still the gold standard as a backstop.  NOBODY shuts down a running game, while simultaneously calling a better game than Yadier Molina.

Not only is he the Cards first half MVP, he’s in serious discussion for league MVP. 

 

G

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

SB

CS

BB

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

77

290

35

100

26

0

6

44

3

2

19

30

.345

.387

.497

.883

 

*The bold indicates numbers he leads the league in.

 

3) Cardinals 1st Half Cy Young = SP Adam Wainwright

Keep in mind, as St. Louis gets ready to play Pujols for the first time ever as an opponent, the Cardinals would likely be choosing whether to keep Waino or Molina IF they re-signed Pujols. 

The budget wouldn’t allow all three to be lifelong Cardinals, and who would you pick in that situation?!?! 

But because Albert fled to SoCal, Bill DeWitt and John Mozeliak were able to shell out $172.5 million to keep both in St. Louis through 2018.

Just as Molina has taken the torch left by Pujols, Wainwright has unquestionably become the equivalent of the pitching staff.  Injuries and age have forced Chris Carpenter to relinquish that spot. 

And just like Molina is a serious league MVP candidate, so too is Wainwright for the NL Cy Young.

 

W

L

ERA

G

GS

CG

SHO

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

IBB

K

BF

WHIP

BB/9

K/BB

11

5

2.22

17

17

4

2

125.2

113

34

31

4

12

2

114

488

0.995

0.9

9.50

4) Cardinals 1st Half Rookie of the Year = SP Shelby Miller

Again, this is not breaking news.  And although Miller has hit an inevitable rookie rough patch over his last four games, his overall numbers are still outstanding. 

He is definitely delivering on the promise and potential that made him the 19th overall pick in the 2009 MLB Draft as an 18-year old out of high school in Texas.  Miller deserves credit for not thinking he has all the answers and letting the veterans such as Carpenter and Wainwright instill within him the fabled “Cardinal Way” and what it truly means to be a professional.  Don’t underestimate the luxury of having Molina call his pitches every game, either.

Broken record alert: Just like Molina and Wainwright, Miller very well could take home this hardware for the entire National League by the time the season is over. 

 

W

L

ERA

G

GS

CG

SHO

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

IBB

K

BF

WHIP

BB/9

K/BB

8

6

2.79

16

16

1

1

93.2

78

31

29

8

22

0

101

375

1.068

2.1

4.59

 

 

5) Prospect to watch for 2014 = OF Oscar Taveras

Taveras is one of the elite prospects in all of Major League Baseball because he has a bat that reminds some scouts of Vladimir Guerrero.

Just 21-years old, this left-handed hitting outfielder is the best prospect the Cardinals have had since Albert Pujols.  Those are not my words; those are the words of GM John Mozeliak. 

This season, Taveras has dealt with a nagging high-ankle sprain that has continuously frustrated him and sapped his power somewhat.  He may have to manage it the entire season, but rest assured you will see this wunderkind in St. Louis before the season is over…and he may become a permanent fixture in 2014 and beyond (a lot of that depends on what St. Louis decides to do with Carlos Beltran, who is killing it again this year).

This season at Triple-A Memphis:

 

G

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

SB

CS

BB

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

46

173

25

53

12

0

5

32

5

1

9

22

.306

.341

.462

.803

 

 

6) The Kansas City Royals are somewhere in between good and bad.

The Royals have not yet reached the numerical midway point of the season, but we’ve learned the trend. 

At one point this year, they were 17-10.

They then proceeded to lose 22 of their next 28 games.

They followed that up by winning 11 of 13 to get back to .500…but lost their next four games.

This is clearly a .500 team.  They will meddle around this mark for the rest of the season because they are able to do one thing well – pitch – while being among the worst in the league at the other half of the game – hitting.

Kansas City is allowing an AL-best 3.85 runs per game. 

Their offense, however, is in the lower third of the majors averaging 3.96 runs scored per game.  George Brett taking over as interim hitting coach has coincided with a slight uptick in production, but KC still has one of the weakest, literally, offenses in the game. 

The 49 homeruns the Royals have hit this year are second fewest in Major League Baseball, in front of only the lowly Miami Marlins.  Bottom line: they just don’t do enough damage when putting the ball in play.  Single after single will only get you so far.

Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Alex Gordon, and Billy Butler NEED to up their slugging percentages by significant margins for this team to contend over the second half. 

Unfortunately, just as Hosmer seems to be heating up, Gordon is cooling down considerably.

 

7) Royals 1st Half MVP = LF Alex Gordon

Despite his recent plunge in production, Alex Gordon has still been the best hitter over the course of the season in this lineup (Gordon hit just .188 in June – 18 of 96 – and it dropped his season number from .323 to .285).

He still leads the team in homers, hits, runs, at bats, and triples. 

What separates Gordon from the rest of the bats in this lineup is his defense.  Salvador Perez and Alcides Escobar play sterling defense, no doubt, but Gordon is a two-time Gold Glove winner in left who has shown nothing in 2013 to indicate his level of play is slipping. 

Gordon has eight outfield assists without committing a single error.

 

G

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

SB

CS

BB

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

78

312

43

89

14

2

7

42

4

1

28

69

.285

.345

.410

.755

 

 

8) Royals 1st Half Cy Young = SP Ervin Santana

Santana barely edges James Shields and, to a lesser degree, Greg Holland for this honor through the first half.

Coming off a season with the Angels in which he 9-13 with a 5.16 ERA and gave up a league-high 39 homeruns, Santana has bounced back to be, quietly, one of the most effective starters in the American League.

Like Shields, he’s pitched far better than his win-loss record would indicate.  He’s only 5-5, but he’s got a top-10 ERA and WHIP in the AL. 

A free agent after the 2013 season, GM Dayton Moore will have to seriously consider whether or not to keep Santana around as a cornerstone of the Royals rotation for the future.

 

W

L

ERA

G

GS

CG

SHO

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

IBB

K

BF

WHIP

BB/9

K/BB

5

5

2.84

16

16

0

0

111.0

93

39

35

15

22

1

89

441

1.036

1.8

4.05

 

9) Royals 1st Half Rookie of the Year = OF David Lough

This is the guy that made Jeff Francoeur expendable.  Nevermmind.  Jeff Francoeur made Jeff Francoeur expendable.

Either way, Lough should have been the everyday right fielder long before it took the team to swap him out permanently with Frenchy. 

Lough, although it covers only a 35-game sample, leads the team in batting average. 

 

G

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

SB

CS

BB

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

35

121

14

38

9

2

2

14

1

1

3

17

.314

.336

.471

.807

 

10) Prospect to watch for 2014: SP Yordano Ventura

Ventura is the pitching prospect the Royals have longed for since Zack Greinke fled town.

He’s only 5-foot-11 and weighs 180 pounds, but Ventura can tickle triple digits on the radar gun.  This naturally draws comparisons to the great Pedro Martinez.  One of his minor league managers proclaimed he has a better fastball than Greinke.

Control and pitch counts are still the aspects he’s trying to master on the mound, nothing unusual for a 22-year old with a livewire arm.  He still walks too many hitters, but his strikeout rate is very healthy.

Kansas City needs a fifth starter right now.  They won’t rush Ventura, but he may be the name filling that role in the rotation next season.

Here are his minor league numbers this season, split over two levels at Double-A and Triple-A:

 

W

L

ERA

G

GS

CG

SHO

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

IBB

K

BF

WHIP

BB/9

K/BB

5

3

3.10

16

15

0

0

81.1

63

31

28

5

35

1

95

336

1.205

3.9

2.71

11) Max Scherzer might win the 2013 AL Cy Young Award and he’s just one of the former Mizzou players in Major League Baseball making a significant impact.

Agent Scott Boras is salivating in his office somewhere.  Scherzer is about to get paid.

A 2006 first round draft pick, Scherzer has found a home next to Justin Verlander in the Detroit Tiger rotation.  He’s always thrown hard, but now he far better understands the art of pitching. 

He had so much trouble keeping his pitch counts down in previous years, thus his innings count was never as substantial as it should be for an elite starter.  In 2013, Scherzer has mastered that problem.

He’s still striking out a healthy number of hitters, but his walks and hits allowed per inning are better than they’ve ever been before. 

He became the first pitcher since Roger Clemens in 1997 to start a season 11-0.  He’s now 12-0 with a chance to make it 13-0 Wednesday at Toronto.

 

W

L

ERA

G

GS

CG

SHO

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

IBB

K

BF

WHIP

BB/9

K/BB

12

0

3.10

16

16

0

0

110.1

74

39

38

11

25

0

131

420

0.897

2.0

5.24

 

12) Mizzou has two more first-rounders pitching in the big leagues now.

Kansas City’s Aaron Crow, who was an All-Star last year, has remained effective in the Royals bullpen:

 

W

L

ERA

G

GS

CG

SV

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

IBB

K

BF

WHIP

BB/9

K/BB

5

3

3.70

30

0

0

1

24.1

24

10

10

2

10

2

19

106

1.397

3.7

1.90

 

Kyle Gibson, a first round pick in 2009, won his Major League debut Saturday against the Royals.  He pitched six solid innings, giving up eight hits and two earned runs while striking out five batters. 

His second MLB start comes Thursday afternoon at home against the New York Yankees.

And let’s not forget about Nick Tepesch.  He was an afterthought as a 14th round selection of the Texas Rangers in 2010, but won the fifth spot in the Rangers rotation and has not relinquished it to this point:

 

W

L

ERA

G

GS

CG

SHO

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

IBB

K

BF

WHIP

BB/9

K/BB

3

6

4.71

15

15

0

0

80.1

85

45

42

11

22

2

61

350

1.332

2.5

2.77

 

13) The only position player Mizzou has in the MLB is Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler.

Kinsler has battled injury this season (ribs, oblique) but is back in the starting lineup after missing a month from the middle of May to the middle of June.

 

G

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

SB

CS

BB

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

55

219

32

62

12

0

7

29

4

3

20

21

.283

.354

.434

.788

 

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