Tagged: NL West

Marquis Living Up to His Name

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Jason Marquis won his first start after the All-Star break
to take sole possession of the Major League lead in wins with twelve.  Marquis continues to have a surprising career
year in his first season with the Colorado Rockies.  Typically pitchers enjoy such success after
they leave the rarified air of Coors
Field, not upon arrival there.  However,
here’s Marquis, 19 starts in and enjoying his best season ever.

 

Marquis has gained the reputation as a reliable workhorse
over his previous nine seasons.  In the
last five he’s averaged over 31 starts and 192 innings per year.  He’s also been mildly successful with five
straight seasons of at least 11 wins.  However,
the high-water mark of his career was a 15-7 year in 2004 with the Cardinals in
which he sported a fine 3.71 ERA.  With probably
more than a dozen more starts to go this year, he’s on pace to obliterate his
career bests and his 3.49 ERA thus far would be his best since his first full
year in 2001.

 

Much like any successful Colorado hitter, home and away splits can be
telling when studying success.  Marquis
has shown that he’s not afraid of his home park.  He has five of his wins there, and has actually
surrendered only three of his nine homeruns there.  Often times pitchers will lose the battle
with Coors Field before they even throw a pitch.  The list of good pitchers to lose their mojo
there is long, but Marquis has had no qualms about it.

 

To me the most impressive stat Marquis has posted this year
is his strikeout total, or lack thereof. 
Far from being a Zack Greinke or Tim Lincecum, Marquis strikes out less
than five men per nine innings.  This
leaves a large majority of the outs each game in the hands of his defense, and
in the fickle air currents of the Rocky Mountains,
yet he has thrived.  It helps that he
gets more than twice as many outs via the groundball as he does the fly ball.  Marquis has the smarts and the moxie to
attack hitters and get them to hit his pitches, pounding one after another into
the ground unsuccessfully.  He’s allowed
fewer hits than innings pitched, and his walk rate is less than three per nine
innings.

 

Marquis has a serious shot at posting a 20 win season this year,
which would be more than just a personal milestone, it would a be a Colorado
franchise record.  Thrice in the team’s
history pitchers have won 17 (Kevin Ritz, 1996, Pedro Astacio, 1999, Jeff
Francis, 2007), but never any more.  The
team ERA record for a season is also in jeopardy (Joe Kennedy, 3.66, 2004).  Add to that the fact that the Rockies just leaped over the San Francisco Giants into
second in the NL West and first in the Wild Card and Marquis may be throwing
pills deep into the fall for his team. 

 

After being a part of the disastrous Cubs postseasons the
last two years, Marquis may be the anchor of his new team looking to repeat their
playoff success of just a few seasons ago. 
Even at thirty, in his tenth season, it’s never too late for a proper
coming out party and Marquis is looking to keep it going right through October
and maybe turn it into a Cy Young celebration as well.

 

Petco Graveyard Can’t Hold Adrian Gonzalez

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            It’s no
secret that Adrian Gonzalez is blossoming into one of the brightest stars in
the game, though his 4th place position in the NL All-Star first
base balloting suggests that a few more should turn a watchful eye to San
Diego.  I’m not
going into the issue of whether he deserves to start in the All-Star Game,
though clearly he’s one of the National League’s most dominant players at any
position right now.  With Albert Pujols
on the host team and Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard, and even Joey Votto playing at
first base, there’s essentially no bad vote at the position, and that’s without
mentioning the struggling Derrek Lee, a two-time All-Star and three-time Gold
Glove winner. 

 

I don’t see a more stacked position anywhere in baseball
than first base in the National League, and most of them still have their best
seasons ahead of them.  I want to talk
more about the games that do matter, and even though many may argue Padres
games don’t mean all that much due to the team’s dismal prospects, that simply highlights
how incredible it is that Gonzalez has been able to achieve such success this
year.  Not that it’s a total surprise to
those who’ve been paying attention.  For
three years running Gonzalez has improved both his RBI (82, 100, 119) and HR
(24, 30, 36) totals and this year he’s on pace to top his career bests again.  He’s become a dynamic talent and he just
turned 27 last month, so he may have another decade in the league ahead of him.

           

            The most
remarkable thing about his numbers is not that he can smash so many home runs
while playing half his games at the graveyard that is Petco
Park, though I do submit that that
is impressive.  The more noteworthy thing
to me is that he’s able to maintain such a torrid offensive pace with
essentially zero supporting characters around him.  San Diego is currently hitting a Major League
worst .236 as a team and the hitters that typically surround Gonzalez in the
lineup include Scott Hairston, David Eckstein, Kevin Kouzmanoff, and Brian
Giles.  While they’re all serviceable and
effective Major League players, they’re not exactly a latter day Murderer’s
Row.  The team has a total of 59 HR, with
22 of them by Gonzalez himself.  That’s
38% of the team’s home runs by one guy, far and away the best in the league.

 

Hairston is currently hitting .327
(though with too few at bats to qualify among league leaders), but Eckstein is
at .258, Kouzmanoff .224, and Giles is languishing behind Mr. Mendoza at
.194.  Clearly opposing pitchers have
more than enough reason to avoid Gonzalez and his .279/.422/.632 (AVG/OBP/SLG)
and they’ve employed a Bondsian strategy, walking Gonzalez a Major League
leading 49 times, five more than the oft-intentionally passed Albert Pujols
with whom Gonzalez’s numbers are beginning to be compared.

 

It would be premature to say that
Gonzalez has equaled Albert as the best hitter in the National League, and
given Pujols’ tremendous talent Gonzalez may never reach those heights, but
their numbers make for good comparisons this season.  Both are clearly the focal points of their
respective lineups.  Pujols is often
given credit for succeeding without tremendous support, but even with a rash of
injuries to his teammates Pujols has been able to rely on the likes of Ryan
Ludwick and Rick Ankiel who offer more protection than Gonzalez’s motley crew.  The Cardinals are hitting .253 as a team, 21st
best in the Majors.  Pujols also plays in
a slightly more hitter-friendly park and on a more competitive team overall.  This season, though, Gonzalez has more than
held his own in a number of categories.

 

 

AB

AVG

SLG

OPS

BB

HR

XBH

RBI

RUNS

Gonzalez

201

.279

.632

1.054

49

22

27

43

42

Pujols

200

.320

.655

1.095

44

18

31

51

44

 

While Albert still holds an edge in
nearly every category, just the fact that we can respectably compare Gonzalez’s
numbers to Pujols shows how great he’s been. 
We’ll see if he continues to capitalize on the small number of good
pitches he sees each week or if pitchers take an even more submissive approach
and decide to try their luck with his subpar supporting cast.

 

Adrian Gonzalez has been among the
very few things to cheer about in San Diego
this season and it would be good for him and the league if he gets a shot to
showcase his skills at the All-Star Game and perhaps even go toe-to-toe with
Pujols in the Home Run Derby.  He’s a
lock as the best player on a bad team that must send a representative, but he’s
no undeserving roster filler.  Adrian
Gonzalez has quietly excelled for three seasons in San
Diego, but with a phenomenal year like he’s putting together,
he won’t be able to avoid the spotlight any longer.  As San Diego
looks to rebuild their team and get back to the playoffs they’ve certainly got
a solid cornerstone for their foundation and one that should be around for many
years to come.