This week, the NL Report (notice the name change because I noticed that there wasn’t actually much week in reviewing going on…) shall take another in-depth look at how your favorite NL teams have been doing all year. In the last column we focused on this year’s biggest disappointments which naturally transitions to the focus of this week’s piece, the year’s most pleasant surprises.
Arizona Diamondbacks – SP Doug Davis. In all honesty, the Diamondbacks roster really hasn’t been playing above their heads. They’re either doing what’s expected of them or underachieving by a great deal. However, Davis has had to overcome great diversity in order to simply do his job. Just this March, he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and after surgery, radiation treatment and only two months off, he came back to pitch for the team and hasn’t looked back since. The fact that his production hasn’t been a hindrance to the team only helps matters.
Atlanta Braves – SP Jorge Campillo. In a season where the Braves have seen their once-vaunted pitching staff overcome by injuries, Jorge Campillo has performed above and beyond what was expected of him. In a career mostly spent in the Mexican Leagues, Campillo finally notched his first major league win at 29 years old this year. Originally signed by the Braves all the way back in 1996, he was released shortly thereafter and didn’t make it back to the majors until 2005 when the Mariners brought him up for a cup of coffee. With regular playing time, Campillo has finally shown what he is capable of by posting a 7-6 record with a 3.29 ERA and 1.095 WHIP along with solid strikeout numbers.
Chicago Cubs – SP Ryan Dempster. The first place Cubs owe a debt of gratitude to Dempster. The pitcher, who hadn’t regularly started since 2003, has been pitching like an ace this season, compiling a 14-5 record, an ERA under 3.00 with a solid WHIP of 1.163. Sadly, Dempster wasn’t given the opportunity to return to the All-Star Game despite his success, but hopefully that can be redeemed by a lengthy trip to the post-season. Not to mention he’s an impending free agent so there’s another chance at making up for his All-Star snub.
Cincinnati Reds – SP Edinson Volquez. The Reds lone bright spot this season has been the surprising play of Volquez. While always considered talented, nobody expected the return on the Josh Hamilton trade to be this immediate. He’s already netted 15 wins while maintaining the second-best ERA in the National League (behind Tim Lincecum and just ahead of Johan Santana). However, one must be wary if he can keep up this rate of production long-term. He’s playing in a hitter’s haven in Cincinnati and since June 26, he’s allowed an ERA of 4.45 and a WHIP over 1.50.
Colorado Rockies – C Chris Ianneta. After much lauding and praise, Chris Iannetta made his full-time Rockies debut in 2007… He failed…This year though, with less pressure and hype, Ianneta has quietly been productive and is arguably one of the top five catchers in the National League. With 31 extra-base hits in less than 250 AB’s, he’s maintained a slugging percentage over .500 as well as walking often enough to have an OBP over .370. What’s also been impressive is that he’s already been hit by a pitch 11 times this season, leading his team as well as ranking him fourth in the NL in that category.
Florida Marlins – SP Ricky Nolasco. In one of the worst trades that the Cubs have ever pulled, the Florida Marlins acquired young SP’s Ricky Nolasco and Sergio Mitre as well as RP Renyel Pinto from Chicago in exchange for Juan Pierre. After only one season with the team, Pierre left for the money in Dodgertown, and all the Cubbies got in return was a compensatory pick (JP was only a Type B free agent). Meanwhile, all three pitchers for the Marlins have been productive, albeit some more so than others, namely Nolasco. The 25-year-old has paced the team with 12 wins, a 3.67 ERA and a WHIP just a shade higher than 1.15.
Houston Astros – 3B Ty Wigginton. Amidst a sea of disappointment in Houston, the 30-year-old Wigginton is having the finest year in his major league career. Offensively, he’s doing whatever is asked of him. He’s hitting for average, taking walks, hitting for power, and doing the little things like taking a pitch for the team. He’s also hit into only four double plays this season (way behind team leader Miguel Tejada who has 23). Now if he could just do something about his defense…
Los Angeles Dodgers – P Chan Ho Park . Raise your hand if you knew Chan Ho park was still pitching in the major leagues? I know that he had totally slipped under my radar but the most surprising part is how well he’s been doing in his return to LA. Pitching in one of the best bullpens in the league can explain how someone could be overlooked I guess. Seven years removed from his glory years in his first stint for the Dodgers, the 35-year-old veteran has reinvented himself into a jack-of-all-trades in the bullpen. Park has appeared in 39 games, started five of those and compiled a 4-3 record with two saves while only allowing an ERA of 2.51 in 82.3 innings. Mighty impressive for someone who hasn’t tasted success for such a long period of time.
Milwaukee Brewers – CL Salomon Torres. After throwing (away) $10M at Eric Gagne this offseason to man the closer role as well as giving David Riske 3 yrs/$13M to provide insurance and depth to the bullpen, who knew that the inevitable ace of the bullpen would be unheralded Salomon Torres? Currently at his career low in ERA, the 36-year-old has compiled 24 saves in Gagne’s absence.
New York Mets – OF Fernando Tatis. In his first regular playing time since 2003, Fernando Tatis has seemingly reinvented himself. Once, an up-and-coming, power-hitting third baseman, he’s now become a veteran looking for redemption and playing in the outfield. Having his best season since 2000, his last year with the Cardinals, Tatis has played a crucial part in the Mets resurgence after the injuries to Ryan Church and Moises Alou created depth issues in the outfield.
Philadelphia Phillies – CL Brad Lidge. I’ll admit it…I thought that Philadelphia overpaid when they acquired Lidge this offseason by giving up Michael Bourn and top prospect Michael Costanzo. They were acquiring an expensive, 30+ year old pitcher with confidence issues and bringing him to a ballpark renowned for being skewed toward hitters. While his WHIP could be lower for a closer, he’s seemed to straighten his troubles out and has been one of the most effective relievers in the NL this season.
Pittsburgh Pirates – OF Nate McLouth. McLouth has really made a name for himself this season in Pittsburgh. Enough to convince the team that they could move both Jason Bay and Xavier Nady, in separate deals, and count on him to be the cornerstone of their outfield for the next few years. With solid skills all-around, I don’t think they’re making that bad of a decision. He’s shown power (39 doubles, 3 triples and 22 homeruns so far this season), speed (22 stolen bases last season and 14 so far in 2008) and patience (51 walks) with solid defense and range in centerfield.
San Diego Padres – OF Jody Gerut. Quick…guess who’s leading the Padres in batting average? I doubt that anyone would have guessed Gerut if given that question at random. The journeyman outfielder is having a season that people were expecting of him back when the former Indian was fourth in Rookie of the Year voting in 2003. He’s already compiled the second highest homerun output in his career after only 92 games and has just tore up the second half so far. In his past 31 games, he’s compiled a line of .327 BA/.364 OBP/.644 SLG with 9 HR’s and 20 RBI’s while operating as the Padres primary leadoff man.
San Francisco Giants – OF Fred Lewis. First on the team in triples, first on the team in slugging percentage, second on the team in HR’s, second on the team in batting average, second on the team in stolen bases…Sure, he’s done it on a horrible offensive team, but it still should account for something. Upon first look, there’s nothing really spectacular about Fred Lewis. He doesn’t hit for huge amounts of power, he isn’t superb on the basepaths (as he’s been caught stealing seven times), etc. but when you put it all together, he’s actually a quite useful package and should be a decent player to rebuild with. Not someone that should be the focal point, but a nice complement to the team who can do it all.
St Louis Cardinals – OF Ryan Ludwick. I’m pretty sure that the Cleveland Indians regret letting Ludwick leave considering how much progress he’s made down in St Louis for the Cardinals and how much trouble they’ve had developing corner outfielders. With 31 homeruns (third in the NL) and a slugging percentage over .600 (second in the NL), it’s hard to believe that this was a player who couldn’t find a job in 2006 and only made the Cards as a spring training invite in 2007. In addition to his power numbers, he’s also ranked in the league’s Top 10 in batting average, RBI, runs, OPS and total bases.
Washington Nationals – SP John Lannan. This team is friggin garbage. I guess John Lannan’s doing alright. He still ain’t that good…
So just like last week, hope you enjoyed it and if not, feel free to send me PM’s with any suggestions or helpful tidbits that you think I might be able to use. Also if there are any questions or topics that you want me to touch upon for the next edition, send me those as well.
Posted originally: 2008-08-23 22:35:38