J.J. Hardy has been nothing short of "dyn-o-mite" over the first six weeks of the season. He hit a grand slam off Joe Smith (who Marc Hulet recently covered) yesterday to tie him for the National League lead in home runs and runs batted in. (The runs that Smith allowed were the first in 18 games and 16 innings.)
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO AVG OBP SLG OPS+
35 147 25 49 11 0 11 34 0 1 13 21 .333 .385 .633 167
Hardy also ranks second in TB (93) and RC (36); fourth in H, XBH (22), and SLG; sixth in OPS (1.018) and OPS+; seventh in AVG; and tied for ninth in 2B. He is one of three non-1B/corner OF in the top 10 in OPS (the other two being Chipper Jones, 4th, and Chase Utley, 10th).
Combine Hardy's offensive accomplishments with the fact that he is the shortstop on the team with the best record in baseball and one doesn't need to look up VORP, WARP, or Win Shares to know that J.J. has been the National League's Most Valuable Player thus far.
- Rich Lederer, 5/13/07, 7:25 a.m. PST
Sticking with the National League Central, the 2006 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals faced a tough off-season and lost five of the seven pitchers who started at least 13 games for them during their championship season: Jason Marquis, Jeff Suppan, Mark Mulder, Jeff Weaver and Sidney Ponson.
Ponson had worn out his welcome in St. Louis, while playoff hero Weaver (2.45 ERA in five starts), Marquis and Suppan left for greener pastures (and wallets). Weaver took a lucrative one-year deal from Seattle in the hopes of increasing his value for 2008 and spurned a multi-year offer from the Cards. Mulder, though technically still with the club after re-signing as a free agent, is rehabbing his shoulder after having surgery late in the 2006 season and has yet to throw a pitch for the club in 2007.
The Cardinals surprised a lot of people by filling the holes in the 2007 rotation with two relievers: Braden Looper and Adam Wainwright. 2006 rookie Anthony Reyes was also given an expanded role. To finalize things, the Cards then dipped into the free agent pool and came away with the enigmatic Kip Wells.
So how is the new rotation doing? Probably not too well given the Cardinals are nine games out of first place with a 15-19 record. To make matters worse, the Cardinals lost ace Chris Carpenter to elbow surgery (bone spurs). Carpenter was re-signed last December to a five-year, $65 million contract with an option for 2012 and has battled injuries throughout his career.
W-L ERA IP H BB-K
Chris Carpenter 0-1 7.50 6.0 9 1-3
Anthony Reyes 0-5 5.03 34.0 28 10-28
Adam Wainwright 3-2 5.01 41.1 55 18-26
Braden Looper 4-2 2.66 44.0 40 14-26
Kip Wells 1-7 6.51 47.0 45 22-36
Randy Keisler 0-0 5.65 14.1 17 4-5
Brad Thompson 0-0 1.80 5.0 6 1-2 (as a starter)
W-L ERA IP H BB-K
Jeff Weaver 0-6 14.32 22.0 50 7-12
Sidney Ponson 2-5 6.93 37.2 54 17-23
Jason Marquis 5-1 1.70 47.2 30 13-24
Jeff Suppan 5-3 3.00 54.0 57 10-28
The current Cardinal starters are 8-17, while their departed starters from 2006 are a combined 12-15. But Marquis and Suppan combined have more wins than the seven starters the Cardinals have tried this season. Ouch.
- Marc Hulet, 5/13/07, 10:45 a.m. EST
The Toronto Blue Jays probably think they're cursed. The team has now lost its starting left fielder Reed Johnson, third baseman Troy Glaus, catcher Gregg Zaun, three-fifths of its rotation in Roy Halladay, Gustavo Chacin and Victor Zambrano, its closer B.J. Ryan and its set-up man Brandon League - all for a month or more, save (maybe) for Glaus.
The Jays' minor league system has also been hit hard, with six starting pitchers suffering from mild to serious shoulder injuries: RHP Billy Carnline, LHP Eric Fowler, LHP Ricky Romero, LHP Chi-Hung Cheng, LHP Davis Romero and RHP Robert Ray. Fowler, Ricky Romero, Davis Romero and Cheng are among the Jays' top 30 prospects, according to Baseball America.
Only 2005 first round pick Ricky Romero and Ray have made appearances this season. Every club's system suffers through injuries but it seems unusual for so many top pitchers to suffer from the same type of injury at the same time.
- Marc Hulet, 5/13/07, 7:35 p.m. EST