Past TimesDecember 05, 2007
Fun and Unusual Stats from the National League
By Al Doyle

The National League had its share of offbeat stats in 2007. Here are some of the more interesting ones.

He can pitch a little, too: The Diamondbacks should find a way to get Micah Owings some more time at the plate. A .333 average with 4 HR and 15 RBI in 60 at-bats (20 hits) is a huge eye opener.

Add in seven doubles and a triple, and it means Owings had an impressive .683 slugging percentage - or 65 points above NL leader Prince Fielder (.618). Sixty percent of Owings' hits went for extra bases. On the mound, the rookie righthander was 8-8 with a 4.30 ERA in 152.2 IP.

Slow-footed teams: David Eckstein led the Cardinals with 10 stolen bases, while So Taguchi and Brendan Ryan tied for second with seven swipes. The Astros were topped by 11 SB from Hunter Pence and burly Carlos Lee was the runner-up with 10.

Juanderful: While Dodgers outfielder Juan Pierre isn't a favorite of those who value on-base and slugging percentage, he is among the league leaders in several categories every year.

Pierre has been the toughest strikeout in the league for six of the past seven seasons. He has also led the NL twice and finished second five times in stolen bases over that time. He hasn't missed a game in the past five seasons, and Pierre has finished first or second in singles every year since 2001. As a durable leadoff man, Pierre is always high in plate appearances and outs. He has been in the top three in hits five times, and Pierre has four 200-hit seasons to his credit.

Run production desperately needed: Even with Barry Bonds, the Giants were 15th in the NL and next-to-last in the majors in runs scored (683). It could be a very bleak 2008 in San Francisco.

A very quiet .332: Reds infielder Jeff Keppinger went 80 for 241 with just 12 strikeouts. Displaying gap power, Keppinger smacked 16 doubles, a pair of triples, 5 HR and 32 RBI. Being on a losing, small-market team meant a potential breakout season got little attention.

The trade makes sense: Why did the Braves acquire Mark Teixiera? Scott Thorman finished the season hitting .216 (62 for 287) with 70 strikeouts and just 14 walks for a .258 OBP.

The ultimate in mediocrity: Only two teams - the Diamondbacks and Rockies - reached 90 wins in 2007, and Colorado needed an extra game to do so.

A .556 winning percentage gives the D-Backs (90-72) the dubious honor of having the lowest such statistic for a league leader in victories. The "dominant" team in the NL was also outscored 712-732. Anyone who says the American League isn't stronger than the National is delusional.

Pirates speedsters: Outfielder Nate McLouth went 22 for 23 (.957) in steals in 2007. He is 34 for 36 (.944) on the bases in three seasons in Pittsburgh. Fellow Pirates OF Chris Duffy can also get around the bases, as he is 41 for 48 (.854) lifetime.

Southpaws beware: Rookie of the Year Ryan Braun hit .450 (50 for 111) against left-handed pitchers. Exactly half (25) of those hits went for extra bases (eight doubles, two triples, 15 homers), and Braun had 35 RBI in those at-bats along with an otherworldly .964 slugging percentage.

Hitting .324 with 34 HR and 97 RBI in just 113 games means Braun had one of the best offensive debuts in history, but leather proved to be his kryptonite. The Brewers third baseman made 26 errors and had a below average range factor to go with his dreadful .895 fielding percentage. A move to left field is being considered by Milwaukee.

A lost season: Ryan Langerhans bounced from the Braves to the A's to the Nationals in 2007. He finished with a .170 (35 for 206) average, 6 HR, 23 RBI and 81 strikeouts.

Busting loose: Marlins outfielder Cody Ross came into the year with a .220 (69 for 313) lifetime average. Ross proceeded to hit .335 (58 for 173) with a dozen HRs and 39 RBI. Add in 19 doubles, and it means that more than half of Ross's hits went for extra bases.

That once-anemic career average has soared 41 points to .261. Ross is one of the small number of players in history to bat right-handed and throw from the left side.

The MVP is no slacker: Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins played in all 162 games plus the National League Division Series. He had 716 at-bats (778 plate appearances), 212 hits, 38 doubles, 20 triples, 30 HRs and 94 RBI. Rollins didn't take it easy on the bases, going 41 for 47 in stolen base attempts. If anyone deserves some time off, it's Rollins.

Mr. Consistency: Utilityman Geoff Blum hit .254 in 2006 and .252 with the Padres in 2007, which is right in line with his .251 lifetime mark. Blum recently signed a one-year deal with the Astros.

Consistent no more: After a .257 rookie campaign in 1995, Ray Durham hit between .271 and .299 with double-digit home run and stolen base totals over 11 seasons (1996-2006). That run of predictability ended in 2007, when Durham hit a career-low .218 for the Giants. His 71 RBI in 464 ABs wasn't bad.

Bench stars: Daryle Ward hit .327 (36 for 110) with 13 doubles, 3 HR and 19 RBI for the Cubs. Add in Ward's 22 walks for a stunning .436 OBP.

At age 32, Joe Dillon's major league career consisted of 36 ABs with the Marlins. The Brewers got more than anyone expected out of a AAA lifer, as midseason call-up DIllon hit .342 (26 for 76) with eight doubles and two triples while playing several different positions.

One more season: If Julio Franco can catch on with a team and stay on the roster until at least August 23, that would make him a 50-year old major leaguer. Don't bet against this middle-aged physical marvel.