The Baseball Notebook

July 12, 2010 10:16 PM

Lights In The Darkness

The game's best have gathered in Anaheim, and I'm watching the Home Run Derby on tivo as I type this. Tomorrow the game's best take center stage and then on Thursday games resume. There will be plenty of time to talk about the contenders and their key contributors, but before we get to that, some teams need to be given a proper burial. Ten clubs are completely sunk--as in not only are the playoffs gone, but it would take a serious second half surge to even have a winning record. These ten teams all have their share of talented players, who might get the spotlight if they had better supporting casts. Since they won't get much attention the rest of the way, unless it's to play spoiler, let's take one day and give a tip of the hat to these lights in the darkness...

Baltimore: Ty Wigginton may be the All-Star choice here, but the two best players are Nick Markakis and Luke Scott. Markakis is underrated because his home runs are down (6), but with 28 doubles, he drives the gaps relentlessly and has a nice .452 slugging percentage as a result. Scott has no problem with reaching the fences and has hit 12 home runs. On the pitching side, a middle reliever for the Orioles has no trouble getting work. Jason Berken's made the most of his, with a 1.95 ERA in 50 innings.

Kansas City: I think David DeJesus should've made the All-Star team, with a .395 OBP, solid power and good defense in centerfield. Billy Butler has a similar profile to Markakis, with underappreciated power to the alleys. Joakim Soria is the All-Star representative and with 25 saves in 27 chances and a 2.31 ERA, he's had a good year. Zack Greinke's slipped back to normalcy this season with a 3.71 ERA.

Cleveland: Fausto Carmona is the one in Anaheim, but the real star here is Shin Soo-Choo. The best rightfielder in the AL last year, he's got a .390 OBP and .475 slugging. Is it a backhanded slap at the city of Cleveland to point out that he's now the town's biggest star in any sport?

Seattle: Cliff Lee may be gone, but the trio of Felix Hernandez, Jose Vargas and Doug Fister mean pitching is still in abundant supply in the Pacific Northwest. The problem is the offense where the only star is Ichiro, who will start on Tuesday.

Washington: Closer Matt Capps is the choice, but there's more worthy candidates in the everyday lineup. Adam Dunn, with 22 HRs, is the prototype player who should be in the Home Run Derby. Ryan Zimmerman is a complete offensive package, as is Josh Willingham, with a dazzling .411/.502 line.

Milwaukee: Ryan Braun is starting on Tuesday. As I type, during the first round of the Derby, Corey Hart has been the star of the show, and has hit 21 home runs. Prince Fielder churns out home runs and gets on base. Yovani Gallardo made the NL roster and deserves it.

Chicago Cubs: Marlon Byrd's been excellent in center, and on an underachieving team, only catcher Geovany Soto deserves mention beyond that.

Arizona: Another underachiever, but it's no fault of second baseman Kelly Johnson or catcher Chris Snyder.

Pittsburgh: The Buccos' representative is Evan Meek, and with a 1.11 ERA in 40 relief appearances, he is more than deserving.

Houston: The closest there is to baseball desolation. Michael Bourn got the nod, but with a .255 batting average, minimal walks and no power, it's hard to see why. Lance Berkman is hitting the same .255, but supplements it with walks, that lift the OBP to .369 and solid power, to the tune of a .459 slugging.

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