Monday, September 04, 2006

Assault on .500: Double Your Fun
By Ben Valentine

And the Yankees and Red Sox thought they had it tough.

Between Saturday and Sunday, the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves played four games courtesy of a back to back double dip. Thankfully for the two teams they happened in September, where extra arms were available. Both days the teams split.

Meanwhile the story continues to be Ryan Howard who slugged three home runs today in game one, bringing his total up to 52 on the year. However you can read about baseball’s rising star anywhere nowadays. But this is one of the few places on the internet where you also get the flip side.

And that flip side went 1-6 with 2 walks and two runs scored in the series. With the back to back double headers, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel elected to give Jose Hernandez a pair of starts at 3B in the night caps. However Nunez found his way into the Saturday one anyway, going 0-1. Overall in 246 ABs (269 PA) this brings his splits to:

.199/.269/.256/.525

Since Jose Hernandez did play and the rosters have expanded, it’s certainly possible Nunez begins to lose ABs. On the other hand Hernandez would have to distinguish himself and he seems rather unlikely to do that considering he’s got a 696 OPS to this point. Nunez has also show a decent ability to walk which might be a reason he’s still around. Thus, the Nunez show probably will continue, as he strives towards the .500 OPS mark.

To be fair, one of the big reasons Nunez is likely still in the lineup has to do with Ryan Howard’s emergence. Many times managers will believe they can carry a below average regular when they have an MVP candidate tearing the cover off the ball higher in the lineup. It may not be the right rationale, but you see it frequently around baseball. So thanks to Howard and to some extent Chase Utley, Nunez gets to post an .525 OPS and still play every day.

Finally in a somewhat unrelated note, Howard no doubt deserves MVP consideration at this point. But in a story that should be getting a far more press than it has, take a look at the wild card standings as baseball hits Labor Day:

Padres 70-66 __

Phillies 69-68 1.5 GB

Marlins 68-68 2

Reds 68-69 2.5

Giants 68-69 2.5

Astros 67-70 3.5

That’s right… the Florida Marlins, team of the 14 million dollar payroll, is just two games back of the wild card. And so while Howard (1.043) should be getting MVP press, Miguel Cabrera (1.002 OPS) should be getting that and then some. Remember, Cabrera plays 3B for a team that has arguably the best pitcher’s park in baseball. And if that team makes the post season this year, there’s no question Cabrera, clearly the best offensive weapon in a mediocre lineup, deserves the award.

Heck he might deserve some consideration if they miss it by a couple of games.

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