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NL West: Missing Maddux
There might be all kinds of reasons why the San Diego Padres are 3 ½ games ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the wild-card race, but perhaps this is the simplest: Greg Maddux.
At the end of last season, the Dodgers chose not to resign the future Hall of Famer. In his place, they picked up Randy Wolf for $8 million (including $500,000 if they buy out his 2008 option), as well as offering arbitration to Mark Hendrickson instead of cutting him loose and negotiating a $2.925 million one-year deal -- even though there wasn't a spot for Hendrickson in the starting rotation.
The Padres grabbed Maddux, locking him in for $10 million for 2007, plus an option for 2008 that could cost San Diego from $6 million $11 million, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts.
Perhaps San Diego will regret the deal in 2008, but as far as '07 is concerned, the Padres got Maddux for less than what the Dodgers spent on Wolf and Hendrickson. And what was the result?
Maddux has already thrown 161 2/3 innings while leading San Diego in games started with 27, with an ERA of 3.90. His Value Over Replacement Player, according to Baseball Prospectus, is 32.0.
Wolf's ERA swelled to 4.73 over 18 starts for the Dodgers before going out of the rotation for good with shoulder problems, and he accumulated a VORP of 11.4. Hendrickson, who began the season in the bullpen, has gone in and out of the rotation, making 15 starts in 30 appearances with an ERA of 5.49 and a VORP of 4.6. In short, the two pitchers combined have so far been barely half as good as one Greg Maddux, and the gap is almost certain to increase over the season's final month.
You might be tempted to call it hindsight, because Maddux wasn't exactly a lock to shine this season. He turned 41 in April and has long since stopped being a pitcher you can count on for more than six innings.
On the other hand, his durability over the course of a season has been remarkable -- he has made at least 33 starts each year since 1988, exculding strike years. And even if he can only give you limited innings, some felt he still was more likely to be reliable than Wolf, who was coming off Tommy John surgery and whose ERA was at or below the league average every season since 2002.
As for Hendrickson, his combined ERA with Tampa Bay and Los Angeles in 2006 was actually almost identical to Maddux's, but Hendrickson's was more out of character with the rest of his career. And it's not as if Hendrickson, 33, was on the rise, either.
In 2006, Maddux was a key reason behind the Dodgers' playoff push. Had the Dodgers been willing to give him the 2007 money they allocated to shakier pitchers (not to mention disappointments like Nomar Garciaparra), instead of allowing a rival like San Diego to take advantage, Los Angeles probably would be in better playoff position -- even with Jason Schmidt (six games, 6.31 ERA. $12.5 million) flaming out.
It should be said that the final twist in this San Diego-Los Angeles exchange might be yet to come, now that an ex-Padre has moved up the road to pitch for Los Angeles. David Wells survived his Dodger debut Sunday despite allowing 10 baserunners in five innings, increasing the possibility that he will start against San Diego on Friday in a game that would affect the playoff race, one way or another.
"Natural as it might be for people to assume that Bradley would be in the thick of any trouble swirling up around the Padres -- like the benches-and bullpen-clearing dust-up at second base last night at Citizens Bank Park -- the fact of the matter is that Bradley has been an instigator," wrote Chris Jenkins of the San Diego Union-Tribune on Friday. "He has created a huge problem for somebody else. ... The rest of the National League.
"Without Bradley in the lineup this year, the Padres batted .241 and scored an average of 4.29 runs. In the 24 games he has started, they've batted .276 and scored an average of 5.28 runs."
Said San Diego first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to Jenkins: "Milton Bradley is my favorite player."
Bruce Pascoe of the Arizona Daily Star said that Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin "has indicated his offensive skills are making him a viable pinch-hitting option in games when he does not start" -- and indeed, Owings did so Aug. 20, drawing a walk.
Unfortunately for Owings, he took the loss Friday, Arizona's third in four game befoire a victory Saturday. The Diamondbacks also learned that they will probably be without infielder Chad Tracy (.795 OPS) for the remainder of the season, according to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic.
Hard to feel too bad for the Diamondbacks, though. They not only hold a three-game lead in the NL West, they have a six-game advantage over the closest team that could knock them out of a playoff spot: Philadelphia.
On July 23, he only lasted 4.1 innings and fell to 3-12. His ERA was just 4.02, but he had every right to curl up into a little ball and start feeling sorry for himself.
And look out Owings: Cain has two home runs himself this season, including a blast Thursday, and fellow starting pitcher Noah Lowry hit his own four-bagger Friday.
Colorado's woes extended to the minor leagues: 2006 top draft pick Greg Reynolds underwent shoulder surgery after not pitching for three months, Renck reported.
All that being the case, Colorado took three in a row from Washington over the weekend, moving within 3 ½ games of a wild-card spot.
Labels: NL West
posted by SI.com | View comments |
As a Diamondbacks fan, I sure hope Maddux keeps pitching for the Padres. After beating him 8-3 just after the All Star Break, we're now 10-1 against him all time. (the only NL team against which he has a losing record)
If he were smart, he'd come pitch for us, just so he wouldn't have to face us anymore.
Atlanta had the chance to have two 300 game winning, hall of fame pitchers - Maddux and Glavine. But we chose to let them go. Now it looks like they may both be going to post season. Well, we can turn our attention to football.....but wait, the "star" that we were willing to pay is going to jail. Oh well, you lose some and you lose some. Good luck Greg and Tommy.
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