September 6th, 2011
As we head towards the home stretch of the baseball season, it’s time to review what happened during the dog days of August. August was a month where teams separated themselves from the pack and teams that we thought had a chance at the postseason, faded like a fart in the wind.
Let’s recap the 10 things we learned about baseball in August…
10. Jim Thome Joins The 600 Home Run Club: Thome blasted two HR’s against the Detroit Tigers on August 15 and now has 600 HR’s for his career. The 40-year-old is now one of only eight players to hit 600 HR’s for his career.
Despite HR feats not having the same impact now as they did let’s say 20 years ago thanks to the Steroid Era, 600 HR’s is still a massive accomplishment. So now the question is; is Thome a Hall of Famer?
The answer is yes, but 600 HR’s is no longer a guarantee to get someone in the HOF. I actually don’t think Thome makes it in on the first ballot.
Not only did Thome hit his 600th HR in August, but he was also traded…
9. There Were Plenty Of Waiver Deals: July 31 was the official MLB trade deadline, but players could still be moved during the waiver period in August. Playoff hopefulls were hoping that one extra player will make the difference in their pursuit of a World Series title.
The Cleveland Indians brought back Thome, the Detroit Tigers brought in Delmon Young, the Boston Red Sox traded for Conor Jackson for a right-handed bat off the bench, and the Arizona Diamondbacks acquired Aaron Hill from the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Texas Rangers also got into the mix as they acquired Mike Gonzalez from the Baltimore Orioles. Gonzalez was pitching lights out for the Orioles in the second half and I thought that was a pretty slick move by them.
All these moves were pulled off by current GM’s. One guy who won’t be making waiver trades or any other trades for that matter is…
8. Jim Hendry Was Fired By The Chicago Cubs:The Cubs relieved Hendry of his duties on August 19 and named Assistant GM Randy Bush interim GM. Hendry was 749- 748 during his tenure as GM and some of his highlights included three division titles and an appearance in the 2003 NLCS. However, over the past year-and-a-half, the Cubs have been a hot mess. They are a team filled with aging veterans with unmovable contracts. They are essentially in no-man’s land when it comes to their franchise.
They are a team filled with veterans that are way past their primes (Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Pena, Carlos Zambrano), but don’t have enough young talent to be considered a rebuilding team. Starlin Castro is only one guy.
Cubs’ owner Tom Ricketts has laid out the criteria he is going to use to select a new GM. That criteria is: a commitment to player development, a stronger analytical background, and someone who’s been in a winning culture and has a track record of success.
If Hendry was still the Cubs’ GM, he might have had a shot at signing Jered Weaver when he became a free agent. But nobody is going to have a shot at him now…
7. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Sign Jered Weaver To Extension: The Angels are a puzzling organization. On one hand they take on Vernon Wells‘ hot mess of a contract and sign Fernando Rodney to a not-so-favorable contract and then get steals in the Dan Haren trade and then sign Weaver to a very team-friendly deal.
The Angels signed Weaver to a five-year, $85 million contract extension. This contract came with a little bit of controversy. While this was a great deal for the Angels, many felt Weaver could have gotten more if he elected to test free agency. Deals like this don’t sit well with the Player’s Union.
Weaver was once a first round pick of the Angels. The question is, who will be the next Jered Weaver…
6. August 15 Was Draft Pick Signing Day: August 15 was the last day teams could sign their picks from the 2011 June Draft. Every team was able to sign their first round pick(s) except for one: The Blue Jays. The Blue Jays failed to sign Tyler Beede, who they selected with the 21st pick.
Overall, teams spent a combined $227.94MM on this year’s draft bonuses and $235.99MM including additional guaranteed money in MLB deals for Danny Hultzen, Trevor Bauer, Dylan Bundy, Anthony Rendon and Matt Purke according to Jim Callis of Baseball America.
Hultzen was the second pick in this year’s draft and if he can be just half as good as this next guy, the Seattle Mariners will be in good shape…
5. Cliff Lee Dominated The National League: Lee has been everything the Philadelphia Phillies have hoped for when they signed him to a massive contract this winter. After a sizzling June in which he went 5-0 with a 0.21 ERA, Lee had a mediocre July, but then bounced back to have another dominating month in July.
Lee went 5-0 with a 0.45 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, and 39 K’s in 39.2 IP. Good luck to the team that has to face Roy Halladay and Lee in Games 1 & 2 of the NLDS.
Lee is a definite Cy Youngcandidate in the NL. Speaking of Cy Young candidates…
4. Justin Verlander Is Running Away With The Cy Young: Verlander went 5-0 in August with a 3.12 ERA and now barring an unforeseen collapse in September, Verlander will win the AL Cy Young award. Verlander leads the AL in wins (21), ERA (2.34), innings (223), and K’s (224). Add all that up, plus two no-hitters and this is Verlander’s year.
Now the question is, can Verlander win the MVP award? He will get some votes and will most likely finish in the top-five, but he won’t win the award. If I had a vote, I would still vote for Jose Bautista.
If Verlander is to win the AL MVP award, not only is he going to have to beat out Bautista, but he is also going to have to beat out this guy…
3. Curtis Granderson Is Having A MVP Season In The Bronx: Granderson got hot towards the end of last season and hasn’t stopped being hot since. Granderson had a monster August as he put up a .286/.423/.657 slash line with 10 HR’s and five SB’s.
The Chicago native now has 38 HR’s on the season and leads the AL in runs (125) and RBI (107). With Sabermetric stats now factoring into voting for the various awards around baseball, the fact that Granderson leads in runs and RBI, two stats dismissed by Sabermatricians, won’t help him in the voting.
Granderson will get his votes, but I would expect him to finish either third or fourth in the voting. Plus, outside of Alex Rodriguez in 2005 and 2007, Yankee players haven’t fared well in award voting over the years.
Granderson came over to the Yankees in a three-team trade that involved the Tigers and Diamondbacks. That trade benefited all three teams, especially the DBacks…
2. The Diamondbacks Are The Surprise Of Baseball: On August 1, the San Francisco Giants were one game ahead of the Diamondbacks in the NL West. 30 days later, the Diamondbacks led the Giants by six games.
Led by Ian Kennedy (5-1, 2.31 ERA), who was involved in the Granderson trade, the Diamondbacks finished the month of August 19-10. Kennedy was joined by the rest of his fellow pitchers to produce a 3.25 team ERA in 255 innings.
Offensively, Arizona was led by a myriad of players including Sean Burroughs, Gerardo Parra, and of course, Justin Upton. If the Diamondbacks are to make the playoffs and eventually go deep into the playoffs, then they are going to need a complete team effort on offense.
On the subject of hot teams and the No. 1 thing we learned in August was…
1. The Milwaukee Brewers Are The Real Deal: No team flexed their muscle and made a statement that they are “In it to win it” in August than the Brewers. The Brewers used every facet of the game to finish with the best record in baseball with a 21-7 mark.
Corey Hart, Ryan Braun, and Prince Fielder led the offense and Yovani Gallardo and Zack Greinke led the pitching staff. What was even more impressive about the Brewers month was that they did without Rickie Weeks. Once Weeks makes it back, the Brewers’ offense is going to be down-right scary.
The Brewers ended the month with a 7.5 game lead in the NL Cental, which was the biggest division lead in baseball. They are going to give whomever they play in the NLDS a serious run for their money and have clearly established themselves as one of the premier teams of 2011.
That’s a wrap for August. Not only has this summer flown by, but this baseball season is flying by as well. I can’t believe that when we do this again next month, we are going to be talking about playoff matchups.
You can follow The Baseball Index on Twitter @ baseballindex