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Sunday, May 17, 2009
Updated: May 19, 12:59 AM ET
Gonzalez won't be baseball's best-kept secret for much longer

ESPN.com

Nick Laham/Getty Images

Adrian Gonzalez hit 36 homers last year and 30 two seasons ago. He leads baseball with 15 this year.

By Tim Kurkjian, ESPN The MAGAZINE

There are a lot of great hitters in baseball these days.

But right now, none of them are much better than San Diego's Adrian Gonzalez. When you talk about the game's best first basemen, his name has to be near the top of the list. Not only is he hitting at such a tremendous rate this year, but he also plays superb defense.

He won the National League Gold Glove at first last season to go with 36 home runs and 119 RBIs. Yet he is doing what he's doing this year (.294, 15 homers, 29 RBIs) and is still not a household name. That's due in part to the fact that he plays for a struggling team in a small market. I just don't think he gets his due, but I have little doubt that will change soon enough.

His power numbers the past several seasons have been strong and steadily improving. Those 15 homers lead the majors and have included a five-game stretch in which he hit six out. Making him even more dangerous is that he can hit for average. It's even more impressive when you consider that he's doing most of this at Petco Park, a notoriously pitcher-friendly stadium. When you think of the underrated hitters in the game, names like Toronto's Aaron Hill and Texas' Ian Kinsler come to mind. Still, Gonzalez has got to be the most underrated of them all.

Hill is on the division-leading Blue Jays and Kinsler has been steadily gaining attention, and rightly so. Both those guys are great hitters and are getting more and more notice every day. It's Gonzalez's turn now.

If he keeps this up, and I have no reason to doubt he won't, he will not be able to maintain his hold on the title of most underrated player for much longer. As Padres manager Bud Black correctly said recently, we are seeing the emergence of one of the best players in the National League.

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: May 14 | May 13 | May 12 | May 11 | May 10

WEB GEMS SCOREBOARD

Touch 'Em AllThis season, "Baseball Tonight" will be tracking Web Gems. We'll publish a leaderboard on the Baseball Tonight Clubhouse page each Monday. In addition to listing the leaders in appearances (both players and teams) on "Baseball Tonight," we'll offer up the leaders in Web Gem Points.

Web Gem Points will be calculated by awarding five points for the night's top defensive play, four points for second, three for third, two for fourth and one for fifth. Scoring will be based on the Web Gems from the last "Baseball Tonight" show to air on a given night.

Web Gem Points leaderboard
Brandon Inge 22
Nick Punto 17
David Wright 16
Michael Bourn 13
Ryan Zimmerman 13

Web Gem appearances leaderboard (players)
Brandon Inge Detroit Third base 7
David Wright New York Mets Third base 7
Nick Punto Minnesota Infield 4
Michael Bourn Houston Center field 4
Ryan Zimmerman Washington Third base 4

Web Gem appearances leaderboard (teams)
New York Mets 11
Philadelphia 10
Tampa Bay 10
Detroit 9
Washington 9
Boston 9
Cincinnati 9

ON DECK: MONDAY'S BEST MATCHUPS

Twins at Yankees

Could there be another day of drama at the new Stadium? The Yankees have won each of the first three games of this wrap-around set with the Twins in dramatic fashion; all three wins so far have been walk-offs. Johnny Damon took care of things Sunday, hitting a solo shot in the bottom of the 10th.

Brewers at Cardinals

Talk about an even matchup. Brewers starter Braden Looper enters 3-2 with a 4.70 ERA. Kyle Lohse comes in 3-2 with a 4.25 ERA for the Cardinals. Looper has 27 strikeouts and 14 walks; Lohse has 27 strikeouts and 13 walks.

Mets at Dodgers

The Dodgers are starting to adjust to life without Manny Ramirez, having won four of their past five games. The Mets will have to learn how to play without Carlos Delgado, who is headed to the disabled list with a hip problem.

For the rest of Monday's schedule, click here.

TOUCH 'EM ALL

Touch 'Em AllWho went deep? Keep track of all the home runs hit each day on "Baseball Tonight" and on the Baseball Tonight Clubhouse page.

For more, check out the Home Run Tracker page.

Home Run Tracker
NAME HR OPPPITCHER SITUATION
A. Kennedy, Oak1DetGalarragaTop 1: 3-2, 1 Outs. None on.
A. Rios, Tor5CWSFloydBot 1: 1-2, 2 Outs. None on.
J. Castro, LAD1FlaKoronkaTop 2: 2-1, 0 Outs. None on.
A. Lind, Tor7CWSFloydBot 4: 0-0, 1 Outs. 2 on.
N. McLouth, Pit7ColJimenezBot 3: 0-0, 1 Outs. None on.

The complete list of Sunday's homers

BBTN ON THE AIR: MONDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
10 p.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: John Kruk, Peter Gammons, Dave Winfield

12:20 a.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: John Kruk, Dave Winfield

BBTN MINUTE: YANKS' TURNAROUND?

SIMON SAYS

Simon Says ESPN researcher Mark Simon digs deep, looking for the night's best baseball numbers.

Tonight, he looks at the Yankees' home dominance against the Twins over the past few years. It appears that dominance has come across the street with the Yankees to the new stadium, as the Yanks have taken the first three of this year against Minnesota.



Twins vs. Yankees (since 2002)
Regular-season games, Yankee Stadium(s)

Twins Yankees
Wins 3 22*
Runs 77 142
BA .229 .297
HR 15 40

* Five walk-off wins

WEB GEMS

SUNDAY'S BEST AND WORST

BEST
Clayton KershawClayton Kershaw made the choice easy on Sunday. He took a no-hitter into the eighth inning of a blowout win against the Marlins before Florida's Cody Ross broke it up with a double. It was the only hit allowed by Kershaw, who struck out nine. It's the fourth consecutive start in which Kershaw has given up four or fewer hits.
WORST
Trevor Cahill• The starting pitchers in Oakland's game with Detroit take the prize. Detroit's Armando Galarraga didn't get out of the first inning, but was bailed out by his offense in the Tigers' 11-7 win. Oakland's Trevor Cahill wasn't so fortunate. He went 2 1/3 innings, gave up seven hits and seven runs and suffered the loss.

NUMBERS TO KNOW

When the Marlins take on the Diamondbacks on Monday, it will feature a great matchup of young hitter against young pitcher. Hanley Ramirez and Dan Haren were both great last year; both are even better this year.

Ramirez is arguably the hottest player in baseball right now. He's been on a complete tear in May, hitting .414 with an MVP-like 1.249 OPS. How's he been doing it? By making pitchers pay for falling behind.

Haren, despite his 3-4 record, may be the stingiest pitcher in the league. In the National League, he ranks fifth in ERA, first in WHIP, and second among starters in opponents' BA. He could use some run support, though; he's allowed three earned runs or less in all eight starts this season, and been hit with the loss in half of them.

Ramirez (2008 vs. 2009)
2008 2009
BA even or hitter ahead .310 .387
BA vs. fastballs .291 .377
OPS even or hitter ahead 1.009 1.196
OPS vs. fastballs .935 1.129

Haren (2008 vs. 2009)
2008 2009
BA against even or hitter ahead .289 .230
BA against vs. fastballs .283 .173
OPS against even or hitter ahead .801 .636
OPS against vs. fastballs .747 .449

-- ESPN Stats & Information

FANTASY: PREVIEW OF MONDAY'S GAMES

Adam Madison examines the nine games on Monday's slate.

Fantasy Madison ranks the pitchers scheduled to take the mound and supplies loads of other information that could help shape your roster for Monday. Daily Notes