Fielder becoming complete hitter, but he needs help
By Eric Young, ESPN
Prince Fielder had an outstanding week last week. His amazing home run power went on display in the Home Run Derby as he crushed 23 long balls to win the crown and disrupt Albert Pujols' party in St. Louis.
He also had a successful All-Star Game, ripping an RBI double in his only at-bat. Production like this comes as no secret to Milwaukee fans. He posted a .315 average in the first half, which is a big deal considering he's never before hit .300. Now in his fifth season, he's made the important adjustments to his game that a young hitter develops around this time in his career.
Fielders' pitch selection has improved dramatically. He's not chasing pitches out of the strike zone as much as he once did. Instead, he has forced pitchers deep into counts and has capitalized on their mistakes. A smart hitter understands when he should be aggressive at the plate, as well as when he should be patient. Early in Prince's career, he went up to the plate swinging for the fences, but now he's matured into a more polished hitter who can find multiple ways to reach base. That's the main reason why he's boosted his average, but it doesn't hurt to have Ryan Braun hitting .310 in front of you. (He just needs to have Braun healthy; the left fielder sat out a game this weekend with a sore thumb.)
He reminds me a lot of his father, Cecil. His dad started out the same way, struggling to find himself early in his career. After he played in Japan for a year, he changed his approach and returned to the majors as a prolific home run hitter. Prince has started out the same way, but unlike his father, he has turned into a good hitter for average as well as a long-ball threat. He's a young guy who has plenty of great baseball left to go in his life.
Although Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun are tag-teaming to win Milwaukee games, these two guys, as good as they are, can't win a competitive division by themselves. Sunday's loss against the Reds was the perfect example. Prince goes deep with a two-run shot, the rest of the team comes up with one more run, and the Brewers lose 5-3.
Milwaukee needs to make another big move just like the one last year when it traded for CC Sabathia. The Brewers are again in a situation where they need pitching, but I don't think they're willing to mortgage their future for a second time.
That means you can take Roy Halladay out of the mix. In order to acquire him, they would likely have to part with their Triple-A shortstop Alcides Escobar, who they believe will be their middle infielder of the future. Halladay would surely put them over the hump, but don't expect him to be moving into cheese country.
Even if the Brewers can't make a move, their offense needs step it up. Guys like J.J. Hardy and Corey Hart are not having the year we expect to see, and the production from third base has been lacking. You can't leave your offensive production in the hands of two players. Eventually it will catch up to the team and cause it to struggle. The Brewers have a good enough lineup that they shouldn't have a problem getting back on track, but it's still their pitching that worries me.
Yovani Gallardo is the only starter with an ERA under 4.00. They'll have to trade for some rotation help, or else it will be tough to compete with St. Louis and the Cubs in the NL Central.
WEB GEMS SCOREBOARD
This 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|
|Web Gem appearances leaderboard (players)|
|Brandon Inge||Detroit||Third base||9|
|David Wright||New York Mets||Third base||8|
|Ryan Zimmerman||Washington||Third base||8|
|Carlos Gomez||Minnesota||Center field||7|
|Web Gem appearances leaderboard (teams)|
|New York Mets||20|
ON DECK: MONDAY'S MATCHUPS
Cubs at Phillies, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
The Cubs' lone All-Star is well rested. He was not used in the All-Star Game and has not pitched since July 11. The rest was probably good for the lefty, who has been quietly nursing a sore knee. His opponent, Rodrigo Lopez, enters with the exact same ERA (3.18), though his is from only two starts; Lilly's is from 18 starts.
Giants at Braves, 7:05 p.m. ET
With the way Tommy Hanson has pitched since arriving in the majors -- 4-0, 2.85 ERA -- he'd headline this matchup. Not this time, with Jonathan Sanchez taking the mound for the first time since tossing his 11-strikeout, zero-walk no-hitter 10 days ago.
Cardinals at Astros, 8:15 p.m. ET
The Astros are surging in the NL Central and have made an already tight division race even tighter. They are, like the rest of the division, chasing the Cardinals. Kyle Lohse, who came off the disabled list right before the All-Star break, will be making his second start since returning. Chad Moeller has won four of his past five decisions.
For the rest of Monday's schedule, click here.
BBTN ON THE AIR: MONDAY
|10 p.m. ET
|Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: John Kruk, Dave Winfield, Peter Gammons
|12 a.m. ET
|Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: John Kruk, Dave Winfield, Peter Gammons
BASEBALL TONIGHT MINUTE: SCHMIDT RETURNS
TOUCH 'EM ALL
Who 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|
|R. Branyan, Sea||23||Cle||Laffey||Top 1: 2-1, 0 Outs. 1 on.|
|B. Francisco, Cle||7||Sea||Bedard||Bot 2: 1-0, 2 Outs. 1 on.|
|B. Moss, Pit||4||SF||Cain||Bot 2: 3-2, 1 Outs. None on.|
|P. Fielder, Mil||24||Cin||Cueto||Top 3: 1-2, 2 Outs. 1 on.|
|A. Soriano, ChC||16||Was||Mock||Top 4: 1-2, 1 Outs. 1 on.|
ESPN researcher Mark Simon digs deep, looking for the night's best baseball numbers.
Tonight, he looks at Roy Halladay, who is obviously pretty good. But the Blue Jays' right-hander is even more dominant when pitching in day games.
|Best win pct. in day games
since 1961 (min. 50 wins)
SUNDAY'S BEST AND WORST
|• This was the kind of effort the Angels were hoping to see from John Lackey in his start to the second half. Lackey tossed a nine innings of three-hit, shutout baseball as the Angels beat the A's in 10 innings on a solo shot from Bobby Abreu. Lackey struck out six and issued one walk, and then Brian Fuentes came on and closed the door in the 10th.||WORST|
|• The White Sox's bullpen, particularly Tony Pena, would like to forget Sunday's 10-2 loss against the Orioles. While Jose Contreras suffered the loss, it was Pena who walked away with the ugliest line -- one inning, four hits, four runs.|
NUMBERS TO KNOW
David Price, one of the star relievers of the 2008 postseason, hasn't had a great 2009 as a starter.
The No. 1 overall draft pick in 2007 has allowed 23 earned runs in 44.0 innings. Though he's struck out 47 batters, he's also walked 31.
Price's biggest problem this year has been his inability to use his slider effectively. He throws the pitch almost 25 percent of the time, but opposing batters are punishing the pitch, with a .289 batting average and a .526 slugging percentage. He also is not generating enough swings-and-misses on the pitch, getting them at a rate half the league average.
Price and the Rays take on the White Sox on Monday night. Entering Sunday, the White Sox are above the league average in batting average (.249) and near the league average in swing-and-miss percentage (30.4) against the slider.
|David Price's slider (2009)|
|K pct. of PA||9.5||28.1|
FANTASY: PREVIEW OF MONDAY'S GAMES
Adam Madison examines the 11 games on Monday's slate.
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