San Francisco Giants left fielder Melky Cabrera has been on fire this season, leading the National League with a .365 batting average as of Sunday. Credit: Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE

Paul Konerko, Melky Cabrera and The Numbers

When I was a kid I used to keep baseball statistics for myself. Can’t recall the details, but I know that I had notebooks of numbers. I compared batting averages and took note of home runs, for sure. Nothing fancy like all these new formulas. What strikes me about that is how keeping your own numbers, adding them through the week, was easier to do than finding a reliable source for numbers most days of the week.

The exception was Sunday when newspapers ran the “Major League Statistics” and everything was laid out for you in long lists of tiny type. Those were the old days and seem quite quaint now that at the ballpark and on TV when a player has an at-bat his stats are instantly updated. Heck, you can get on the Internet any time of the day or night to find just about any stat you want.

Funny thing is I still enjoy the heck out of reading those once-a-week-stats in the Sunday paper. Without a specific reason I am not going to peruse entire leagues’ worth of numbers every day. The reason why I like the weekly updates is that you can see trends, readily pick out who is hot, and who is not.

Yesterday was one of those days. Paul Konerko, who is closer to retirement than a rookie, is leading the American League in hitting with a .362 average. Good for Paulie. Good guy, good player, the heart of the White Sox. But is he really going to be able to hit that high? Likewise, the National League leader is Melky Cabrera, hitting .365. Not likely to find him atop the charts on Oct. 1.

But who will be? Not so long ago it was a safe bet to figure on Ichiro Suzuki as the batting champ, or in the running. Not now. He is slowing down and not a contender. For years in the National League we used to count on Tony Gwynn being the winner or again, like Suzuki, right there in the wings.

Got to admit there are guys in the top 10 in the NL batting race right now whose first names escape me without a google search. Joey Votto is way up there, hitting .359, and the Reds slugger seems to be a serious contender. You can envision David Wright of the Mets winning the title. Not so Juan Pierre of the Phillies, who had to make the Philadelphia team as an invitee to spring training.

The Rangers’ Josh Hamilton is 30-some-odd points behind Konerko, but he is like Votto, a slugger who could claim a batting title during his career. Derek Jeter and Prince Fielder are also up there, but they don’t seem like batting champs in waiting (though if Jeter pulled it off that would be cool).

I’m starting to wonder if there will be 10 hitters in the American League this year who end up over .300. Tenth place is .304 at this point in June.

One other aspect of the weekly statistics my eyes are always drawn to is who has the worst average in each league. As of Sunday it was Carlos Pena (.187, this year’s Adam Dunn) of Tampa Bay in the AL, and Ian Stewart (.201) of the Cubs in the NL.

Texas has the best team average at .281 in the AL and Oakland is at a pitiful .226 on the bottom. The Pirates, who for a while were the worst hitting team in history, have drawn within one point of Oakland at .225.

If you have any doubts about how the pitcher-hitter battle is going it’s fascinating that six teams in the American League (the league with the DH) have earned run averages under 4.00 with the Angels leading at 3.57. In the National League, the Washington Nationals have a team ERA of 3.01. A couple of years ago teams would have been thrilled to have one starting pitcher with a 3.01 ERA. In the NL there are eight teams at 3.94 or less. The Dodgers, in second, have a team ERA of 3.15.

Despite that there are a few pitchers, all in the American League, who are carrying earned run averages that are as frightening as a disease. Kansas City’s Luke Hochevar is at 6.27. Minnesota’s Carl Pavano is at 6.00. Those numbers not only stand out as worse in a year where pitchers hold sway, but are bad enough to get you released or sent to the minors.







Tags: Adam Dunn AL East Baseball Stats Carl Pavano Carlos Pena Chicago Cubs Chicago White Sox Cincinnati Reds David Wright Derek Jeter Ian Stewart Ichiro Suzuki Joey Votto Josh Hamilton Juan Pierre Kansas City Royals Los Angeles Dodgers Luke Hochevar Major League Melky Cabrera Minnesota Twins New York Mets NL West Oakland A's Paul Konerko Philadelphia Phillies Pittsburgh Pirates Prince Fielder San Francisco Giants Tampa Bay Rays Texas Rangers Tony Gwynn Washington Nationals

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