MLB

Tonight's Action

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 27:  Russell Branyan #30 of the Seattle Mariners bats during their game against the Oakland Athletics at the Oakland Coliseum on May 27, 2009 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Tom DubberkeCorrespondent IAugust 11, 2009
I noticed that Kyle Lohse won tonight to improve to 5-7 this year with a 4.34 ERA.  He’s rounded back into form after last year’s 15-6 record.
Speaking of unexpected performances, Russell Branyan hit his 27th homerun tonight and David Aardsma picked up his 27th save.  No surprise with Branyan really.  He’s always had a ton of power, and his batting average, after a hot start, has fallen to .255, which is still high for Branyan (.234 career average), but certainly within the normal parameters of his career.

Speaking of Branyan, I have to decry the fact that so few teams seem to platoon at so few positions today, at least for any reason other than sheer desparation.  Branyan should really see as little left-handed pitching as possible, but he’s been playing pretty much every day this year.

Over the course of his career, Branyan doesn’t have that big of a platoon differential (.750 OPS against left-handed pitchers; .839 against righties).  However, he has been platooned most of his career, and only 17.5% of his ABs coming into this season were against left-handers.

This year, 35.4% of Branyan’s ABs have been against lefties.  His OPS this year is .792 against lefties, but .937 against righties.  From 2006 through 2008, his combined OPS was .630 against lefties and .855 against righties.

In short, Branyan is pretty clearly a pure platoon hitter and should get the day off in favor of a right-handed hitter when a lefty is starting for the other team.  Instead, the Mariners (or someone else) will have to give Branyan a huge raise because of all the homeruns he’s hit; and his performance will likely drop off next year, given his age (33 this year) and the fact that he really can’t hit lefties well enough for a first baseman.

I still think David Aardsma is a bigger fluke than Branyan.  Aardsma’s only 27 and he’s got good stuff, so it’s certainly possible he has turned a corner.  However, I still don’t think he has the control to be a consistently effective closer no matter how good his 2009 ends up.

And speaking of flukes, Darin Erstad hit his second homerun of the season tonight, along with a double, as the Astros lost to the Marlins 8-6.  I don’t quite understand how Erstad continues to play in the major leagues.

Even with the hits tonight, he’s now hitting .208 with a .643 OPS, playing mostly 1B and LF and pinch hitting.  Now, a pinch hitter is going to have bad numbers some years given the limited number of ABs they get each year.  However, Erstad hasn’t had a season with an OPS as high as .700 since 2004.

Even as a good-in-the-clubhouse, plays-a-lot-of-positions white guy, it still boggles the mind that he’s managed to hold onto a major league job for so long given what a consistently terrible offensive player he has been since his one great season in 2000.  Nine years is a long time to keep your job when you just can’t hit.

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