10 Under The Radar Moves That Could Impact The Pennant Races.
The MLB trade deadline is always an exciting time in baseball in that, some of the biggest names often find new digs, while the lesser known players who get dealt, wind up having unforeseen—often significant— impacts on the race to the postseason.
Players such as Roy Oswalt will inevitably help The Philadelphia Phillies’ run towards the postseason as an ace, but how exactly could Scott Podsednik help the Dodgers as an average fielder and base runner?
Well stranger things have happened in baseball, and often it only takes a fresh start and some new digs to transform a mediocre player into that X-factor a team is searching for.
Let’s take a look at who could help change the landscape of the pennant race, and why. You might even learn more about that Scott Podsednik question I mentioned.
10. Lance Berkman
Not exactly under the radar per-say, since it is Lance Berkman, but adding another power-potential bat to the Yanks lineup is paramount to their run towards a repeat.
For Lance Berkman, however, it’s a fresh, new start with half the stress.
Finally Berkman will be nothing more than a contributor to a team, rather than being the team and carrying the team which can go a long way toward revitalizing a player.
Berkman is hitting .245/.372/.436 with 13 HR and 49 RBI in 298 at bats thus far, and he stands to do even better in a more friendly Yankees Stadium environment; something that could solidify the Bronx Bombers’ bid for another title.
9. Javier Lopez
The Giants are dealing with more than simply the ongoing chase for first place between themselves, the Rockies, the Dodgers and the Padres; they are also dealing with a bullpen that is all out of whack.
Jeremy Affeldt is out with a left oblique sprain, Brian Wilson has been great thus far, but is on the mend from back spasms, and the team was in desperate need of a LHP for their bullpen that could deal with left-handed batters.
Enter in Javier Lopez.
Adding Lopez will be crucial in the Giants quest for the postseason considering his penchant against left-handed batters. Lopez has held left handed batters to a .204/.323/.352 batting line, and in the month of August, the Giants will face Colorado, Chicago NL, Atlanta, San Diego, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Arizona, which means they will be dealing with a 60/40 split in FAVOR of left handed batters.
8. Matt Capps:
Interestingly enough, not all moves have a positive effect on the pennant race…sort of.
In the case of Minnesota picking up RP Matt Capps, many believe the Twins squandered their chance at journeyman ace Cliff Lee.
Many also believe that the Twins panicked and pulled a trigger they didn’t need to pull.
The Twins are chasing the White Sox right now, and probably will continue to do so for the remainder of the year, but Capps wasn’t the answer for the Twins.
While Capps will bring something to the table, the absence of another quality lights out ace, could be the difference maker in the AL Central; leaving the Twins out in the cold come October.
7. Edwin Jackson
Speaking of the White Sox, how many of you thought adding Edwin Jackson was the end of that deal?
Nah, me either.
But it does show how making a “setup” trade, at a crucial time, can eventually get you what you want and just like that, the White Sox have made things a lot harder for the division; particularly for Minnesota.
The White Sox needed a big bat more than they needed a suspect pitcher, and they got exactly what they wanted a la the Yankee deal for Berkman.
The White Sox are now primed to close the door on the Twins and Tigers by month’s end.
6. Kyle Farnsworth
The Atlanta Braves are making a very serious bid for the postseason, and one of the ways they are trying to cement that path is through the bullpen.
Atlanta already had a formidable bullpen before acquiring Farnsworth, but now it’s that much stronger as he was having a wonderful year in Kansas City.
Farnsworth was not really the kind of guy who was on anyone’s radar, unless you worked for Bobby Cox and company, and he could wind up being a difference maker by the time October comes traipsing along.
5. Jorge Cantu
Talk about flying under the radar! In the beginning of the year, many people thought Cantu was overrated, washed up, a horrible fielder and not worth anything other than a shrug of the shoulders.
Apparently, the Rangers thought otherwise.
What people forgot was Cantu’s ability to be a power hitter and his penchant for driving in runs.
Now, Cantu plays in a very hitter friendly ball park in Texas, and he also solves the annoying problem of Chris Davis. More power and an increased chance of driving in runs for a team that is about to close the door on the division is paramount.
4. Ted Lilly
Lilly is an interesting case. At one time in his career—not that long ago—Lilly was a big name to be tossed around. But after coming back from injury and wining no more than three games this year, he literally fell off the radar.
But for Joe Torre, Lilly’s old manager in New York, he saw an opportunity to grab someone that could help solidify an erratic pitching staff at just the right time.
The Dodgers are eight games out of first place as of this piece, and having another solid man in the rotation is crucial in their chase for the pennant. For Lilly, he gets to pitch in a far more pitcher friendly park than Wrigley, which bodes well for both sides.
But Lilly isn’t the only player the Dodgers have acquired…
3. Scott Podsednik
Podsednik is probably one of the biggest under the radar players out there simply due to many thinking he isn’t any better than average. But if you dig a bit deeper, that isn’t necessarily true.
Manny’s ability to stay healthy is nearly non-existent, and he isn’t the “Manny” everyone has come to know.
Podsednik is actually comparable to Manny in many ways hitting .306/.351/.398 with five HR and 45 RBI, while Manny was hitting .317/.409/.516 with eight homeruns and 39 RBI.
Manny has been up and down when he has played, while Podsednik—when hot—stays hot, having two nine game hit streaks, a six game hit streak and most recently a 15 game hit streak.
If the Dodgers are going to make a run, now is the time to do it with their new toys.
2. Ryan Ludwick
The Padres have been riding an exceptional defense all year long, but power has eluded them from day one.
Ludwick fell off the radar in late June due to injuries, only to resurface as a Padre, and viola, power problem solved.
If the Padres are going to hold onto first, and deal with the resurgent Giants, and the relentless pursuit of the Rockies and Dodgers, they will have to get more power which Ludwick provides; exactly what they need.
This particular division race is probably going to come down to the wire either way, but adding Ludwick sure does help the Padres in a big way.
1. Jake Westbrook
Remember this guy? Remember when he was a pretty good arm for Cleveland?
Nah, me either because like most fans, short memories are par for the course in baseball, and Westbrook has gotta be the biggest under the radar player that could impact the pennant race.
The Cardinals have been dealing with injury after injury to their starting rotation, and ironically enough Westbrook is fresh off of Tommy John surgery this year, and he’s has been doing an OK job with a 6-7 record and a 4.65 ERA.
The deal is, Westbrook should fare better in the NL since the NL hitters are not as patient as the AL hitters, and don’t have a hitting pitcher.
Westbrook now gets to work with Dave Duncan who has a penchant for extracting the best out of pitchers no matter who you are.
And the Cardinals, if they can harvest the best from Westbrook, can begin to try and pull away from those pesky Reds; a team that hits very well and have been the Cardinals shadow all year long.
By the end of August we’ll have a better view of all of this, but the ceiling is very high for Westbrook and the Cardinals.
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