Thursday, September 13, 2007

Anderson Hot, Morneau Not

For several years, the Los Angeles/Anaheim Angels' Garret Anderson was about as reliable a hitter as you could find. Every year between 2000 and 2003, "G.A." put up 28 or more home runs, drove in 116 or more, and hit .286 or higher, putting up highs of 35 homers, 123 RBI's and a .315 batting average over that time. In other words, he was someone you had no problem taking in round seven or so of your fantasy drafts. In 2004, the injury bug hit G.A. for the first time, and mysteriously for over 3 1/2 years, he could not shake it, coming down with one nagging injury after another over that time. From 2004 thru 2006, he only averaged 16 homers and 85 RBI's - a far cry from his heyday... 2007 began similarly to the previous three years, and his numbers took an even more precipitous drop as injuries plagued him worse than ever. Through the games of July 24th, G.A. had only hit 4 home runs and driven in 20 runs, while playing in only 50 of the Angels' games. Many were saying his career was finished.

Conversely, in Minnesota, it looked like a star was being born in the Twins' Justin Morneau. The controversial 2006 MVP award winner put up 34 home runs, 130 RBI's, 97 runs and a .321 batting average last year. I say controversial because the Red Sox' David Ortiz clearly had a much better season than Morneau with his 54 home runs, 137 RBI's and 115 runs and a .287 batting average. Unfortunately for Big Papi, the Red Sox didn't make the playoffs last year, so that probably killed his chances... And no, I haven't forgotten about Derek Jeter. A .344 batting average with 118 runs scored, 97 RBI's and 34 steals? Those were MVP worthy numbers for sure! And yes, the Yankees did make the playoffs last year... It can even be argued that Morneau's own teammates, 2006 Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana and 2006 batting champ Joe Mauer were more valuable players to their own team, let alone to the rest of the league. But I digress... After a two homer night on July 23rd, Morneau was looking like he just might be a repeat MVP winner. With 28 home runs, 85 RBI's and a .293 batting average in his first 94 games, it looked like he might just slug 45 homers and drive in 150 this year... a star was being born, or so we thought...


Baseball can be a funny game... just when you think you have it all figured out, something always comes along to throw a monkey wrench into things... Here's where Morneau and Anderson's 2007 numbers stood as of 7 1/2 weeks ago:

Morneau: .293 BA/28 HR/85 RBI/63 RUNS (thru 7/23/07) - 93 G
Anderson: .292 BA/4 HR/20 RBI/31 RUNS (thru 7/24/07) - 50 G

Other than in batting average, it was clear from the above numbers that only one of these guys was producing fantasy-worthy numbers, and one was battling injuries again. In fact, if you were a Morneau owner, you probably were very pleased with his continued production. Anderson, on the other hand, was nothing more than the so-called "waiver-wire fodder."

I'll now post two more lines up - they are the lines of the two above players in the games since the above stats were put up...

Player A: .303 BA/12 HR/57 RBI/29 RUNS - 46 G, 178 AB
Player B: .256 BA/1 HR/20 RBI/17 RUNS - 47 G, 176 AB

It would presumably follow that the "Player A" stat line would belong to Morneau and that "Player B" would be Anderson... But guess what??? It's just the opposite!!! In a nutshell, Anderson has outhit Morneau by 47 points, hit 11 more home runs, driven in 37 more runs and scored 12 more times!!! Anderson has been nothing short of amazing of late, while Morneau has looked more like a Mario Mendoza impersonator (albeit with a better batting average).


So what gives here? Why is Anderson putting up good numbers for the first time in over 3 1/2 years? Why has Morneau been so unproductive of late? I can answer one of those questions... as for the other, it's just about anyone's guess.

For the first time since 2003, Anderson is finally 100% healthy! It also doesn't hurt that he's in a lineup full of speedy and high on-base percentage guys like Reggie Willits, Chone Figgins, Orlando Cabrera, and of course slugger Vladimir Guerrero. Now the Angels are 9 1/2 games out in front of the Mariners in the American League West race, so they will be more than likely clinching the title soon. Once that happens, expect some of the regulars such as G.A. to get some time off. So, expect some drop-off in his numbers in the coming weeks. In the meantime, enjoy the ride... and WELCOME BACK, G.A.!!!

There are lots of theories behind Justin Morneau's slump. He's had a couple of injuries himself this year, but seemed to be just fine after that two home run performance on July 23rd. I saw him play against the Angels on TV several weekends ago, and to me he seemed to be reaching for the ball an awful lot, taking many weak swings in the process. It almost defies statistical probability for a guy with his previous power history (one home run every 16 or so at bats), to only hit one longball in 176 at bats. On that pace, he'd only hit three or four homers in an ENTIRE season! 7 1/2 weeks with one homer? That's not the Morneau we've come to know the past several years. I have to think at this point that Morneau is either a)hiding an injury or b)playing along with the rest of the Twins not named Santana and has given up. I'd prefer to think that it's the former. Regardless, if you own him in a fantasy league (unless it's a keeper), it's time to give him the old "heave ho" and go with someone who might produce for you these final 2 1/2 weeks - James Loney and Matt Kemp of the Dodgers, Wily Mo Pena of the Washington Nationals, and Alex Gordon of the Kansas City Royals would be amongst those I'd recommend if you're looking for some production down the stretch.


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