There are currently 73 NL players that have enough plate appearances per game (3.1) to qualify for the batting title. Some players of note and where they rank...
Dan Uggla - you guessed it, #73
Jayson Werth - #72
Alex Gonzalez - #68
Players rumored to be of interest to the offensively challenged Braves....
Ryan Ludwick - #62
Carlos Beltran - #22
Hunter Pence - #9
Colby Rasmus - #57
Martin Prado - #41 (Down from #7 in 2010)
Freddie Freeman #28
Brian McCann - #10
Michael Morse - #6
Daniel Murphy - #5
Just some interesting numbers to look at as the trade deadline approaches and teams assess where they are as a club. Losing your only player near the top 10 in McCann for 3+ weeks may cause the Braves to accelerate their pursuit of a bat.
It is unfortunate that the Braves can't go hard after a corner outfielder that could be under team control for more than the rest of 2011, but they won't push Chipper out of 3rd, so Prado and Heyward are pretty much penciled into those spots for the rest of the season (barring injury).
The OPS stat gives a further indication of overall offensive production, so lets look at some other guys and where they rank here...
McCann - #13
Freeman - #22
Chipper - #33
Uggla - #62
Gonzalez - #72
So, back to the trade deadline, it appears the Braves ideally would like to acquire a center fielder that hits right handed (or switch) that won't cost them Teheran/Minor/Vizcaino/Delgado.
I think that is the right stance for Beltran, but Hunter Pence's name has started to resurface as someone that can be had for the right price. I wrote on May 9th that Pence would significantly improve this ball club, and I feel even more strongly about that stance now.
Lets take a quick look at the obvious reasons to make the deal:
1) Pence (.308-11-62) would immediately be the Braves 1st or 2nd best hitter in a lineup that needs offense.
2) He can run and play multiple outfield positions (more on this in a bit)
3) His acquisition will give the team some needed momentum after the McCann injury
4) The team has the prospects to give up with so many young pitching studs (Hanson, Beachy, Medlen, Jurrjens, Minor, Teheran, Vizcaino, Delgado)
5) Chipper is likely to retire after this season and there will be money available to retain Pence long-term (and he is under team control for 2012).
Reasons not to make the deal:
1) The asking price may be too high (which may be the case) - I definitely feel that Teheran won't be a part of the deal, but would a package of Minor/Delgado do the job?
2) Concerns that Pence isn't a center fielder
Ok, here are my thoughts on #2...Hunter has played only 95 of his career 673 games in center field, but he has done fairly well there. He can run and cover ground, and his statistics show that he can play the position.
Pence's Run total per year numbers (total number of runs above or below average a player is worth over 1200 innings) in center is -1. In right field, that number drops to -3. In comparison, Nate McLouth has a career Rtot/yr of -7 and Jordan Schafer is -17 in just about the same number of career games at the position as Pence. Andruw Jones, the best defensive center fielder of this generation, has a career Rtot/yr of 18 in CF.
So, assuming Pence is right around 0, which is an average center fielder, his value to the team with his bat should be a higher number of runs per game than anyone on the current roster
Again, if a package centered around Minor/Delgado is enough, the Braves would add a true star that plays the game the right way. I would then use this order for now:
Then, when B-Mac returns:
The one issue with Pence being somewhat available, though, is that the Braves may not get into the talks, but the Phillies might. This tweet scared me quite a bit...
Speaking of good lineups...
Getting Beltran would make Philly pretty much untouchable in the NL too (assuming they aren't there already).
So, lets hope for the following things to happen come Monday morning:
1) Wren pulls the trigger on deals for one of the 2,324 right handed relievers on the market and gets a significant RH OF bat
2) The Phillies don't do either of these