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Fun Facts About the Forgotten National League Additions

And now for the National League’s forgotten five.

C Gregg Zaun Brewers

2010 marks Zaun’s 16th season in the majors. Baseball Prospectus once tagged him as the ideal back-up catcher and I think that’s apt. Zaun has recorded more than 500 plate appearances once in those 15 seasons, more than 400 once, more than 300 five times, and more than 200 nine times. That from someone with a career on-base percentage of .344 while catching. True, his throwing arm is morbid, much like his Rush fascination, but isn’t it a bit unjust that Brad Ausmus has 14 seasons with at least 300 plate appearances while being a one-dimensional catcher, while Zaun is similar in the depth of his skills and yet he’ll be lucky to finish with half of that?

The Brew Crew faithful will witness a transition from Jason Kendall to Zaun at a similar price to Rod Barajas’ deal with the Mets. Zaun is drawing Social Security, and catchers generally don’t age well, so there is some risk placed with overreliance on the 39-year-old. Still, Zombie Zaun (Zaunbie, if you will) can outhit Jason Kendall.

2B Akinori Iwamura Pirates

The beginning of Iwamura’s American career was fascinating. When he signed with the Rays, the stories about his constantly altering hair color, frat boy like insistence on necklaces, Phallus-worshipping hometown, and appetite for cigarettes popped up like no other. Then he arrived to spring training with sunglasses that featured a built-in MP3 player, an alligator-skinned glove, and green circled bats. He hit something like .100/.200/.100 in spring and everyone fretted over what quickly became water under the bridge since Iwamura recorded a hit in each of his first nine regular season games and reached base in the first 12.

Since then he’s posted wOBA of .338, .323, and .338. His simplistic game and consistent nature make him a dependable asset. He’s not going to awe often, although his footwork in the field is stellar and makes up for the fact that his range and arm lack a bit, and his ability to turn a double play is impressive given that 2010 will only be his third season at second base. The Pirates received Iwamura for a middle reliever who quickly turned into Rafael Soriano. He’s a free agent at year’s end and who knows whether he ends the year playing his home games at PNC Park, but he’s a quality player at a bargain price.

1B Troy Glaus Braves

Since winning the 2002 World Series’ MVP award, Glaus has regularly experience irregular events. He missed most of 2003 and 2004 with injury, then signed as a free agent with the Arizona Diamondbacks. After performing admirably, they traded him to Toronto for Orlando Hudson. Two decent seasons and a 30th place finish in American League MVP voting later, Glaus was again traded for a demon with a glove. This time, it was to St. Louis for Scott Rolen and Glaus yet again had one good season and then missed another due to injury.

Those whom read excessively into patterns have Glaus pegged for a swell year rather than a year of swelling. Either way, the Braves are only paying him $1.75M. Glaus is going to produce at a means well beyond that price if he’s healthy, and if he’s not, then Eric Hinske will be called into action. Bonus fun fact about Mr. Hinske: Each of his last three teams have reached the World Series and two of them won. What that means is this. The Braves have something like a 66% shot of winning the World Series and a 100% chance at winning the American League pennant.

3B Placido Polanco Phillies

Scott Rolen has been traded thrice throughout his career. Two of the guys he was dealt for are included in this piece. I don’t really know the significance of that, but it’s worth noting.

Polanco’s claim to fame is his big head. Not the physical melon perched atop his neck. No, his huge ego at the dish. Foolishness, you say, Polanco has no such issue with arrogance. Oh, my friends, opposing pitchers and fans, particularly those pining for free pizza coupons based on arbitrary strikeout totals, disagree, and they disagree vehemently. You see, Polanco has lead the league in at-bats per strikeout three times in his career, including three straight times from 2006-8. Clearly he cares only for himself. He’s second amongst active players. With a minimum of 3,000 plate appearances, here is the top five from Baseball-Reference:

1. Juan Pierre (16.4)
2. Placido Polanco (14.1)
3. Paul Lo Duca (13.2)
4. David Eckstein (12.0)
5. Jason Kendall (11.2)

And simply some trivial selections:

14. Albert Pujols (9.0)
89. Derek Jeter (5.9)
91. Chone Figgins (5.9)
93. Adrian Beltre (5.8)

Let me preface my next statement carefully based on two things. 1) This is a rate stat based on at-bats, not plate appearances. 2) As such, it can skew numbers and ignore things, like say, walks. Okay, disclaimers out of the way, here’s a note to Boston fans: Beltre strikes out as often per at-bat as Derek Jeter. Certainly a reason Theo Epstein went hard after the slugging third baseman, that and the support of his projection systems. Carmine may love Beltre, but Yankees’ fans love these stats.

Boy am I glad I put my flame suit on before writing that.

C Miguel Olivo Rockies

There are no fun facts about Olivo, only suffering truths. As illustrated here: