Most teams approach July's trading deadline with the following plan: let's add meaningfully to our Major League team without trading any member of the Major League team and also holding onto our top prospects. Typically, that's easier said than done, and this deadline had an added degree of difficulty due to the dearth of impact players available.
All of that made acquiring both Miguel Tejada and Ryan Ludwick all the more exciting for us.
Fortunately, our team performance over the course of the first four months not only put us in a position to add at the deadline, but also exposed some of our needs. While our offense has been better than many expected, it could still be better. Owing to our defense and our pitching, we don't necessarily have the need to score five or more runs per game in order to win consistently. To that point, incredibly we're 12-11 when scoring just three runs, and we're actually a pretty good 9-17 when scoring either one or two runs. Much to our frustration, we still haven't figured out how to win when we don't score... we're 0-5 when that happens.
While those results speak volumes about our pitching and defense, there is good news and bad news. The bad news is that while the results haven't been as bad as most teams in those situations, all of those games add up to 52% of our contests. The good news? We're 41-9 when we score at least four runs.
Note to self: score at least four runs more often.
In attacking that problem, we had to notice that we've been much more efficient against LHP this year than RHP. Without even adjusting for our ballparks, we rank 6th in the National League against LHP, so we're an above average offense even before the adjustments. Against RHP, though, we're 11th before adjusting for the parks, which probably makes us close to average. (True, I'm not divulging the statistic we're using for these rankings, so you're just going to have to trust me.)
While the more obvious solution would have been to acquire LHH's, both Tejada and Ludwick have had much success against RHP, and they have the added benefit of providing our lineup a little more balance. This should make it tougher to match up against us and make us less vulnerable to any particular starting pitcher. Yes, both Tejada and Ludwick are decorated veteran hitters with playoff experience, but they also are versatile defensively, play positions of need, and have repeatedly been called some of the best teammates in the game. To acquire one would have fired us up, but to get both...
Now, nothing comes for free, and we did have to part with some solid prospects to make this happen. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see both Corey Kluber and Wynn Pelzer pitching in the big leagues as soon as 2011. However, I have two thoughts on that. First, I'm proud of our scouting department and player development staff for finding and developing guys in the 4th and 9th rounds in 2007 that could make this type of contribution to our organization. Second, I hope that every year we're forced to pay such a price to further a pennant run. Sign me up.
Often times the trading deadline appears to be a no-win situation. If you don't do enough to help your team, it can actually hurt the psychology of the team. If you tinker too much, people also get upset. Bottom line: if you don't get into October, some people will inevitably point to what you did or didn't do at the deadline and find culpability. We, however, prefer to judge decisions in the time and under the circumstances in which they were made. Under that criteria, we're thrilled with the additions and look forward to watching this team down the stretch.