A BRAVE MOVE BYATLANTA
Afterentertaining offers for Andruw Jones (left) before the July 31 nonwaiver tradedeadline, the Braves caused a stir last week when they put the All-Starcenterfielder on waivers. Atlanta had the right idea: The club has to overhaulits aging pitching staff, and trading Jones (26 home runs, 95 RBIs, both teamhighs through Sunday) for young quality arms would move the franchise in theright direction. After the Braves had won 14 straight division titles, thebottom fell out this year (51-59, third place in the NL East) with the staffERA ballooning from 3.98 in 2005 to 4.75 (ranked 12th in the league)."Their most impressive minor leaguers are position players," says an NLexecutive. "They're not as stocked with quality pitchers as they used tobe." With no deal in the works after four days, Atlanta pulled Jones offwaivers last Saturday-effectively ending the possibility of a trade until theoff-season.
ANGELS GETANOTHER WING
RighthanderBartolo Colon is most likely out for the rest of the season with a partiallytorn rotator cuff, but don't write off the Angels just yet. The Cy Youngwinner's replacement in the rotation is 25-year-old lefthander Joe Saunders(3-0, 1.29 ERA), who has the stuff to become the latest rookie to make animpact on the AL pennant race. "He's not overpowering, but he changesspeeds well and has tremendous control over his low-90s fastball and pluschangeup. He's ready to make a difference," says an AL scout. Saunders(right), who on Sunday allowed three hits in seven innings for a 9-1 win overthe AL West rival Rangers, joined a rotation that already boasts a pair of23-year-old righthanders, Ervin Santana (12-5, 4.09) and Jered Weaver (7-0,1.82), and oft-overlooked 27-year-old righty John Lackey (10-7, 3.28).
• A month ago itseemed a lock that Albert Pujols would win his second straight National LeagueMVP award. No longer. Mets centerfielder Carlos Beltran (left, .281, 33 homeruns, 97 RBIs) had outslugged (.663 versus .639) and outhomered (eight to five)Pujols as well as driven in more runs (29 to 13) since the All-Star break.
• What did theBlue Jays think they were getting when they enriched righthander A.J. Burnettwith a five-year, $55 million deal last winter? After going 49-50 in sevenseasons with the Marlins, he is still a sub-.500 pitcher (3-5, 4.81 ERA) whocan't stay healthy (two months on the DL with an elbow injury).
• With rightyBrandon Webb's status day-to-day because of an elbow injury, the Diamondbacksneeded an extra arm to keep from losing ground in the NL West race. They got iton Monday: veteran righthander Livan Hernandez (9-8, 5.34 ERA), who wasacquired in a waiver deal with the Nationals for two prospects. The 31-year-oldCuban brought an impressive postseason résumé with him: 6-2, 3.99 ERA.
CAN THE YANKEES COUNT ON CHIEN-MING WANG DOWN THESTRETCH? One reason New York had surged into first place in the AL East was thepitching of Wang, a 26-year-old righthander who at week's end had won fivestraight starts to get to 13-4 with a 3.58 ERA (10th best in the league). Butthat kind of success is rare and hard for a pitcher to maintain when he has astrikeout rate as low as Wang's: 2.77 K's per nine innings, the lowest amongmajor league starting pitchers this season. From 1993 through 2005, of the sixtimes that pitchers had a strikeout rate below 3.00 (minimum 125 inningspitched), none had an ERA below 4.17. All of which means Wang has benefitedfrom the Yankees' defense. Also, with 156 innings pitched, he has alreadythrown more innings this season than any other since he arrived from Taiwan andstarted at Class A in 2000. Research indicates that pitchers lose effectivenesswhen they exceed their career highs in innings pitched by 30 or more. Wang willbe at that point within a few weeks, long before season's end. How he handlesthe big jump in workload will be a key to the Yankees' stretch drive.
• More from Baseball Prospectus atSI.com/baseball.
JOHN IACONO (JONES); LOUIS LOPEZ/BEIMAGES (SAUNDERS); CHUCK SOLOMON (BELTRAN)