David Sabino
Tuesday September 8th, 2009

As the regular season enters its final month, the pennant races have started to shake out with the cream rising to the top. This week's Diamond Digits takes a look at two players who have shown that they're just about the best that anyone has ever been at their respective jobs and much more.

Number of games it took for Ichiro Suzuki to reach 2,000 major league hits, the second-fastest player in big league history to reach the milestone.

Al Simmons got his 2,000th hit in his 1,390th game. George Sisler now places third at 1,414. Since his 2001 AL Rookie of the Year/MVP season, Ichiro's 2,000 hits are a full 290 more than the second-leading hitter over that time frame, Derek Jeter. To put that gap into perspective, take a look at the other spreads between the leaders from the ones to the nines in each decade since the formation of the AL in 1901:

Saves for Twins closer Joe Nathan this season.

In a week that saw Minnesota's second-leading career saves man have his worst performance ever as a closer by giving up four earned runs in two-thirds of an inning during a Tuesday loss to the White Sox, Nathan also reached another major distinction, becoming just the second pitcher in big league history and the first in the Junior Circuit to reach 36 saves in six consecutive seasons. Should the veteran right-hander, who has saved the third-most games in the majors since 2004 (235, behind only Mariano Rivera, 237, and Francisco Rodriguez, 236), reach 36 saves again next season, he'll tie all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman, who earned 36 or more saves each season from 1996 through 2002.

The batting average for the no. 3 hitters in the Oakland A's lineup last week.

The third spot in the lineup is traditionally the place for a team's best hitter, which makes Oakland's paltry production in this spot even more appalling. Manned mostly by Jack Cust, Scott Hairston, Kurt Suzuki and Jason Giambi (now of the Rockies), the spot has produced a batting line of .213/.293/.341 with 15 homers and 69 RBIs. That falls well below the average major league team that has produced a line of .278/.359/.474 with 22.7 homers 84.2 RBIs. To find a batting average out of the three hole that even rivals Oakland's paltry .213, you have to look back a third of a century to 1976, when Larry Parrish, Mike Jorgensen, Ellis Valentine and a host of their other Montreal Expos teammates combined to hit just .217 while batting third.

Seth Smith, OF, Rockies

A career day on Saturday with two home runs and five RBIs highlighted a career week for the Rockies' slugging outfielder. He led all major leaguers during the seven-day period starting on the last day of August with a .542 batting average, 1.250 slugging percentage, nine extra-base hits, four home runs (tied with Derrek Lee of the Cubs and Drew Stubbs of the Reds), five doubles, 30 total bases and 10 runs scored. He also reached base at a .607 clip (second in the majors) and drove in 10 runs (also second), all while guiding his team, battling for a playoff spot, to five wins in six games.

Honorable Mention: Elijah Dukes, Derrek Lee, Adam Lind, Casey McGehee, Chris Coghlan, Jorge Cantu, Evan Longoria, Ryan Ludwick, Jorge De La Rosa, Jon Lester, Joe Saunders, Tim Stauffer, Roy Halladay, Francisco Cordero and Heath Bell.

Alex Rios, OF, White Sox

The White Sox loaded up for the stretch run with a trade for Jake Peavy and a very expensive waiver claim on Rios, but unfortunately for the South Siders the best laid plans have laid an egg, as they have dropped below .500 and sunk to third in the AL Central. One of the main culprits for their unraveling has been Rios, who has hit just .154 in 22 games with Chicago. He's driven in only three runs and hit one home run in that time. Last week Rios was even worse than usual, collecting only two singles in 22 trips to the plate (.087 average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage), with no run production at all.

Dishonorable Mention: Justin Morneau, Cesar Izturis, Delwyn Young, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Derek Holland, Luke Hochevar, Luke French, Sergio Mitre, Bill Hall and Brad Hawpe.

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