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Appreciating one of the game's most underrated winners and more


Last week in this space, we took a look at baseball's biggest loser, so this week we decided to do a complete 180 and delve into the season and career of the man who does nothing but win. We also look further into the best non-signing of the offseason and a reeling team that just can't find any relief.

Consecutive seasons that pitcher Jason Marquis, currently a member of the Rockies, has been part of a division championship club.

His Rockies, owners of the NL's best record since May 18 (58-37), are currently tied with the Giants for second in the NL West and are in the thick of the NL wild-card race. With a team-leading 14 wins, Marquis is a big reason why. On the surface with a career record of 93-79 and a 4.44 ERA in 10 seasons, Marquis doesn't seem to be someone that winning would follow around, but throughout a career that has seen him in a Braves, Cardinals, Cubs and now Rockies uniform, he's obviously been a good-luck charm -- and it hasn't been a coincidence. Since the start of the 2004 season, only Houston's Roy Oswalt (93) and Carlos Zambrano (85), his former Cubs teammate, have more victories than the unheralded right-hander. And in a far cry from the days of the Blake Street Bombers, the Rockies have one of the NL's premiere rotations with Marquis, Ubaldo Jimenez (12 wins), Jorge De La Rosa (12) and Aaron Cook (10) forming the only quartet of staff-mates in the major leagues with 10 or more victories at this point in the season. The Rox enter today's action six games behind the Dodgers, but with Marquis and his unblemished track record around, you can't count Colorado out.

Slugging percentage for Angels first baseman Kendry Morales following a week in which he had his fifth multi-home run game of the season while driving in a career-high-matching six runs against the A's on Friday night.

Morales places second in the AL to Twins catcher Joe Mauer in slugging percentage. And with 30 home runs, 94 RBIs and a .311 average, Morales has squarely put himself into the AL MVP conversation, along with Mauer and a pair of Yankees (Derek Jeter and the man Morales replaced in Anaheim, Mark Teixeira). The similarities between the two first basemen thus far this season have been more than Mike Scioscia could ever have dreamed of when he handed the young Cuban defector the full-time first base job after Teixeira signed a huge contract with New York. The two switch-hitters rank second and third among AL first basemen in home runs (Teixeira 32, Morales 30), first and third in RBIs (Teixeira 101, Morales 94), and first and fourth in the aforementioned slugging (Morales .593; Teixeira .547). For good measure, Morales is also on the verge of joining Vladimir Guerrero and Tim Salmon as the only players in Angels' franchise history with .300/30 HR/100 RBIs in a season.

Saves last week for the Blue Jays staff, furthering a season of futility at the end of games for Toronto.

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Since he All Star break, Toronto pitchers have combined for a major league low four saves in 38 games, including only one for supposed closer Scott Downs, who spent three weeks on the disabled list. At the current rate, Toronto will finish the season with 24 saves for the season. Since 1995, only two teams have finished the season with less: the 2002 Cubs, who behind Antonio Alfonseca and Kyle Farnsworth managed to blow 25 saves while converting only 23, and the 1996 Tigers team that lost 109 games and managed just 22 saves in 42 chances.

Ryan Howard, 1B, Phillies

In a week when pitchers like Barry Zito, Zach Greinke and Adam Wainwright dominated, Howard was the one hitter who towered above the crowd. Over the course of the week, Philadelphia's massive talent led the majors in home runs (five, including two multi-homer games), RBIs (12), tied for the lead with Toronto's Rod Barajas in slugging (1.000) and drove in the game-winning run in three of the Phillies' four wins against division rivals Atlanta and New York.

Honorable mention: Greinke, Wainwright, Sean West, Zito, Milton Bradley, Lastings Milledge, Morales, Justin Upton, Felix Pie, Alex Gonzalez, Todd Helton, Chase Utley and Barajas.

Randy Williams, RP, White Sox

The journeyman lefty specialist started off the week harmlessly enough by allowing a walk and a hit in three 1/3 of an inning appearances against the Red Sox in Boston, but once the Pale Hose got to the Bronx the wheels fell off. Williams allowed a 10th-inning three-run walk-off home run to Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano after issuing walks to two batters, and then two days later he retired just one batter while allowing four earned runs on two hits and two more walks. In his five appearances, Williams gave up seven earned runs while retiring only six batters for a 31.50 ERA. He walked five (four of whom scored) and took a loss in a sweep that ultimately led White Sox general manager Kenny Williams to throw up the white flag by trading veterans Jim Thome to the Dodgers and Jose Contreras to the Rockies.

Dishonorable mention: Travis Snider, Yadier Molina, Nate Schierholtz, Gordon Beckham, Orlando Cabrera, Michael Saunders, Miguel Tejada, Brian Roberts, Zambrano, Bobby Parnell and Contreras.