Remember the big to-do this preseason about trading Prince for pitching? (If you don't, don't worry; I'm sure MikeHunt will write about it for the 43rd time in the next week.) The thinking -- if you can call anything that MikeHunt does "thinking" -- seemed to be that Prince wasn't capable of duplicating his marvelous 2007 season, that, of the everyday players, he was the most readily replaceable piece, that his defense was going to become more and more of a problem as time went on.
We're now a little more than a third of the way through the year, and I think it can be safely said that this team would be in major, major shit without Prince. In case you haven't noticed, the Big Dog has been chowin' down this year. Take a look at the stats through 64 games for the last three seasons:
This year: .295 / .421 / .589, 16 homers, 62 driven in.
Through 64 games last season: .274 / .363 / .453, 10 homers, 33 driven in.
Through 64 games in 2007: .295 / .378 / .643 (Lord A'mighty!), 23 homers, 51 driven in.
Sure, the homers are down a bit from '07, but, in all other respects, dude's quietly having as good -- if not better -- a campaign in '09.
So why aren't we talking about this more? It's not solely because of Braun, is it? I think Rickie's hot start stole the spotlight (until he got hurt, of course), and the struggles of J.J. and Jon Hart and Manny Parra have hogged a lot of attention, too. But, in my humble (and largely worthless) opinion, this team doesn't get within shouting distance of 35-29 -- especially trotting out a starting rotation of Suppan, Looper, Parra, and Bush (who, by the by, is the person least happy with Mental Manny's demotion, since Parra's stinkbomb was covering up the fact that Bush, by and large, has been atrocious for the last month) -- without the Big Fella.
Still: we should probably look into trading him straight-up for Matt Cain.