Final All-Star Ballot (PLUS…)

I know I’m a few days early on this, but I realized that I’m not going to have any time to write this post next week.  Plus, I wanted to get it out there in plenty of time before the deadline is here for casting votes (July 3rd).  I have also decided to add a little bit to this year’s final ballot post.  In addition to giving you my final vote on who should be the starters for the All-Star Game, I’m going to list the players that I believe should fill out the entire roster.  Each league has 33 players on their roster chosen in a combination of the starters (voted on by the fans), the pitchers & back-ups (16 players voted on by the players, coaches & managers), and the reserves (chosen by the coach of the All-Star team, in cooperation with the league office in order to ensure that each team is represented).  Then, after those 33 are chosen, the fans are given a list of 5 players (chosen by the coaches) to choose one final (34th) spot on the team.  Since that 34th spot is a newer innovation, and it can go so many different directions, I’m going to focus on the 33 players who will represent their team in the 85th All-Star Game in just a few weeks.  Let’s begin with my final ballot – the starters.

FIRST BASE:

AL:  Miguel Cabrera (DET).  But, by only the slightest of margins over Abreu (CHW).  Their OPS is nearly identical, they’re 1 RBI apart, and have exactly the same number of XBH (going into last night’s games).  Abreu has a decided edge in HR (22-13), but what tipped the scales for me toward Cabrera is strikeouts.  Abreu’s strikeout rate is significantly higher than Cabrera’s, and his walk rate is decidedly lower – in almost 40 fewer plate appearances, Abreu has 20 more K’s.  This accounts for why Cabrera’s batting 40 points higher, and his OBP is more than 50 points higher.

NL:  Anthony Rizzo (CHC).  Also a tight race, with Goldschmidt (ARI).  Goldschmidt has the edge in batting (by 16 points), SLG (by 10 points), and RBI (by 9).  But, Rizzo has the edge in HR (by 2), OBP (by 22 points), and OPS (by 12 points).  So, this came down to a combination of things.  First of all, Rizzo has the edge in strikeout and walk rates (20 fewer K’s, 10 more BB’s).  Also, Rizzo is the better defender at first.  Neither are setting the world on fire with their defensive prowess, but Rizzo has a clear edge with the glove.

 

SECOND BASE:

AL:  Brian Dozier (MIN). Wow, what a tight race!  OPS rankings are Cano, Altuve, Dozier, Kinsler (separated by a total of .028); HR rankings are Dozier, Kinsler, then everyone else; RBI rankings are Cano, and then Dozier & Kinsler are tied for second; SB rankings are Altuve, Dozier, then everyone else; SLG is Kinsler, Dozier, Altuve, Cano; OBP is Cano, Altuve, Dozier; wRC+ is Dozier, Altuve, Cano, Kinsler; Defensively, I would rank them Pedroia, Kinsler, Zobrist, Dozier, and everyone else.  You’ll notice that there’s only one name that appears near the top of every one of these lists, before the list kind of flames out into “everyone else.”  And, it’s Dozier.  His .252 batting average looks bad, until you realize he has the best walk-rate among AL 2B, leading to a .366 OBP.

NL:  Chase Utley (PHI).  There may be some confusion when you go to vote for this one.  On the MLB voting site, it lists Washington’s Rendon as an option.  And, at first glance, his numbers look better than Utley’s.  One small problem – he’s been playing third base most of this season, and Espinosa has been the everyday second baseman in Washington.  Be sure you’re voting for the right guy!  This is definitely a tighter race than it was a month ago, but Utley still comes out on top – when compared to other guys actually playing 2B.  He’s 3rd in RBI, 3rd in batting, 2nd in OBP (by .001 going into last night’s games), 2nd in SLG, and 1st in OPS.  No other NL 2B appears in the top 3 in each category.

 

SHORTSTOP:

AL:  Alexei Ramirez (CHW). Cabrera (CLE) is batting just .254 with a .322 OBP, so he’s out,  in spite of some nice power numbers.  Bogaerts (BOS) is batting just .260, has the 2nd highest K-rate among AL SS, and has been subpar with the glove – so he’s out.  In my opinion, it comes down to Ramirez or Aybar (LAA).  Aybar has the edge in RBI and is head and shoulders ahead of Ramirez defensively.  But, Ramirez has Aybar beat in HR, SB, batting, OBP, SLG & OPS.

NL:  Troy Tulowitzki (COL).  Ramirez (LAD) is having a great year, and has actually overtaken the RBI lead by 1 over Tulo.  But, Troy leads all NL SS in HR, batting, OBP, SLG, and OPS.  Plus, he’s an above-average fielder, which makes this a pretty easy choice.

 

THIRD BASE:

AL:  Josh Donaldson (OAK).  This is a much tighter race than before, as Beltre (TEX), Santana (CLE), and Seager (SEA) have all made significant strides over the last month.  Beltre has a nice lead in batting (.321), and OPS (.850), and Santana has the lead in OBP (.366).  But, when you look at their entire resume, Donaldson stands out as the one who is competitive in every area.  He leads all AL 3B in HR & RBI, is 2nd in OPS & wRC+, and is easily the best defensive 3B in the AL thus far this year.

NL:  Todd Frazier (CIN).  Rendon (WAS) deserves some credit here (as opposed to 2B), and is my runner-up.  He and Frazier are clearly the cream of the crop (Arenado, from a month ago, has been injured).  But, Frazier leads all NL 3B in HR, SLG, OPS (by almost 50 points!) and wRC+.  He’s also 2nd in RBI, 3rd in batting, and a slightly above average fielder.

 

CATCHER:

AL:  Salvador Perez (KC).  Norris (OAK) is clearly the best offensive catcher in the AL right now.  He is also clearly below average defensively (throwing out just 10% of base stealers).  So, the key for me was finding the right balance at this position in the AL.  And, Perez is that.  He’s arguably the best defensive catcher in the AL (though, Gomes, Avila & McCann are in that discussion), and is also 2nd in the league in HR, 3rd in batting, 2nd in SLG, and 4th in OPS.  Others have glaring weaknesses either offensively or defensively.

NL:  Jonathan Lucroy (MIL).  Over the last month, Lucroy has opened the gap even further between himself and the rest of the catchers in the NL.  He leads all NL C’s in batting, OBP, OPS, wRC+, and is 2nd in SLG & RBI.  He’s middle of the pack, defensively, so you can’t count that against him.  Others, who might have an edge on defense, are clearly behind on offense.

 

DESIGNATED HITTER:

AL:  Victor Martinez (DET).  He finally caught Cruz (BAL) in a number of categories.  This is precisely why I wait to cast most of my votes until close to the deadline.  Cruz might have the edge in HR (23-19) and RBI (60-50), but Martinez leads Cruz in batting (by over 30 points), OBP (by over 20 points), SLG, and OPS (by more than 30 points).  Martinez also strikes out significantly less often than Cruz (22 times this season, going into last night’s games – compared to Cruz’s 69 K’s).

 

OUTFIELD:

AL:  Mike Trout (LAA), Jose Bautista (TOR), Michael Brantley (CLE).  No change from a month ago.  Though, Cespedes (OAK), has an argument here, primarily based on his defensive highlights of late.  But, Brantley leads him in batting (by over 50 points), OBP (by almost 70 points), and SLG (just barely).  Trout leads all AL OF in HR, RBI, SLG, OPS & wRC+.  Bautista leads them all in OBP, and is the only AL outfielder with a .300+/.400+/.500+ stat line.

NL:  Giancarlo Stanton (MIA), Andrew McCutchen (PIT), Yasiel Puig (LAD).  Smith (SD), deserves honorable mention here.  In addition to the three I’m voting for, he is the only NL outfielder with a wRC+ score above 160.  But, he’s the odd man out, since he’s the only one of the four with less than 10 HR, and is batting below .300.  As for these three guys, they are the only ones in the NL with a .300+/.400+/.500+ stat line.  Stanton is flat our murdering the ball, and has a .592 SLG.  McCutchen leads NL OF with a .422 OBP.  And, Puig . . . well, have you not seen the highlight reels?

 

AL ROSTER:

PITCHERS:  My starting pitcher for the AL this year would be Felix Hernandez (SEA).  He leads the league in WHIP (0.95) & FIP (1.95), is 2nd in ERA (2.24) & K’s (128), and 3rd in league BAA (.216),  and this time around, he actually has some wins to go along with his other stats (9, so far, with at least one more start coming before the voting deadline).

The remainder of the pitchers I would choose to represent the AL would be:  Masahiro Tanaka (NYY); Mark Buehrle (TOR); Scott Kazmir (OAK); Yu Darvish (TEX); Koji Uehara (BOS); Jake McGee (TB); Wade Davis (KC).

BACKUPS & RESERVES:

1B – Jose Abreu (CHW), Edwin Encarnacion (TOR)

2B – Ian Kinsler (DET), Jose Altuve (HOU)

SS – Erick Aybar (LAA), Derek Jeter (NYY – I don’t feel too bad about making a “lifetime achievement” pick here, because there aren’t too many AL shortstops lighting it up)

3B – Adrian Beltre (TEX), Kyle Seager (SEA)

C – Derek Norris (OAK), Kurt Suzuki (MIN)

DH – Nelson Cruz (BAL), David Ortiz (BOS)

OF – Yoenis Cespedes (OAK), Coco Crisp (OAK), Adam Jones (BAL), Alex Gordon (KC)

 

NL ROSTER:

PITCHERS:  My starting pitcher for the NL this year is Clayton Kershaw (LAD).  In spite of having 4-6 fewer starts than the rest of the league, he still has an 8-2 record, leads the league in FIP, K/9, BB/9 and K/BB, and is 2nd in WHIP & ERA.

The remaining pitchers I would choose to represent the NL in the All-Star game would be:  Adam Wainwright (STL); Johnny Cueto (CIN); Madison Bumgarner (SF); Jon Niese (NYM); Jean Machi (SF); Craig Kimbrel (ATL); Zach Duke (MIL); Tony Watson (PIT).

BACKUPS & RESERVES:

1B – Paul Goldschmidt (ARI), Adam LaRoche (WSH), Matt Adams (STL)

2B – Neil Walker (PIT), Dee Gordon (LAD)

SS – Hanley Ramirez (LAD), Starlin Castro (CHC)

3B – Anthony Rendon (WSH), Luis Valbuena (CHC)

C –  Evan Gattis (ATL), Buster Posey (SF)

OF – Seth Smith (SD), Carlos Gomez (MIL), Mike Morse (SF), Justin Upton (ATL), Charlie Blackmon (COL)

 

Many of the backups I chose could change in the next couple weeks before the All-Star break, because their stats are often very close.  There are also only two teams that I felt forced to make a pick, because they had to have someone on the team:  the Rays and Mets.  The Rays reliever that I chose is actually pitching really well, so that wasn’t so hard.  The Mets don’t have anyone on their team that seriously deserves consideration for the All-Star game.  The reason I went with Niese is because he’s currently their best all-around starter, and he’s a lefty, which I needed more of.  I’m certain that there are more deserving players that have been left out (particularly at NL 1B & OF), but had to be overlooked because players were needed at other positions.  Let me know what you think!

All-Time Greatest: Seattle Mariners

The Mariners franchise is ultimately the result of a lawsuit.  When the Seattle Pilots failed to meet stadium expectations, and attendance numbers plummeted, the team was sold to Bud Selig and moved to Milwaukee after just one season in Seattle (1969).  The city, county, and state joined forces to sue the American League for breach of contract – disregarding the fact that “their” team had gone bankrupt in just one season, and the owners had no choice but to sell the franchise (and actually made multiple attempts to sell to local buyers).  The lawsuit lasted until 1976, at which time Major League Baseball offered Seattle an expansion franchise, if they would drop the suit.  They agreed, and the cities of Seattle and Toronto were granted expansion franchises for the 1977 season.

The franchise didn’t produce a winning team until 1991, but never enjoyed any real success until 1995, when they reached the playoffs for the first time.  From 1995-2003, they had winning records eight out of nine seasons, and reached the playoffs 4 times.  But, in that time, they were never able to reach the World Series, accumulating a combined 5-12 record in the ALCS.  Since 2003, they have not had a winning season.

The Mariners have yet to retire anyone’s jersey number (other than the obligatory #42 in honor of Jackie Robinson), though I can’t imagine why at least one from the list below wouldn’t be retired soon.  They have fielded 2 MVP’s, 2 Cy Youngs, and 3 winners of Rookie of the Year.  With just 38 seasons of history to go with, you wouldn’t expect much from this list – but, there are some clear future Hall of Famers that came through Seattle (though, none are in the HOF yet).  Keep in mind, as you see the order of these names, we’re only taking into consideration what these players accomplished in Seattle – not their entire careers.

a_rod35. Alex Rodriguez (1994-2000) – he only played 5 full seasons in Seattle before leaving for the ridiculous amount of money offered in Texas.  But, in those 5+ seasons, he played better than Ichiro ever did (the one name you might think is missing from this list).  While Ichiro was basically a slap-single hitter, with good speed, A-Rod was a 5-tool player.  He won a batting title, hit 40+ HR three times, drove in 100+ runs four times, and in ’98, he became just the third player in baseball history to hit 40+ HR and steal 40+ bases in the same season.  And, in spite of playing in less than half as many games, Rodriguez accumulated a better defensive WAR than Ichiro did in his 11+ seasons in Seattle.  A-Rod is 3rd on the Mariners’ all-time batting list (.309), 6th in OBP (.374 – Ichiro is 9th), 1st in SLG (.561 – Ichiro isn’t in the top 20), 1st in OPS (.934 – Ichiro’s is below .800), 4th in HR (189 – including 3 of the top 9 seasons in Mariners history), 7th in RBI (595 – 3 of the top 10 seasons), and 4th in OPS+ (138 – including 2 of the top 10 seasons in team history; Ichiro barely cracked the top 50 with his best season).

20107248034. Edgar Martinez (’87-’04) – there are some who are screaming that Martinez belongs in the HOF.  I’m certainly not one of those.  Aside from the fact that a DH already has a few things going against him (specifically – he essentially plays about 1/6 of the game), what about Martinez’ 2200 hits, 300 HR, and 1200 RBI in 18 years screams domination?  One of the best Mariners in history, but not the kind of all-time great that belongs in the Hall.  That being said, he did win 2 batting titles, and led the league in OBP 3 times, and OPS once.  He was a 7-time All-Star, and finished as high as 3rd in MVP voting (’95).  On the Mariners’ all-time lists, he ranks 2nd in batting (.312), 1st in OBP (.418 – including seven of the top eight OBP seasons in franchise history!), 4th in SLG (.515 – 3 of the top 11 seasons), 2nd in OPS (.933 – including 2 of the top 3 seasons in team history), 2nd in HR (309), 1st in RBI (1261), and 1st in OPS+ (147 – including 4 of the top 7 seasons).

pg2_g_johnson_mariners1_6003. Randy Johnson (’89-’98) – Seattle may have its first HOF member next year, when Johnson will be eligible for the first time.  He spent 10 of his 22 seasons with the Mariners, which is more than anywhere else.  Though, he did spend 8 years in Arizona, where he won 4 of his 5 Cy Youngs, and won a World Series MVP.  So, we’ll see.  But, as far as Mariners go, Randy belongs near the top of every list.  While in Seattle, he led the league in strikeouts 4 times.  And, the year he won his AL Cy Young (’95), he also led the league in ERA, WHIP, and K/BB ratio.  Among Seattle’s pitchers, all time, Johnson ranks 2nd in ERA (3.42 – including 2 of the top 6 individual seasons in franchise history), 2nd in wins (130 – includes 3 of the top 7 seasons), 2nd in win pct. (.637 – includes the two best seasons in team history), 2nd in WHIP (1.25), 1st in K/9 (10.59 – which includes the seven best seasons in Mariners history), 1st in strikeouts (2162 – 4 of the top 6 seasons), 3rd in K/BB ratio (2.45), and is tied for 1st in ERA+ (128).

Felix Hernandez2. Felix Hernandez (’05-present) – a couple years ago, “King” Felix would not have been this high on the list, though many Mariners fans anticipated him reaching this level.  But, he’s now in his 10th season in Seattle, and has surpassed Randy Johnson in many areas.  At this moment, I might would rank Hernandez & Johnson as a tie for the 2nd greatest Mariner in history.  But, assuming Hernandez finishes this season pitching anywhere close to the way he is at this moment, he will likely surpass Johnson in a number of areas in which he currently trails, either late this year or early next.  Felix has won a Cy Young already, and you figure between now and 2019 (the end of his contract), he has a good chance of winning another.  This 4-time All-Star (probably about to make his 5th appearance in a few weeks), ranks 1st on the Mariners’ all-time ERA list (3.15), 3rd in wins (118 – though, if you know anything of the run support Hernandez has received in his career, you know he should have already surpassed Johnson here), 6th in win pct. (.573 – again, this is without even a decent offense behind him), 1st in WHIP (1.19), 2nd in K/9 (8.46), 2nd in K’s (1815), 1st in K/BB ratio (3.33), and is tied with Johnson for the best career ERA+ (128).

KenGriffWallCatch_display_image_display_image1. Ken Griffey, Jr. (’89-’99, ’09-’10) – while there might be a couple accumulation categories where Edgar leads Griffey, there’s no question who the better player actually was.  Ten consecutive All-Star games, ten consecutive Gold Gloves, and 1 MVP, along with four more top-4 finishes while in Seattle.  If Johnson isn’t a first-ballot HOFer next year, or if he isn’t inducted as a Mariner, there’s no question that the 2016 class will include the first Mariner HOFer in Griffey.  And, were it not for injuries, I believe Griffey might very well be at the top of the all-time HR list, instead of Bonds (he averaged just 115 games per season from ’94-’06, and still averaged 33 HR per year during that time).  On the Mariners’ lists, Griffey ranks 7th in batting (.292), 6th in OBP (.374), 2nd in SLG (.553 – including 5 of the 7 best seasons in franchise history), 3rd in OPS (.927 – including 4 of the 8 best seasons), 2nd in total bases (3495 – this, in spite of having over 1,200 fewer plate appearances than Martinez or Ichiro, who are 1st & 3rd, respectively), 1st in HR (417), 2nd in RBI (1216), 4th in stolen bases (167), and 3rd in OPS+ (144 – including 3 of the top 5 single seasons in Mariners history).

An All-Time Great Loss

The baseball world has lost one of the best players in history.  Tony Gwynn passed away at the age of just 54.  What an incredible loss this is to the baseball community.  Not only was Gwynn one of the finest hitters baseball has ever seen, but he was one of the few gentlemen in the game in an era that saw so many cheating, spitting, and disgracing the game.  Gwynn was a steady force on the playing field, who was also quick with a big, friendly smile.

Gwynn hit safely in an amazing 75% of the games in which he played, leading to a career .338 average (18th in baseball history).  He won 8 batting titles – the second most in the history of the game.  He also led the league in hits 7 times.  He appeared in an impressive 15 All-Star games, won 5 Gold Gloves, and finished in the top-10 in MVP voting 7 times.  When the baseball strike prematurely ended the ’94 season in mid-August, Gwynn was batting .394 – the highest average by any NL player since 1930.  He was elected to the baseball Hall of Fame in 2007 by the 7th highest percentage in history (97.6%), just 13 votes shy of unanimous selection.

In recent years, Gwynn had been a television commentator, and had taken on a coaching position with his alma mater, San Diego State University.  Gwynn was a guy that had a genuine passion for the game.  He absolutely loved baseball.  And, I could listen to him talk about hitting for hours.  One of the most respected, well-loved, and fantastic players in baseball history.  Tony Gwynn will most certainly be missed.

tony-gwynn-ap-30457689_12279_ver1.0_320_240

All-Star Ballot #2 (10 Votes)

Hard to believe, but it has already been a month since my last All-Star ballot – and last post!  So, it’s time to go through my second round of voting, in which I place 10 of my 35 votes.  Let’s get started . . .

FIRST BASE:

AL:  Miguel Cabrera (DET).  This race has completely changed in the last month.  Abreu has been injured, and several others have cooled off.  Meanwhile, Cabrera has slowly moved back to the top of the heap.  He hasn’t hit as many HR as we’re accustomed to seeing (10), but he leads all AL 1B in OPS, batting, RBI and wRC+.  Most notably, he has an incredible .418 average and 1.137 OPS with RISP.

NL:  Paul Goldschmidt (ARI).  This battle is a bit unusual, because there are several good candidates, but the leaderboard in different categories fluctuates among 5 or 6 different players.  Of potential candidates, Goldschmidt is the only one that appears in the top 3 in the league in OPS, HR, RBI, SLG, and batting.  Morneau is right there with Goldschmidt in a lot of categories, but I’ll give Goldschmidt the slightest edge, considering the lineup Morneau gets to bat in.

KEEP AN EYE ON:  Jose Abreu, Albert Pujols, Justin Morneau, Freddie Freeman, Anthony Rizzo, Adrian Gonzalez, Joey Votto

 

SECOND BASE:

AL:  Jose Altuve (HOU).  Not sure anyone’s paying attention to him, but you should be.  He currently is tied for the lead among AL 2B in OPS, in spite of only having 2 HR and 17 RBI – but, he’s a leadoff hitter, so you shouldn’t expect those stats to be gaudy.  He’s also 2nd in the league in batting, leads the league in stolen bases (nearly double the second place player), leads all AL 2B in wRC+, and the guy simply does not strike out (just 19 K’s in 242 AB’s).  There are others close on his heels, and ahead of him in other categories, but for now I’ll give Altuve the vote.

NL:  Chase Utley (PHI).  Walker might have the edge in HR & RBI, but that’s the only place he is ahead of Utley.  Utley leads all NL 2B in every portion of his slash line – .320/.381/.517/.898, and is second only to Walker in RBI.  He also continues to be one of the better fielding second basemen in the game.

KEEP AN EYE ON:  Ian Kinsler, Robinson Cano, Howie Kendrick, Neil Walker, Daniel Murphy

 

SHORTSTOP:

AL:  Alexei Ramirez (CHW).  Leads all AL SS in batting, HR, RBI, SLG, OPS and wRC+.  He also is 2nd in OBP, and tied for 3rd in stolen bases.  He’s decent enough in the field for that not to be a strike against him, so no one else is really that close to taking his vote.

NL:  Troy Tulowitzki (COL).  Still a pretty easy choice.  Leads all NL SS in pretty much everything but stolen bases.  And, he is playing great defensively as well.  Looks very much like an MVP at this point.

KEEP AN EYE ON:  Xander Bogaerts, Hanley Ramirez

 

THIRD BASE:

AL:  Josh Donaldson (OAK).  This choice has become easier over the last month.  Donaldson has surged ahead of everyone else, and there’s really no one very close to him.  He leads all AL 3B in HR, RBI, OBP, SLG, OPS, and wRC+.  He’s also 3rd in batting, and a good defender.

NL:  Todd Frazier (CIN).  This choice has become both easier and harder over the last month.  Some have been injured (Uribe & Ramirez), and some have tailed off in production (Rendon).  But, for the two I had to choose between, their stats could not have been much more similar.  Frazier: .269/.339/.488/.827, 10 HR, 29 RBI, 4 SB.  Arenado: .305/.333/.489/.822, 6 HR, 28 RBI, 1 SB.  Even though it’s slight, Frazier does have the lead in OBP, OPS, HR & RBI.  Plus, his 128 wRC+ leads all NL 3B.  So, for the time being, Frazier gets my vote.

KEEP AN EYE ON:  Nolan Arenado

 

CATCHER:

AL:  Derek Norris (OAK).  I think all of the serious candidates at this position have a glaring weakness.  McCann is batting .229.  Avila has just 13 RBI.  Suzuki has just 2 HR, and is slugging below .400.  And, for Norris, it’s his defense.  He doesn’t throw out but about 9% of would-be base-stealers.  But, his offense is without a hole.  His .399 OBP and .469 SLG, and subsequent .868 OPS all lead the league.  He’s also 2nd in the league in batting, 3rd in RBI, and 5th in HR.  Plus, his wRC+ is significantly ahead of everyone else.  Normally, I would lean toward defensively talented catchers, but the current crop in the AL is frequently a liability with the bat.

NL:  Jonathan Lucroy (MIL).  I’m impressed with what Lucroy has done in just a month’s time.  He wasn’t even on the radar a month ago, as it looked to be a 3-way battle between Molina, Posey and Saltalamacchia.  Now, in addition to being good behind the plate, he’s leading all NL C in batting, OPS, and wRC+.  He’s also 2nd in OBP & SLG.  There are several within striking distance, but Lucroy is ahead of the pack for now.

KEEP AN EYE ON:  Kurt Suzuki, Yan Gomes, Carlos Ruiz, Yadier Molina, Evan Gattis

 

DESIGNATED HITTER:

AL:  Nelson Cruz (BAL).  Leads all DH’s in HR, RBI, SLG, OPS and wRC+.  Martinez isn’t far behind, though.

KEEP AN EYE ON:  Victor Martinez

 

OUTFIELD:

AL:  Jose Bautista (TOR), Mike Trout (LAA), Michael Brantley (CLE).  These guys rank 1, 2 & 3, respectively, in OPS; 1, 2 & 4 in HR; 1, 3 & 1 in RBI; 1, 3 & 4 in OBP; 1, 3 & 2 in SLG, and 1, 2 & 3 in wRC+.  The only change here from last time is that Melky has cooled off considerably, and Brantley has taken his place.  There are others that are close, but are definitely behind these three.

NL:  Yasiel Puig (LAD), Giancarlo Stanton (MIA), Carlos Gomez (MIL).  A complete overhaul from last month’s vote.  Upton, Blackmon and Braun aren’t playing poorly or anything, but they have cooled a little.  Meanwhile, these three (whose average age is 25, by the way), are lighting it up.  They rank 1, 2 & 4, respectively in OPS & wRC+; 1, 6 & 5 in batting; 1, 4 & 5 in OBP; 1, 2 & 6 in SLG; 3, 1 & 3 in HR; 2, 1 & 8 in RBI; and Gomez is 6th in stolen bases.

KEEP AN EYE ON:  Shin-Soo Choo, George Springer, Seth Smith, Justin Upton, Michael Morse

First Five Votes

As a registered user at MLB.com, I am able to vote for the 2014 All-Star game 35 times (you can, too, by registering for free).  I’ve decided to divide my voting into three rounds.  The first round will get 5 votes, the second round will get 10 votes, and the final round will receive 20 votes.  Each ballot will be cast on the 1st of the month.  So, since today is May 1st, I’m casting my first five votes.  I’ll post each time I vote, and give a brief explanation for each choice.  My stats may be ever so slightly off, depending on last night’s games.  But, it shouldn’t make much of a difference for any vote.  We’ll go position-by-position, the same way the ballot is set up.2014_Twins_All-Star_Game_Logo

FIRST BASE

AL:  Jose Abreu (CHW).  There’s really no debate here.  10 HR, 32 RBI in his first month in the majors.  Among players who have never had a 10 HR/32 RBI month in their careers: Evan Longoria, Prince Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez, etc.

NL:  Adrian Gonzalez (LAD).  Also an easy choice.  He leads all NL first baseman in HR, RBI, wRC+, and is just .002 behind Morneau for the lead in OPS.  All while batting a very nice .313 – good enough for 5th.

KEEP AN EYE ON:  Albert Pujols, Mike Napoli, Freddie Freeman and Justin Morneau

 

SECOND BASE

AL:  Ben Zobrist (TB).  He leads all AL second basemen in batting avg., HR, OBP, OPS, and wRC+.  His 8 RBI don’t look like much, but he’s clearly producing in other ways.

NL:  Chase Utley (PHI).  It’s nice to see a guy that has been so hampered by injuries the last few years, come back to playing well.  His .355/.408/.570/.978 slash line leads all NL second basemen in every category.

KEEP AN EYE ON:  Brian Dozier, Howie Kendrick, Dee Gordon, Emilio Bonifacio

 

SHORTSTOP

AL:  Alexei Ramirez (CHW).  While his defense seems to be average, he is so far ahead of everyone else offensively (for now), that it doesn’t make sense to vote for anyone else.  He leads all AL shortstops in batting avg., HR, RBI, SLG, OPS and wRC+.

NL:  Troy Tulowitzki (COL).  Probably the easiest choice on the ballot.  Not only is he one of the best defensive shortstops in the NL, but he is putting up MVP-type numbers at the plate – leading all NL shortstops in every significant offensive stat, aside from stolen bases.

KEEP AN EYE ON:  Jed Lowrie, Xander Bogaerts, Hanley Ramirez

 

THIRD BASE

AL:  Josh Donaldson (OAK).  Somewhat of a tight race, depending on which stats you go with.  Donaldson leads AL third basemen in HR, RBI and SLG, and is the better defender.  But, Plouffe is right on his heels.

NL:  Juan Uribe (LAD).  Another tight race.  But, with several good candidates.  Uribe gets the nod for me, because he has proven thus far to be the best defender in the group, has a comfortable lead in wRC+, and a slight lead in SLG and OPS.

KEEP AN EYE ON:  Trevor Plouffe, Evan Longoria, Anthony Rendon, Nolan Arenado, Todd Frazier, Aramis Ramirez

 

CATCHER

AL:  Matt Wieters (BAL).  He holds a decent lead among AL catchers in batting, SLG and OPS, and is 2nd in both HR and RBI.  He’s also one of the better defenders behind the plate.

NL:  Yadier Molina (STL).  This is a tight 3-way race right now.  Offensively, for now, I would rank them 1. Saltalamacchia, 2. Molina, 3. Posey.  Defensivley, for now, I would rank them 1. Posey, 2. Molina, 3. Saltalamacchia.  I’ll give Molina a slight edge for now, but I’ll be keeping a close eye on this race.

KEEP AN EYE ON:  Josmil Pinto, Kurt Suzuki, Buster Posey, Jarrod Saltalamacchia

 

DESIGNATED HITTER

AL:  Matt Joyce (TB).  This might seem like a strange choice, considering the year Cruz is having in Baltimore.  But, in spite of trailing Cruz in some significant categories (HR & RBI), Joyce actually has the better OBP, OPS and wRC+.

KEEP AN EYE ON:  Nelson Cruz, Adam Dunn

 

OUTFIELD

AL:  Jose Bautista (TOR), Mike Trout (LAA), Melky Cabrera (TOR).  Bautista and Trout are comfortably #1 & #2, respectively, in OPS, HR, SLG, and wRC+.  Cabrera is leading AL outfielders in batting and is 3rd in HR and 4th in wRC+.

NL:  Justin Upton (ATL), Charlie Blackmon (COL), Ryan Braun (MIL).  Upton leads all NL outfielders in wRC+ & SLG, and is 2nd in HR & OPS.  Blackmon leads NL outfielders in batting avg., OBP, OPS & stolen bases, and is 2nd in SLG  & wRC+.  Braun is the only one left without a glaring weakness:  .318/.361/.591/.952, 6 HR, 18 RBI, 3 SB.  Morse’s defense is poor.  Stanton’s batting below .270.  McCutchen has just 4 HR.  And so on.

KEEP AN EYE ON:  Shin-Soo Choo, Dayan Viciedo, Michael Morse, Giancarlo Stanton, Andrew McCutchen, Carlos Gomez, Angel Pagan

All-Time Greatest: San Francisco Giants

The New York Gothams were founded by John B. Day, and they joined the National League in 1883.  It’s said that their name was changed to Giants a few seasons later after a particularly exhilarating win led manager Jim Mutrie to rush into the clubhouse and shout, “My big fellows! My giants!”  The New York Giants enjoyed almost immediate success, winning the National League pennant in 1888 & 1889.  They also won a type of “World Series” those years, though postseason games were considered exhibition games until 1903.  After the World Series was official, they continued to succeed, winning their first title in 1905.  Then, from 1911-1924, they won 8 National League pennants (including 4 in a row from ’21-’24), and 2 more World Series titles.  Since that time, the franchise had off and on success while in New York – 3 World Series appearances and 1 title from ’33-’37, then two more NL pennants in ’51 and ’54, winning the championship in ’54.

But, just three years after their World Series win, the Giants were struggling to win, and headed toward a 2nd consecutive 6th place finish.  With the Polo Grounds in disrepair, they desperately needed a new stadium.  Initially, they considered a move to Minnesota, where their top farm team was located.  But, then Giants owners were approached by the mayor of San Francisco.  It just so happened that the Brooklyn Dodgers’ owner, Walter O’Malley, had begun considering a move to Los Angeles.  But, he was told that his team wouldn’t be allowed to move to California unless another team also moved to the west coast.  So, O’Malley began urging Giants’ majority owner, Horace Stoneham, to go through with his move to San Francisco.  And, during the summer of ’57, both the Giants and Dodgers announced their plans to relocate – ending what many consider the golden age of baseball in New York City.

In their first 52 seasons in San Francisco, the Giants had limited success:  just 8 playoff appearances, 3 World Series appearances, and 0 championships.  Then, in 2010, they won their first World Series title since the move, ending a 56-year drought, which they quickly followed up with another title in 2012.  The Giants have 22 National League pennants and 19 World Series appearances – both records in the NL.  They also have 7 World Series championships, which is second only to St. Louis in the NL.  More Hall of Fame members spent the majority of their career with the Giants franchise than any other baseball franchise.  They’ve retired 9 players’ jerseys, fielded 11 Rookie of the Year winners (including 5 straight from ’72-’76), had 9 different players win 15 MVP’s, and 2 pitchers have won 3 Cy Young awards.  Needless to say, there is a lot of history to consider when choosing the best of the best from this franchise.  So, here goes…

{6FFEFA9B-4E35-496F-AEF5-E2D14DC1B946}5. Carl Hubbell (’28-’43) – Hubbell was the first NL player to have his jersey number retired (1944).  And, deservedly so.  Hubbell won 2 MVP awards (’33 & ’36), and appeared in 9 All-Star games in his 16-year career.  His most memorable moment came in the 1934 All-Star game, when he struck out 5 consecutive batters (still the record for an individual pitcher), all of whom were future Hall of Famers (Ruth, Gehrig, Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin).  He also holds the major league record for consecutive wins (24), which he set during the ’36 & ’37 seasons.  He led the league in wins 3 times, win pct. twice, ERA 3 times, strikeouts once, WHIP 6 times, and K/BB ratio 5 times.  He possesses a 2.98 career ERA, ranks 2nd all-time on the Giants’ wins list (253), 9th in career WHIP among pitchers with at least 1,000 IP (1.17), 4th in career K’s (1677), and 3rd in ERA+ (130).  I give Hubbell just the slightest of edge over Juan Marichal because he had more league-leading stats, and Marichal pitched in a more pitcher-dominant era.

bonds-14. Barry Bonds (’93-’07) – one day (probably not real soon), all the steroid talk is going to die down, and people will be ready to recognize Bonds for the talented player he was, rather than punish him for the incomparable batter he appeared to be.  I’m going to try to do that here.  I’m not going to go into all of the numbers that I think he could have achieved even without PED’s.  What I’m going to suggest to you is that if his career had continued the downward slope that it appeared to be on at the end of the ’99 season (granted, it wasn’t a very drastic slope), he would have still finished his career as one of the best to ever play for the Giants.  He still would have had an MVP as a Giant.  He still would have appeared in at least 7 All-Star games, and won 5 Gold Gloves.  He still likely would have ranked in the top 2 or 3 on the Giants’ all-time lists in OBP, SLG, OPS, walks and OPS+.  And, he would have most likely finished in the top 5 in HR and RBI for the franchise.  He might very well have finished as a greater all-around player than the likes of Ott (see below).  But, he slides back a spot because of his lack of respect for the game and its history.

Image1-263. Mel Ott (’26-’47) – Mel Ott is my new hero.  5’9″ tall, 170 lbs., and he was the first NL player to reach 500 HR’s.  Makes me think even I could do it … if my 170 lbs. was more muscle, and less gut.  But, I digress.  Ott was the youngest player to ever hit for the cycle, which he accomplished on May 16, 1929 at the age of 20.  He led the league in HR 6 times.  But, what’s even more impressive is the fact that he led his Giants teams in HR 18 consecutive years (’28-’45)!  No other player in baseball history has led his team in any of the Triple Crown categories for as many consecutive years.  Ott had 8 consecutive 100-RBI seasons (and if he hadn’t come up 5 short in ’37, it would have been 10 consecutive), becoming the first NL player to do so.  And, in the 78 years since he did it, only 4 other NL players have been able to accomplish this impressive feat (Mays, Sosa, Chipper Jones, and Pujols).  Ott also led the league in OBP 4 times, which was aided by the fact that he led the league in walks 6 times, and never had as many as 70 K’s in any single season.  And, if his career hadn’t taken such a drastic turn the last 5 seasons (averaged just 83 games & 13 HR after his age 33 season), he likely would have joined the 3,000 hit club, in addition to the 500 HR club – an elite group with just 3 legitimate members in baseball history (Palmeiro doesn’t count).  As for his rankings on the Giants’ all-time lists, Ott is 2nd in OBP (.414), 7th in SLG (.533), 3rd in OPS (.947), 2nd in runs (1859), 2nd in hits (2876), 2nd in doubles (488), 3rd in HR (511), 1st in RBI (1860 – 12th all-time in MLB history), and 4th in OPS+ (155).

mathewson-52. Christy Mathewson (1900-1916) – Mathewson is often considered one of the top 5 or 6 pitchers of all time.  His 373 career wins ranks 3rd all-time.  And, if you take out his first season (in which he only pitched in 6 games at the age of 19), and his last season (in which he only started 7 games), his average season was a record of 25-12 with a 2.10 ERA and 1.05 WHIP!  His 2.13 career ERA ranks 8th all time.  His 1.058 career WHIP ranks 6th all time.  Had the Cy Young award existed, there’s no question Mathewson would have won at least twice, and quite possibly 4 times.  As it was, he finished in the top 4 in MVP voting twice.  In 1936, when the first Hall of Fame class was introduced, Mathewson received more votes than any other pitcher – including Walter Johnson and Cy Young.  He ranks 1st on the Giants’ all-time ERA list (2.12), 1st in wins (372), 4th in win pct. among pitchers with at least 1000 IP (.664), 1st in WHIP (1.057), 1st in K’s (2504), 1st in shutouts (79), 2nd in K/BB ratio (2.96), and 2nd in ERA+ (136).

mays-sized1. Willie Mays (’51-’73) – so, who could possibly rank higher in an organization than one of the top 5 pitchers of all time?  Well, it would have to be the guy who is arguably the greatest all-around player of all time.  I respect Babe Ruth’s talent – but, he wasn’t facing the kind of pitching that existed in Mays’ era.  Ted Williams, in my opinion, is the best pure hitter in baseball history.  But, he didn’t have the speed or glove Mays did. As previously mentioned, there are only three legitimate members of the 500 HR/3,000 Hit club: Mays, Aaron and Eddie Murray.  Of those three, Mays is the only one with more than 300 stolen bases, and he has twice as many Gold Gloves as the other two combined.  There are 8 members of the 300/300 club (HR & SB): Bonds (who actually joined the club at the age of 30!), Mays, Andre Dawson, Bobby Bonds, Reggie Sanders, Steve Finley, A-Rod and Carlos Beltran.  Of that club, only Barry has more HR than Mays (and we know the story there), and only the two Bonds’ have more SB than Mays (and Bobby has over 300 fewer HR than Mays).  Mays is tied for the 6th most Gold Gloves ever awarded to one player, with 12.  But, what you might not know is that the Gold Glove wasn’t awarded until 1957 – 3 years after Mays had already won his first MVP, and had made “The Catch” in Game 1 of the ’54 World Series.  As it is, no one ahead of him on the Gold Glove list (Greg Maddux, Jim Kaat, Brooks Robinson, Ivan Rodriguez and Ozzie Smith) comes anywhere close to having his offensive prowess.  So, all of this is why I think he belongs at the top of this, and many other lists.

All-Time Greatest: San Diego Padres

The Padres have been a part of the city of San Diego as far back as 1936.  Though, not in their current form.  The original San Diego Padres were a minor league team in the PCL.  They were led to the 1937 PCL championship by an 18-year-old San Diego native named Ted Williams.  In 1969, San Diego was one of 4 cities that debuted expansion franchises (others included the Seattle Pilots (Milwaukee Brewers), Montreal Expos (Washington Nationals), and Kansas City Royals).   They have had very little success in their 45 seasons. In fact, they have had more seasons in which they finished in last place (17), than seasons in which they even finished with a winning record (13).  They have 5 playoff appearances in their history (’84, ’96, ’98, ’05 & ’06), and can lay claim to 2 National League pennants, but were handily defeated in both World Series appearances (only 1 win in 9 games).  To this date, they also are the only team in all of MLB to have never had a pitcher throw a no-hitter, and are one of just two teams (Marlins) to have yet to have a player hit for the cycle.

Perhaps a lack of overall success is a part of the oddity that is their uniform.  I don’t mean that their current uniforms look strange, but the curious tour they took to get to where they are today.  In just 45 years of existence, the Padres have had six different logos, and four different color combinations.  In fact, since 2001, the team has undergone 5 different changes to their uniforms, color scheme, and/or logo.  One might could interpret this as a continuing struggle for an identity, as the team historically has had very few star players that they were able to keep around long enough for the fan base to identify with.  But, that’s really a discussion for a different post.  In their history, the Padres have fielded 1 MVP, 4 Cy Young winners, and 2 Rookie of the Year winners.  And while there is only one player in the HOF who spent the majority of his career with the Padres, there is one other player with a Padres hat on his plaque.  But, we’ll discuss them momentarily.  For now, let’s consider the 5 greatest Padres of all time:

5. Jake Peavy (’02-’09) – from 2004-2008, it looked as though Peavy was going to be a premier pitcher in the league for a long time.  Over that period of time his average ERA was 2.95 (leading the league twice), his average WHIP was 1.14 (leading the league once), and he averaged over 200 K’s per season (leading the league twice, and finishing 2nd once).  But, injuries have taken their toll (everything from ankles, to ribs, to back muscles), and today he is a fraction of the pitcher he was with the Padres.  But, his time with the Padres was impressive.  In addition to the aforementioned accolades, he was named the starter for the NL in two All-Star games (’05 & ’07), and won the Cy Young in 2007, when he completed the pitching triple crown.  Among pitchers with at least 900 IP with the Padres, Peavy ranks 4th in ERA (3.29), 2nd in wins (92), 2nd in win pct. (.575), 3rd in WHIP (1.186), 2nd in K/9 (9.04), 1st in K’s (1348), 2nd in K/BB ratio (3.099), and 2nd in ERA+ (119).

dave-winfield4. Dave Winfield (’73-’80) – many who write about Winfield speak of him as though he were an amazingly gifted athlete who could do anything on the baseball diamond.  And, in many respects, that is an accurate description.  Winfield was a Gold Glove rightfielder (won 2 while in San Diego), who could hit for power, and steal a sizable number of bases.  But, the cynic in me looks at his stats from another perspective, too.  You could easily look at his numbers and come to the conclusion that while he did everything well, he didn’t excel at anything – which is why he’s ranked this low on my list.  He may have 465 career HR, but it took him 22 years to accumulate that many (around 22 per season).  He may have 3,110 hits, but he never had 200 in a season, and only had 180+ 4 times (a career .283 batter).  He may have been able to steal some bases, but the most he ever stole in a single season was 26, and he averaged just 11 per season for his career.  And, he only ever led the league in anything one time.  His best season was in ’79, while still with the Padres.  He led the league in RBI (118 – the highest total of his career, and one of just 8 seasons he eclipsed 100), and hit 34 HR, to go along with his .308/.395/.558/.953 stat line.  All of which led to him finishing 3rd in the MVP voting (the highest he would ever finish in his career).  While with the Padres, he also appeared in 4 All-Star games.  Winfield was an excellent player, and I believe deserves to be in the HOF (elected on first ballot in ’01).  But, I think his lore outshines reality.  That being said, he is certainly one of the greatest to play for the Padres, and even though he spent one more season with the Yankees than he did with the Padres, he chose to have the Padres logo on his Hall of Fame plaque.  Winfield ranks 7th all-time in San Diego history in SLG (.464), 8th in OPS (.821), 3rd in hits (1134), 4th in HR (154), 2nd in RBI (626), 6th in stolen bases (133), 5th in OPS+ (134), and 2nd in runs created (666).

adrian-gonzalez-smiling3. Adrian Gonzalez (’06-’10) – while with the Padres, Gonzalez was a 3-time All-Star, 2-time Gold Glove winner at first base, and finished 4th in MVP voting his final season in San Diego.  His average season with the team included 32 HR, 100 RBI, and an .888 OPS, in spite of playing half of each season in one of the most difficult parks to hit in.  Interestingly, the only statistic of significance in which he led the league while with the Padres was walks in 2009.  But, compared to someone like Winfield, I think you’ll see that the only time Winfield is ranked ahead of Gonzalez in Padres history, is when Winfield benefited from having 3 more seasons to accumulate numbers in San Diego.  In franchise history, Gonzalez ranks 7th all-time in batting (.288), 9th in OBP (.374), 3rd in SLG (.514), 3rd in OPS, 6th in hits (856), 4th in total bases (1529), 2nd in HR (161), 4th in RBI (501), 3rd in OPS+ (141), and 3rd in runs created (565).

trevor-hoffman-padres2. Trevor Hoffman (’93-’08) – one of the longest tenured Padres in their history, Hoffman ranks 6th all-time in the number of games he appeared in for San Diego – all while working as their closer, which meant he usually appeared in only 60-70 games each season.  He came over to the Padres in the middle of the ’93 season in the deal that sent Gary Sheffield to Florida.  In ’94, he became their primary closer, and saved 20 games.  That would turn out to be the only season a healthy Hoffman would save fewer than 30 games for San Diego (he missed nearly all of the ’03 season from shoulder surgery).  From ’95-’08, Hoffman set MLB records for most 30-save seasons (13), and most 40-save seasons (8) in a career (he would extend his 30-save season record by 1 in 2009 with the Brewers).  Hoffman was the first player ever to reach the 500-save and 600-save marks.  He held the all-time save record from 2006-2011.  A 6-time All-Star with the Padres, he also was runner-up for the Cy Young in ’98 & ’06 – the only two years he led the league in saves.  Among pitchers with at least 900 IP in San Diego, Hoffman ranks 1st in ERA (2.76), 10th in wins (54), 1st in WHIP (1.04), 1st in K/9 (9.725), 1st in saves (552), 3rd in K’s (1029), 1st in K/BB ratio (4.035), and 1st in ERA+ (146).

917b07af-df46-485f-8f1d-53fe4d1cacad_lg1. Tony Gwynn (’82-’01) – there are some players who are the face of the franchise.  And, not just for a particular era, but will forever be associated with that team.  Gwynn is one of those.  His entire career was spent in San Diego.  The address of Petco Park is 19 Tony Gwynn Dr. (San Diego retired Gwynn’s #19 in 2004)  He was drafted by the Padres in June of ’81 out of San Diego State, and made his debut for the Padres just a little over a year later.  And, so began the career of, in my opinion, the greatest pure hitter of his era.  Gwynn was not a power hitter, and he didn’t drive in a lot of runs.  He usually was batting at or near the top of the order, and was actually quite fast in his earlier days – he stole 56 bases in ’87 (2nd best in the NL)!  But, Gwynn’s claim to fame was that he was a hits machine.  He won 8 batting titles – the second most in the history of baseball.  He also led the league in hits 7 times.  He appeared in an impressive 15 All-Star games, won 5 Gold Gloves, and finished in the top-10 in MVP voting 7 times (though, he never won).  When the baseball strike prematurely ended the ’94 season in mid-August, Gwynn was batting .394 – the highest average by any NL player since 1930.  He never got closer to .400.  He was elected to the baseball Hall of Fame in 2007 by the 7th highest percentage in history (97.6%), just 13 votes shy of unanimous selection. Gwynn is the all-time leader in Padres history in batting (.338), runs (1383), hits (3141), total bases (4259), doubles (543), triples (85), RBI (1138), walks (790 – and, interestingly, isn’t even in the top 10 in strikeouts; averaged just 22 K’s per season for his career!), stolen bases (319), and runs created (1636 – including 2 of the top 3 single seasons in Padres history).