Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Peavy Perfect Fit

The Red Sox made a trading deadline splash by acquiring Peavy
Boston Red Sox GM Ben Cherington bolstered his starting rotation today via a three-way trade that brings Jake Peavy to Beantown and sends Jose Iglesias to Motown.

This is a great move for the Sox, who don't expect Clay Buchholz to return until September and needed another arm for their playoff push. Peavy, an All-Star last year, is 8-4 with a 4.28 ERA over 13 starts so far in 2013. He solidifies a formidable rotation that already features Jon Lester, John Lackey, Ryan Dempster, and Felix Doubront, pushing rookie Brandon Workman into the bullpen.

Age and injuries have taken their toll on the 32 year-old's arm and velocity in recent years. While he's no longer the Cy Young-caliber starter he was half a decade ago, he's still an above average hurler who can make a difference down the stretch. Peavy's posted stellar peripherals to date, including a 4.47 K/BB ratio (the best mark of his career), and 1.14 WHIP. His 8.6 K/9 rate is the highest it's been since 2009, and his 3.68 xFIP is right in line with his career mark of 3.65. With better luck, his ERA could easily be half a run lower.

Credit Cherington for netting a strong return in Peavy without having to surrender much in the way of prospects: three so-so guys, none of whom are named Xander Bogaerts or Jackie Bradley Jr. The club won't miss Iglesias, either, even though he's one of the best defenders around and was hitting .330 at the time of the trade. The simple truth is that Iglesias, who has no power whatsoever and is slumping badly (.216/.250/.225 since June 26th), isn't a capable major league hitter and probably never will be. If he was, John Farrell wouldn't be batting him ninth. With Bogaerts and possibly Will Middlebrooks waiting in the wings, Iglesias was expendable with trade value that might never be higher. Cherington was smart to deal him while his numbers were still inflated by his .376 (and falling) BABiP.

There are two more things I like about this deal. The first is that Peavy, who is under contract for next year, isn't merely a two month rental. Barring injury, he'll play a prominent role with the Sox in 2014. The second is that the departure of Iglesias creates a vacancy at third base. Normally that would be a bad thing, but in this case it opens the door for Bogaerts to join the big club in the near future. The 20 year-old phenom has been hitting well with Pawtucket (.854 OPS) and deserves a crack at the Show.

No offense to Brock Holt, but hopefully Cherington doesn't make Bogaerts wait much longer.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Why Pedroia's Worth It

Pedroia will be a fixture with Boston for the remainder of the decade
The Boston Red Sox didn't have much luck with its large investments throughout Theo Epstein's regime. Daisuke Matsuzaka gave the team just two quality seasons before breaking down. Julio Lugo and Carl Crawford were massive busts. J.D. Drew disappointed. John Lackey is just starting to earn his keep in Year 4 of his five year deal.

It was not surprising, then, that Epstein's successor, Ben Cherington, avoided such lavish commitments like the plague during his first two years on the job. He wisely refrained from throwing money at pricey free agents like Jose Reyes, Zack Greinke, and Josh Hamilton. Instead, his claim to fame was dumping more than a quarter billion dollars worth of salary on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the form of Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto. When tasked with reloading his roster for 2013, he sidestepped baseball's biggest names in favor of handing out smaller, midlevel deals to Ryan Dempster, Shane Victorino, and Mike Napoli.

But now, perhaps emboldened by his club's success, Cherington felt the time was right to lock up the smallest franchise player around; Dustin Pedroia. Pedroia, who's enjoying another stellar season and just made his fourth All-Star team, was under contract through next year and had a (now guaranteed) club option for 2015. His new deal--which includes a full no-trade clause--ensures that he will remain in a Red Sox uniform through the 2021 season. It also guarantees that he'll add more than $100 million to his already sizable bank account.

It's hard to think of a player more deserving of a nine figure contract than Pedroia, who in many ways is the Red Sox equivalent of Derek Jeter. The sparkplug second baseman has been a fan favorite since 2007, when he took home AL Rookie of the Year honors and helped lead Boston to its second World Series title of the new millennium. The following year he was named the league's Most Valuable Player after leading all players in hits and doubles, propelling the defending champs to within one game of another World Series berth.

Since then, he's maintained his status as one of the game's best second baseman. A career .303 hitter with good power (only Robinson Cano has more doubles since Opening Day, 2007) and a keen batting eye (more walks than strikeouts for his career), he also boasts a pair of Gold Glove awards and four seasons with at least 20 steals. For all his physical limitations, there's nothing he can't do on the ballfield.

Because of his superior hitting, baserunning, and defense at a premium position, Pedroia is a very valuable baseball player. Even when he's hurt, as he was in 2010 when he played just 75 games and again in 2012 (when he bravely gritted through a dislocated thumb during a lost season) he provided 3.2 and 4.9 bWAR, respectively. When healthy, he puts up MVP-caliber numbers that merit his salary and then some. With Cano set to score a payday in the neighborhood of $200 million, Pedroia's contract will look like a massive bargain by comparison.

His contributions don't stop there, though. No analysis of Pedroia's value is complete without mentioning what he brings to the table off the field, namely toughness, confidence, and a winning attitude. Along with David Ortiz, he's a team leader and positive clubhouse presence who plays hard everyday. The Red Sox need not worry about their face of the franchise becoming complacent in the wake of his new financial security; his competitive drive and fiery nature would never allow it.

I think this deal is going to work out great for the Bosox, even though second basemen tend to not age well. Like Chase Utley, he's so good that that he'll still be above average even as he gets older and breaks down. My real concern is that Pedroia puts himself at risk with his all-out playing style as well as his insistence on grinding through injuries. He beats up his body, but hopefully he'll learn to tone it down a bit with age. Otherwise, he's going to learn the hard way in his 30s, when his muscles and bones become less forgiving.

Still, it's comforting to know he'll still be here eight years from now, probably as the team captain, long after Big Papi hangs up his spikes and Jacoby Ellsbury moves on. He's not going anywhere.

Red Sox Offense First Half Review

The driving force behind Boston's sterling first half has been its potent offense, which leads the major leagues in runs, doubles, and OPS.

C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
After back-to-back middling seasons as Boston's backstop/Jason Varitek's replacement backstop. Salty seems to have settled in and looks more comfortable with the pitching staff. He's improved with the stick as well, even if he isn't hitting for as much power as he did during 2011-'12, when he smashed 41 home runs with a .224 ISO.  It's troubling that he's fanned in more than one third of his plate appearances so far and has benefited from a fluky .387 BABiP. He's compensated by already establishing a new career high in doubles and boosting on-base percentage nearly 50 points thanks to a much improved walk rate. After posting a .288 OBP in consecutive seasons he's been more selective at the plate, a relief for those who feared he was nothing more than a J.P. Arencibia type.

1B Mike Napoli
The returns on him have been good so far, even though he's nowhere near the player Adrian Gonzalez was in his brief stint with the Sox. The degenerative hip condition that scared Boston into restructuring his contract hasn't been an issue for Napoli, who's been in the lineup almost everyday and provided his usual power and on-base ability. His 2011 aberration notwithstanding, Napoli is never going to be Manny Ramirez, but he's formed a strong 1-2 punch with David Ortiz in the heart of Boston's order. He's had his share of ups and downs, with a nasty two month long slump of .242/.343/.331 nestled between his red-hot first month and monster July. Like Saltalamacchia, he's likely to see some regression if and when his .383 BABiP comes back to Earth, especially since Napoli is walking less and striking out more often than ever before. Perhaps the most surprising thing about his season so far is that he's hit better on the road (.832 OPS) than he has at Fenway (.819). He also has a healthy RBI total despite not performing particularly well with men on base, so if that changes he'll likely make a run at his first 100 RBI season.

2B Dustin Pedroia
Pedroia's bounced back nicely from a "down" 2012 and just received a contract extension that will keep the former MVP in Beantown through 2021. More on that to come.

3B Jose Iglesias
Will Middlebrooks, the Opening Day third baseman and heir apparent to Kevin Youkilis, was such a black hole on offense (63 OPS+) that he needed a demotion to Pawtucket. That allowed Iglesias, a shortstop by trade, to man the hot corner while Drew plays short. The 23 year-old Iglesias has become the early frontrunner to win American League Rookie of the Year thanks to his sensational defense and unsustainable batting average. His .343 mark looks a lot less impressive given that more than 81 percent of his hits are singles and is guaranteed to fall along with his .393 BABiP. In fact, his inevitable regression to the mean is already well underway. Over the past month he's been the all-glove no-stick ballplayer he's always been, batting just .227 with one extra base hit--a double. For all his good luck and infield singles, he's still not a capable major league hitter and probably never will be. Xander Bogaerts is the team's future at shortstop.

SS Stephen Drew
J.D. Drew's little brother has been a disappointment so far, bearing little resemblance to the All-Star caliber player he was with Arizona. Showed signs of life with a solid June, only to miss three weeks with hamstring tightness that derailed his momentum. He's always been more of a second half player, with a career OPS 54 points better after the All-Star Break than before it, so hopefully he'll find his June swing and be fine going forward.

LF Daniel Nava
The miracle worker's evolved from a feel good story into a legitimate All-Star candidate. He carried the team on his back during the season's first three weeks, helping Boston jump out to a fast start. Since then he's continued to drive in runs while maintaining a strong OBP. Suffice it to say, Nava's provided much more than anyone could've possibly hoped for at the beginning of the year.

CF Jacoby Ellsbury
The major league stolen base leader has recovered from a sluggish start, boosting his batting average above .300 on the season. He's posting the best walk rate of his career which, combined with his excellent batting average, has him primed to score 100 runs for just the second time in his career. His three month drought between longballs proves that his bizarre power surge was indeed an aberration, but then again it's hard to go yard when you're hitting nearly two balls on the ground for every one you lift into the air. The speedster's recouped some of that lost value by being more aggressive and efficient on the basepaths, swiping bags at a 92.5 percent clip. More than anything, health has been the key to his success, as he's already played more games in 2013 than he did in 2010 and 2012 combined.

RF Shane Victorino
The 32 year-old has had his issues staying on the field, missing 34 games already. But when he's played he's been more than capable. In addition to supplying plenty of his plus defense and baserunning, he's been better at the plate than he was last year thanks to better results batting from the left side. That's allowed Farrell to bat him out of the two hole in 60 of his 70 games, allowing Victorino to be a table-setter instead of sliding him down in the order (what happened to Carl Crawford).

DH David Ortiz
Despite opening the season on the DL, Ortiz picked up where he left off in 2012 by getting off to a torrid start. Big Papi has far and away been the team's best hitter all year, leading the club in most offensive categories and anchoring the heart of Boston's order.

The bench
Mike Carp has been spectacular and Jonny Gomes is coming around. Otherwise, there isn't really too much to say.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Red Sox Pitching First Half Review

After Red Sox starting pitchers posted a franchise worst 5.19 ERA last year, they have a engineered a massive turnaround under new manager/former pitching coach John Farrell. Their 3.81 ERA is nearly a run and a half better than it was last season, when the club lost 93 games after falling behind early and often. Though Boston's pitching staff is merely average, ranking near the middle of the pack in most categories, it performs well enough to keep the team in games and allow the team's elite offense to carry the day. Just as abysmal starting pitching was behind Boston's historic 2011 collapse and terrible 2012, healthy, effective starters combined with solid relief work have gone a long way towards restoring the team's winning ways.

SP Jon Lester (8-6, 4.58 ERA)
It's been a rough first half for Lester, who's pitched almost as poorly as he did during his pedestrian 2012. What's even more frustrating is that he got off to such a great start, seemingly "fixed" by Farrell. Over the past two months, however, he's been maddeningly inconsistent and ineffective.
Therough May 15th (9 starts): 6-0, 2.72 ERA, 3.33 K/BB, 4 HR, .576 OPS, 64 strike %
Since May 15th (11 starts): 2-6, 6.27 ERA, 1.77 K/BB, 11 HR, .883 OPS, 62 strike %
Since his velocity is fine and he's been healthy, the only possible explanation is that Lester hasn't located his pitches well recently. He's throwing fewer strikes, and the strikes he does throw catch too much of the plate. In fact, he's been so hittable that the average opponent transforms into Edwin Encarnacion when he digs in against Lester. By leaving his pitches up in the zone, Lester's inducing fewer fewer grounders and is allowing hitters to elevate the ball, which explains why he's surrendering more long balls. On the whole, Lester (4.02 xFIP) hasn't been quite as bad as his ERA would suggest, but it's not like he's been particularly unfortunate. Bad luck has also played a part in his recent struggles, yes, but he experienced good luck during the season's first six weeks so his luck has more or less evened out. On the bright side, his performance improved considerably during the season's final two months last year, so the hope is that he can turn it around in the second half and help pitch Boston back into the postseason.

SP Clay Buchholz (9-0, 1.71 ERA)
The uber-talented but ever-fragile Buchholz was nothing short of magnificent before a neck injury forced him to the Disabled List in June. Until then he was the frontrunner for the AL Cy Young award. The Red Sox went 11-1 in his 12 starts, probably because he allowed more than two earned runs just once. Incredibly, he allowed just two home runs during those dozen gems. Unfortunately, the All-Star probably won't take the field again until September, the kind of absence that leaves a big hole in the rotation and may ultimately prevent Boston from reaching the postseason.

SP Ryan Dempster (5-8, 4.28 ERA)
Boston's big free agent pitching acquisition has fulfilled his role as a solid midrotation stabilizer. He was great in the early going but has since settled into a steady, reliable innings eater, allowing three earned runs or fewer in nine of his past ten starts. His propensity for allowing too many baserunners (1.45 WHIP) and home runs (1.6/9--the highest of his career) limit him from pitching deep into games (he's averaging less than six innings per start) while keeping his ERA+ at a perfectly average 100. That said, he's held his own against his AL East competition and should continue to provide decent results going forward. Hopefully he can avoid a repeat of his disastrous second half from last season after the Cubs traded him to Texas.

SP John Lackey (7-7, 2.95 ERA)
After bombing in 2011 and missing all of 2012 recovering from Tommy John surgery, Lackey came into 2013 with zero expectations. Certainly nobody was expecting the 34 year-old to pitch the best baseball of his career, but after a rocky start that's exactly what he's done. Lackey's returned to form by keeping the ball down (thus inducing lots of ground balls) and commanding the strike zone. His walk rate has never been lower while his strikeout rate is the highest it's been since 2005. What's more, he's improved his velocity and has gotten stronger as the season's gone on. After completing seven innings just twice in April and May combined, he's finished seven frames six times in the past six weeks. A bit of regression is probably in order--his 80.3 LOB% is well above league average and likely to come down--but his stellar peripherals prove that his turnaround his legit. For instance, his 3.17 xFIP essentially matches his ERA.

SP Felix Doubront (7-3, 3.76 ERA)
Pegged as a breakout candidate after a promising but uneven 2012--his first full season--the hard-throwing southpaw has improved considerably thus far in 2013. Though he's striking out fewer batters than he did last year (diminished velocity is to blame for that), Doubront's been more economical with his pitches and could cross the 200 inning threshold for the first time in his career. Aside from back-to-back six-run outings to open May, he's held opponents to three runs or less in the rest of his starts (16 of 18) this year. He's been especially good at limiting the long ball, serving up just eight dingers on the year. With a 2.59 ERA in his past dozen starts, the 25 year-old appears to be coming into his own as he realizes his exciting potential.

The 'pen (3.97 ERA)
Gone are the days of Jonathan Papelbon, when Boston could count on a shutdown closer to mow down opponents and preserve wins. Joel Hanrahan, a two-time All-Star, was supposed to be that guy, but he pitched poorly and was lost for the season in early May. His setup man Andrew Bailey didn't do much better (and is now done for the year), forcing Farrell to turn to Koji Uehara, who began the season with 14 saves to his name. That lack of closer experience hasn't stopped Uehara from flourishing, and he looks like the solution to Boston's ninth inning problems despite depleting the middle relief corps. Craig Breslow and Junichi Tazawa have been excellent, as was Andrew Miller before he got hurt, but there aren't too many options beyond them. Ben Cherington needs to trade for another reliever or two to shore up the bullpen, but as long as he brings in some help the bullpen should continue to be fine.

Monday, July 15, 2013

First Half Awards

AL MVP--Miguel Cabrera
Chris Davis has been ridiculous, but it's Cabrera who leads most of baseball's offensive categories including runs, hits, RBI, batting average, OBP, OPS, and OPS+. He also has the most bWAR in the Junior Circuit, which was not the case when he won the award last year. If Davis gets hurt and/or endures a prolonged power outage, Miggy's going to cruise to another Triple Crown.

AL Cy Young--Felix Hernandez
Tough call between King Felix and Max Scherzer, but I'll side with Hernandez, who's pacing the Junior Circuit in ERA, innings pitched, and bWAR for pitchers. That combination of quality and quantity make him the favorite in my book.

AL Rookie of the Year--Jose Iglesias
A weak rookie class in the American League has allowed Boston's 23 year-old shortstop to jump to the front of the pack. The slick-fielding Iglesias has paired stellar defense with a .367 batting average through just under 200 plate appearances this season. Granted, that batting average is both empty (just one home run) and a mirage (a byproduct of his inflated .414 BABiP), but his ability to leg out infield hits should keep his batting average north of .300.

AL Comeback Player of the Year--Mariano Rivera
This one's a no-brainer. The 43 year-old Rivera rebounded from a torn ACL to reclaim his status as one of the game's premier closers. It's been business as usual for Rivera, who has 30 saves and a 1.83 ERA entering the All-Star Break.

NL MVP--Paul Goldschmidt
Where would the Arizona Diamondbacks be without Goldschmidt, the NL RBI leader and lone force in an otherwise mediocre lineup? Not at the top of their division, that's for sure.

NL Cy Young--Clayton Kershaw
Could easily go with Adam Wainwright or Matt Harvey here, but I'll stick with the 25 year-old southpaw shooting for his second career Cy. Kershaw's having another remarkable season as he leads the majors in ERA, ERA+, WHIP, and lowest H/9. Ignore his 8-6 record and focus on his stellar peripherals instead.

NL Rookie of the Year--Shelby Miller
Yasiel Puig has enjoyed a phenomenal first six weeks to his big league career, but let's see if he can keep producing at a high level through the rest of the summer before handing him the hardware. For now it belongs to Miller, who posted a 2.92 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 9.6 K/9 rate in the first half.

NL Comeback Player of the Year--Chase Utley
At 34, Utley isn't the elite player he was five year ago, but his age hasn't stopped him from bouncing back from three straight injury plagued campaigns. Despite missing a month of action he's already been worth three wins above replacement thanks to his steady defense and power resurgence --his .220 ISO is the highest it's been since 2009. He's been great on a per-game basis and, health permitting, should be able to finish with strong all-around numbers.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Home Run Derby Teams

American League
Robinson Cano (Captain)
Last year's AL captain is back for more, hoping to erase any memory of his homerless performance at in Kansas City last summer (much to the delight of Royals fans who mercilessly booed him for omitting Billy Butler from the squad). With his picture-perfect swing, there's no way he comes up empty again. His 21 long balls have him tied for seventh in the Junior Circuit with Adrian Beltre and put him on pace to soar past his career high of 33, which he set in 2012.

Chris Davis
The major league home run leader has already left the yard 36 times in 2013, homering once every 9.4 at-bats. That puts him on track to threaten Roger Maris's "real" single season home run record of 61, disregarding the enhanced figures compiled by Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds. The way he's been hitting lately he'll probably steamroll everyone and mash his way to victory.

Yoenis Cespedes
Few players have more raw power than Cespedes, who belted 23 big flies as a rookie last year and has 15 so far this season. He can hit the ball out of a canyon, and his home run totals would be more impressive if he played somewhere else besides the Coliseum, where he's hit just five home runs this year (one every 25.8 at-bats there compared to one per 17.5 everywhere else). With that in mind, I expect the slugging sophomore to put on a show and make a serious run at this year's trophy.

Prince Fielder
Only two men have ever won multiple home run derbies: Ken Griffey Jr. and Cecil Fielder's son. If the reigning champ wins again this year, he'll become the first man to win the event three times. Fielder's having a down year (for him), but that didn't stop him from winning the competition last year. .

Notable Absences: Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, David Ortiz, Miguel Cabrera

National League
David Wright (Captain)
Mr. Met is here more for the hometown fans than for his home run hitting abilities; he has the lowest home run total of the contestants with 13. Citi Field isn't doing Wright any favors (just three circuit drives there this year), but he's always been more of a gap hitter anyways. He hasn't topped 30 bombs in a season since 2008 and averaged just 18 per year since then. Wright was runner-up to Ryan Howard in 2006, so he has the potential to turn it on so long as he doesn't try too hard to impress the fans.

Bryce Harper
If Harper's electrifying exhibition at Tropicana Field is any indication, he's going to shine in his first derby appearance. The 20 year-old phenom isn't phased by the spotlight and could be primed for a coming out party a la Josh Hamilton's '08 performance at the Stadium.

Michael Cuddyer
A curious selection by Wright, who has defended his choice by pointing to the roots he shares with Cuddyer. With 15 home runs and the league's ninth best AB/HR rate he's not a bad choice, but I would've preferred to see Wright select a power hitter of higher stature like Jay Bruce, Domonic Brown or Justin Upton. I'd bet most fans aren't tuning in to see Cuddyer, who's not exactly a household name and has just one 30 homer season on his resume. I think he's the least likely to win and has early exit written all over him.

Pedro Alvarez
The NL equivalent of Davis, Alvarez broke out last year and is on his way to an even better season this year. He owns the best AB/HR ratio in in the Senior Circuit and ranks second home runs with 24, just one fewer than Carlos Gonzalez, the man he's replacing. An all-or-nothing hitter, Alvarez has accumulated 108 strikeouts while knocking nearly one-third of his fly balls over the fence.

Notable Absences: Bruce, Ryan Braun, Giancarlo Stanton

My pick: Cespedes over Harper

Saturday, July 13, 2013

13 Stats I Can't Believe

  1. The Seattle Mariners rank third among AL teams in home runs. For that, they can thank Raul Ibanez (more to come on that tomorrow)
  2. The Red Sox have already set a franchise record for most wins before the All-Star break (58 and counting). They own the best record in baseball and are on pace for 99 wins
  3. John Lackey has a 2.78 ERA for said Red Sox, but only a 7-6 record to show for it
  4. With 39 doubles, Manny Machado is on pace to tie Earl Webb's single season record for two-baggers, set all the way back in 1931
  5. R.A. Dickey leads the major leagues in earned runs
  6. Miguel Cabrera has 30 home runs but is not leading the American League (thanks to Chris Davis)
  7. The reigning World Series champs are eight games below .500 
  8. The Braves lead the NL East despite getting a whole lot of nothing from B.J. Upton and Jason Heyward
  9. Joey Votto, possibly the best pure hitter in baseball, has only 41 RBI (putting him on pace for 76). I know RBI is an overrated/context dependent stat, but it still blows my mind
  10. Shin-Soo Choo has been hit by 20 pitches. Ouch
  11. Adam Wainwright has issued just 14 walks in over 140 innings of work. Talk about a control freak!
  12. Justin Verlander's 3.71 ERA and 1.39 WHIP seem way too high for a pitcher of his caliber
  13. Starlin Castro, pegged as a future batting champ by many, is batting a paltry .241

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Chris Davis Breaks Through (Again)

Davis has already matched his home run and RBI totals from last season
2012 was Chris Davis's breakout year. The 26 year-old slugger, labeled a bust after failing to capitalize on his monstrous power earlier in his career, set personal bests in just about every offensive category. In the process, Davis rewarded the Baltimore Orioles by helping lead them to their first postseason appearance in 15 years.

Davis inflicted most of his damage in the season's final quarter, bashing 15 of his 33 home runs with 29 RBI and a 1.104 OPS from August 18th onward. At the time it appeared to be nothing more than a hot streak from a streaky player, but now we can see that it marked the beginning of Chris Davis's transformation into one of the best hitters in baseball. In his past 123 games, roughly three-quarters of a full season, Davis has 48 home runs, 114 RBI, and 321 total bases while batting north of .320.

He's been an unstoppable force so far in 2013. Entering play today, Davis leads the majors in homers, slugging, OPS, total bases, OPS+, extra base hits, and AB/HR ratio. He's on pace for 60 homers, 155 RBI, and could easily approach 400 total bases--an accomplishment that used to mean something before the steroid era bastardized it. His evolution into a one-man wrecking crew has helped keep Baltimore in the thick of things in the AL East, where they sit just 5.5 games out of first place.

Davis would be a slam dunk, no-doubt-about-it MVP were it not for Miguel Cabrera, who's in the midst of another special season as he shoots for his second straight MVP and Triple Crown. As good as Davis has been with the stick, Cabrera's been just a hair better, and it will be interesting to see how they perform and push each other throughout the remainder of the summer.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

My NL All-Star Ballot

C Yadier Molina
Really close call between him and Buster Posey, who's hitting as well as he did last year, but Molina's been even better.

1B Paul Goldschmidt
Another tough choice between him and Joey Votto, who can't touch Goldy's power numbers but is still a better pure hitter. Can't go wrong with either one, but bWAR says Goldschmidt has been a bit more valuable than Votto, and I have to agree.

2B Matt Carpenter
Fans might be compelled to go with more recognizable names such as Chase Utley or Dan Utley, but Carpenter is the clear-cut choice here with his Dustin Pedroia-type season.

3B David Wright
Overshadowed by teammate/wunderkind Matt Harvey, Wright is quietly putting together another tremendous all-around season to add to his ledger.

SS Troy Tulowitzki
Ian Desmond and Jean Segura (the NL hits leader) have been stellar, just not as good as Tulo, who was on his way to an MVP-caliber season before landing on the Disabled List in mid-June with a broken right-rib. Segura should be the one to replace him.

OF Carlos Gomez
The second most valuable player in the Senior Circuit (behind only Clayton Kershaw) according to bWAR.

OF Carlos Beltran
Beltran's been a force for the Cardinals this year and is a big reason why they have the league's second best record.

OF Carlos Gonzalez
The league-leader in runs, homers, and total bases has done everything possible to keep Colorado afloat in an extremely competitive NL West. Surprisingly his numbers are better on the road (.976 OPS) than they are at Coors Field (.959 OPS).

My AL All-Star Ballot

C Joe Mauer
Mauer Power may be striking out more than ever before, but that hasn't stopped him from having the best year of his career since he stormed his way to the MVP award in 2009.

1B Chris Davis
Crush Davis, the major league leader in home runs, slugging percentage, total bases, OPS+, extra base hits, and home run ratio, is set to make his first All-Star squad on the back of a Babe Ruth-ian first half. His immense power is the only thing standing in the way of Cabrera winning the Triple Crown again.

2B Robinson Cano
Cano isn't the slam dunk he's been in years past because of his recent struggles, but he still edges out Dustin Pedroia, Jason Kipnis and Howie Kendrick for the starting gig.

3B Miguel Cabrera
As great as Evan Longoria and Manny Machado have been, they can't compete with the reigning MVP. After winning the Triple Crown last year, he's been even better this year. Miggy leads the bigs in pretty much every offensive category, except for the ones owned by Chris Davis.

SS Jhonny Peralta
J.J. Hardy's been getting a lot of love, probably because he has more than twice as many home runs as Peralta. But Peralta's having a much more well-rounded offensive season and actually leads Hardy in slugging percentage. Plus, Hardy's sub-.300 OBP is a real eyesore.

OF Mike Trout
In 2012 Trout put together the best season a 20 year-old has ever had. Here in 2013 he's on pace to finish with the best season a 21 year-old has ever had. His numbers aren't quite as good as they were last year, but they're pretty damn close.

OF Adam Jones
Great all-around play from Jones, who's essentially replicating the success of his breakout 2012.

OF Jose Bautista
Joey Bats' numbers have leveled off following his monster 2010-'11 campaigns, but he's still one of the better hitters in baseball (especially for power) and plays strong defense in right field.

DH David Ortiz
Big Papi's helped lead the Boston Red Sox back to the top of the American League with a monster first half. The 37 year-old DH should be entering the twilight of his career, but instead he's in the midst of a second prime a la Barry Bonds.