Thursday, May 2, 2013

April All-Stars

I find it ridiculous how MLB opens up its All-Star voting in late April, when some teams are getting snowed out. I understand the league is trying to capitalize while interest in the sport is still high from the Opening Day hangover effect (baseball! spring! grass!), but it's still far too early to make judgments about who should get to attend the Midsummer Classic. The stats are still out of whack.

With only four weeks of baseball in the books, a lot of numbers look fluky because they haven't had time to normalize. But those figures are all we have, dammit, so of course you're going to pick John Buck for the All-Star team. Go ahead, by all means, but beware that a few months down the road, such choices look awfully foolish. That's how we end up with guys like Bryan LaHair making the All-Star team.

That said, here's what the All-Star team would probably look like based on April stats, and nothing else:

C John Buck
It's easy to forget Buck was an All-Star back in 2010, his lone season with the Toronto Blue Jays, when he set a career high with 20 big flies. That power has re-emerged in the early-going--he already has nine home runs and a National League-best 27 RBI.

1B Chris Davis
His long-anticipated breakthrough was for real, folks.

2B Daniel Murphy
The always-solid second baseman is batting .295 with 11 extra base hits and 19 runs scored. With his table setting skills, Murphy's a big reason why the Mets currently rank third in the NL in runs scored.

3B Josh Donaldson
In his age 27 season, Donaldson has come out of nowhere to provide elite production at the hot corner for the Oakland A's. Thanks to his improved batting eye, he's batting .314/.397/.495 with 11 doubles. He's also been coming through with men on base: Miguel Cabrera is the only AL third baseman with more RBI.

SS Jed Lowrie
Lowrie has built upon his breakout with the Astros last year. He's making a great impression with his new team--the Oakland A's--thanks to a .327/.412/.519 batting line and 11 doubles.

OF Coco Crisp
Crisp is a player who generates most of his value with his legs, but so far it's been his surprising power burst that's been making waves. With five long balls, he's almost halfway to last year's homer total (11). The Oakland A's can only hope his DL-stint doesn't derail that early momentum.

OF Nate McLouth
MVClouth (too soon?) has been a force batting at the top of Baltimore's lineup, batting .329 with a .433 OBP and 22 runs scored.

OF Daniel Nava
The miracle worker has keyed Boston's fast start with his heavy hitting.

OF Vernon Wells
Wells has rediscovered the form that convinced the Toronto Blue Jays to hand him a seven-year, $126 million contract. While he's still not worth that kind of money, he is providing steady power batting in the heart of New York's depleted lineup.

OF Starling Marte
With Pittsburgh's purported big bats (Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez) slumping, Marte has picked up the slack with a blistering start. Betcha didn't know he's currently pacing the Senior Circuit in hits.

DH Travis Hafner
Like Wells, Pronk has enjoyed a renaissance in pinstripes. Healthy and hitting for power, Hafner has managed .304/.429/.638 triple slash numbers that line up with the averages from his peak seasons.

SP Ervin Santana
When Santan's bad, he's bad (see last year). But when he's good, like this year or the year before last, he can be quite good.

SP Carlos Villanueva
Back in the NL after a two-year hiatus with the Blue Jays, Villanueva looked great in his first month with the Chicago Cubbies. Forget his 1-1 record and focus on the good stuff, like his 2.29 ERA, 0.82 WHIP and 3.22 K/BB ratio.

SP Clay Buchholz
Buchholz was unquestionably the best starting pitcher in baseball last month and appears to be making a run at the Cy Young award.

SP Matt Moore
Moore enjoyed a solid rookie season last year, but a lack of command (4.1 BB/9) prevented him from achieving consistent dominance. Walks have been an issue for him in the early going, but incredible good fortune (.151 BABiP) has helped him go 5-0 with a 1.13 ERA. Unless he starts finding the strike zone more often, he's going to be in trouble when the hits start falling in.

SP Hisashi Iwakuma
The 32 year-old Japanese hurler has continued to baffle major league hitters in his sophomore campaign. His 0.69 WHIP is the best in baseball and his 7.4 K/BB ratio is off the charts. Unfortunately the Mariners are incapable of providing run support, which means his W-L record won't reflect how well he's truly pitched.

CL Jim Henderson
The 30 year-old sophomore has emerged as a top flight closer in the wake of John Axford's atrocious opening week. Henderson's elite ability to miss bats (career 12.7 K/9) suggests that he's a perfect fit for ninth inning duties.

CL Jason Grilli
After Joel Hanrahan hightailed it up to Boston, Grilli stepped in as the Pirates' closer and has been immaculate. His 11 saves lead the big leagues, he's allowed just one earned run in 12 innings of work and he's striking out 4.5 batters for every one he walks.

CL Addison Reed
Reed was an unmitigated disaster after taking over the closer's role last May, posting a 5.80 ERA after May 15th. The White Sox stuck with him though, and so far the early returns have been excellent. The 24 year-old has gone a perfect 9-for-9 in save chances, boasts a 1.50 ERA and is striking out more than a batter per inning.

Some of these players probably won't be relevant in a few months, but several others will have formed legitimate All-Star cases. I'll weigh my options then, when I have a half-season worth of data to pour over. But for now, I'll hold off on voting. If Josh Donaldson makes the All-Star team over Adrian Beltre, I don't want to be responsible for it.

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