Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My All-Stars: National League

So today I am going to tackle selecting the National League players whom I believe have been the best players at their respective positions so far this season. The rules for my selections will be the same as they were for the similar post I made about the American League. Those rules really only being that I am only selecting a single player at each position, and there are no rules about team representation. So, let's begin.

Catcher - Brian McCann (ATL)
Brian McCann is sometimes overlooked for just how good he is, and is perhaps the best Catcher in baseball. Since he started playing in 2005, he leads all Catchers in Total Bases, Home Runs, and RBIs. He has continued to impress this year, perhaps posting the best first half of his career with a .317/.391/.533 line and looking like he may post 30+ homers for the first time in his career. McCann's .923 OPS is impressive, especially for a catcher, and the next closest full-time National League catcher to this number is Miguel Montero who has an OPS more than 100 points lower.

First Base - Prince Fielder (MIL)
Prince Fielder is the latest among a large number of players who have had impressive years in their walk year. Fielder is leading the NL in RBIs, and all NL First Basemen in Homers and OPS. Joey Votto has the next highest OPS in the NL for a First Baseman, and he is 100 points behind Fielder.

Second Base - Rickie Weeks (MIL)
As in the American League, this has been kind of a down year for Second Basemen. But, unlike in the NL, there is no clear leader at the position. However, I believe Rickie Weeks has had the best first half of NL second baseman, beating out guys like Chase Utley, Danny Espinosa, and Neil Walker. Weeks has posted a .290/.358/.495 line, and while he doesn't lead second basemen in anything but OPS, he has proven to be a more well-rounded player than the contendors. Espinosa has posted an impressive first half as far as power numbers go with 15 home runs, and Chase Utley missed a large portion of the season and hasn't found his power stroke yet.

Shortstop - Jose Reyes (NYM)
Another player having a career year for their walk year. There really should be no need for discussion here, as Reyes has in many ways been the best player in the National League in the first half. He leads the entire National League in a plethora of stats: Runs, Hits, Triples, and Batting Average. He may not have rediscovered his Home Run power, but despite that he is also leading in Total Bases. He has also managed to steal 29 bases, being caught only five times. Reyes' .349/.394/.528 line has him on track for a career year, and no other National League Shortstop (especially in light of Hanley Ramirez's off year), even comes close. Here is a comparison of the top three OPSes among Shortstops, just to give you a feel of Reyes' dominance.

Jose Reyes: .922
Troy Tulowitzki: .818
Starlin Castro: .791

Third Base - Aramis Ramirez (CHC)
I may have said that Second Basemen in the NL are having a down year, but Third Basemen in the NL seem to be performing even more poorly. So much so that Aramis Ramirez, who got off to an extremely slow start, has been the best Third Baseman in the first half. He has of course been helped by the injury to Ryan Zimmerman, but the fact remains that he has been the best. He leads all National League Third Basemen in Total Bases by more than 20, and has the second best OPS for a Third Baseman in the league at a whopping (sarcasm) .790. It could be argued that Chase Headley has had the better season, but I feel that Ramirez should start before him based largely on the fact that he has become extremely hot of late and looks to finally be playing up to his level.

Left Field - Lance Berkman (STL)
Berkman is likely going to win the Comeback Player of the Year award in the National League, and for good reason. After looking like his career was at a close with the Astros and the Yankees last year, Berkman has rebounded to put up monster numbers. He has a .295/.404/.573 slash-line all of which are best among Left Fielders and while his power surge has certainly slowed down, his 18 home runs are still good enough for the most among Left Fielders.

Center Field - Matt Kemp (LAD)
Maybe the one thing that Los Angeles Dodgers have to be happy about. After having a year plagued by inconsistency, and after having been called out by the team's GM, Kemp seems to have finally harnessed all of his talent and has posted an astounding .332/.417/.630, all the best among all NL outfielders, and comparable only to Curtis Granderson among all outfielders in the major leagues. He leads the National League in Slugging, OPS, and Total Bases from a premium position. He already has a 20-20 season with 22 Home Runs and 21 Steals, and looks like he may make a run at the more exclusive 40-40 club.

Right Field Ryan Braun (MIL)
Ryan Braun is having a fourth consecutive All-Star caliber season. Braun isn't doing anything special this season, not for him anyway, but continues to consistently produce outstanding numbers having posted a .308/.391/.555 first half, and on track to get back above 30 home runs this season after falling short last season. No other Right Fielder is even in the conversation. The type of consistent excellence Braun has shown early in his career indicate that he should be a player we all keep our eyes on in the future.

Starting Pitcher - Roy Halladay (PHI)
Roy Halladay is the best active pitcher in the Major Leagues. It's difficult to argue otherwise, but you can try. He continues to be an extremely sturdy player, even now that he is getting into his 30s, and leads the league in Innings Pitched. His 2.40 ERA is not approached by many other Starting Pitchers in the league, and he also leads the majors with 5 Complete Games. Halladay's consistent dominance since 2005 is an impressive span of any pitcher's career that is unmatched by any player not named Sandy Koufax.

Closer - Joel Hanrahan (PIT)
Part of the reason for the Pirates (hopefully not temporary) return to relevance, Hanrahan has been the best closer in the National League so far this season. His name may not be a household one just yet, but if he has a second half anything like hist first half that will be hard to avoid. Hanrahan has 23 Saves this season and has converted 100% of his save opportunities this season. There is no other closer in the majors who has 10 or more saves who has not blown a save yet this season. Given this fact, there is literally no other Closer that the National League should be handing the ball to to protect a lead.

That's all for now! Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My All-Stars: American League

So, with the All-Star game upon us I thought I would take the time to go through and select who I felt was the best player at each position in each league. I will be selecting one player per position, including for pitcher, I will pick one Starting Pitchers and one Relief Pitcher in each league. I know it's not a perfect system, and it obviously would not make the best "practical" team, but that's how I'm going to it. It should be noted this is not necessarily my projection of who will be the starters on the All-Star team, but rather the players who I feel are most deserving of starting. I am also not taking into account the rules that one player from each team must be represented, only going by the numbers.

Today I'm going to be dealing with the American League.

American League

Catcher - Alex Avila (DET)
Some people may be shocked to hear that so far this season Alex Avila has put up the best numbers for an American League Catcher. Sorry Joe Mauer fanboys, Avila's .304/.375/.542 slash-line is ridiculous for a catcher, and completely eclipses the horrible season Mauer is having. Avila's teammate Victor Martinez, who spends hardly time at Catcher these days, is the only other player who could be considered, with his .336/.385/.498 line. While Mauer is making a strong showing in the All-Star ballot based on name recognition, he certainly doesn't deserve to start over Avila.

First Base - Adrian Gonzalez (BOS)
No real surprise here. Adrian Gonzalez has taken to Fenway Park just as baseball pundits predicted. Gonzalez is leading all players in Hits (114), RBI (71), and Batting Average (.361), while playing almost every day. Mark Teixeira and Miguel Cabrera are the only other two AL First Basemen worthy of consideration, and Miguel Cabrera comes especially close -- until you take into consideration contributions on both sides of the ball.

Gonzalez: .361/.415/.611 (1.026 OPS)
Teixeira: .247/.358/.538 (.896 OPS)
Cabrera: .332/.451/.572 (1.023 OPS)

Second Base - Robinson Cano (NYY)

In an off-year for AL Second Basemen, Cano is far ahead of the rest of the pack posting a .290/.334/.502 Slash-line. There is not another American League second baseman who is even close to approaching that this year. For purposes of comparison, Dustin Pedroia, has posted a .276/.391/.400 line, and he is second the American League in OPS for 2B.

Shortstop - Jhonny Peralta (DET)
Peralta will more than likely be overlooked for flashier shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera to start the actual All-Star game, but the fact is that Peralta has been the best offensive Shortstop in the league. Here is a comparison of the two players:

Peralta: .311/.360/.531 good for an .891 OPS
Cabrera: .295/.346/.502 god for an OPS of .848.

While OPS certainly isn't everything - as Cabrera has stolen more bases and in fact has more Extra Base Hits than Peralta, Peralta still beats Cabrera in every slash-line category.

Third Base - Alex Rodriguez (NYY)

Rodriguez has certainly aged and is no longer the player he once was. But guess what? His production at Third Base has been best in the American League so far this year despite that. Rodriguez has posted a .300/.377/.513 line, and leads all American League Third Basemen in OPS and Batting Average. Many will suggest Adrian Beltre is more deserving of the slot based on his better power numbers and excellent defense - and they may be right, but I'm standing by Rodriguez as the best Third Baseman of the first half.

Right Field - Jose Bautista (TOR).
Jose Bautista has proven that last year was no fluke (this is probably the thirtee time you've read that), perhaps even outdoing himself last year so far, posting a much better slash-line of .328/.469/.656. He is leading all MLB players in Home Runs, On-Base Percentage and Slugging -- and obviously in OPS. There is really no argument as to who else should play here.

Center Field - Curtis Granderson (NYY)
Curtis Granderson has finally been healthy for a full first half in New York, and has shown what he is capable of doing in that stadium, posting absolutely ridiculous numbers for a Center Fielder. He has a .276/.360/.572 slash-line and leads all Outfielders not named Jose Bautista in OPS and Home Runs. The only other player really in the running for this slot is Jacoby Ellsbury who has posted a very good .303/.365/.461 slash-line to go with his league-leading 25 Steals. Those numbers would have been enough for a starting slot in most seasons, but Granderson has made sure that doesn't happen.

Left Field - Alex Gordon (KCR)
There has not been a lot of impressive production out of Left Fielders this season, but former hot prospect Alex Gordon, who seems to finally be approaching his potential, has been the best. He has posted a .294/.363/.481 line and has pounded out an impressive 35 XBH.

Starting Pitcher - Justin Verlander (DET)

This is a difficult decision, partly imposed by my own limit of one player position, and partly because players like James Shields, Jered Weaver and Josh Beckett seem to be having career years (Year of the Pitcher II?) along with Verlander. However, I think Verlander has been marginally better than those three. Verlander leads the league in Innings Pitched, Strikeouts, and WHIP. His ERA is a touch higher than Beckett's or Weaver's, but he has down so in far more innings.

Closer - Mariano Rivera
Stop me if you've heard this before: Mariano Rivera just keeps producing. So far this season he has the lowest ERA among American League closers and is ranked second in Saves. Chris Perez is the next closest competitor, and his ERA is nearly a half-run higher than Mariano's.

Well, that's it for those. I realize my team ended up being extremely waited towards the New York Yankees (with 3 players), and the Detroit Tigers (with 3 players), but such things happen. There is a reason both teams are leading their divisions, albeit by the narrowest of margins.

I will try to post my National League All-Stars tomorrow night. Have a good one!