The All-Star Game may be history, but in the MLB coverage at TheSportsNotebook, the real conversation about the All-Stars should be just getting heated up. There should be more emphasis placed on whose best at their spot at season’s end, not in mid-July. What follows is TheSportsNotebook’s view of how the National League All-Stars should stack up as we head into the season’s final 2 ½ months.
This is one of three installments of the All-Star series. The first was released back in May and we’ll do it again at the end of the regular season. The rules for selection are as follows…
- This is a true team, meaning five starting pitchers and two setup men, to go along with the closer. It also means that at least one outfielder must be a true centerfielder, or at least able to credibly play the position if this team actually took the field.
- As a personal preference, I give defensive range heavy consideration at second base and shortstop. This doesn’t mean I’ll pick the modern equivalent of Mario Mendoza as an All-Star—whoever is chosen still has to be able to hit first. But I’ll sacrifice some offensive numbers if there is a significant gap in the defensive metrics.
- And this may seem obvious, but it’s worth reiterating that these choices are not predictive in terms of what I think will happen between now and the end of the regular season. It’s not a statement on who has had the better career. It’s just my view of who has compiled the best body of work between Opening Day and the All-Star break in 2013.
C: Buster Posey (SF): I know conventional wisdom has handed Yadier Molina from St. Louis this spot. But Posey has a superior on-base percentage by a little bit (9 points), and a superior slugging percentage by a more substantial margin (47 points). If you want more traditional stats, Posey has a 13-7 edge in home runs and a 56-49 advantage in RBIs. Molina has a 16-point cushion in batting average. What’s more, Posey does it with a lot less help in the Frisco lineup than Molina does in the Cardinal lineup.
1B: Paul Goldschmidt (Ariz): It’s rare for me to go to defense at first base, but that’s how close I see the race between Goldschmidt and Joey Votto in Cincinnati. Votto has the on-base percentage, Goldschmidt has the power. Both play in hitters’ parks although the Reds’ home is probably a little bit easier to hit in than Arizona. There is a wide margin in their range ratings on the defensive metrics though, with Goldschmidt being close to the top and Votto being one of the worst. The Cincy first baseman has to clearly win offensive production to take this spot.
2B: Matt Carpenter (Stl): This is an easy pick. Carpenter is the best offensive player at his position, with a stat line of .394 OBP/.497 slugging, and he’s turned into one of the better defensive second baseman. No way should Brandon Phillips have started the All-Star Game this past Tuesday ahead of Carpenter.
3B: David Wright (NY Mets): The best offensive production among NL third baseman, at .396/.507 and does it in the spacious park that is Citi Field. No one’s in shouting distance of Wright.
SS: Jean Segura (Mil): Yet another runaway winner. Segura’s .363/.487 stat line makes him by far the most complete offensive player at this spot. Everth Cabrera in San Diego gets on base and Washington’s Ian Desmond has popped 15 home runs, but only Segura brings both on-base consistency and power to the equation. And the Brewer shortstop is also a top-shelf defender.
The real elephant in the room here is Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki. Because of the chunk of time the Rockie shortstop spent on the DL, he’s not a viable choice today, but with full health and getting caught up on at-bats in the second half could make this a good race in the end.
CF: Shin-Soo Choo (Cin): This year is his first in center, after spending his time in Cleveland playing right field. Choo has made the adjustment more than smoothly, ranking 5th among NL centerfielders in range. And it sure hasn’t affected his production at the plate, with a .425/.468 stat line. Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen is having a good year, and I’ll admit I’m waiting for him to go on an offensive rampage and claim this spot by season’s end, but right now it’s Choo in the lead.
OF: Carlos Gonzalez (Col): Even with the acknowledgement his playing in Coors Field, Gonzalez is having a monster year, at .370/.610 and already hitting 25 home runs.
OF: Michael Cuddyer (Col): I’m really not trying to just go by OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging) and not give any thought to nuance, but Cuddyer is also well ahead of the field in those two key stat categories and I don’t want to nuance myself into something stupid.
One thing to note is that McCutchen is at .376/.471, which if you allow for the Coors effect on Cuddyer’s .391/.568 stat line, would make those two reasonably close. While my rules require at least one centerfielder, they don’t preclude two, or even three. Defensive range won’t matter, at least not that much in the selection of the two generic outfield spots, but if McCutchen gets on that surge and hits a few more home runs he could bump off Cuddyer as easily as Choo for a spot in this lineup.
SP: Clayton Kershaw (LA Dodgers)
SP: Patrick Corbin (Arizona)
SP: Matt Harvey (NY Mets)
SP: Adam Wainwright (Stl)
SP: Jordan Zimmerman (Was)
The first four were locks. Corbin, Harvey and Wainwright have the complete package of a top-5 ERA, a high number of innings and a good W-L record. Kershaw is only 8-6, but he’s also the only one with a sub-2.00 ERA and over 140 innings logged.
I gave some brief thought to the fifth spot, not out of disregard for Zimmerman, but of regard for Cliff Lee, who pitches in a hitters’ park in Philadelphia. But Washington is not exactly Citi Field, and Zimmerman has the edge in wins (12-10), ERA (2.58 to 2.86) and only trails by six innings. It’s a close enough race to turn on a single start, but right now I don’t have any doubts about picking Zimmerman.
RP: Mark Melancon (Pit)
RP: Trevor Rosenthal (Stl)
CL: Jason Grilli (Pit)
Grilli has closed 29/30 save chances and has a 1.99 ERA. No other closer in the league is near the combination of high save volume, near perfection and dazzling ERA. Craig Kimbrel with Atlanta (three blown saves) and Edward Mujica for St. Louis (two blown saves) could make a second half run at Grilli, but Kimbrel and Mujica are each three saves behind the Pirate closer, in addition to having more blown opportunities.
Melancon is far and away the best setup man in the National League this season. Rosenthal and Washington’s Tyler Clippard were close, but Rosenthal’s got the slight edge in ERA (1.99 to 2.21) and has pitched five more innings, which is not an insignificant number at a position where the workhorses are in the 40s.
NATIONAL LEAGUE AWARDS BALLOT
MVP: Jason Grilli (Pittsburgh)
Cy Young: Patrick Corbin (Arizona)
Manager Of The Year: Clint Hurdle (Pittsburgh)
Pittsburgh is keeping pace with St. Louis in the NL Central because of the bullpen and Grilli is the biggest reason why. I give Corbin the edge over Kershaw and Harvey because Arizona’s park is much tougher to pitch in than Los Angeles and New York. Furthermore, Corbin has held a struggling staff together just enough to enable the D-Backs to stay in first place. If he keeps it up and Arizona wins the division, I’ll have to also take a look at him for MVP honors.
The Pirates have taken injury after injury to their rotation, and don’t have a very good offense, yet they keep churning out wins. That says something pretty good about Hurdle.