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2019 MLB American League All-Stars

No preamble this year.  The real picks (besides the starters) come out later today.  And I am going to beat them…I think for the first time ever.

32 players are selected.  20 position players, 12 pitchers.  This time I am not cheating on the numbers.  Each team will still be represented.  (S) for the starter.  Comments below each position.

C:  Gary Sanchez, NYY (S), James McCann, CWS

Sanchez is pretty obvious but McCann??  Yup.  Actually, there were a few candidates for the backup job.  Christian Vazquez (Bos), Josh Phegley (Oak), Robert Perez (Cle) or Omar Narvaez (Sea) would have suited just fine.  McCann had the highest OPS of the five.  Done.

1B:  Carlos Santana, Cle (S), Luke Voit, NYY

Similar to catcher, Santana is clear-cut and then there were others that could have been selected instead of Voit.  C.J. Cron (Min…after hitting 30 dingers for TB last year and getting released), Jose Abreu (CWS) or Edwin Encarnacion (Sea/NYY) could have filled this spot too.  Voit had the highest OPS of the four.  Done.

2B:  DJ LeMahieu, NYY (S), Whit Merrifield, KC, Tommy La Stella, LAA

Tail between my legs on DJ.  Although his glove is top-notch, I figured his offense was the product of Coors Field when he played half his games in Colorado.  Whoops.  In my defense, all of the major league teams apparently thought the same, including the Yankees themselves.  When he signed in NY, with Gleybar Torres, Troy Tulowitski (until Didi Gregorius was healthy) and Miguel Andujar were supposed to handle 2B, SS & 3B, respectively.  So where exactly was he going to play?  1B?  Maybe.  But they had Voit and Greg Bird already there too.  People got hurt, DJ played and then made a lot of people look bad.  I will accept that.

Merrifield is the Royal rep, but he has earned it.  Even with the lack of steals this year.  Hunter Dozier was really the only other KC candidate.  But he has missed some time this year and sucked when he came up last year…so maybe it’s just a nice 50-something game run.  I just realized Whit has played a bit more outfield this season than second, but I am going to leave him here.  His versatility will be nice, as will La Stella’s.  Speaking of sucking, La Stella is a journeyman.  But thought he belonged.  Took him over Brandon Lowe from the Rays, who doesn’t play against lefties and has fanned over 100 times already this year.  As a middle infielder…yikes!

3B:  Alex Bregman, Hou (S), Matt Chapman, Oak, Rafael Devers, Bos

Bregman was easy, Chapman was the A’s rep and Devers is having a breakout season.  Yoan Moncada (CWS) is also having a breakout season, so if you put him over Devers I would not argue.  But once again, Raffy has the higher OPS. Don…you get the point.  Gio Urshela (NYY)?  Nice season, but…no.

SS:  Xander Bogaerts, Bos (S), Jorge Polanco, Min

No Francisco Lindor (Cle), who started late and hasn’t quite caught up yet.  No Carlos Correa (Hou), who is hurt…again.  Tim Anderson (CWS) started out blazing…and still has good numbers…and Elvis Andrus (Tex) is there too, but decided on just these two.  Polanco won the real vote, but it looks like X has had the better season…and more established track record.  For the record, I did not exclude Gleybar Torres because he is a New York Yankee.  I excluded him because he has done a great deal of his damage against the wretched Baltimore Orioles.  10 of his 19 homers are against them, for instance.  Enough said…for these purposes anyway.

OF:  Mike Trout, LAA (S), George Springer, Hou (S), Joey Gallo, Tex (S), Eddie Rosario, Min, Max Kepler, Min, Trey Mancini, Bal

Trout…yup.  The best player on the planet, still.  Springer and Gallo were a little tougher.  They’ve both missed a whole slew of games.  But have been dominant when healthy, so that gave them the nod.  TWO Twin outfielders?  Yup.  Well deserved.  Mancini is the Oriole rep.  But don’t discount his numbers.  Michael Brantley (Hou) and Domingo Santana (Sea) and even Austin Meadows (TB) have cases.  Wouldn’t fight any of them.  Mookie Betts?  Last years’ American League Most Valuable Player?  Wasn’t even a consideration for me, despite me being an unabashed homer.  While I actually expect him to make the real team, he has…not been very good this year.  Maybe the expectations are too high.  But SHOULDN’T they be?  He looks completely disinterested.  I actually didn’t even have him on my initial list.  Sorry.

DH:  J.D. Martinez, Bos (S), Daniel Vogelbach, Sea

J.D. is not having the same season as he did last year, but he is the clear choice here.  Hunter Pence got voted in as the starter in the real world and although he has put up some nice numbers for a surprising Texas team, I just can’t do it.  Vogelbach has cooled after a hot start, but we chose him as the Mariner rep over Domingo.  If you included Pence and Domingo and dropped Vogelbach and someone else…so be it.  There was a pretty tight race to determine a great deal of the American League reserves so I am very interested to see what happens in real life.  Can’t go wrong with several players.

P:  Justin Verlander, Hou (S), Charlie Morton, Hou, Jose Berrios, Min, Jake Odorizzi, Min, Lucas Giolito, CWS, Mike Minor, Tex, Gerrit Cole, Hou, Matthew Boyd, Det, Trevor Bauer, Cle, Shane Greene, Det, Ken Giles, Tor, Aroldis Chapman, NYY

YIKES!!!!!  THESE are the best American League pitchers this year???  For real??  Well, I guess Frankie Montas would have been too.  Damn PEDs!!

The list is so thin, that despite starting the year so putridly, and sitting at 3-7, we still considered Chris Sale (Bos) for the staff.  His ERA sits at 3.82.  But with some of his peripherals (148 Ks in 101.1 innings, 1.03 WHIP and .212 batting average against), he may actually have a shot at making the REAL team.  Hey, he has the track record.  And has started three consecutive All-Star games.  I am not ruling it out.

As for the staff I picked…Verlander is clearly going to start.  Morton is #2.  Cole’s and Bauer’s ERA are a little high, but hey, it’s the era I guess.  Minor, Odorizzi and Giolito?  Sigh…Boyd was going to be my Tiger rep until I realized I couldn’t leave Greene and his 0.90 ERA off.  Giles has always been shaky, but he has a 1.33 ERA and is the only player I remotely considered from Toronto (my sincere apologies Eric Sogard and I guess Marcus Stroman).  Brad Hand (Cle) and Roberto Osuna (Hou)?  Perhaps.  But these are my picks.  As hard as it is to believe…

Next:  The 2019 National League All-Stars…

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The Boys Of Summer…

…have started out like it’s still the middle of winter.

Worried?

I don’t think we should be.  But it is certainly annoying, I can say that much.

The starting pitching has been wretched…and that is being kind.  Is it because they were babied in the spring and really aren’t ready for the start of the real games?  Is it because catcher Sandy Leon didn’t make the team and the pitchers love throwing to him?  Is it because they are starting the season on a loooooong road trip?  Is it because they won the World Series last year and are fat and happy now?

I’d say, no, no, no and no?

Manager Alex Cora came out recently and said they had the same game plan for the starting pitchers last spring and things turned out just fine.  I actually didn’t believe him so I looked up the innings pitched for the starters last spring and…looks like he was right.  Of course.  So we can’t blame that plan I don’t think.

Leon has a great defensive reputation, but it’s not like Christian Vazquez doesn’t.  Blake Swihart sure does, but he’s caught one of the five games thus far.  So we can’t blame him.

Long road trips?  I don’t see it.  These guys are used to the road.  In fact, haven’t they been on “the road” since mid-February at Spring Training?  And I don’t think the hunger is gone from the team.  Though I will allow that oftentimes teams that win and then do not change personnel even a little bit the next year can succumb to that.  Doesn’t seem to me to be in this groups’ DNA however.

Listen, it’s five games into a 162 game season.  There could be a little bit of a “World Series Hangover”, but the Red Sox were bound to regress any way you slice it.  Thinking they will win 108 games again in 2019 is pure folly.

Chris Sale will straighten out for sure.  He’d better.  More on that later.  Of course, he will probably spend some time on the injured list (I still want to call it the “disabled list”, so can I?).  But he will rebound.

Nathan Eovaldi will not be the pitcher we all saw in the playoffs last year, but he will rebound enough as well.  Rick Porcello will be who he always is (innings-eater with a low to mid 4.00 ERA).  Eduardo Rodriguez will be who he always is (injury prone with some untapped talent).  And David Price will not be the same playoff guy either but will be reliable enough.

Let’s not panic one time through the rotation.

Let’s also not place all of the blame for the teams’ 1-4 start on the rotation.  The bats haven’t exactly been on fire…other than J.D. Martinez and perhaps Rafael Devers.  Of course, when the offense gets down 6 runs early seemingly every day, it’s a tough hole to continue to climb out of.

In any event, let’s let some games play out and take a look down the road.  Then we can panic a little if needed.

Some other Red Sox thoughts, in no particular order:

*Opening Day Roster.  We really didn’t do a roster projection like we would normally do towards the end of Spring Training for two reasons.  We pretty much covered it in the mid-March pieces.  And also because there really wasn’t much for us to talk about.

Sam Travis made the team because Steve Pearce suffered an injury late in Spring Training and started on the Disab…er, Injured List.  But Travis won’t be around long.  Colton Brewer made the team because the Sox decided to have Dustin Pedroia start out on that Injured List as well.  The team went with an extra pitcher to start the year…and thank God they did since the bullpen has gotten quite a bit of work.

Nothing really to see there though.

The one “controversy” was Swihart over Leon.  But was that really a controversy?

Leon may be a good defensive catcher.  But he simply cannot hit a lick.  Swihart supposedly can hit but is still a work in progress behind the plate.

The reality is, no matter how well Swihart hit in Spring Training, and he did hit over .400, he wasn’t likely to fetch much in a trade.  The “top prospect” status has faded and teams still don’t know if he can catch.

Vazquez was always likely to be the main catcher, what with his defensive capabilities and the fact that they spent money on him after the 2017 season.  Meaning, the Sox liked him.  But also meaning, no one was trading for that contract.

As a good field, no hit catcher, Leon had no market either.  Plus he was getting paid almost 2.5 mil as well.  Steep for one of those types of guys you can find anywhere.  And of course, the Sox found out about his market when they tried to shop him and there were no takers.  Then they outrighted him off the roster into the minors and no one claimed him off waivers either.

We are kind of shocked here that the Sox didn’t “play it safe” and keep the two defensive-minded catchers this season.  After all, they rode them to a World Series championship last year.  But we also would have made the same choice with Swihart over Leon.  Let’s see what the “kid” can do now.

I just hope they give him enough playing time to truly find out.

And on top of that, Sandy is waiting in the wings in Pawtucket anyway.  We have not seen the last of him, I can assure you of that.

*Contract extensions or lack thereof.  Sale and Xander Bogaerts signed lucrative extensions.  Mookie Betts and Rick Porcello did not.

Sale signed for 5 years and 145 million.  Seems steep based on his health issues from last year and the fact that he typically wears down each year in the second half.  That being said, in the last piece I said I would extend him for 3-4 years even if the money was silly.  So another year or two at silly money?  What the hell?!  The Sox have the money and it’s not going to preclude them from signing anyone else if they wanted to.  More importantly, if he is the Chris Sale we normally see, then the dominance for even 3/4 of a season is probably worth the dough.  Although the 5 year no trade clause seems a little excessive.  It’s like Peter Chiarelli was brought in just for that part of the deal.

As for Bogaerts…shocking.  Not that I wouldn’t do it.  But it’s shocking he would sign for “only” 6 years, 120 million.  With Scott Boras as his agent, no less!  I honestly felt that Xander would hit the market, some team would wildly overpay and he would be gone.  Regular MO for Boras clients.  What a deal for the Sox.

Porcello, yeah, I guess it’s not a big deal he hasn’t been extended.  Rumor has it he offered a “discount” though.  How much is anyone’s guess.  Not to mention if it is actually true.  And maybe his money can be better spent elsewhere.  That all being said, at least we know he’s almost always taking the ball every 5 days.  Can’t downplay that.

Betts is the main one.  That kind of goes without saying.  Now yes, we know Mookie has 2 more years here before anything HAS to happen.  But he has given no indication that he even wants to be here.  Does he like it in Boston?  Does that matter?  Especially if an 18-wheeler full of dollars is dumped in Mookie’s driveway?  It might.

In the wake of a whole slew of veterans signing lucrative extensions prior to entering free agency in recent weeks (Sale, Bogaerts, Nolan Arenado, Mike Trout, Jacob deGrom, Paul Goldschmidt, Justin Verlander, etc.), in addition to many younger players that are a ways away from free agency signing long-term deals way before they need to (Alex Bregman, Ronald Acuna, Eloy Jimenez, Brandon Lowe (who?), German Marquez, Aaron Nola, etc.), maybe now Mookie be up for doing the same?

Doesn’t appear likely.  Let’s get into 2020 before we do anything drastic, however.  “Drastic” meaning considering dealing Mookie because he is leaving.  We have a little more time before that comes into play.

Also makes you wonder what J.D. Martinez will do when he gets the chance to opt out of his deal after the season.  Even if he has another monster year, will he test the market again?  The market was slow to develop for him prior to the 2018 season.  He will be 2 years older and pretty much be labeled only as a designated hitter.  With the way these guys are all signing to guarantee their money now, it would seem that J.D. should stay in this deal, similar to what Price did last year.

Time will tell on that one as well.

*Bullpen/closer.  Welp, hard to tell thus far, since their two “best” relievers, Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier, have pitched one game apiece.  Barnes got a save in his game, but I am not convinced he is the sole closer.

The rest of the bullpen has been used often because, as discussed, the starters have been awful.  We will never know if Tyler Thornburg can ever regain any competence.  But at least he is getting some action to try to find out.  Pitching 3 out of the first 5 games has to be encouraging as well.  Heath Hembree had an abysmal spring, which has continued into the regular season.  Simply because he cannot find the plate it appears.  This is a slight concern because although he is nowhere near elite, Hembree did have plenty of positive moments out there in 2018.  Yes, I just did say that.

I still think the bullpen stinks overall…but at least I can’t bash them too much for what they have done thus far this season.

And well, at least the Sox are winning tonight as I wrap up this post…oh wait…

American League Awards

Major League Baseball will start handing out the hardware for the 2018 season next week.  The Gold Glove awards have already been announced.  Doesn’t seem right that Ian Kinsler won one after that ridiculous throw set the Red Sox up to eventually lose Game Three of the World Series.  Or at least didn’t seal up the win for the Sox.  But since that was the only game of the Series that the Sox lost and it kind of was an epic game to boot, I suppose we can let him enjoy that award as he tries to find another team to employ him in 2019.

The finalists for all the major awards have also been announced.  The Blowhard has his opinions, and the finalists in real life won’t necessarily be the finalists in this “vote”.  We will list out our picks like it was a real ballot.  Meaning, 10 choices for MVP, 5 for Cy Young, etc.  And let’s please remember, the postseason results don’t count.  Real life ballots are finalized once the regular season ends.  This will be important to remember when we look at Manager of the Year (spoiler?!).  Anyway, let’s get on with it:

Most Valuable Player:

  1. Mookie Betts, Boston
  2. J.D. Martinez, Boston
  3. Mike Trout, LA Angels
  4. Alex Bregman, Houston
  5. Jose Ramirez, Cleveland
  6. Francisco Lindor, Cleveland
  7. Khris Davis, Oakland
  8. Blake Snell, Tampa Bay
  9. Justin Verlander, Houston
  10. Blake Treinen, Oakland

Now, it looks like I am a homer here, but how J.D. wasn’t a finalist in real life is beyond me.  Sticking his big bat in the middle of the Red Sox lineup clearly made a colossal difference this year.  They didn’t have that bat there in 2017 after the retirement of David Ortiz at the end of the 2016 season and the whole lineup seemed to suffer.  Ask Betts himself, who had a huge 2016 and 2018 and a subpar 2017.  I’ve been tempted to give Martinez the award, but I can’t overlook Mookie’s defense, nor his superior OPS and general all-around season.  I know, it’s not J.D.’s fault he’s a DH…well, I guess it is since he ain’t that great defensively.  But he WANTED to play more outfield, so I guess there’s that.

There will be at least one person upset that I put Trout third.  Mikey may still yet be the best player in baseball.  But again, for those who don’t remember, I am an advocate for giving the MVP award to the “most valuable” instead of the “best player”.  You will see from the list above that there are no players from bad teams and only one (Trout) from a mediocre team.  I know, these guys are only one of nine on the field at the same time.  And it’s hard to “carry” a baseball team by yourself.  But look at the difference J.D. seemed to make in the Boston lineup and maybe one player can?

Bregman was the best everyday player on a 103 win team this year.  Seems like fourth is a good spot for him.  Especially when considering the rest of his lineup.  Last year’s MVP, Jose Altuve, did not have the same year.  Carlos Correa, George Springer and Marwin Gonzalez’s numbers were way down in 2018 as well.  Ramirez is a finalist in real life.  But he was putrid the last six weeks.  So he’s no better than fifth here.  Almost put him behind Lindor as well.  Davis’ average was subpar, but his other numbers were all pretty damn good.  Think someone from the A’s should be recognized.  After all, it’s only seventh in my vote.

Pitchers round out the Top Ten for me.  As you know, I don’t love pitchers in the MVP vote, unless they are extremely dominant.  But I did not have a good feeling about putting any more hitters in here.  Jed Lowrie?  Nelson Cruz?  Mitch Haniger?  Xander Bogaerts?  Nope, nope, nope and…nope.

Went with Snell eighth.  Wished he threw a few more innings, but he was quite dominant for a surprising Rays team.  Verlander seemed like a good choice next.  More on these two later.  Treinen?  You know my general disdain for relief pitchers.  But his numbers are hard to ignore.  9 wins as a closer too.  That tells me that he wasn’t just coming in for a ninth inning with a three-run lead and an easy save all the time.  He must have entered more than a few tie games.  I could be wrong.  But that’s what it tells me anyway.  Plus we like having two guys named Blake in the mix.

Cy Young:

  1. Justin Verlander, Houston
  2. Blake Snell, Tampa Bay
  3. Corey Kluber, Cleveland
  4. Chris Sale, Boston
  5. Blake Treinen, Oakland

Why Verlander over Snell here, after having the reverse in the MVP race?  Welp, for one, the Cy Young is not intended to be the “Most Valuable Pitcher”.  This award is generally given to the best pitcher, period.  And Verlander made 3 more starts than Snell, pitched 33 1/3 more innings, had 69 more strikeouts and had a better WHIP (.902 vs. .974).  That offset Snell’s ERA advantage (1.89 to 2.52) for me.  Snell was probably more “valuable”, simply because Verlander also had Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, Lance McCullers, etc. on his staff to help carry the load while Snell had…Ryan Yarborough?

Kluber was once again a horse for the Indians.  His numbers were also up there all around, though his ERA (2.89) was a full run worse than Snell’s.  So that puts him third.  Sale had this thing wrapped up in July…then pitched like 20 innings the rest of the year.  Unfortunately had to penalize him for that.  We talked about Treinen already.  Again, when there are deserving starters with great numbers, it’s hard to recognize a reliever in this voting.  But again, his numbers can’t be ignored.  Similar to why we had Craig Kimbrel fifth last year.  Have to recognize dominance when it’s out there.

I liked Treinen’s overall game better than Edwin Diaz’ 57 saves, but Diaz would be in the “second five” if we had one.  Cole, Luis Severino, Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco may have been part of that group as well.

Rookie of the Year:

  1. Miguel Andujar, NY Yankees
  2. Gleyber Torres, NY Yankees
  3. Shohei Ohtani, LA Angels

These were the three choices this year, with all due respect to Daniel Palka and his 27 dingers and the aforementioned Yarborough and his 16 wins.  Andujar was the one with the full season and the better overall numbers so he gets the nod for me.  Torres came up like a whirlwind and then cooled as the season went on.  He played about 75% of the games so that gives him second.

Ohtani may have been the most EXCITING rookie…not to mention the one with the most hype in years.  But he simply didn’t play enough.  He DH’d almost exactly half the games (82) on a normal regular season schedule.  And threw up some pretty impressive numbers for that time…including 22 pinch-hitting appearances.  Throw in the 10 games he pitched and you could probably make a case for him to win the award.  And if he did, I wouldn’t argue.  But as much as I hate the Yankees, I can’t penalize those guys for playing more…and also playing important positions in the field.

Manager of the Year:

  1. Kevin Cash, Tampa Bay
  2. Bob Melvin, Oakland
  3. Alex Cora, Boston

I will be the first to admit that I underrated Cora this year.  I thought he was just a “clubhouse” manager.  Meaning, the Sox’ talent won the games and that Cora just had to manage a clubhouse full of egos.  As the year went on, I realized he was more than that.  Then in the postseason, that like we said above, does not count toward this award, he pulled ALL the right strings.  Literally ALL of them.  Starting with the construction of the rosters for each round, down to every in-game decision.

But although he had the 108 wins and gained more appreciation from me (and most assuredly many others) throughout the year, how can anyone not vote for Cash?  The Rays won 90 games.  Think about that for a second.  Sure, they didn’t make the playoffs.  But they were behind two 100 win teams IN THEIR OWN DIVISION.  Look at that roster.  They had Blake Snell and…Wilson Ramos?  Mallex Smith?  Ummmmm…no one really of relevance.  Even a guy that usually is a key piece to their team, Kevin Kiermaier, had a putrid year.  The team traded guys like Chris Archer at the trade deadline, per usual.  And they won 90 friggin’ games.  Plus, don’t overlook the new trend “Cashie” started…the “opener”.  Yarborough won 16 games and only started 6.  Lot’s of second and third inning entrances.  At the beginning of the year, teams and players laughed at Cash for doing this.  By the end, many teams were copying him.  Ask Craig Counsell and the Milwaukee Brewers, who worked some of that all the way to Game 7 of the National League Championship Series.

Melvin gets second for winning 97 games with a team that had loads of power (and strikeouts), good defense a great closer, a good bullpen, yet only one real starter himself (Sean Manaea).  He had to roll Edwin Jackson out there for 17 starts for Chrissakes!  Jackson actually pitched well, but what was this, Jackson’s 20th MLB team?  Being in a division with a 103 win Houston team, as well as a Seattle Mariner team that was right in the mix until late in the year.  Seems to me he earned second for this one.

Next:  The National League

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