Yup, the All-Star Game was this past Tuesday. But…close enough. And a nice topic to get back in the swing of things. So here is my team. Only 32 players this year, down from 34 in recent years. 21 position players, 11 pitchers, with each team represented (Again, I don’t necessarily love this rule…but…it is the rule). (S) for starter. Comments below each position.
C: Salvador Perez, KC (S), Gary Sanchez, NYY
Three catchers are usually selected for the actual game. This year thankfully there were only two…for both leagues. Not sure why this changed, but it’s absolutely for the better. Two is about the max that deserve to be there. Last year I took only one on my team (Perez). If I took a third this year, it would’ve been either Brian McCann or Alex Avila. No thanks. Anyway, I’ve said pretty much enough on catchers. Sanchez may be the future, but not giving him the starting gig over Big Sal…this year.
1B: Justin Smoak, Tor (S), Logan Morrison, TB, Jose Abreu, CWS, Yonder Alonso, Oak
Just…yuck. Just feels really strange with no Miguel Cabrera anywhere to be found here. These guys are simply having better years though. And thanks to the “every team has to be represented” rule, here are each of these 4 teams’ representatives! Smoak started the real game and, sadly enough, he was the right choice. Morrison had a similar OPS (.931 to Smoaks’ .936), so if you wanted him to start, you won’t get an argument from me. Not sure how he didn’t even make the real team. I’m all set with Corey Dickerson. Actually, I’m all set with Morrison too, but his numbers are there this year. Avisail Garcia was the real life ChiSox rep, but I prefer Abreu. Probably doesn’t matter either way. It was either Alonso, Khris Davis or Ryon Healy for the A’s. Alonso’s .934 OPS was also right with Morrison and Smoak. The other A’s were in the .800’s. Plus Davis and Healy DH a fair amount. But still…these 4 guys are All-Stars?
2B: Jose Altuve, Hou (S), Jonathan Schoop, Bal, Robinson Cano, Sea, Starlin Castro, NYY
It’s Altuve and then everyone else once again. Not enough superlatives out there for that guy. Schoop is shockingly enough the Orioles rep. If you wanted to put Manny Machado on the team because he’s Manny Machado, I’d probably be ok with it though. I’m not putting Robby Cano here because he was the MVP of the real game. No, seriously. He is kind of quietly having a pretty good year. As is Castro.
3B: Jose Ramirez, Cle (S), Miguel Sano, Min, Mike Moustakas, KC
Jose Ramirez is 3rd in the AL in OPS, .005 behind 2nd place. Jose Ramirez! Let that one sink in for a while. Sure he had a pretty good year last year. But was abysmal two years ago. Of course he was only 22 then, so…but still. Pretty impressive. Sano is another guy breaking out this year. His 120 K’s already are pretty unsightly though. Having second thoughts about “Moose” as I write this…but I guess 25 bombs and good defense should count for something.
SS: Carlos Correa, Hou (S), Elvis Andrus, Tex
You may be able to pencil in Correa’s name here for years to come. Francisco Lindor may have something to say about it eventually, but not this year. Correa has been filthy this season. I will also say Lindor was on the edge of my team and if you wanted to find space for him, it wouldn’t upset me. Andrus was going to be my sole Rangers player, though that did change. Still deserving of a place on my squad however. And please Red Sox fans…admittedly, I am a total homer. But the fact that Xander Bogaerts was in the Final Five voting was an absolute joke, I’m sorry. Disappointing year for X, to put it mildly.
OF: Mike Trout, LAA (S), Aaron Judge, NYY (S), George Springer, Hou (S), Mookie Betts, Bos
This is what I wrote last year: “Just copy and paste Trout here for at least the next decade…unless he switches leagues at some point.” His injury this year changes nothing. There really is not much to say about Judge and Springer. Monster years from the both of them. Now here is where I become a little of that Boston homer I just referred to. In my opinion, Betts hasn’t necessarily been “All-Star-ish” this year. Just hasn’t seemed it. Comparatively speaking to last year anyway. But maybe we were spoiled last year. However, when you review the numbers as a whole, you can justify a spot for him. And I did.
DH: Nelson Cruz, Sea (S)
1 DH is enough. One of the jamokes selected at 1B can handle DH in my game if they need to. I would nominate Abreu.
UT: Marwin Gonzalez, Hou
How can a guy who doesn’t even start for his own team be an All-Star? Well, let me introduce you to this year’s Brock Holt!! Except…way better. .967 OPS. He actually has been playing every day for a while now. I mean, Norichika Aoki? Please. But Marwin plays all over the place too. If you play fantasy baseball, and I do, he is pretty much eligible at every position no matter what type of league you are in. That’s worth something if you can create offense along with the defensive flexibility. Oh, and the Astros are 10 games better than everyone else in the American League. Take as many guys as you want from that team and put them here. Although, I will draw the line at Josh Reddick.
P: Chris Sale, CWS (S), Jason Vargas, KC, Dallas Keuchel, Hou, Corey Kluber, Cle, Carlos Carrasco, Cle, Michael Fulmer, Det, Ervin Santana, Min, Yu Darvish, Tex, Luis Severino, NYY, Andrew Miller, Cle, Craig Kimbrel, Bos
I will probably cut and paste this preamble every year, in case there are any new readers that may give a crap. I know, fat chance. Anyway, here it is: As I’ve explained in the past, my inclination is to take way more starting pitchers than closers and certainly middle relievers. Great starters are infinitely more important to their team and that is why they get the big bucks, as they say. Closers historically get hot for a year or three, but unless they are Mariano Rivera or Trevor Hoffman, they inevitably fail and fall back into middle relief or the minors or out of baseball. Very few of the elite ones that can do it for 10 years plus. Middle relievers are usually failed starters AND closers. So even though they can be dominant, it usually doesn’t last. And if it does, they will go back to another key role.
Last year, I picked 3 closers and 2 part middle relievers, part closers and only 8 starters. Kind of made me sick to my stomach. This year we get back to normal…9 starters, 1 middle man, 1 closer. Sale is the relatively easy choice to start, though if Kuechel or even Kluber didn’t miss time in the first half, they would have certainly made it closer. Specifically Kluber, with his playoff performance last year, as well as the fact that his own Indian coaching staff were the coaches for this years’ All-Star Game. Journeyman 34-year-old Vargas leads the league in wins and ERA, as well as WAR, if that’s a statistic that floats your boat. Good for him for making his first All-Star team.
I’m surprised that Carrasco wasn’t on the real squad. He got hammered in one start in late June that jacked up his ERA a bit. But even so, 3.44 ain’t bad. Combined with his other numbers, he seemed like an easy pick to me. Fulmer was my Detroit pick…as he was in reality (until they added Justin Upton to the squad as well). Can’t ignore Ervin’s contributions to the surprising Twins this year (as surprising as 2 games over .500 is…but they are only 2.5 games out…and I’m not sure anyone saw that coming). Darvish and Severino have high-ish ERA’s, but they are still in the top 10 and have good numbers otherwise. Maybe Lance McCullers Jr. and Marcus Stroman deserve some consideration as well. But they get squeezed out on my team.
Kimbrel is a no-brainer…the guy has been virtually untouchable this year. As has been Miller. Even though Miller doesn’t close, it’s hard to ignore his dominance. As for relievers that missed the cut, maybe a case for Roberto Osuna could have been made. But Alex Colome, Brandon Kintzler, Kelvin Herrera, Kenny Giles? Nah. Justin Wilson & Dellin Betances? Perhaps. But I’m comfortable with just Miller and Kimbrel.
So there you go…NL to follow..at some point…first I have to celebrate the fact that the Fat Panda is finally out of Boston…good riddance…
…so now it’s up to Clay Buchholz.
Think about that for a second.
Ok, that’s enough of that. Now get your head out of the oven.
The good news? This series is not over. The Red Sox are coming back home and that, in and of itself, should create a glimmer of hope. Cleveland is barely a .500 team on the road. They also score about a run and a half less per game away from their friendly confines. Their offensive numbers overall are much worse on the road, though the pitching splits are admittedly pretty similar. But Josh Tomlin should not be unbeatable either.
You would assume the Sox offense will wake up at Fenway. Well, they certainly can’t be any worse. The only guy who has shown up so far is Brock Holt. I suppose Andrew Benintendi too. But that is it. Similar to Cleveland, the Sox’ offensive numbers spike upwards at home. Though not the same as the Indians, their pitching stats do get worse at Fenway.
The bad news? Where do we start?
The Sox obviously have a good team and have the capability to not only come back in the series, but also take three in a row to win it. But does anyone have that vibe now? I don’t.
After winning 11 in a row to seal up the AL East, the Sox dropped 5 of their last 6 regular season games. This obviously cost them home field, at least for this series. How big was that really? Didn’t think it was a huge deal before the series. Feeling like that was the wrong assumption now.
People may write off the end of the season too. Players were tired, they wrapped up a playoff spot and lost focus, home field wasn’t THAT important, etc. But most of the regulars played most of those last 6 games. So John Farrell must have though they still did have something to play for. And then they didn’t get the job done in that respect.
This may have carried over to the first 2 games of this series. We have seen an alarming number of brain cramps and bad plays in a mere two games: Dustin Pedroia with an uncharacteristically brutal error in Game 2. Benintendi being lazy on a fly ball in Game 1, allowing a catcher to tag from first to second. Jackie Bradley Jr. with some terrible throws from the outfield, not to mention some horrific at-bats. Sandy Leon with a bad throw or two. David Price walking a the #9 hitter Roberto Perez, who hit .183 this season, TWICE in two at-bats. Rick Porcello giving up three bombs in one inning. Maybe even Marco Hernandez not taking third on a loose ball at the plate in the eighth inning in Game 1 (though there was only 1 out and he may not have made it, so maybe I’m being picky on this one). This is only to name some.
Has the season-long farewell tour caught up to David Ortiz as well? Especially with all of the events last week? Perhaps.
More bad news? You got it! Due to Corey Kluber’s performance in Game 2, the Cleveland bullpen will be fresh for Game 3 on Sunday. Specifically Andrew Miller and Cody Allen. So if Tomlin gets ripped, Terry Francona can do a similar thing Sunday that he did Thursday. And doesn’t everyone expect Buchholz to get blasted too? So Game 3 could very well play out exactly like Game 1. Not good for the Sox.
I would very much like to blame John Farrell for this series. But I can’t really. His two “aces” lasted 7 2/3 combined innings. His offense completely shut down. He has seemed to make the right bullpen moves. People may have complained about moving Holt to 2nd in the batting order and Xander Bogaerts down to 6th, but Holt has performed. I’m honestly not sure what else he could have done differently across the board. As much as I would like to bash him, I really can’t.
One thing I would consider though: Moving Benintendi to center and inserting Chris Young in left for Game 3. Bradley is 0-6 with 5 strikeouts. Probably would be 0-7 with 6 K’s if he didn’t get hit by a 0-2 pitch in his last at-bat Friday. He doesn’t look right any way you slice it. But what else can you do with the team? Not much I am afraid. Just have to hope the home cooking helps win Game 3. Then maybe bring Porcello and Price back on short rest and hope the results in their second starts in the series are vastly different than their first ones. Though how can we really expect that with Price’s career futility in the postseason?
I’m not packing it in, but it really does look like a lifeless team now, no? And then to have to rely on Buchholz. Yikes! But we’ve seen them do it before. Just have to hold out some hope for that.
The best thing about coming back to Fenway? No more shots of LeBron James and the rest of the Cavalier clowns in their luxury box. Please TBS, how many times did we really have to see that?
Speaking of TBS…I think we’ve had enough of them too…
…now that the Major League Baseball regular season has concluded. Let’s get right to it, starting here with the American League:
Most Valuable Player:
- Mookie Betts, Boston
- Mike Trout, LA Angels
- Miguel Cabrera, Detroit
- David Ortiz, Boston
- Adrian Beltre, Texas
- Josh Donaldson, Toronto
- Jose Altuve, Houston
- Manny Machado, Baltimore
- Robinson Cano, Seattle
- Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto
10 guys seems a little steep here, but that’s what the official ballot holds. So I only do what I’m told. Anyway, these ten all had pretty good years, how do you decide? I just went with the guy from the home team. Ok, that’s not exactly true. The way I see it, the award probably comes down to Betts or Trout. Trout is probably still the best player in the league, probably in the majors. But his team was awful. I have trouble giving MVP awards to guys on bad teams. I know that many feel differently, simply because how can one guy make a team playoff caliber essentially by himself? Fair enough point, but it’s my ballot, so that’s what I’m going with.
Trout’s OPS was almost 100 points higher than Betts’ and if you believe in sabermetric stats like WAR, then you would see Trout was better than Mookie there as well. Both are good defensive players. Betts had about 40 more hits, but Trout had about 70 more walks. Many of their other statistics were similar. Betts had a deeper lineup of course. Trout power dropped from 2015 and he walked more this year, likely because of what was around him. If you choose Trout, I won’t hold it against you. I just went with the guy on the playoff team.
So as you can see, other than Trout, all of the players listed are from playoff or near playoff teams. Though I am not sure there were many other legitimate candidates. Brian Dozier? Nah. Khris Davis? Ummmm…
I would’ve loved to have given this to Big Papi, being that it is his last year and I am a homer. But I have to say not playing the field has to hurt him a bit. I am not opposed to giving DH’s the award, but a DH would have to be clearly separated from the pack for me to do so. Kind of like when Ortiz finished 2nd in the voting in 2005 to Alex Rodriguez. That year, I would have given the MVP to Papi. He had sick numbers, but also a slew of clutch hits that for me put him over the top. Oh well. As for this year, Papi falls behind Miggy here because Miggy had an insane 2nd half to help keep his team in the mix. And he played the field all year. If you wanted to flip-flop them, I wouldn’t argue there either.
5-8 is probably the next tier. Beltre finished strong, Altuve and Machado did not and Donaldson was basically in between. That explains that order. Cano and Edwin seemed like solid choices for the last 2 spots. But if you stuck Nelson Cruz or someone else in there, it doesn’t matter to me. Even Dozier, if it makes you happy.
Pitchers? I’m not opposed to it. But it would have to be another case in which one would have to be extremely dominant. I mean, how can you justify voting for a starting pitcher that pitches maybe 35 games over an everyday player that plays over 150? Or a closer that pitches like 70 innings over that same everyday player? I could, but only in extreme cases. And none fit that bill this year.
- Justin Verlander, Detroit
- Corey Kluber, Cleveland
- Rick Porcello, Boston
- Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox
- Zach Britton, Baltimore
In reality, Verlander is 1, Kluber is 1A and Porcello is 1B. It was that close. Then Sale is a distant 4th. As far as pure numbers, Verlander made more starts, pitched more innings, had way more strikeouts and had the better WHIP and ERA than both Kluber and Porcello. He also gave up only 4 unearned runs this year, where the other two gave up 7 apiece. Hey, that counts. Again, sabermetrics tells us that Verlander was better there too (6.6 WAR to 6.5 for Kluber and 5.0 for Porcello). Verlander “only” won 16, compared to Kluber’s 18 and Porcello’s major league leading 22. But what sealed it for me was Verlander’s 2nd half 8-3, 1.96, .180 batting average against, which topped the 2nd halves of the other two by a decent amount (Kluber, 9-1, 2.52, .215; Porcello, 11-2, 2.62, .203). More importantly, Justin got only 3.97 runs a game for support. Kluber got 5.16 and Porcello 6.61. Seems like he was working with less margin for error.
Sale went 3-7 in the second half, but his ERA was actually better (3.28 to 3.38 in the first half). His innings, WHIP, K’s and everything else were much better than the remaining candidates, so he was an easy pick for 4th. I don’t love taking relievers. But Britton had an ERA well under one and didn’t blow any of his 47 save chances. So there is something to be said for that. In reality, Andrew Miller probably had a more dominant year. But he wasn’t asked to close many games, so I have to give Britton the nod here.
Aaron Sanchez, Masahiro Tanaka, Cole Hamels, Jose Quintana and JA Happ with his 20 wins will get some love. I saw them a step or more below all of the above however.
Rookie of the Year:
- Michael Fulmer, Detroit
- Nomar Mazara, Texas
- Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees
Fulmer runs away with this one. He was 3 innings shy of qualifying for the ERA title, where he was leading for a stretch and would have finished third at 3.06, behind Sanchez at 3.00 and Verlander at 3.04. Mazara was one of only two rookies who had enough plate appearances to qualify for a full season (Cheslor Cuthbert being the other). Mazara started strong and cooled off a bit, but seemed like the best bet for 2nd. Only 53 games and 201 at-bats for Sanchez and he gets 3rd? Yup. 20 homers in those 53 games. Among an otherwise quite barren Yankee lineup. Good enough for me. Cuthbert? Nope. Tim Anderson? A shortstop, so maybe. Max Kepler? Meh. Tyler Naquin or Ryon Healy? Not today.
Manager of the Year:
- Terry Francona, Cleveland
- Scott Servais, Seattle
- Buck Showalter, Baltimore
TIIIITTTTOOOOO!!! Yup. Love Tito, but not being nostalgic here at all. The Indians improved 13 wins from 2015, though their best player, Michael Brantley, totaled a mere 43 plate appearances during the 2016 season. The lineup is clearly improved from 2015, but other than Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor and Carlos Santana, the rest of them are probably really platoon players on good teams. Sure, Mike Napoli and Jose Ramirez had pretty good years out of nowhere. But they also gave almost 250 plate appearances to an old and fat Jose Uribe. Yan Gomes hit a solid .167 in about the same amount of chances. The pitching is of course the strength, bullpen with Cody Allen and a dominant 2 months from Andrew Miller leading that charge. The rotation was solid, with Kluber in the Cy mix as noted above. But behind him, Carlos Carrasco battled injuries and after Danny Salazar had an All-Star start, he had his problem with injuries as well. Some challenges there that Tito had to navigate as well.
Servais took over the Mariners this year and led them to 10 more wins. It helped that Cano had a rebound year. And Cruz is Cruz. Kyle Seager is pretty good. Not much else to write home about in that lineup. As for the staff, Felix Hernandez made only 25 seemingly “un-King Felix” like starts. Hisashi Iwakuma won 16, but with an ERA over 4. Tijuan Walker never took that “next step”. And after Steve Cishek became shaky at closer, they went to a young Edwin Diaz, who got the saves, but whose ERA did spike as well. I’m not sure how Seattle improved so much actually. Side note: JA Happ went 4-6, 4.64 and Mark Trumbo hit 13 homers in 96 games for the 2015 Mariners. Then Happ won 20 for the Jays and Trumbo hit 47 bombs for the O’s in 2016. What?
Buck won 8 more games this year than last, with a lineup that seemingly only hit homers or struck out and a putrid rotation. That’s good enough for 3rd for me. And it doesn’t count him not pitching Britton in the wild card playoff game, which was inexcusable in my eyes. People may ask, “where is John Farrell”? After all, the Sox won 15 more games than 2015. Farrell may well win the award in real life. But when I spent all year trying to get him fired, I couldn’t put him in my top three. They really should’ve won 5-10 more, but Farrell held them back. I still believe that and still wouldn’t mind not seeing him back next year. But I’ve beaten that like a dead horse. I’d love to give Joe Girardi a vote. I hate the guy and I hate the Yankees. Another secret, I know. But how he has kept that team in the playoff race until the last week or so the last few years, I have no idea. Old team, half the pitching staff I’ve never heard of, his 2 best relievers were traded at the deadline this year, A-Rod circus, etc. But they lost 3 wins from 2015, so it would be hard to justify a vote for him all that being said. Texas won 7 more games for Jeff Banister this year, but he won the award last year and…that team is pretty good anyway.
Next: The National League