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2018 MLB National League All-Stars

As promised, the NL squad is below.  32 players are selected.  20 are supposed to be position players and 12 are supposed to be pitchers.  I’ll stray from that a bit, as we always do here.  Similar to the AL, 19 position players and 13 pitchers for the NL this year, but the reasoning is different.  The Blowhard, in all seriousness, had problems coming up with the 32 players needed for the NL team.  Each team is represented, as we know.  Again, I don’t necessarily love this rule, but for all those spots, I suppose every team should have SOMEONE there.  But there was one NL team that truly had ZERO real candidates.  You’ll find that out soon enough.  (S) for the starter.  Comments below each position.

C:  J.T. Realmuto, Mia (S), Francisco Cervelli, Pit

There were surprisingly several candidates at this position in the National League.  But I’m sticking with my 2 catcher maximum.  After Realmuto was a victim of taking only two catchers in the two previous years, he is the clear-cut starter this season.  After that?  HAD to go with Cervelli to back up.  The Pittsburgh Pirates really do not have any candidates at all.  Cervelli has missed some time with a concussion but has a .876 OPS when he has played.  The only other Pirate player worth considering was their closer, Felipe Vazquez.  17 saves are great.  But a 3.47 ERA and a WHIP of almost 1.35 is not.  As for other dudes…Yadier Molina could have a case.  Buster Posey always has a case.  But Posey’s numbers are down from previous years.

1B:  Freddie Freeman, Atl (S), Jesus Aguilar, Mil, Paul Goldschmidt, AZ, Joey Votto, Cin

Aguilar is a nice story, but I’m going Freeman to start.  Goldy started slow but is on fire recently.  Votto’s power is down, but he’s still having a nice year.  If you wanted Brandon Belt instead, fine.  Jose Martinez?  Sure.  I won’t argue about the last slot.  Take whoever you want.  Except for Eric Hosmer.  Wow, that was a dumb contract the Padres gave him.  And he ain’t doing much to earn it.

2B:  Javier Baez, ChC (S), Scooter Gennett, Cin, Ozzie Albies, Atl, Asdrubal Cabrera, NYM

Baez by a slim margin over Gennett to start.  Guess Gennett’s 2017 season was not a fluke, huh?  Albies had a strong first half.  Asdrubal?  Yup.  Deserved.  If you wanted to take a fifth first baseman over him, I wouldn’t complain.  But I’m keeping him on my squad.  And no, he isn’t the only Met, if you can believe that.

3B: Eugenio Suarez, Cin (S), Nolan Arenado, Col

This is it for third base in the NL.  And this year Arenado is NOT being penalized for playing in Colorado.  Suarez’ overall numbers are simply better.  And Max Muncy’s 20 dingers in 196 at-bats are nice.  But not sure that gets him on.

SS:  Brandon Crawford, SF (S), Trevor Story, Col

And…this is it for shortstop in the NL.  Story is being penalized for playing in Colorado.  Trea Turner?  Not this year.

OF:  Matt Kemp, LAD (S), Nick Markakis, Atl (S), David Peralta, AZ (S), Rhys Hoskins, Phi, Bryce Harper, Was

Matt Kemp?  Nick Markakis?  What year is this?  Actually, even though these guys have been around forever, Kemp has actually made only two All-Star teams and Markakis…ZERO.  So good for them with what they are doing this season.  Peralta?  Yikes!  But he was really the best option for the last starting spot.  I had actually originally picked Odubel Herrera instead of Hoskins…then I realized Hoskins was now pretty much an outfielder and doesn’t play much first base anymore.  So I swapped them.  Plus, I wanted to say that I picked Odubel, Aaron Altherr and Hoskins as All-Stars from the Phillie outfield in consecutive years.  That seems a little crazy, no?  Bryce…hmmm, I know.  Tough call.  .218 average would knock just about everyone else out of it.  But power is there and OPS is too.  So I said what the hell?  Plus…Brandon Nimmo?  Kyle Schwarber?  Anyone from above I left off?  I don’t think so.

P:  Max Scherzer, Was (S), Jacob deGrom, NYM, Aaron Nola, Phi, Jon Lester, ChC, Miles Mikolas, StL, Patrick Corbin, AZ, Sean Newcomb, Atl, Mike Foltynewicz, Atl, Kyle Freeland, Col, Josh Hader, Mil, Sean Doolittle, Was, Brad Hand, SD, Kenley Jansen, LAD

Ouch.  And…ouch…again.  Take a look at the names on this list again.  Max gets the start since the game is in his home park.  But you could seriously give deGrom the ball.  I don’t think a lot of people know what kind of season he is having because his team sucks so bad.  Nola has had a nice first half as well.  The rest?  Ok.  But most of the names are certainly underwhelming.  It’s almost like I had to take Freeland because he is a starting pitcher from Colorado and with his numbers (8-6, 3.18), you have to take that into consideration.  Newcomb has backslid a bit.  Mikolas is the Cards rep.  Folty has fewer innings than most starters.  Corbin and Lester have been solid.  But who’s next, Ross Stripling?  Nope.

Hader was the only middle man taken on both teams.  But he did close when the Brewers regular closer, Corey Knebel, was out.  And you can’t scoff at 83 strikeouts in 44 2/3 innings and a 1.21 ERA.  In fact, there is another middle guy on his team that probably deserves consideration in Jeremy Jeffress.  Hand is the Padres rep.  People have been on the Kirby Yates bandwagon.  Not me.  Doolittle belongs.  Jansen isn’t quite as dominant as he has been in previous years, but he’s still the guy to close it out if it gets to that point.  Kyle Barraclough and Adam Ottavino probably deserve consideration as middle guys as well.  But I’m not doing that.  Maybe Raisel Iglesias as another closer.  But I’m going with these guys.

Aaaaaah…feels good to be on time…for once!

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More hardware…

…now for the National League.  Full disclosure:  The Blowhard watches a whole helluva more American League baseball than National League.  This may be quick…

Most Valuable Player:

  1. Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs
  2. Daniel Murphy, Washington
  3. Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs
  4. Nolan Arenado, Colorado
  5. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta
  6. Joey Votto, Cincinnati
  7. Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona
  8. Yoenis Cespedes, New York Mets
  9. Buster Posey, San Francisco
  10. Corey Seager, LA Dodgers

10 guys is definitely steep here, as from what I can tell it’s Bryant and then 9 other guys to fill out the ballot.  Murphy 2nd?  Why not?  He led the league in OPS.  He was 13th in WAR?  Oh no!!  I can’t in good conscience put Arenado at #2.  Sure, his numbers are once again great.  But again…Colorado.  I felt like Murphs deserved to be higher than Rizzo and it feels like 2-4 is the next “tier” after Bryant.

5-7…MVP’s?  I don’t know.  These guys all had great years, but their teams were awful.  I have friends that would probably put Freeman 2nd, since he was 3rd in both OPS and WAR and well, it doesn’t matter that his team finished 26 and a half games out of first.  They also probably would put Jon Lester 3rd, since he is…Jon Lester.  You know who you are.

8-10 I was just throwing darts.  Even considered Wilson Ramos.  Ryan Braun had some decent numbers, but…

Speaking of Lester, he may well have been worthy of a top 10 nod, along with Max Scherzer.  And perhaps Madison Bumgarner.  Didn’t feel it here though.  If you do, I wouldn’t argue with it.  Like I said, the whole list was basically a crapshoot anyway.

Cy Young:

  1. Max Scherzer, Washington
  2. Jon Lester, Chicago Cubs
  3. Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco
  4. Johnny Cueto, San Francisco
  5. Kyle Hendricks, Chicago Cubs

Here’s a ballot that could use the 10 spots.  Not that all of those 10 could be considered the winner of the Cy Young.  But there were several others in the league that warranted “end of ballot” consideration.  These include, Noah Syndergaard, Clayton Kershaw, Carlos Martinez, Jake Arrieta and the late Jose Fernandez.  Perhaps Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon too, if you like your closers.  We know I don’t though.

I see this as between just Scherzer and Lester.  And, of course, as a Boston homer, I would’ve loved to give this to Jon.  But after going deeper into the numbers there was no way I could do it.  Lester had a better ERA by about a half a run.  But that’s where it ends.  Max had a better WHIP by a smidge, pitched about 26 more innings, had one more win, almost 90 more strikeouts…and for those who like WAR, it was 6.2 to 5.3 in favor of Max.  The competition in their divisions were similar with one playoff or near playoff team, one average team and 2 putrid ones.  Plus the Cubs won their division handily and surely faced less pressure…not a major consideration, but it was all part of the equation that added up to Max.

Bumgarner and Cueto were a pretty clear next tier to me.  Hendricks got the last spot largely because he led the league in ERA by a healthy margin and was 2nd in WHIP by a slim margin.  Pushed him ahead of Noah for me.  But I didn’t lose a ton of sleep over 5th place.

Rookie of the Year:

  1. Corey Seager, LA Dodgers
  2. Kenta Maeda, LA Dodgers
  3. Trea Turner, Washington

Seager was the clear-cut choice here.  No other hitter played enough to qualify, while Seager played the whole year at a high level.  I don’t love putting Maeda second, not after 8 years of pitching in the Japanese leagues.  Yes, Japan is not the majors.  But it’s probably better than Triple-A teams stateside.  Either way, the rules say he is eligible for this award.  Since he was also around for a full season and put up some pretty good numbers on a playoff team, he gets the runner-up position.

Third place could have gone a few ways, but I picked Turner.  Showed great speed (33 steals) and good power (13 dingers) in about half a season.  Throw in the high average (.342) and that sealed up third for me.  Trevor Story was on his way to throwing up some monster numbers before missing the last 2 months or so with injury, but…Colorado.  Aledmys Diaz also threw up decent numbers before he missed the better part of the last two months himself.  And he was an All-Star, for whatever that’s worth.  Seung-hwan Oh had a very nice year in relief for the Cards.  After 9 years in Korea and 2 in Japan.  Plus…reliever.  Junior Guerra, Steven Matz, etc.  There were a bunch of NL rookies who offered pretty good contributions for a half or three-quarters of a year.

Manager of the Year:

  1. Dusty Baker, Washington
  2. Joe Maddon, Chicago Cubs
  3. Bruce Bochy, San Francisco

Between Baker and Maddon and I hate Maddon, so gimme Baker.  Nah, that’s not the reason.  But it’s hard to vote for a guy that won the division by 17 and a half games and was on cruise control for pretty much the whole season.  That’s what I think anyway.  Sure, he had to keep the team full of All-Stars focused and all.  Sometimes that can be hard (see Francona, Terry and Torre, Joe, among others).  But I went with Baker for the top slot.  Dusty took over for Matt Williams and guided the Nationals to 12 more wins…despite a MAJOR drop off from 2015 NL MVP Bryce Harper.

If you wanted to put Terry Collins of the Mets 3rd, that would be ok.  He had to deal with many injuries, specifically in his rotation, where among all his young studs 43-year-old Bartolo Colon ended up making the most starts.  The team suffered injuries in his lineup as well.  And Collins still got them to the playoffs.  Bochy didn’t necessarily have to deal with a boatload of injuries.  But he did have to deal with a subpar everything, other than Posey, Bumgarner and Cueto.  Either one works for 3rd for me.

That about sums it all up…

2016 MLB National League All-Stars

In honor of the Major League Baseball All-Star game selections being announced today, I present my National League All-Star picks.  21 position players, 13 pitchers, with each team represented (I don’t necessarily love this rule…but…it is the rule).  (S) for starter.  Comments below each position.

C:  Wilson Ramos, Was (S), Buster Posey, SF, Jonathan Lucroy, Mil

Surprisingly a lot of options here, compared to the AL.  Wellington Castillo and J.T. Realmuto actually earned some consideration in addition to the three I selected.  Yup, I am serious.  Anyway, I was tempted to once again go with Posey as the starter.  But I couldn’t ignore Ramos’ superior numbers.

1B:  Anthony Rizzo, CHC (S), Paul Goldschmidt, AZ, Wil Myers, SD

You can probably pretty much pencil in Rizzo and Goldy every year for the forseeable future, barring injury or change in leagues.  Myers is the Padres rep, but if you’ve been paying attention, he’s had a pretty good year regardless.  Last year somehow I took 6 first basemen.  Three here seems about right.  Brandon Belt is 12th in the NL in OPS, so maybe he has a case.  Freddie Freeman isn’t awful, but also isn’t lighting the world on fire.  His atrocious team does not help.  I decided on someone else for the Braves rep however.

2B:  Daniel Murphy, Was (S), Ben Zobrist, CHC

Murphy has carried over his performance in last year’s playoffs for the Mets right into this year.  Pretty much a no-brainer here.  Zobrist cost the Cubbies more than you would think this past offseason.  But it’s worked out great so far.  Not a lot of other candidates.  Couldn’t do DJ LeMahieu here at all.  Because, as you know, I penalize players a smidge for playing in Colorado.  Dee Gordon is serving a PED suspension.  Jean Segura?  Nope.

3B:  Kris Bryant, CHC (S), Matt Carpenter, StL, Nolan Arenado, Col, Jake Lamb, AZ

Did you know Carpenter leads the NL in OPS at 1.008?  And that Lamb is 2nd at .974?  Neither did I.  I was aware that Carpenter was having a pretty good year, but shocked at seeing where Lamb stands.  Bryant is 6th at .948, but he’s still my starter.  One of those guys you can pencil in for multiple All-Star selections before he is done.  Another monster year for Arenado, but you know…Colorado.  Puts him on the team regularly, but not as a starter.

SS:  Corey Seager, LAD (S), Aledmys Diaz, StL

Thin here again this year.  Trevor Story has been a nice…ahem…story, but I’m not putting him at this level yet.  106 K’s so far this year.  To put that in perspective, Chris Carter has 103.  Yikes!  Brandon Crawford deserved a look as well, but no room at the Inn for him this year.  Especially when his OPS is lower than a guy like Jonathan Villar.  Anyway, Seager is one of those potential stars and at 22 years old, he may be that already.  Diaz came out of nowhere earlier this year and kept Jhonny Peralta’s job when Peralta came back from his injury.  And he hasn’t missed a beat.

OF:  Yoenis Cespedes, NYM (S), Marcell Ozuna, Mia (S), Bryce Harper, Was (S), Carlos Gonzalez, Col, Gregory Polanco, Pit, Adam Duvall, Cin, Odubel Herrera, Phi

Seven outfielders, but since no DH’s are selected in the NL, 2 or 3 of these guys could rotate in there.  Another takeaway?  No Giancarlo Stanton or Andrew McCutchen.  I do like to try to include real “superstars” in these games, even if they are not performing to their usual standards in a specific year.  The All-Star Game is really an exhibition, even though it decides home field advantage in the World Series, as foolish as this decision continues to be.  Fans want to see these types of players though and that’s why the superstars get voted in regularly, regardless of current performance.  Unfortunately, those guys have been less than good this year.  On top of that, they may be the 3rd best option at OF on their own teams this season (Ozuna & Christian Yelich in Mia; Polanco and Starling Marte in Pit).  I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of them though.  Ryan Braun’s numbers are pretty good and he is 11th in OPS.  But since he is a “convicted” liar and cheater, he doesn’t make my team.  Ok, I am sure there are other scumbags on this team too.  But that’s what I’m going with.

Moving on, Harper isn’t having the best year.  But he’s the reigning MVP and putting up fairly decent numbers.  See the explanation above on why he starts on my team.  Gonzalez can be basically lumped in with Arenado…on the team every year, but playing in Colorado makes me never put him as a starter.  Cespedes and Ozuna seem like obvious starters to me.  Polanco is 5th among NL OFs in OPS.  Duvall and Herrera are their teams reps.  Since Jay Bruce and Joey Votto have slightly higher OPS’s than Duvall, you could argue either of them as the rep.  But I’m not.  Especially since Votto had a horrendous start.  The only other true candidate from the Phillies was Jeanmar Gomez.  No thanks.

P:  Clayton Kershaw, LAD (S), Max Scherzer, Was, Jake Arrieta, CHC, Johnny Cueto, SF, Madison Bumgarner, SF, Jon Lester, CHC, Jose Fernandez, Mia, Noah Syndergaard, NYM, Stephen Strasburg, Was, Julio Teheran, Atl, Kenley Jansen, LAD, Mark Melancon, Pit, Jeurys Familia, NYM

Probably like 5 or 6 of the above named starters have a legitimate claim to start the All-Star Game, but I’m going with Kershaw.  ERA is under 2.00 and of course he is his usual dominant self so far this year.  But he is hurt in real life, so if I had to choose a backup starter it would have to be Arrieta.  Since he is the reigning Cy Young award winner, maybe I should have picked him anyway.  Cueto is 12-1, Strasburg is 10-0, etc.  Lot of studs on this staff.  Well, Teheran is 3-7, but since his ERA is 2.72 and the Braves are really an AAAA-level team, he is here as their rep.

There was some talent left off here too.  Cases could be made for Jacob deGrom, Carlos Martinez, Kenta Maeda, the old John Lackey and the really old Bartolo Colon…if you can believe that.  Toyed with Drew Pomeranz as the Padres rep.  But felt like Myers was the better choice considering all the pitching options available in the NL.

The way I feel about closers, with all the options for starters, it is somewhat surprising that I didn’t go with 13 starters and no relievers.  But I felt the 3 closers selected were worthy.  Jansen and Melancon have ERA’s around 1.30 and Jansen, in particular, has been dominant.  Familia is 29-29 in save opportunities.  Speaking of dominant, it’s a little bit of a shame that Fernando Rodney got traded from San Diego to Miami…going from closer to setup man.  Yes, this just happened recently, but it did impact my thinking.  Rodney gave up ONE run in three months for the Padres, going 17 for 17 in saves opps in the process.  Sure, he only pitched a shade under 29 innings, but impressive nonetheless.  He may have been my Padres rep if he remained in SD.  But no way he is Miami’s.  Probably should have found a spot for him anyway.  Maybe we can pretend he will be Kershaw’s injury replacement…now there’s a win-win, right?!

The only other closers I gave consideration to were A.J. Ramos and Hector Rondon.  But Ramos didn’t quite do it for me.  And since Theo Epstein apparently is trying to pry one of the Yankees’ three bullpen studs to presumably unseat Rondon, I dismissed him as an option.  The only middle man I considered was Sadaharu Oh…ummmmm, I mean, Seung Hwan Oh of the Cards.  He appears to now be their closer, with Trevor Rosenthal being awful.  But the competition was too tough for him to have a realistic shot.

That about covers it…so let’s see how mine compares to the real selections…

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