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2017 MLB National League All-Stars

As promised, NL squad below.   Only 32 players this year, down from 34 in recent years.  22 position players, 10 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:  Buster Posey, SF (S), Yadier Molina, StL

Sticking with the 2 catcher maximum here.  Kind of had to, with these two being their teams sole representatives.  So yup, that means I didn’t select Carlos Martinez for my team.  Oh well.  He’ll be here more than a few times in the future more than likely.  Anyway, the only other real option here was J.T. Realmuto.  I can’t believe Realmuto has been on the fringe of my team for two years running.  Maybe I should reevaluate him.

1B: Joey Votto, Cin (S), Paul Goldschmidt, AZ, Ryan Zimmerman, Was, Freddie Freeman, Atl

This is what I wrote last year, “You can probably pretty much pencil in (Anthony) Rizzo and Goldy every year for the forseeable future, barring injury or change in leagues.”  Oops.  No Rizzo this year.  He has rebounded nicely from his early season woes, but it wasn’t enough.  Check the water in Zim’s locker.  The last time he made an All-Star team was 1909…er, I mean, 2009.  But you get the point.  .218 in over 400 ABs last year and now at age 32 these numbers?  Ok, but he deserves to start.  And so does Goldschmidt.  But I picked Votto.  His numbers are a hair above both.  Freeman could probably start too, but he missed half the season.  And now he is playing third base.  But I couldn’t justify any other Atlanta player being on my team.  I don’t care how good Ender Inciarte is defensively.

2B:  Daniel Murphy, Was (S), Anthony Rendon, Was, Justin Turner, LAD

Ok, I clearly cheated here.  But I had to.  To me, Murphs was the only legit 2b I could really consider here.  Josh Harrison is a nice player, but not an All-Star.  DJ LeMahieu?  Nope.  Colorado, for one.  But secondly, I really don’t understand the infatuation.  Whatever.  So I am going with a couple of backups that play exclusively 3b now, but have played plenty of second base in the past.  And I picked Rendon before his 6 ribbies on Saturday.  Turner missed some time due to injury in the first half.  But hard to ignore his .377 average and 1.000 plus OPS at the break.

3B: Jake Lamb, AZ (S), Nolan Arenado, Col, Kris Bryant, ChC, Travis Shaw, Mil

Once again, Arenado gets penalized for playing in Colorado.  But once again he deserves to be on the team.  Just not starting.  I really should have started Bryant, but Lamb has the superior numbers this year.  By the end of the year that may be different.  Bryant didn’t make the real team.  That’s a crime.  Sure, he isn’t putting up the MVP numbers of last year, but it’s not like he’s hitting .220 either.  He has to be on the team, you know, being the reigning MVP and all.  Numbers this year are good enough, I say.  To boot, he is somehow my only Cub.  Little disappointing over there in ChiTown this year.  At least Wade Davis won’t blow my game like he did the real one.  Last, but certainly not least…Shaw HAS to be on the team.  First, Milwaukee is in first place and deserves more than the one rep they had in the real game.  Second?  What a stupid offseason trade by the Red Sox.  Listen, I wasn’t the biggest Travis Shaw fan.  He did fade as the year went on last year.  But did they have to basically throw him in the trade for Tyler Thornburg?  A middle reliever with apparent arm problems?  Just seemed like the prospects the Sox sent should have been enough there.  And now Thornburg will not pitch this year and the Sox are rotating between various minor leaguers at third base…after they finally pulled the plug on the Pablo Sandoval experiment.  Sigh…

SS:  Corey Seager, LAD (S), Trea Turner, Was

Thin yet again.  Seager is easy.  Turner should be easy…and yes, I know he is hurt.  Doesn’t matter.  Zack Cozart?  Really?

OF:  Giancarlo Stanton, Mia (S), Marcell Ozuna, Mia (S), Bryce Harper, Was (S), Cody Bellinger, LAD, Charlie Blackmon, Col, Wil Myers, SD, Aaron Altherr, Phi

Seven outfielders, four third basemen, four first basemen…of course some of those guys will fill the DH role.  Once again, the starters were no-brainers.  Though I suppose if Bellinger had been in the majors all year, he could have supplanted one of them.  Since he’s a rookie, he will have to defer this year, either way.  Blackmon has his Colorado numbers, but belongs on the team.  I suppose I should have listed Myers at first, since he actually plays there.  But I didn’t like the look of five first basemen for some reason.  And Myers came up as an outfielder.  So…who cares anyway?  Myers and Altherr represent the Padres and Phillies, respectively.  I don’t care how well Brad Hand pitches in the 6th-7th inning, I couldn’t stomach him being the Padres rep, as he was in reality.  He’s a middle reliever on a team that has a closer with a 5.30 ERA (Brandon Maurer).  If Hand can’t close over Maurer, he’s not an All-Star.  As much as we all love Pat Neshek, same deal in Philly.  If he can’t seize the closer role from any of the clowns that have closed for that squad this year (Hector Neris??!)…he is also not an All-Star.  I feel better about picking Altherr this year than I do about picking Odubel Herrera last year, I can tell you that much.

P:  Clayton Kershaw, LAD (S), Max Scherzer, Was, Zack Greinke, AZ, Robbie Ray, AZ, Gio Gonzalez, Was, Jacob deGrom, NYM, Ivan Nova, Pit, Corey Knebel, Mil, Greg Holland, Col, Kenley Jansen, LAD

Kershaw is a pretty good pitcher, eh?  Once again putting up video game numbers.  14 wins at the break.  Nice work.  Max and Zack doing what they do.  Robbie Ray coming out of nowhere.  Well, he was a top prospect, now it appears he has taken the next step at age 25.  I took Gio over Strasburg, but both could be here.  deGrom is the Mets rep.  Toyed with Jay Bruce, but had enough bats already.  Nova is the Pirates rep.  Underwhelming, I know.  The apparently resurrected Andrew McCutchen would probably have been a better choice.  But having to take Myers and Altherr and all those other bats left him off in favor of a pitcher.  Knebel has been absolutely filthy for the Brew Crew and what Holland is doing in his comeback in Colorado is nothing short of amazing.  Jansen has an ERA under 1.00 on that Dodger juggernaut, so he closes my game if it gets there.

There are a few pitchers that may have deserved better…Strasburg, Carlos Martinez, Alex Wood (10-0 at the break, but less innings than other starters), Wade Davis and gulp, Jimmy Nelson (??) could have arguments here.  If you like middle relievers, Hand, Neshek and Archie Bradley (1.10 ERA at the break) could be in the discussion as well.  Everyone can’t make it.  As usual though, I think I nailed both teams!

 

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2017 MLB American League All-Stars

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…

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…

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