Thursday, July 8, 2010

My All-star game, Part 2

If you missed Part-1 of my version of the MLB All-star game, click here. Here is Part 2.

The American League put together a fairly good team with great pitching in the front end and back end. The only missing gap was at short, which could turn out to be somewhat costly with a pitcher, turned hitting outfielder playing the spot, but Markakis has the athletic ability to make it work. Power could be a concern, at the very least in comparison to the National League, but we’ll get to that later. Without further ado, your National League team representatives.

ATLANTA BRAVES

Player: Tim Hudson
Age/Position: 34/Starting Pitcher
2010 Stats: ERA 2.44, SO 58, WHIP 1.15

This particular selection was a bit tricky because on your first observation of the Braves you see production of 4-year guy Martin Prado who is batting .336, but after an in depth look you see that this is his first real full season. Sure he played over 120 games last year, but those were spread around at four different positions and came as a result of injuries. He still is yet to be proven in my book. Same thing is to be said about rookie Jason Heyward. He has the potential and probably will end up being their best player, but it remains to be seen and is too early to tell. Chipper Jones on the other hand epitomizes the Atlanta Braves. That guy has done so much for that organization that he will always be loved and endeared by their fans. The guy walks on water in Atlanta, similar to how Brett Favre does in Wisconsin. But Chipper is old, let’s face it. All the injuries add up too much and his career is almost done. You might be able to make a case for catcher Brian McCann, but Tim Hudson is the clear cut choice. This season he is 8-4, only one behind Derek Lowe, but has had four more quality starts than him. I think Lowes best years were done with Boston, plus he’s 37, whereas Hudson still has juice in the tank and could finish the season at 17-5.

FLORIDA MARLINS

Player: Hanley Ramirez
Age/Position: 26/Short Stop
2010 Stats: BA .296, HR 13, RBI 53

Say what you will about all the broo-ha-ha that went on earlier in the season when Hanley Ramirez jogged after a ball that bounced off his shin when runners were on base; he still is their best player. Should Hanley have run harder after the ball? Sure, only one person in the league should be allowed to play sloppy in the vicinity of left field and that is the other Ramirez (Manny) who has already called dibs. You could pose the question on whether Fredi Gonzalez should have benched him or not. I think so; you need accountability as a skipper, besides it was in May. Guarantee if this was September no benching of your star player would have occurred, and one could argue that Hanley probably would not have jogged at the ball anyway. Regardless, it does not take away from the game this guy can play. He is on a team of nobodies – Dan Uggla does not count as a ‘somebody’ because he needs to be hitting at least 12-15 more home runs a year if he wants to get away with a career .260 average – Hanley is the only shining star on the team. The worse part about Hanley Ramirez is that the Red Sox traded him. Don’t even get me started about this.

NEW YORK METS
Player: David Wright
Age/Position: 27/Third Base
2010 Stats: BA .317, HR 14, RBI 64

Has anyone else noticed that Johan Santana has faded into oblivion? Remember how just three years ago he was the talk of the town? He was all anybody talked about and was THEE pitcher that every team coveted, and rightfully so. When over a four year span you throw up a record of 67-22, an ERA of 2.83 and a .99 WHIP, then you get the crown of King. But since coming to the Mets he has all but disappeared. If you had asked me who the best player on the Mets was, my knee-jerk reaction would have been Jose Reyes. “Jose Reyes, that guy is SO good.” But in reality… not so much. Of course Reyes is electrifying; you have to be when you swipe 78 bases in a single season, especially now-a-days when most MLB catchers have pretty strong arms. I don’t think Vince Coleman or Rickey Henderson would have been able to steal over a 100, the multiple times that they did, if their careers were played in the 2000s, but that’s just me, so Reyes’ 78 were/are a big deal. Line him up next to Wright, however, in every other category it’s not even a competition. Wrights worst season (his rookie season when he only played 69 games) is better than four of Reyes’ full seasons and could even be compared to five seasons if Reyes did not sustain a season-ending injury last year. Wright is Mr. Consistent, which is saying something since he plays for the inconsistent Mets.

PHILIDELPHIA PHILLIES
Player: Ryan Howard
Age/Position: 30/First Base
2010 Stats: BA .295, HR 15, RBI 60

Typically I am a pitcher > batter type guy, and considering that the Phillies have Roy Halladay on their team, makes an even stronger pull to go pitcher, but I cannot pull the trigger on Halladay over Ryan Howard. I just can’t. I’m sorry, but this time I got to go the guy that swings a big bat.

Here’s why:

Ever since Howard has been given the everyday job at first, he has hit AT LEAST 45 home runs and driven in 135 runners. MIN-I-MUM. That is just gangster. In fact it is close to being TOO gangster and would be grounds for disqualification for All-star team selection. Let the record show and let it be known throughout the land that Ryan Howard is officially gangster. And let the record also show the difference between Ryan Howard gangster and wannabe gangster like Milton Bradley. Nobody should ever want to be Milton Bradley gangster, not even Milton Bradley.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS

Player: Steven Strasburg
Age/Position: 21/Starting Pitcher
2010 Stats: ERA 2.45, SO 53, WHIP 1.06

The Albastraus. I’ve already written about him before, so this should come of no surprise. Tim Kurkjian already wants to vote him to the Hall of Fame and if the Nationals were not, well… the Nationals, he’d be 4-0 in his five starts instead of 2-2. His 1.5 strikeouts per inning are better than anybody else baseball and can catch bullets in his teeth, he is that legit. Cannot wait to see him pitch 101 MPH fastballs and have Bryce Harper hit 600 foot home runs in the same game. The Albastraus baby!

CHICAGO CUBS
Player: Alfonso Soriano
Age/Position: 34/Left Field
2010 Stats: BA .273, HR 14, RBI 41

This pick shocked me, just as much as it shocks you. I would have never said Soriano. Instead of telling you why him, I’ll explain why it’s nobody else. Notice the common theme.

Derek Lee: Had one fluke season, and for some unknown reason everybody jumped on his bandwagon like he was going to be the next Jeff Bagwell or something. 2005 was a one of one.
Ryan Dempster: Also had one fluke season, 2008. He may strike out a bunch of guys, but he also gives up an average of one home run a game. They’re usually not solo shots either, and is a big reason why he is 6-6.
Aramis Ramirez: He should be there best player. Ever since permanently coming to Chicago he has been really productive: averaged 105 RBIs and at least 31 home runs a season. These last two seasons mind you, are not a fluke. These are the season in which he has been hurt. In 2009 he only played 82 games due to injury and already this year he has missed 20 to an injured wrist. I could be completely wrong, but Aramis Ramirez is done. Like for good. He will never play a full season of baseball again and will eventually be dropped by the Cubs, just you wait and see. He maybe could be picked up by a few other teams along the way but he is dunzo.
Ted Lilly: There is a reason why he only lasted three years on every club he played for before his fluke 2008 season and the Cubs signed him to a big contract extension.
Carlos Zambrano: Has Ron Artest-esqe anger and potential. That means potential for playing on a championship caliber team, as well as climbing in the stands to attack fans.

If I could, I’d vote Lou Piniella to the team, and only if I could get a guaranteed classic Lou Piniella ejection. A pure art form if you ask me. But I can’t and that is why we go with Soriano.

CINCINATTI REDS
Player: Joey Votto
Age/Position: 26/First Base
2010 Stats: BA .316, HR 21, RBI 59

In his just his third year, Votto leads the team every category except hits. His numbers are the same as his first two seasons, but this year his is hitting for some serious power. Put him on your players to watch for the next couple of seasons.

HOUSTON ASTROS

Player: Roy Oswalt
Age/Position: 32/Starting Pitcher
2010 Stats: ERA 3.32, SO 104, WHIP 1.11

The Astros only have a better record than the Indians, Pirates and Orioles if that tells you anything. Nobody on that team is good. Their best hitter is batting .273, has one home run, and has 25 RBIs. Oswalt is their best pitcher with a 5-10 record. Not many choices here, but at least it is better than the Oakland pick, because Oswalt is a ‘somebody’. The guy has had seasons where he has won 19, 20, and 20. None of this Ryan Sweeney nonsense.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Player: Prince Fielder
Age/Position: 26/First Base
2010 Stats: BA .262, HR 18, RBI 36

Yovani Gallardo is terminator mode with his 8-3 record and just nine K’s behind league leading Tim Lincecum, with 122 strikeouts, but in order to be king, you first must be a Prince.

Prince Fielder is not having his best season, obviously, and never being one to hit for a very good average, .262 is pretty crappy. But when you go three consecutive seasons with your HR/RBI looking like this: 50/119, 34/102 and 46/141 – then you can kind of get away with it. Prince is probably one of those “every other” type guys like Justin Mourneau, but in his off years he still is rather productive. At first I was going to send Ryan Braun to rep the Brewers, but after dipping in to the sabermetric stats to confirm the choice, I had to switch to Prince. Here is why:

Fielder:
BA is .262, but his SECA (secondary average) is .396
Braun: BA is .287, but his SECA only .308

Fielder’s RC (runs created) and his RC27 (runs created per 27) are better than Brauns. Even going back to 2007, when Braun won Rookie of the Year and Prince crushed 50 home runs, Prince still edged out Braun. That is why Prince takes the cake (fat joke totally intended).

PTTSBURGH PIRATES

Player: Andrew McCutchen
Age/Position: 23/Center Field
2010 Stats: BA .295, HR 7, RBI 24

Another one of those teams that has nothing to boast. Couple of years ago they lost their only really good player in Jason Bay (currently on the Mets) and the team is pretty much of team of prospect talent. McCutchen seems to be the front runner of the group. Last year he played in a little over 100 games and as we are approaching the same amount of games for this season, the numbers are similar. His speed is his best asset and is always a threat to swipe a bag. Not known for power, but with a pretty good average, he is a hazard to score some runs with his ability to get in to scoring position – problem is that nobody is behind him to bring him home.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
Player: Albert Pujols
Age/Position: 30/First Base
2010 Stats: BA .308, HR 20, RBI 61

Most valuable guy in baseball, and arguably sports – second only to LeBron – and that’s all we need say about his spot in representing the Cardinals. If you don’t know how good Pujols is then take a quick gander at his career seasonal averages:

BA .332, HR 42, RBI 128, OPS 1.050 and 198 hits

After the All-star game we are going to see Pujols explode. I predict 50 homeruns by season’s end. How does that wet your whistle?

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
Player: Justin Upton
Age/Position 22/Right Field
2010 Stats: BA .260, HR 14, RBI 40

This is who we’re supposed to have here right? That’s what the D-Backs front office wants me to believe. But do I really? Everything points to that direction, but I’m not sold… or am I? I don’t know what to think. I’m at an impasse so let us break it down and see what we can come up with.

In 2009 he got the full time job in right and went for .300-26-86. So far, so good. Then came the $51 million dollar, 6-year contract, from an organization that does not throw the dollars around. That is 8.5 million a year, from a team that only pays 2-5 mill for its guys, exception being Dan Haren. With that kind of cheese on the table, Upton numbers are now required to be around the .300 area, with 35ish homeruns and at least 100 RBI and I’m not sure it’ll happen. I want it too, don’t get me wrong, but what if it does not pan out? This is guy who people have compared to Ken Griffey Junior.

Ken Griffey Junior, everybody. The Grant Hill of Major League Baseball. Mr. What-Could-Have-Been-If-Only-You-Did-Not-Get-Hurt-All-The-Time. Even with the injuries he is still #5 all time for homeruns hit, and remember, Junior never juiced, so he’s really #4. Peter Gammons once said that Upton in the best 20-year old ball player he has ever seen, so why don’t we do the comparison of the kid, to the “The Kid”. I’m not totally convinced.

Ken Griffey Jr. aka The Kid
Drafted as the number one overall pick in 1987 (18 years old at the time) and got the call-up to the majors two years later.

Justin Upton, aka The (alleged) Kid 2.0
Drafted as the number one overall pick in 2005 (17 years old at the time) and got the call-up to the majors two years later.

The Kid
First season for the Mariners: 127 games, .264, 16 homeruns, 61 RBIs, 16 stolen bases. Highlight of the year: Hitting a homerun in the same game that his dad did on the same team. Gangster.

The Kid 2.0

First season for the Diamondbacks: 43 games, .221, 2 homeruns, 11 RBIs, 2 stolen bases. Times that by three and you get .241, 6 homeruns, 33 RBIs and 6 stolen bases. Highlight of the year: the National League Championship series when Upton batted .357, and had an OPS of 1.098. Gangster.

The Kid
Next two seasons: 309 games, .313 average, 44 homeruns, 180 RBIs and 34 stolen bases. Two year highlight: Two All-star appearances and two Gold Glove Awards. Both accomplishments he would garnish for the rest of the 1990s.

The Kid 2.0
Next two season: 246 games, .275 average, 41 homeruns, 128 RBIs and 21 stolen bases. Two year highlight: One All-star appearance. I didn’t expect this one to be as comparable as it is. It is as almost as much damage, but in 3/4ths of the games. Take it to the same about and you get 10 more jacks, 32 more ribbies and 5 more stolen bases…

Okay, maybe I’m now a little more convinced. Is Gammons totally right then? Perhaps Upton’s average is throwing me for a loop and in actuality he is playing better than I think, but I don’t know. The Kid in his 4th season went .308-27-103, so if Upton can do at least .285-30-95, then we might be on to something. I guess Justin Upton is officially one those guys to look for the second half of this season. I know I’ll be following him much more closely.

COLORADO ROCKIES
Player: Ubaldo Jimenez
Age/Position: 26/Starting Pitcher
2010 Stats: ERA 2.27, SO 107, WHIP 1.08

Oh yeah… he has a 15-1 record… and its July… this is a bigger deal than you probably realize. Let me lay it out for you. We might have our first 30-game winner since Denny McLain went 31-6 in 1968. Let that sit for a bit. Okay, still not a big deal? Try this on for size and look at it in this perspective: in the live ball era we have had 16 perfect games thrown, but only FOUR 30+ win seasons.

Just FOOOOOUUUUUUURRRRRR!

Yeah they’re lots of guys like Jimenez, doing what he’s doing…

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Player: Andre Ethier
Age/Position: 28/Right Field
2010 Stats: BA .322, HR 14, RBI 50

Did you know that Manny Ramirez, in the 18 seasons he’s been playing ball (’93 rookie season omitted), there are only two seasons in which he has had an OPS of less than .950? Mmm hmmm. Here is a guy whose career averages are a behemoth at .313-40-131, a guy who hit 165 RBIs in one season – the last guy to do that was Lou Gehrig in 1934 – and yet Manny is not the best player on the team. And no, as a Red Sox fan I am not bitter towards him. Regardless of the manner in his departure, he was a key fixture in two Red Sox championships, and for that I, nor any other Sox fan, can hold him in contempt. But facts are facts and Manny Ramirez is 38 years old. Pretty soon injuries, like the hamstring issue he is dealing with now, are going to take its toll, and he will not be able to play ball like he has been able to. He’ll make the transfer to DH and bounce around for a few years but he is no longer ‘the guy’.

Andre Ethier on the other hand is ten years younger and has gotten better every single year. His rookie season he played 126 games and posted a modest .308 average, hit 11 homeruns and drove in 55 RBIs. His next year the average was lower but homeruns were +2 and RBIs +9. Year after that his average returned to .305, homeruns and RBIs were +7 and +13 and then last year those numbers were again surpassed the previous season at +9 and +39. This year Ethier is on track to repeat his performances. I think somewhere around 37 long balls and 115 RBIs.

SAN DIEGO PADRES
Player: Adrian Gonzalez
Age/Position: 28/First Base
2010 Stats: BA .302, HR 17, RBI 54

This is someone who is very similar to Andre Ethier because he gets better for you each season. His numbers since 2006 have been .304-24-82, .282-30-100, .279-36-119 and .277-40-99. Yeah, last year he drove in 20 runs less than the year before that, but his base on balls went up from 74 all the way to 119, and at the same time his strikeouts dipped from 142 to 109. The plate patience has dramatically improved, and he picking his spots better. That is why this year he is able to still hit for power, while bringing up his average. Adrian also plays great on the defensive end, garnishing him two consecutive Gold Glove awards. He is a big part of why the Padres are in first place in their division.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
Player: Tim Lincecum
Age/Position 26/Starting Pitcher
2010 Stats: ERA 3.16, SO 131, WHIP 1.28

What’s not to like about ole LeRoy? He’s from my home state, played high school ball just up the freeway from me and puts up K’s like it’s nobody’s business, oh yeah and he likes to drive an AMG Mercedes Benz well above the speed limit while feeling groovy. Throw in consecutive NL Cy Young awards and he’s your guy. If Ubaldo Jimenez wasn’t on his way to history this season, Lincecum would probably be one more closer to Randy Johnson and Greg Maddux for longest consecutive streak (4), but given his age he could still have his streak broken and break it later on down the road. I could be reaching but I think his strikeouts are gonna touch 300 this season.

Recap:
Atlanta - Tim Hudson, Starting pitcher
Florida - Hanley Ramirez, Shortstop
New York - David Wright, Third base
Philadelphia - Ryan Howard, First base
Washington - Steven Strasburg, Starting pitcher
Chicago - Alfonso Soriano, Left field
Cincinnati - Joey Votto, First base
Houston - Roy Oswalt, Starting pitcher
Milwaukee - Prince Fielder, First base
Pittsburgh - Andrew McCutchen, Center field
St. Louis - Albert Pujols, First base
Arizona - Justin Upton, Right field
Colorado - Ubaldo Jimenez, Starting pitcher
Los Angeles - Andre Ethier, Right field
San Diego - Adrian Gonzalez, First base
San Francisco - Tim Lincecum, Starting pitcher

C
1B Albert Puljos
2B
3B David Wright
SS Hanley Ramirez
RF Andre Either
CF Andrew McCutchen
LF Alfonso Soriano
DH
P Ubaldo Jimenez
MR Tim Lincecum
MR Roy Oswalt
MR Tim Hudson
CL
Reserves: 1B Ryan Howard, 1B Joey Votto, 1B Prince Fielder, 1B Adrian Gonzalez, RF Justin Upton, and SP Steven “The Albastraus” Strausburg

Anybody need first basemen? My goodness, and the crappy part is not having a single catcher and consequently is the biggest gap to be filled, and yes I checked; none of them ever played catcher except maybe when they were in little league. Don’t worry you know because I have come up with a fool-proof and scientific method in selecting who will be our starting catcher. It just came to me in perfect clarity. This person, who will be filling in as a catcher – a position they have never played before – will be selected solely on the sound of their name. If it sounds like a catcher could have that name, then that is our guy. With our selection method firmly in place, obviously that person is Joey Votto. No doubt about it. Perhaps it is because there is a catcher with the first name Joe (Mauer) and then Chicago Cubs catcher Geovany Soto’s last name is similar to Votto, so there you have it. It’s genius.

The rest of the lineup is simple. Ryan Howard obviously fills the DH and we put Adrian Gonzalez at second because he has Gold Glove capabilities. Now imagine putting the big bird in the closing role. He’d only have to get three outs a night and could just GUN his pitches in. We’re talkin’ 103 to 104 MPH gas baby! Easiest role to fill; Strausburg is the closer. That leaves Prince Fielder to pinch hit and Justin Upton to pinch run.

GAME RESULTS ALONG WITH REAL LIFE ALL-STAR SELECTIONS TO FOLLOW IN PART 3 OF MY FANTASY ALL-STAR GAME.

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