Please check out the Hippeaux's weekly posts at SNY affiliate, It's About The Money.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Vote For Kung Fu Panda

As I mentioned when I wrote up my preview last week, I don't envy Joe Maddon and Charlie Manuel. There are far more deserving candidates this season than there are roster spots for the All-Star game, even when you include the expanded pitching staff and the vote-in guys. The job is made even more difficult by the fact that the fans voted in Dustin Pedroia (whose 761 OPS ranks him as 8th out of the eleven AL second-basemen with 225 or more plate appearances) and Josh Hamilton (who has spent almost the entire first half on the D.L. and didn't play particularly well when he wasn't there).  And the players added a few likable veterans who are having decent seasons, but probably aren't the best choices.  I'm thinking of Michael Young, Orlando Hudson, and Ryan Zimmerman.  

One bit of good news. Charlie Manuel will essentially get two more chances to do right, since Carlos Beltran and Raul Ibanez, both deserving candidates, are unlikely to be healthy enough to participate.

Top 5 Snubs:

1.) Pablo Sandoval - 3B/1B/C - San Francisco Giants

Kung Fu Panda isn't just blossoming into a fan-favorite in the bay area, he is undeniably one of the ten or twelve best hitters in the N.L. this season.  He is fourth in the league in batting average (.332) and ninth in OPS (958).  And, among N.L. third-basemen (his primary position this season), he is the cream of the crop.  Here are his stats compared to David Wright and Ryan Zimmerman:

Sandoval - .332/.386/.564, 37 R, 12 HR, 44 RBI, 59.3 RC
Wright - .326/.414/.470, 51 R, 5 HR, 42 RBI, 59.7 RC
Zimmerman - .293/.361/.479, 55 R, 13 HR, 47 RBI, 53.1 RC

There are two things, however, which make Sandoval a more deserving candidate, beyond his impressive statistics.  First of all, he's been asked to play three different positions (and he hits regardless of where he plays).  Wouldn't that versatility (and that catcher eligibility) be valuable on a roster than is currently carrying four first-baseman and only two catchers?  And, most importantly in my mind, while Zimmerman's surge may have much to do with the addition of Adam Dunn (more on that later) and Wright has, despite the Mets rash of injuries, been surrounded by guys like Carlos Beltran, Gary Sheffield, and Jose Reyes for most of the year, Sandoval really is an island.  The Giants team OPS is 704, 15th in the N.L., compared to 740 for the Mets (6th) and 743 for the Nationals (5th).  Sandoval leads his team in AVG., OPS,  
OBP., SLG., H, 2B, HR, TB, RBI, and BB.  His lineup protection is Bengie Molina (706 OPS) and a carousel of guys like Travis Ishikawa, Andres Torres, and Nate Schierholtz.  The Giants, even with their spectacular pitching, simply would not be contenders if it wasn't for his monster season thusfar.  To me, that screams All-Star.

2.) Jered Weaver - SP - Los Angeles Angels

I'm as happy as anybody to see Tim Wakefield making his first All-Star appearance, but, really, it comes at Weaver's expense. He is by far the best pitcher left off the AL roster. The numbers are good (9-3, 3.15 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 95 K, 114 IP), but the other part of the story, as with Sandoval, is that the Angels would be nowhere near first place without him. When the Angels rotation (and roster, generally) was decimated by injuries early in the season, Weaver rose to the occasion and demonstrated the maturity of an Ace, something that many of us have been expected from him for the last couple years. He consistently went deep into games and ended losing streaks.  In seventeen starts Weaver has failed to go six inning only four times (never less than five) and has gone seven or more inning ten times, including three complete games (which ties him for 2nd most in MLB).  He deserves this accolade more than several of the pitchers who were chosen.

3.) Yovani Gallardo & Trevor Hoffman - SP & RP - Milwaukee Brewers

Yes, the Brewers are already represented by Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun, but the fact is, nobody thought the Brewers would be anywhere near contenders this season, not because they didn't believe Prince and the Hebrew Hammer would be doing exactly what they're doing, but because they lost their three most valuable pitchers from last year's Wild Card winner: C. C. Sabathia, Ben Sheets, and Salomon Torres.  Gallardo (8-5, 2.75 ERA, 114 K, 1.15 WHIP) and Hoffman (18/19 SV, 1.93 ERA) have at least slightly ameliorated the sting of those losses and the Brew Crew is currently one game out of first place.  I know the math wouldn't allow for both of them to make the team.  But, I'll put it this way: Fuck Jason Marquis.

4.) Adam Dunn - OF - Washington Nationals

The Nats are the worst team in baseball, so, there wasn't much chance of them getting two representatives.  So, when Zimmerman was voted in by the players, Dunn was plum out of luck.  Although, somehow, Charlie Manuel decided that Christian Guzman deserved a place on the Final Vote ballot more than Dunn.  Dunn is very quietly having a career year, making many franchises who passed on him over the winter look a little silly.  He's currently on pace for 44 HR and 119 RBI, right in line with his usual totals, but he's also hitting 20 points above his career average.  Zimmerman has already nearly equaled his total output from 2008 and much of his production has to do with the fact that Dunn is hitting behind him.  

5.) Ian Kinsler - 2B - Texas Rangers

Kinsler just missed being elected by the fans, as a Boston bias prompted him to get passed in the final week, and he still has a chance to get in on the Final Vote. And, I would agree that if Maddon could only afford one more second-baseman (besides Pedroia), Aaron Hill was the right choice (Hill was added to the roster by his fellow players). Nonetheless, Kinsler is quite worthy among AL 2B, with 19 HR (2nd), 59 R (2nd), and 51 RBI (2nd) in the first half, as well as 16 SB (2nd) and an 825 OPS (2nd). Adding to his well-known offensive attributes is that fact that he's made significant strides on defense, leading the AL in Range Factor and second to Placido Polanco in Ultimate Zone Rating.

Honorable Mentions: Jermaine Dye - RF - Chicago White Sox, Scott Rolen - 3B - Toronto Blue Jays, Adam Lind - DH - Toronto Blue Jays, Zack Duke - SP - Pittsburgh Pirates, Mark Reynolds - 3B - Arizona Diamondbacks

Top 5 Duds:

1.) Jason Marquis & Tim Wakefield - SP - Colorado Rockies & Boston Red Sox

I pair these two, not because they are anything alike as players or individuals (i.e. I like Wakefield), but because both were added based largely on gaudy win totals which were accumulated due to a significant amount of good fortune.  Both have been solid pitchers, but not All-Star caliber.  Wakefield's 4.30 ERA is good for only 27th in the A.L. (among starting pitchers) and Marquis' 3.61 is 21st in the N.L.  Add to that their abyssmal K/BB rates and their outstanding run support (8.85 R/9 for Wakefield [1st among pitchers in the A.L. with 100 IP], 6.67 R/9 for Marquis [6th in N.L.]) and we get a much more accurate sense of their seasons.   

2.) Hunter Pence - RF - Houston Astros

I don't know what to make of the fact that he was selected by his fellow players.  It is possible that they have seen something that I haven't.  Here's a point of contention:

A .302/.370/.492 - 44 R, 11 HR, 34 RBI, 8 SB
B .295/.344/.464 - 34 R, 12 HR, 47 RBI, 2 SB
C .270/.402/.526 - 43 R, 17 HR, 48 RBI, 6 SB

Player A is Hunter Pence.  Player B is Carlos Lee.  And Player C is Lance Berkman.  All three are having very similar seasons, but Lee and Berkman have much more star power and much longer track records of success.  What makes Pence a better choice to represent the Astros? Here's another comparison:

A .302/.370/.492 - 44 R, 11 HR, 34 RBI, 8 SB
B .266/.425/.546 - 38 R, 22 HR, 59 RBI, 0 SB
C .305/.369/.474 - 43 R, 10 HR, 44 RBI, 19 SB
D .263/.364/.491 - 56 R, 17 HR, 50 RBI, 11 SB

Again, A is Pence.  B is Dunn, C is Matt Kemp, and D is Jayson Werth.  It would appear to me that B, C, and D are all at least equal to A, probably superior, especially when you factor in that Kemp and Werth are better defenders.  Dunn is definitely the biggest star in the group, while Werth and Kemp both play for more successful franchises.  I just can't figure out what Pence is doing which commands so much support from his peers.  Perhaps his awkwardness just makes him more memorable.

3.) Michael Young - 3B - Texas Rangers

To begin with, one could argue that there are three guys on his own team - Kinsler, Nelson Cruz, and Kevin Millwood - who are more deserving. Mort importantly, there are at least two guys at his position who are obviously better choices. It isn't that Young is having a bad year, offensively, it's just that Brandon Inge and Scott Rolen are have demonstrably better seasons both at the plate and in the field, where Young has been especially putrid (-11.3 UZR, last in MLB).

4.) Brian Fuentes - RP - Los Angeles Angels

Maybe it says somewhere in a little black book that the manager's receive that the league leader in saves must be selected. Because, with the exception of that tidbit, which is largely due to the propensity of chances in Anaheim (remember that record-breaking performance by K-Rod last season), Fuentes hasn't been all that great.  He's pitched the fewest inning of any closer who was selected and his ERA (3.38) is more than half-a-run higher than the next All-Star closer (Broxton, 2.72). Certainly not as good as guys like David Aardsma (17/18, 1.41), George Sherrill (18/21, 2.43), and Joakim Soria (13/15, 1.66). And that's just to name some relievers. One might also argue that Fuentes' spot could've been more appropriately used on, say, his teammate, Jered Weaver, who has a significantly better ERA, despite pitching quadruple the innings.

5.) Freddy Sanchez - 2B - Pittsburgh Pirates

Part of his selection was All-Star math.  The Pirates needed to be represented.  But, in my opinion, Zack Duke is having a hell of a season (8-7, 3.28), certainly better than Jason Marquis, probably better than Francisco Cordero as well.  Could've bumped one of them and made room for Mark Reynolds, Pablo Sandoval, or Brandon Phillips.  Again, it isn't that Sanchez has been bad, it is just that he offers very little besides a high average (.316).  He doesn't hit for power or drive in runs, he doesn't steal bases, and he doesn't play particularly strong defense (which is the one quality that Orlando Hudson has over him).  

Dishonorable Mentions: Josh Hamilton - CF - Texas Rangers, Dustin Pedroia - 2B - Boston Red Sox, Ryan Zimmerman - 3B - Washington Nationals

No comments: