Tag: 2011 MLB All-Star Game

Texas Rangers: Top 5 Wins Above Replacement Scores Among Batters Since 2000

The Texas Rangers have been known for quite some time as a team that usually wins with their bats. They are third in Major League Baseball since 2000 in runs scored and this is a team that has only been to the postseason twice since the turn of the millennium.

This offense has featured many prolific names but there are five that stand out from all the rest. We will be ranking these players by their WAR (wins above replacement) which is a stat that represents the number of wins that a player’s presence translates to compared to a replacement player.

Since runs are dependent on other batters, it is not appropriate to gauge worth using that stat which is why WAR is being used. Read on for more.

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MLB All-Star Game: What the Complete Rosters Should Look Like

Ever since the 2002 MLB All-Star Game debacle, rules have been put in place that make no sense, like linking the outcome of the game to the ever-important home field advantage in the World Series.

Additional rules have been added years later like bumping the roster size up to 34, using a DH in every single game, and pitchers who started on Sunday cannot be used during the All-Star Game. 

While the MLB All-Star Game has lost a lot of credibility, it’s still an incredible event recognizing those have had a brilliant (first half of the) season.

Here is what the complete 34-man rosters for the American and National League should look like. The Red Sox and Yankees will obviously push some deserving people off unfortunately (i.e. Derek Jeter and Dustin Pedroia) due to popularity, and it’s a shame. The game should be based on a meritocracy, not popularity.

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MLB 2011: An Inside Look at the Powerless Third Basemen

Typically, in the game of baseball, there are positions that are expected to generate a lot of offense, and some that are more defensive-oriented with little power threat.

In general, the latter positions are usually second base, shortstop, center field and catcher. But the corner infield and outfield positions have historically produced higher offensive numbers. But, so far in 2011, one position has neglected that precedent—third base.

Some examples for this power outage are injury-related, some are due to aging athletes playing past their prime, and some are just anomalies. But whatever the reason, many teams around baseball have had poor power numbers from their hot corner patrols.

Case in point: Last season, Major League third basemen combined to hit .263 with 567 home runs, to go along with a .418 slugging percentage. In 2009, they totaled 588 home runs, and slugged at a .421 mark.

But so far in 2011, third baseman have hit just 146 home runs (just five more than ML second basemen), with a .245 batting average and a .368 slugging percentage.

We can take a look at some individual performances to truly get to the bottom of this head scratcher. For instance, two of the game’s brightest third baseman over the past five or six seasons have been sidelined much of the year with injuries.

The Washington Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman has appeared in just eight games in 2011, and none since injuring himself on April 9. Zimmerman has been on the 15-day disabled list ever since, suffering from a torn abdominal muscle. He is currently on a rehab assignment, but no definitive timetable has been established for his return to the lineup.

Mets’ third baseman, and good friend of Zimmerman’s, David Wright is also sidelined on the disabled list. Wright suffered a stress fracture in his back while making a defensive play against the Astros on April 19. A month later, he was placed on the disabled list, and is now expected to be sidelined until some point in July.

The Rays’ Evan Longoria played the first two games of the season, and then missed a month due to an oblique injury. Since his return on May 3, Longoria has just four home runs and a .244 batting average. He endured a span of 56 at-bats without a long ball earlier this year, and just hasn’t been able to find a groove at the plate so far.

There are some third baseman that are overall healthy, but just haven’t produced to their precedent standards.

For instance, Cubs’ third baseman Aramis Ramirez has averaged 28 home runs per season from 2001-2010. So far in 2011, he has three—and he hit his second and third each with the last 10 days. He does have a respectable .288 batting average on the season, but so far his offensive stats resemble more of a middle infielder than a third baseman.

Scott Rolen has just two home runs so far in 2011 and a .245 batting average. He missed about 19 games for the Reds earlier this year with a neck injury, but at 36 years of age, Rolen’s days as an offensive threat could be close to over.

Similarly, Chipper Jones could be nearing the end as well. He has just six home runs on the year, and his slugging percentage is 100 points lower than his career mark.

After a 23-home run campaign in 2010, the Brewers’ Casey McGehee has struggled much of 2011. He has just four home runs on the year to go along with a paltry .227 batting average.

There are also some teams that don’t currently have a legitimate, typical third baseman. The Florida Marlins, for instance, have used a combination of Emilio Bonifacio, Wes Helms and Greg Dobbs to man the hot corner. And though they are all professional hitters, none of them have the proven ability to smash 20-plus home runs on a consistent basis.

The same holds true for the Angels (Alberto Callaspo), Indians (Jack Hannahan), Diamondbacks (Ryan Roberts) and the Royals (Wilson Betemit).

The Toronto Blue Jays are a team worth highlighting. They have the game’s best home run hitter over the last season and a half playing right field, when he has spent much time at third base in his career.

Jose Bautista hit an MLB-best 54 home runs a year ago, and is once again leading the world in big flies with 20. And though he’s played over 350 games at third base, the Jays are content in letting Jayson Nix and Edwin Encarnacion (who have combined to hit six home runs all year) waste away at third base.

Of course, not every Major League third baseman is having a poor season. Adrian Beltre is certainly proving his worth to the Texas Rangers, who signed him to a blockbuster five-year, $80 million contract this past winter. Alex Rodriguez, Kevin Youkilis and Placido Polanco all have quality seasons so far in 2011.

There may be a shift coming in Major League Baseball. Several perennial third base All-Stars are now past their primes and have shown serious decline in offensive production. A new generation of hot corner patrol is on it’s way (witness Mike Moustakas’ debut for the Kansas City Royals Friday night).

Bottom line, if the All-Star game was today, who would you choose to be play third base for either league? The choices this year seem to be awfully thin…perhaps the thinnest the game has seen in the last decade.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Texas Rangers: Endy Chavez and the Red Hot Texas Offense

The Texas Rangers have outscored their opponents 57-23 in the past eight days, and Endy Chavez has been the unsung hero of this recent hot streak. While players like Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz have been hitting balls out of the park, Chavez has been hitting .435 in 13 games while crossing the plate 11 times.

The emergence of this new hitting machine has surprised many in the Rangers fan base. Chavez began the year in AAA Round Rock hitting .305 in 30 games. He recently made his first major league appearance since 2009 where his season ended with a torn ACL. He was called up after Julio Borbon was placed on the disabled list but has remained on the roster despite Borbon being activated.

Chavez is putting up career high numbers in a lot of offensive categories and in many cases is outpacing the player he was sent to temporarily replace. Here’s a look at some figures comparing this year’s stats with his previous career-high stats.

  AVG OBP SLG WAR Cutters Seen Fastballs Seen Strike Contact Ball Contact
Career High .306 (2006) .348 (2006) .464 (2002) 1.1 (2008) 4.2% (2009) 70.4% (2002) 93.1 (2008) 78.5% (2008)
2011 Season .435 .469 .696 1.1 13% 58.2% 95% 87.5%

It’s very telling that he’s seeing fewer fastballs and more secondary pitches yet his average is up over .100 on his career high. Even dropping pitches outside of the strike zone isn’t enough to keep him off the bases.

If Borbon wants to come back to the majors, he’s going to have to improve his plate discipline. He’s certainly more of an elite defender in the outfield than Chavez but the Rangers can’t afford to keep Endy’s hot bat on the bench. Don’t be surprised to see a trade involve David Murphy because the Rangers don’t really have a need for two outfielders to warm up the dugout during games, especially if the Rangers really want Borbon to come back.

Can he keep this hot streak alive through the rest of the season? Only time will tell.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Kansas City Royals: Who Will Be Their Lone All-Star?

As much as I’ve enjoyed the Royals’ surprising early-season success, I’m still not kidding myself. They’re not especially likely to be in the playoff picture during the summer’s dog days. Even closer than August contention, though, is the MLB All-Star Game.

The all-star game will be an especially big year next year, when the event is heading to Kansas City. There might even be hope for multiple Royals to represent the American League in their home park. But this year, it’s almost sure to be the status quo for Royals players.

What is the status quo? The Royals have not had more than one all-star since 2003 when, somewhat amazingly, Mike MacDougal represented the team along with perennial all-star Mike Sweeney. Here is the list of Royals representatives since 2003:

2004: Ken Harvey

2005: Mike Sweeney

2006: Mark Redman

2007: Gil Meche

2008: Joakim Soria

2009: Zack Greinke

2010: Joakim Soria

What stands out about that list is the inclusion of Ken Harvey and Mark Redman, who as it turns out were not actually star-caliber players. But the rest of the list hasn’t done much in the big game either.

A position player has not made the team since Sweeney in ’05 and a Royals player has not recorded a hit in the all-star game since, brace yourself now, 1989! Royals fans who were around back then will remember that Bo Jackson led off that game with a monstrous home run on his way to an MVP performance. But since then, nothing.

The pitching has been a bit better, but Soria didn’t even enter the game last year. Neither did Meche in 2007, Redman in 2006 or MacDougal in 2003. Zack Greinke struck out two in one inning of work in 2009, and Soria pitched 1.2 innings in 2008 without giving up a run. Jose Rosado made the team in 1997 and 1999, memorably earning the win in ’97 despite giving up a game-tying home run to Javy Lopez of the Atlanta Braves in his only inning of work.

The point is that the all-star game hasn’t exactly been a trail of glittery memories for the Royals, and probably won’t be until 2012. For now they are guaranteed at least one all-star, per MLB rules, and that is all they’re likely to get.

So who will represent the Royals in 2011? Let’s take a look at the contenders, in order from least to most likely:

Nate Adcock: Might have been in contention for the spot before going just 2.2 innings and allowing seven earned runs last night, ballooning his ERA to 4.07. It was disappointing to see his regression following a five-inning, three-hit performance in his previous trip through the rotation. He had a 1.66 ERA before last night’s performance, so he still has value. But his hopes of being a Rule 5 all-star were essentially dashed last night when he got bombed in Texas.

Joakim Soria: Not his year. The guy seems like he’s blown more leads this year than in the rest of his career combined. It will be nice to see a fresh face representing the Royals this year.

Eric Hosmer: Yes, I realize that he is arguably the Royals’ best player. But he’s got a couple of things going against him. One, by missing the first month-plusof the season he would have to put up Pujols-ian numbers to match up statistically with guys who have been in the bigs all year.

Two, he plays one of the most competitive positions in the American League. Mark Teixeira, Miguel Cabrera, Adrian Gonzalez and Paul Konerko also play first base. Heck, Hosmer isn’t even on the ballot for the Royals. That honor was bestowed upon Kila Ka’aihue.

Saying that, his slick fielding and .833 OPS have been an encouraging beginning for Hosmer. He will makes plenty of these games before his career is over.

Billy Butler: He is probably my favorite Royal, and he’s having a productive season. His .392 OBP places him third among first basemen in the American League. If you wanted to get into the details, you might point out that Butler hasn’t played first base since early April. And you’d be right.

But there are other reasons why Butler doesn’t stack up. His .808 OPS is nothing special for a 1B/DH type, and his 17 extra-base hits and three home runs show that something is lacking in the power department. He’s a valuable guy to have, especially on the swing-happy Royals, but he is not an all-star.

Jeff Francouer: I have trouble grading Francouer out because I keep waiting for his precipitous decline to begin. It just hasn’t happened yet. Francouer leads the Royals with nine homer runs, and his respectable .827 OPS puts him seventh among American league outfielders. His notoriously poor OBP is actually sitting at a respectable .332. He should have a legitimate shot at being the Royals representative.

Unfortunately, he’s not even the best outfielder on the team. And I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Alex Gordon: Gordon has been a revelation out of the leadoff spot in the Royals order, and has now raised his OPS to .838, good for fifth among AL outfielders. The nine games that he’s played from the leadoff spot have essentially been the best games of his season.

His OPS is .975 over the span. He’s doubled his season’s total of home runs, hitting three from the top spot to give him six for the season. He’s walking and slugging at a greater rate. Ned Yost needs to be given all the credit for having the gall to hit Gordon third for the first part of the season, and also for putting Hosmer into that spot and Gordon at the top of the order at the right time. Both guys seem to be thriving in their new roles.

Gordon could sneak into an underwhelming American League outfield if he can stay consistent for the month of June. If he can maintain his .838 OPS out of the leadoff spot, then he’s the most valuable and deserving player on the team.

But since when does that player get the nod? I have a hunch that the Royals all-star bid could go to a more valuable all-star game player with some gaudier statistics.

Aaron Crow: Crow is an interesting case, because you wouldn’t call a reliever with 25.2 innings pitched the most valuable player on the team. But I think Crow has a chance to an Evan Meek-type all star, the Pittsburgh Pirates reliever who was the sole representative for the Pirates last season. Meek had a 1.11 ERA in the first half of 2010 with 45 strikeouts in 48.2 innings pitched.

Crow compares favorably to that. He’s pitched 25.2 innings with a minuscule 0.70 ERA this season. He’s recorded 26 strikeouts and just nine walks. Crow has really only had one bad game all season, and that statement doesn’t even need a caveat. He has literally only given up runs in one game this season. A one inning, three hit, two earned runs outing on May 7 is the only blip on the radar. That outing took his ERA from 0.00 to 1.10, and it has been lowering ever since.

With the ever-looming possibility that Crow could get placed in the rotation, his innings and strikeout numbers might just elevate in a hurry.

If he can keep his ERA below 1.00, I think he will represent the Royals in the 2011 MLB All-Star Game.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

2011 MLB All-Star Game: American League (Most Deserving) Roster

The roster I am proposing for this article is not a prediction of what I think the final roster will look like.  History has shown that fan voting and other hidden agendas tend to slightly skew the final roster from what it truly should resemble.  Instead, this will focus on who truly deserves to go to the 2011 MLB All-Star game as of right now.  Why right now?  We are almost halfway to the halfway point of the season, that’s why.  All selection rules will apply (i.e. one player from every team, etc.).

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MLB All-Star Game 2011: Dodgers’ Kemp and Ethier Could Start

Major League Baseball released its ballot for the 2011 All-Star game this past week. It may be a little early to label a player’s 2011 season as All-Star caliber, but nevertheless votes casted today are worth just as much as those in late June. 

Last season, we saw a noticeable shortage of star talent at the National League outfield spots. There were so few All-Star worthy outfielders in the N.L. that Atlanta Braves rookie Jason Heyward was voted into the game, despite a mediocre first half in which he hit just .251 with 11 home runs.

On the other hand, there appear to be several N.L. outfielders that are poised to have great 2011 seasons. Currently, five different N.L. outfielders possess an OPS greater than 1.000, namely Matt Holiday, Lance Berkman, Ryan Braun, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. All five of them are hitting at least .350 with 13 or more RBI.  

Berkman is the most surprising of the bunch. The five-time All-Star is coming off an injury-ridden 2010 season, in which he hit just .248 with 58 RBI in 122 games. He turned 35 years old before the season and is looking to make his first All-Star appearance since 2008.

Meanwhile, both Kemp and Ethier had disappointing 2010 seasons for the Dodgers, but have responded in a big way in the early going. If the two of them are voted into the All-Star game by the fans, it will be the first time that the Dodgers have had two All-Star starters since 1995 when the battery of pitcher Hideo Nomo and catcher Mike Piazza each started the Midsummer Classic.

Assuming that Kemp and Ethier are each named All-Stars one way or another, Los Angeles would have two All-Star outfielders for the first time since 1991. Also of note, the last time that two Dodger outfielders were voted into the All-Star game was back in 1954 (Duke Snider and Jackie Robinson).

If not for the early success of Kemp and Ethier, the Dodgers (13-13) could already be far out of playoff contention. The two outfielders have combined for nearly one-third of the Dodger hits this season, as well as eight of the 20 team home runs. 

Besides Kemp and Ethier, none of the other Dodger hitters have been particularly impressive. The Dodger pitching has been solid overall, but there has been no standout up to this point. Therefore, unless one of the Dodgers not named Kemp or Ethier tear it up over the next couple of months, we may see just two Dodgers in the Midsummer Classic. 

Currently, Braun and Holiday appear to be the front-runners to finish No. 1 and No. 2 in N.L. All-Star voting among outfielders, but it is far too early to tell.

The 2011 MLB All-Star Game will be played on July 12th at Chase Field in Phoenix.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

MLB Predictions: 10 Players Who Could Make Their All-Star Debuts in 2011

Getting elected to an All-Star team in Major League Baseball means one thing: You had a stellar first half of the season.

Having good timing is everything for potential All-Stars. 

Fast starters are rewarded for their spring preparation. Those slower to come around are unfairly judged at midseason, likely costing themselves extra money in future negotiations and potentially hindering part of their hall of fame candidacy in the process.

A gigantic second half can go a long way towards awards balloting. After all, Jimmy Rollins won the MVP in 2007 despite not making the All-Star team.  

But other than adding brownie points to your reputation for the next season, second half stats have no impact on All-Star consideration.

You’d be surprised to find out that Mark Teixeira, the Yankees first baseman with five different 30+ home run, 100+ RBI seasons has made just two All-Star teams. 

Big Tex owns a career .874 OPS prior to the All-Star break. Post break that number climbs to .957. He’s also hit 11 more second-half homers in 76 less games played. 

Making an appearance in the All-Star game does not necessitate that a player is even that good; just ask stat heads about Omar Infante’s selection last year.

A player who makes at least two appearances, however, has probably solidified his status among the best in the game. 

What follows is a list of 10 players who will each be vying for their first all-star appearance in 2011. 

Though they haven’t yet made the Midsummer classic, each of these players is talented enough to get there on multiple occasions. 

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Boston Red Sox: Why First Baseman Adrian Gonzalez Will Be the 2011 AL MVP

I get a few butterflies in the ol’ boilmaker when the Boston Red Sox throw a big time prospect into a trade. The butterflies turn into rabid raccoons when the Sox dump their entire farm team into a deal.

I love prospects. They are like your children in a way. They grow up in front of you, and before you even know it, they are making All-Star teams, start growing Lemmy Kilmister inspired facial hair and getting into fights with Manny Ramirez.

There’s a sense of pride in seeing someone who rose through your own farm system, especially as Red Sox fans. When a Red Sox prospect goes through the minor league ranks and reaches the Big Show, they tend to exhibit the qualities Red Sox fans look for in their players. Hard working grinders that aren’t afraid to get their uniforms dirty and show off the five o’clock shadow. This is also definitely true of the farmhands of the Empire, which would be a sweet band name.

Players who are brought up under the “Yankee Way,” epitomize what the Boss looked for in his players, a mastery of the fundamentals, while maintaining a clean shaven face.   

One argument that us Sox fans typically make when debating a fan of the New York Yankees is that the Sawx don’t “buy championships,” meaning we utilize our minor league system better than the Bombers. I’ve made that argument out of frustration, yet I know it to mostly be untrue.

The Yankees obviously had some blue chip prospects in the ’90s and are producing some again today. Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada were the first group, and the second group has Robinson Cano (still getting better), Brett Gardner (for his glove at least), Phil Hughes (has real upside but some question marks) and we can soon add Jesus Montero to the list.

However, they have also acquired big name players during their dynasty and outlier 2009 championship such as Wade Boggs, John Wetteland, Tino Martinez, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia to name a few.  

The Red Sox counter with Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Jonathan Papelbon and Jacoby Ellsbury as their farm system stand outs, and we can add Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Daniel Bard to that list too.

However, the 2004 and 2007 Boston Red Sox had their share of big name free agents and players acquired in trades such as Manny, Johnny Damon, Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that though, regardless of what team is doing it. If you have the resources to go along with a competent enough front office, and the athletes have the desire to play for a new city, then why on Earth shouldn’t they be allowed to?

I made a similar argument in the column I wrote about LeBron James: if an athlete is unhappy with their situation, and if they can find ways to make it a better situation for themselves, then we shouldn’t crucify them for that. If you want to make the whole thing a television spectacle, however… 

I was a bit worried trading Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo and Reymond Fuentes for one player. All three of those guys (ranked as the first, third and sixth best prospects, respectively, by Baseball America) could be near-elite to elite major leaguers one day. The San Diego Padres most definitely got fair compensation. 

But, the Boston Red Sox acquired Adrian Gonzalez, the front runner for the 2011 MVP. As a result, the rabid raccoons got a day off. 

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