Saturday, July 2, 2011

The WAR All-Stars: NL

A continuation of my last post, these are the NL WAR All-Stars. Rosters for the All-Star team will be announced tomorrow. Troy Tulowitzki is almost certain to get the starting spot at short over Jose Reyes, and I can almost guarantee that I’ll go ballistic when he does. Reyes has been the best player in the NL, according to WAR, and no matter how you slice the data he’s had a better season than the Rockies’ shortstop. Anyway, let’s get to it.

Brian McCann, ATL
Miguel Montero, ARI

McCann is quite clearly the cream of the crop among NL catchers with Buster Posey out of the picture. Montero’s putting together a nice little season himself. Both are currently on pace to put up 5 WAR years, something no NL catcher managed to do in 2010.

First Basemen:
Prince Fielder, MIL
Joey Votto, CIN
Gaby Sanchez, FLA

Fielder and Votto stand out, a full win above any other first basemen. Votto’s taken a slight step back in the power department, but is otherwise offering quite the encore for his MVP 2010, while Fielder is setting himself up for a huge deal when he hits the market after this season. Sanchez has played in every Marlins game so far this year, and is breaking out in a big way. He’s already eclipsed the 2.3 WAR he put up in 2010, and we’ve got 80 games to go.

Second Basemen:
Rickie Weeks, MIL
Brandon Phillips, CIN
Danny Espinosa, WAS

Weeks is coming off a career year in 2010, and has been every bit as good in 2011. The Brewers are going to need their rotation to step up in the second half, but they’ll be in the running for the NL Central all the way. With the Cardinals, Reds, and surprising Pirates all playing good baseball, expect that to be the most exciting division race as teams begin the push for the playoffs after the All Star Break. Phillips is putting up his best year at the plate yet, as his 115 wRC+ would mark a career high. Espinosa has been contributing with the bat and glove, one of several players who has been exceeding expectations to keep the Nats from being truly awful without Steven Strasburg and with Ryan Zimmerman missing most of the year up to this point.

Third Basemen:
Ryan Roberts, ARI
Chase Headley, SDP

Big down year for NL third basemen with the aforementioned Zimmerman missing time. These are the only two players at more than two WAR, with Roberts at 2.1 and Headley at 2 even. Roberts has been something for a pleasant surprise for the Diamondbacks, as they expected Melvin Mora to man the hot corner. Mora was awful before being DFA’d earlier this week. Headley’s been very good at the plate, with an OBP of almost .400 (albeit with essentially no power), but after a positive blip last season UZR has reverted to hating him. A former left fielder, we’ll have to continue to watch how his defense at third rates in his second full year at the position.

Jose Reyes, NYM
Troy Tulowitzki, COL

Reyes has been the second best player in baseball this year, according to WAR. He’s also been the second best player named Jose. He’s on pace to hit the most triples of any player since Chief Wilson in 1912. Tulowitzki’s not having a bad year, by any stretch, but Reyes is going absolutely nuts.

Lance Berkman, STL
Andre Ethier, LAD

After an absolutely blistering start to the year, Berkman has cooled off somewhat, but his 169 wRC+ is still good for fourth in the league. Ethier is earning the reputation of being ridiculously consistent at the plate, as he’s been between 127 and 133 wRC+ every year since 2008, and is once again this season.

Matt Kemp, LAD
Andrew McCutchen, PIT
Shane Victorino, PHI
Ryan Braun, MIL
Justin Upton, ARI
Michael Bourn, HOU
Carlos Beltran, NYM

Kemp’s in the middle of a career year. Though his .367 BABIP is fairly high, his .347 career mark suggests there’s more skill than luck involved there, and his walk rate has taken a huge jump from last season. His big year looks like it’s for real. McCutchen is playing outstanding defense and has increased his power output from last year. It’s easy to forget he’s only 24, but he’ll be a stud in Pittsburgh for years to come. The Pirates are reportedly trying to get an extension done even though he’s still several years from free agency, and I don’t blame them. They can’t let him get away. Victorino somehow continues to be overlooked as a crucial part of the Phillies’ offense. While Utley and Howard get all the ink, he just keeps on producing. Braun’s 173 wRC+ is third in the NL, but he’s also been adding value on the basepaths. With 16 homers and 19 steals, he’s on a 30/30 pace. The knock on Upton was always his high strikeout rates, but he’s dropped his K rate by more than 10% since last season, fueling a career year at the plate. If he can keep it up, that would be a huge step towards fulfilling the expectations that come with being selected first overall in the draft. Michael Bourn is a base-stealing machine, and his career high .356 OBP is giving him the ability to use that motor on the basepaths more often than he has in the past. Beltran’s playing for a contract, and despite his arthritic knees, he’ll get a big one somewhere if he keeps showing that he still has 30-homer power to pair with solid on-base abilities.

Roy Halladay, PHI
Cole Hamels, PHI
Cliff Lee, PHI
Clayton Kershaw, LAD
Daniel Hudson, ARI
Tim Lincecum, SFG

The three Phillies aces currently are currently 1-2-3 among NL pitchers in WAR. We knew they’d be good, but we didn’t know they’d be this good. Kershaw leads NL pitchers with 9.87 K/9, while Lincecum is right behind at 9.77. Hudson’s been limiting his walks and inducing ground balls at a much higher rate than he had in his first two years in the bigs. He’s an ace in the making. Along with Ian Kennedy, the Diamondbacks may finally have the dominant duo at the top of the rotation they need to compete with Lincecum and Cain in San Francisco and Kershaw and Billingsley in LA.

Craig Kimbrel, ATL
Heath Bell, SDP
John Axford, MIL
Joel Hanrahan, PIT
Carlos Marmol, CHC
Jonny Venters, ATL
Eric O’Flaherty, ATL
Sean Marshall, CHC
Mike Adams, SDP

Several strong duos here essentially turn their contests into seven inning ballgames. Kimbrel and Venters lock down the eighth and ninth for the Braves. Bell and Adams in San Diego and Marmol and Marshall for the Cubs do the same on the rare occasions when their teams give them leads. Axford has been dominant, inducing more than 50% grounders when hitters put balls in play, and ensuring that they usually won’t by striking them out at an impressive rate. Hanrahan’s strikeout rate has dropped a bit, but he’s walking far fewer batters, inducing grounders at a higher rate, and keeping balls in the park better than he has in the past. O’Flaherty has been nearly as dominant as his two bullpen mates, giving the Braves the best bullpen in the majors.

I’m looking forward to the announcement of the All-Star rosters tomorrow. Though there are many flaws with the Midsummer Classic, that doesn’t mean watching the best in the game go head to head isn’t extremely enjoyable.

1 comment:

  1. I agree that there really aren't any standouts at 3rd base in the NL, but what was wrong with Aramis Ramirez? Here's his line through Sunday:

    Ramirez 79 G, .293 (89-for-304), 12 HR, 44 RBI, .339 OBP/.477 SLUG/.816 OPS

    I know I'm a biased Cubs fan, and Ramirez's WAR isn't the greatest, but those stats sure look better than those of the 3rd basemen who actually got selected:

    Polanco 82 G, .277 (88-for-318), 4 HR, 39 RBI, .331 OBP/.349 SLUG/.681 OPS

    Jones 73 G, .256 (70-for-273), 7 HR, 44 RBI, .343 OBP/.418 SLUG/.761 OPS