National League All-Stars Through May

After posting my American League All-Stars yesterday, I’ll head over to the Senior Circuit today. Let’s get right into it:

Catcher
Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves – This one was really tough because McCann and Geovany Soto have nearly identical statistics. The difference maker for me was that McCann has struck out 31 fewer times (53 to 22) than the Cubs rookie. That discipline has been key in McCann getting back to the level of production exhibited in his breakout 2006 season.

Honorable Mention: Geovany Soto, Chicago Cubs
– He is only 12 points behind McCann in OPS and they each have the same 30 extra base hits (19 2B, 1 3B and 10 HR) while Soto holds a six RBI edge with 39. He became such a hot sleeper in the off-season that come draft time he actually lost his sleeper status. Prior to last year, he was a virtual unknown, but a 26-home run season in Iowa put him on the radar. Consider that during his previous 1574 at-bats in the minors, he had all of 25 home runs.

First Base
Lance Berkman, Houston Astros – There might not be a deeper position in baseball than first base in the National League, yet Berkman still managed to separate himself from the competition. He has a 1.213 OPS powered by 41 extra base hits (out of 84 total hits) including 17 home runs. The lineup around him has cashed in several times as Berkman leads the league with 57 runs scored. As if all of that weren’t enough, he also has a 0.94 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 10 stolen bases! If Vegas put odds on a Triple Crown winner, his would be the smallest of the bunch. (Or is it highest? Whatever conveys they’d be the toughest to win money on…)

Honorable Mentions: I have to give a pair of these, both are very deserving.
Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals – Congratulations is in order for all of those fantasy owners that didn’t buy into the preseason hype that he’d miss massive time this season. He’s been his usual MVP-self.

Adrian Gonzalez, San Diego
– He is showing amazing power this season, PETCO park be damned. Eight years ago, he was the #1 overall pick for the Florida Marlins in the 2000 Amateur Draft. He is now paying dividends on the elite status that comes with being the first pick.

Second Base
Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies – Do I even need to expound upon this selection? Utley is one home run away from last season’s total. Not pace, total. There isn’t a category he is failing in as he has also chipped in six stolen bases to go with all the incredible run production. Provided he continues to rake through September, his 2008 season might unequivocally place him in the top 5 for 2009.

Honorable Mention: Dan Uggla, Florida Marlins
– Ouch, talk about getting Magglio’d! Uggla is having a tremendous season as he sets his sights on a third straight season of home run improvement. Unfortunately, he is being overshadowed by the otherworldly season being turned in by Utley.

Third Base
Chipper Jones, Atlanta Braves – Another walkaway win that needs little explanation. Jones is chasing down .400, but it’s far from an empty batting average. He also has 13 home runs, 38 runs batted in and 42 runs scored. Did I mention he is getting on base almost 50% of the time? Thanks in large part (well the large part is probably the .411 average, but you get the point) to 35 walks against just 22 strikeouts he has a .494 on-base percentage.

Honorable Mention: David Wright, New York Mets – He has been the superstar that we all expected coming into the season; a legitimate across-the-board threat that has done his best to keep the Mets above water. His .286 batting average isn’t blowing anyone away, but it’s hardly damaging and once a few more hits fall his way, he’ll be well into the .300s again.

Shortstop
Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins – Debates raged on over the off-season as to whether or not Ramirez could be worthy of the #1 overall pick given his power-speed combination, but then some injury concerns bubbled up regarding his shoulder and the #1 overall talk stopped. Now he is running a near 30 HR-40 SB pace and is once again one of the best players in the game.

Honorable Mention: Jose Reyes, New York Mets
– A solid, if unspectacular year for Reyes thus far that lacks the overwhelming, dominating speed. The power surge just about makes up for the speed dip.

Outfield
I’m resisting a strong temptation to put the entire Pirates outfield as my NL All-Star Outfield. I don’t think it’d be completely unreasonable, but I’m resisting it even still. For as excellent as the infield is, the outfield is less-than-stellar.
Nate McLouth, Pittsburgh Pirates – Since August 1st of last year, McLouth has 23 home runs and 21 stolen bases with a .299/.396/.565 line. Like Soto, his sleeper status was just about erased by the time draft season rolled around. Nevertheless, he was one of the league’s best players in April.

Ryan Ludwick, St. Louis Cardinals – Yep, I did it. I know he hasn’t played full time the entire year, but he qualifies for the batting title and has the best OPS among National League outfielders. His overwhelming power has never been an unknown, but he has never really been given the playing time in the majors to succeed.

Jason Bay, Pittsburgh Pirates – OK, so I still took two out of three. Bay was a colossal failure last year, but he regained his batting eye and it’s led to a rebound. Last year, he walked a total of 59 times. This year, he is already at 41 and he is on pace for a career-high. His five stolen bases tops his 2007 total by one and the 13 home runs put him on pace for a career-high 36 at year’s end. Welcome back, Mr. Bay.

Honorable Mentions:
Pat Burrell, Philadelphia Phillies
– Every year the guy mashes in April with a .943 OPS and 13 home runs across 225 at-bats during the past three years. This year was no different with a 1.135 OPS and eight home runs in 89 April at-bats. During the same three year period, he tails off significantly in May from a batting average standpoint but remains a viable on-base and power threat. This year was no different with a .227 average but .378 OBP and five home runs over 88 May at-bats. The guy is a model of consistency for inconsistent. He might frustrate you, but if you’re a Roto owner and you get him just ride his ups and downs out and you’ll get what you paid for by the end of the season.

Aaron Rowand, San Francisco Giants – Everyone expected a huge drop off with the move to San Fran because of a worse park and far worse lineup. Rowand continues to excel and should he keep pace, he will actually improve upon his batting average and RBI totals.

Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers – In proving last year was no fluke, Braun is on pace for 43 home runs and 126 runs batted in with a .299 average. He hasn’t shown nearly the same plate discipline of a year ago, but he is getting the job done and justifying his late first-early second round status.

Starting Pitchers
Edinson Volquez, Cincinnati Reds – I can’t remember a trade in recent memory ever working out so well for both teams. Josh Hamilton for Edinson Volquez was one of the sidenote moves of the off-season, but it has yielded two of the young season’s best stories. Volquez’ walks remain scary, but his other peripherals show he can live with the shaky control.

Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants
– This is why you don’t chase wins. The knock on Lincecum all off-season was that he’d be a great asset to ratios and strikeouts, but wouldn’t notch many wins at all on the Giants. He’s been an asset in the ratios and strikeouts, but he’s gotten the team support good enough to rack up seven wins. So unpredictable is this stat that it’ll make you absolutely crazy trying to figure it out. Draft skills.

Brandon Webb, Arizona Diamondbacks – Ho-hum, another dominating season for Webb. All the talk of Peavy and Johan as hands down 1-2 left Webb undervalued by comparison given how absurdly reliable he has been over the past few seasons. He is enjoying his fourth straight season of increases in the strikeouts per nine yet has kept a flat line of consistency across his pitches per inning, plate appearance and game numbers.

Middle Relief Pitchers
Hong Chih-Kuo, Los Angeles Dodgers – He is a pitching version of a utility infielder. He can start, long relieve, short relieve and he could probably close. And he can do all of those things very well, he’s not just some rubber-armed clown that the Dodgers ride. He has a 10.3 K/9, a 1.4 BB/9 and a 0.68 ERA as a reliever.

Carlos Marmol, Chicago Cubs
– He has closer stuff, but given that the most high pressure situations usually come before the ninth inning, he might be a more valuable asset to the Cubs as their 7th/8th inning guy. He was amazing last year and things haven’t changed much for 2008. His control can be shaky, but it’s hard to complain when you see the 13.5 K/9 rate.

Closer
Kerry Wood, Chicago Cubs – For most, it’s been a matter of if, not when for Wood losing the closer’s job due to injury or ineffectiveness. But Wood has taken to the new role very well and it looks like the only thing that could slow him down is the injury bug he is all too accustomed with during his career. Most impressive about how season thus far is the 6:1 K:BB rate. The 16 saves are tied for the National League’s best with Jose Valverde and Brian Wilson. Of those three, his 2.78 ERA is the best.

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2 Comments to “National League All-Stars Through May”

  1. Hello, this is Bryce Gibson and I am a big baseball fan. I saw
    who had make the outfield, and i saw that Rick Ankiel didn’t make it. I think that Rick Ankiel should have made it before him.
    I hope you get the time to think about this.

    P.S. I am not a Cardinal fan

  2. Always good to read about baseball and its players, I’ve played since a kid..

    Can I ask though – how did you get this picked up and into google news?

    Very impressive, is it something that is just up to Google or you actively created?

    Obviously this is a popular blog with great data so well done on your seo success..

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