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July 5, 2009

On the Beat

All-Stars!

by John Perrotto

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Major League Baseball will announce its All-Star teams this afternoon, and there will be the usual debate about who deserved to be picked for the July 14 game at Busch Stadium in St. Louis but got snubbed. As you wait for the real squads to be announced you can debate who got snubbed on the official On The Beat All-Star team.

Just like in the big leagues, we have 33-man rosters for each league, no designated hitter since the game is in a National League Park this season and a representative from all 30 major-league teams. However, the bent here is we look more at the advanced metrics than traditional stats in making the picks. Thus, a lot of picks are based on WARP3, VORP, EqA, SNLVAR, and WXRL rather than batting average, RBI, wins, or saves.

So without ado, not that we really had any ado to begin with, here are the teams:

American League

P Zack Greinke, Royals: He has cooled after his phenomenal start, but has still been the best pitcher in the majors this season.
C Joe Mauer, Twins: The demands of the position will prevent him from hitting .400, but it will be fun to watch him try.
1B Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox: He is still the ultimate Moneyball player.
2B Ben Zobrist, Rays: He will certainly regress to the mean in the second half, but it's been quite an ascent away from the mean so far.
3B Scott Rolen, Blue Jays: Just when it seemed he had fallen off the face of the earth, he is having a strong season.
SS Jason Bartlett, Rays: Already a slick fielder, his hitting has matched his glove work this season.
LF Adam Lind, Blue Jays: He has long had the ability to hit; manager Cito Gaston has finally given him the opportunity to utilize it.
CF Torii Hunter, Angels: That five-year, $90 million contract doesn't look so absurd now for a supposedly defense-first player.
RF Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners: The mysterious hitting savant has been playing like a man with something to prove.

Reserves
P David Aardsma, Mariners: Who would have thought he would be the best reliever in the AL this season?
P Andrew Bailey, Athletics: Who would have guessed he would be in the major leagues this season?
P Dallas Braden, Athletics: He's the leader of a promising starting rotation in Oakland.
P Mark Buehrle, White Sox: He never seems to get his due for being consistently outstanding.
P Roy Halladay, Blue Jays: On a year-to-year basis , he's the most consistent starting pitcher in the game.
P Felix Hernandez, Mariners: The King has blossomed into an ace this season.
P Edwin Jackson, Tigers: He has at long last begun to realize his significant potential.
P Cliff Lee, Indians: Not quite as dominant as last season, but still pretty darn good.
P Kevin Millwood, Rangers: He has regained star status after recommitting himself to getting in shape.
P Joe Nathan, Twins: The rare closer who consistently gets the job done, year after year.
P Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox: It's still early in his career. but he is making the beginnings of a case for Cooperstown.
P Jered Weaver, Angels: He has been the team's rotational rock for an injury-ravaged staff.
C/1B Victor Martinez, Indians: This is probably his last All-Star Game as a catcher as he is transitioning to first base.
C Kurt Suzuki, Athletics: He does a fine job of guiding a young pitching staff, and is improving as a hitter.
1B Russell Branyan, Mariners: He's having the type of season people have been expecting for a decade.
1B Justin Morneau, Twins: He continues to be the quiet superstar who can walk down the street of any American city outside Minneapolis or St. Paul without being noticed.
2B Aaron Hill, Blue Jays: He has made a remarkable comeback from last year's concussion that put his career in jeopardy.
2B Ian Kinsler, Rangers: He keeps getting better and better every year.
3B Evan Longoria, Rays: Has the ability and charisma to be the game's next big star.
SS Marco Scutaro, Blue Jays: The career-long utility infielder is having the season of his life.
OF Jason Bay, Red Sox: He carried the Boston offense until Big Papi finally heated up.
OF Carl Crawford, Rays: Making the stolen base fashionable again.
OF Johnny Damon, Yankees: Just when it looked like he was over the hill.
OF Adam Jones, Orioles: A big reason why Bill Bavasi is no longer the Mariners' general manager.

National League

P Dan Haren, Diamondbacks: The perfect example of why win-loss record is the worst statistic by which to measure a starting pitcher.
C Brian McCann, Braves: It never ceases to amaze why this guy flies under the radar.
1B Albert Pujols, Cardinals: You can be sure the best player in baseball will steal the All-Star show in his home park.
2B Chase Utley, Phillies: If McCann isn't the game's most underappreciated player, then this guy is.
3B David Wright, Mets: Though he is taking heat in New York for not hitting home runs, he is still having a fine season.
SS Hanley Ramirez, Marlins: To round out all of his other immense talents, he has become a middle-of-the-order run producer.
LF Ryan Braun, Brewers: It is scary to think his best years are seemingly still ahead.
CF Carlos Beltran, Mets: His team's offense is impotent when he is out of the lineup.
RF Raul Ibanez, Phillies: GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is having the last laugh over that much-criticized three-year, $31.5 million contract he gave the 37-year-old free agent last winter.

Reserves
P Heath Bell, Padres: He has made a seamless transition from set-up man to closer.
P Jonathan Broxton, Dodgers: He's gaining the consistency needed to become a premier closer.
P Matt Cain, Giants: Elevating his career to a true star level.
P Johnny Cueto, Reds: Just learning to harness his considerable talent, the sky seems to be the limit.
P Ryan Franklin, Cardinals: Stepped in as the closer, and has solidified the bullpen as a result.
P Yovani Gallardo, Brewers.:This guy's going to win a Cy Young Award at some point in his career.
P Jason Johnson, Marlins: In the anonymity of playing in front of all those empty seats in Miami, he's emerging as a true ace.
P John Lannan, Nationals: A ray of hope in the nation's capital.
P Ted Lilly, Cubs: Someone from the underachieving North Siders has to be here.
P Tim Lincecum, Giants: It sure seems like the little guy's 2008 Cy Young Award wasn't a fluke.
P Rafael Soriano, Braves: Finally healthy, he has solidified the backend of the Atlanta bullpen.
P Javier Vazquez, Braves: He was an astute off-season acquisition by GM Frank Wren.
C Russell Martin, Dodgers: Not having a vintage year at the plate, but his defense has been outstanding.
C Yadier Molina, Cardinals: No catcher locks down a running game like this one.
1B Prince Fielder, Brewers: The Brewers must be glad they didn't trade him last winter.
1B Adrian Gonzalez, Padres: What would his power numbers look like if he didn't call Petco Park home?
2B Orlando Hudson, Dodgers: A lot of teams look stupid now for passing on him as a free agent last winter.
2B Freddy Sanchez, Pirates: He's having a nice bounce-back season after a tough 2008.
3B Casey Blake, Dodgers: In an understated way, he has played a big role in his team's success.
SS Miguel Tejada, Astros: He might not always tell the truth but the numbers don't lie, and they indicate he is having a pretty good year.
OF Mike Cameron, Brewers: Still a terrific defensive center fielder, he is also swinging the bat well.
OF Brad Hawpe, Rockies: He has developed into one of the game's more underrated hitters.
OF Matt Kemp, Dodgers: He is about a half-step from emerging as a superstar.
OF Justin Upton, Diamondbacks: Little brother has passed his big brother, B.J.

---

The Mets have seemed to be teetering on the brink of collapse in recent weeks, and manager Jerry Manuel created quite a stir with the New York media last weekend when he said GM Omar Minaya needed to acquire a hitter for an injury-depleted lineup. Though the Mets are 39-42 and tied with the Braves for third place in the NL East-three games behind the division-leading Phillies-Manuel has since softened his stance and believes the Mets can win without adding to their roster.

In part, Manuel has been encouraged by recent medical news, primarily that Beltran should return right after the All-Star break. Beltran had his ailing knee examined by Richard Steadman in Vail, Colo, this past week, and it was determined he won't need microfracture surgery. The Mets are also hopeful that shortstop Jose Reyes (calf and hamstring) can come back right after the break and that first baseman Carlos Delgado will return from hip surgery in early August.

The Mets will also get left-hander Oliver Perez (knee) back in the starting rotation this week, though it is debatable as to whether that is good or bad news. "We have a lot of things that it looks as though we can look forward to," Manuel said. "You hope you got reinforcements. You don't have no reinforcements, you're kind of back where you started."

Manuel's original comments about needing help from outside appeared to be a knock on the players currently on the roster and he admitted it could be construed that way. "I would agree with that," he said. "Whether or not these guys buy into that, I don't know. When people ask about outside needs and things like that, there has to be a certain honesty and integrity about the question. But when I have the people within, then I always feel like I have what I need."

However, Manuel said he would not edit himself when answering questions on the subject in the future: "No, not at all. When I'm with them, I think they're here for a reason, and when they're here for a reason, I think I can get them to do what they need to do in order to win games."

---

Jim Tracy's reputation as a manager took a big hit during his two seasons with the Pirates in 2006 and 2007, as his teams lost 95 and 94 games. Coupled with a 91-loss season in 2005 in the last of his five years as the Dodgers' manager, and it seemed as if Tracy might be out of managerial chances. However, he got an opportunity with the Rockies on May 29 when he was promoted from bench coach to replace fired manager Clint Hurdle on an interim basis. With the way the Rockies have been playing since Tracy took over, he may soon shed the interim tag. The Rockies are 24-10 since Tracy took over to improve to 42-38. Though they remain 8 games behind the first-place Dodgers in the NL West race, they are just two games in back of the Giants in wild-card standings.

Tracy admits getting off to a good start in his third shot at managing has been special. "After Pittsburgh, I felt I had something to prove," Tracy told InsideTheRockies.com "It was a personal thing. There never was a question about my ability to run a game. I relish having the opportunity to do it one more time and to have the weapons to work with where you know the program you put together is going to work."

Tracy gained the reputation with the Pirates of taking all the credit during the rare victories, and putting the blame on the players during the frequent losses. However, that has not been the case so far with the Rockies as he says he appreciates his players and their attitudes toward the game. "These kids radiate unselfishness," Tracy told the Denver Post. "That's why I no longer like to talk about runs or streaks. I hope the next thing we talk about is expectations. They expect to play this way. Having good players helps a hell of a lot. Being able to implement the kind of baseball you believe in, because of the players that you have, that helps a lot. And I love this team, and I love these players. They have reinvigorated me."

The players, meanwhile, have been reinvigorated since the tension surrounding the countdown to Hurdle's firing was lifted. "The clubhouse is a lot different, a lot more relaxed," right-hander Aaron Cook said.

---

The Indians and Twins were the picks of many pre-season prognosticators to win the AL Central. While the Indians are in last place in the division, 33-49 and 12 games behind the first-place Tigers, and ran up the white flag last weekend by trading infielder/outfielder Mark DeRosa to the Cardinals, the Twins aren't ready to concede as they are 42-40 and thee games back.

However, the Twins have been inconsistent. They have yet to win more than four games in a row and are at their high-water mark for the season at two games over .500. That has led some to wonder if GM Bill Smith might need to upgrade the roster in order to give his team a legitimate chance to win. Smith, though, seems in no hurry to make a trade. "We have a lot of time left to play, and we're playing better," Smith said. "We've had some guys settle down, our starting rotation is doing well, and we've had some guys step up in the bullpen, and that's what we've been looking for." Morneau also does not see the urgency for a deal. "We have been real inconsistent, but I think we have played a lot better lately," he said.

If the Twins do make a trade, it will likely to be for bullpen help. They reportedly have interest in Pirates left-hander John Grabow and right-hander Matt Capps, among others. "We're looking and talking (about getting a reliever), but nothing is imminent," Smith said. "Everybody is looking for relief pitching and that's making it tough."

---

NL Rumors and Rumblings: The Braves would definitely trade shortstop Yunel Escobar, who has exhausted manager Bobby Cox's deep reservoir of patience, but they would need to either get a shortstop back in the deal or acquire one from another team. The Pirates aren't done trading yet despite already dealing center fielder Nate McLouth and left fielder Nyjer Morgan, as they are willing to move first baseman Adam LaRoche, Freddy Sanchez, and shortstop Jack Wilson, and will also listen on left-handed starters Zach Duke and Paul Maholm, and relievers Grabow and Capps. The Giants have interest in Indians catcher/first baseman Victor Martinez to play first base. The Brewers are eyeing Diamondbacks left-hander Doug Davis and second baseman Felipe Lopez. The Rockies would like to add a reliever, and the Diamondbacks' Chad Qualls is believed to be at the top of their list. The Diamondbacks and Rockies are expected to announce this week that they will open a spring training complex in 2011 at the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community near Phoenix.

AL Rumors and Rumblings: The Mariners are in the market for a third baseman they can control beyond this year, and have interest in the Padres' Kevin Kouzmanoff and Rockies' Garrett Atkins; starting third baseman Adrian Beltre underwent shoulder surgery this past week, and can become a free agent at the end of the season. The Angeles need bullpen help and are said to be particularly interested in the Diamondbacks' Jon Rauch. The Rangers are expected to make Angels right-hander John Lackey their top target in free agency next winter.

---

Interesting Facts

  • Braves right-hander Tommy Hanson became the first National League rookie to beat the Yankees and Red Sox in consecutive starts.
  • The Cardinals' 10-0 loss to the Giants and their 11-0 loss to the Mets on June 24 marked the first time in franchise history they suffered two double-digit defeats in less than a week.
  • When Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and Mariners designated hitter Ken Griffey Jr. homered Wednesday night, it marked the first time that two players with at least 550 career home runs went deep in the same game since Hank Aaron and Willie Mays did so on May 8, 1971.
  • There were three 1-0 games in the National League pn the same Wednesday for the first since September 1, 1976, as the Mets beat the Brewers, the Dodgers defeated the Rockies, and the Reds downed the Diamondbacks. There has never been four 1-0 games in the same league on the day.
  • Right-hander Ryan Sadowski's streak of 13 consecutive scoreless innings is the longest by a Giants pitcher to start a career since Mike Remlinger had 15 in 1991.
  • Indians outfielder Shin-Soo Choo had four runs, seven RBI, and one stolen base against the Athletics on Friday, becoming just the third player to do that since 1945, matching Ted Williams (1949) and Willie Stargell (1968).
  • The Rays became the fastest team to get to 100 home runs and 100 stolen bases in a season when they did so in their 77th game last Sunday. The previous fastest teams were the 1977 Reds and 1994 Indians, who did it in 78 games.
  • Nationals outfielder/first baseman Adam Dunn has hit 20 home runs in eight straight seasons, the second-longest active streak in the major leagues behind the nine of Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols.

---

Three series to watch this week, with probable pitching matchups (all times Eastern):

Rangers at Angels, Monday-Wednesday (July 6-8)
Kevin Millwood vs. Jered Weaver, 10:05 p.m.; Vicente Padilla vs. John Lackey, 10:05 p.m.; Tommy Hunter vs. Ervin Santana, 10:05 p.m.

Blue Jays at Rays, Tuesday-Thursday (July 7-9)
Brad Mills vs. James Shields, 7:08 p.m.; Brian Tallet vs. Scott Kazmir, 7:08 p.m.; Roy Halladay vs. David Price, 12:08 p.m.

Yankees at Twins, Tuesday-Thursday (July 7-9)
CC Sabathia vs. Scott Baker, 8:10 p.m.; A.J. Burnett vs. Glen Perkins, 8:10 p.m.; Chien-Ming Wang vs. Anthony Swarzak, 1:10 p.m.

John Perrotto is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see John's other articles. You can contact John by clicking here

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