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November 11, 2009

On the Beat

Midweek Update

by John Perrotto

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All baseball writers like to borrow ideas from time to time, especially after a long season. So, I'll borrow one from Jeff Joyce, one of the talk-show hosts on Sirius/XM's great Home Plate Channel. (I can't remember what life was like before Home Plate, that's how much I enjoy it.) Anyhow, Joyce recently questioned why there is no post-season all-star team in the major leagues. The NFL has the All-Pro team, and pro basketball has the All-NBA team. Even each of baseball's minor leagues picks a post-season all-star team.

The Associated Press actually had a post-season All-Star team for a few years in the 1980s but it got such little response that the world's largest news-gathering agency abandoned the idea. However, it's time to bring the post-season all-star team idea back and what better forum to resurrect it in than BP and right here, On The Beat? So without further ado, because you can never introduce something like this without writing or saying without further ado, here is the On The Beat 2009 MLB All-Star Team:

Catcher: Joe Mauer, Twins. He led the American League with a .342 EqA and 91.0 VORP, and his 9.0 WARP1 was second behind the 9.5 of Kansas City right-hander Zack Greinke. He also won all three slash-stat categories in the AL with a .365/.444/.587 line. Furthermore, his 28 home runs more than doubled his previous career high of 13. Yet, Derek Jeter won the 2009 Hank Aaron Award in the AL through fan voting conducted by MLB. Are you kidding me?

First baseman: Albert Pujols, Cardinals. Who else could it be? El Hombre won the BP metric triple crown with the highest WARP1 (12.1), VORP (98.3), and EqA (.362) in the major leagues. His traditional numbers were great, too, as he hit .327/.443/.658 with 47 homers. He should certainly be the unanimous winner in the National League MVP Award by the Baseball Writers Association of America later this month.

Second baseman: Chase Utley, Phillies. He had another great year with a career-best 8.6 WARP1 while posting a .316 EqA and .282/.397/.508 slash stats with 31 home runs and a perfect 23-for-23 in stolen-base attempts. America finally learned how good he was when he tied the World Series record by hitting five home runs in the Phillies' six-game loss to the Yankees.

Third baseman: Pablo Sandoval, Giants. This was the closest call at any position, but the Kung Fu Panda won out by the slimmest of margins over the Rays' Evan Longoria and Alex Rodriguez of the world champion Yankees. Sandoval had 5.8 WARP1 and a .312 EqA in his first full major league season to go with a .330/.387/.556 line and 25 homers. When in doubt, I say go with the guy whose nickname makes you smile.

Shortstop: Hanley Ramirez, Marlins. He continues to go relatively unnoticed outside South Florida, but the numbers don't lie: 7.3 WARP1, a .322 EqA and a .342/.410/.543 line, 24 homers and 27 steals. You wonder how big of a star he would be if he played on a team that actually had fans.

Left fielder: Ryan Braun, Brewers. Braun posted career highs with 6.8 WARP1 and a .323 EqA to go with .320/.386/.551 slash stats. He also hit 32 homers and stole 20 bases as he continued to establish himself of the one of the game's brightest young stars.

Center fielder: Matt Kemp, Dodgers. He had his best season yet with 7.2 WARP1, a .298 EqA, .297/.352/.490, 26 homers, and 34 steals. Everyone seems to only focus on Manny Ramirez when discussing the Dodgers, but Kemp is their best player, and it's not really close.

Right fielder: Shin-Soo Choo, Indians. His season was the classic case of a tree falling in a forest, as he finished with 5.8 WARP1, a .309 EqA, .300/.394/.489, 20 homers, and 21 steals. Yet it seems no one heard it amidst the Tribe's disastrous 98-loss campaign.

Designated hitter: Adam Lind, Blue Jays. He was not a pure DH but made the majority of his starts, 80 to be exact, in that role and wound up with a .307 EqA, .305/.370/.562 slash stats and 35 homers. At 26, Lind gives new GM Alex Anthopoulos someone to build around.

Left-handed starting pitcher: Jon Lester, Red Sox. In a season in which there were no dominant lefties, he had a good year with 6.2 WARP1 and 55.5 VORP. His traditional stats were also fine as he went 17-8 with a 3.11 ERA.

Right-handed starting pitcher: Zack Greinke, Royals. As mentioned earlier, he led the AL in WARP1 and also topped the major leagues with 9.4 SNLVAR, nearly one full victory more than the Cardinals' Adam Wainwright (8.9). Greinke went 16-8 with a 2.16 ERA and also provided what, at least for me, was the funniest moment of the season: after being asked an incredibly long and rambling question during the media availability at the All-Star Game, Greinke responded, "I'm sorry. What was that? I quit paying attention."

Relief pitcher: Mariano Rivera, Yankees. One player from the champs had to make the team, and who better than the man who recorded the final out of the season? Of the eight closers in the postseason, Rivera was the only one who did not blow a save or a tie game in the ninth inning or later. The greatest closer in baseball history had another fine regular season, too, as he led the major leagues with 6.149 WXRL, converted 44 of 46 saves opportunities and posted a 1.76 ERA at the age of 39.

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Matt Holliday figures to sign the largest contract of any free agent this offseason. While the Cardinals say they will make every effort possible to retain the left fielder, they could be blown out of the bidding by a larger-market team. If the Mets really want to make a large winter splash in an attempt to win back some fans and draw back-page attention away from the Yankees, signing Holliday would accomplish that goal. If the Red Sox can't re-sign left fielder Jason Bay, Holliday would be a very suitable replacement.

Holliday made a fairly substantial impact after the Cardinals acquired him from the Athletics in a trade on July 24. He had 3.4 WARP1 and a .342 EqA in 270 plate appearances in helping the Cardinals win the NL Central. Thus, it stands to reason the Cardinals will suffer if they can't retain Holliday.

So, how exactly would the Cardinals make up for Holliday's lost production? A group effort, says general manager John Mozeliak. "It would be sum of the parts," Mozeliak told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Joe Strauss. "I don't think there is one guy who can make that kind of impact."

Mozeliak has already made contingency plans in the event Holliday goes elsewhere. That includes taking the money that would have been earmarked for Holliday and spreading out in order to find a replacement in left field while also strengthening the pitching staff and perhaps adding a power-hitting third baseman. "We have to be prepared if we can't sign him," Mozeliak said. "We need to have other options to pursue and we do. A lot of people use the word 'paralysis' for our situation. I don't feel it. There are always options. I tend to look at paralysis as when you have so much money tied up in a small group of players who are unavailable to you. That's not the case here."

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Twins general manager Bill Smith made a quick off-season strike when he traded center fielder Carlos Gomez to the Brewers for shortstop J.J. Hardy last week. It was a quite a contrast to last winter when the Twins made only a few minor moves until signing free-agent third baseman Joe Crede after spring training had already begun. "I think this is a good first step for us to improve our club," Smith said. "We've got a lot of challenges ahead of us to try to defend the (AL) Central Division championship."

Smith said he would like to add at least one veteran starting pitcher to the rotation and maybe two. The Twins are already aggressively trying to re-sign Carl Pavano and also have interest in free-agent left-hander Jarrod Washburn, who finished last season with the Tigers. There is even speculation they might try to pull off a blockbuster trade for the Blue Jays' Roy Halladay. Notes Smith, "We'll see what's out there, and if there's a veteran starter or two that's a good fit for us then we'll proceed accordingly."

Despite trading for Hardy, the Twins would also reportedly like to re-sign shortstop Orlando Cabrera and move him to second base while shifting second baseman Nick Punto to third base.

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MLB Rumors and Rumblings: The Phillies are targeting free-agent utilityman Mark DeRosa as their first choice to replace third baseman Pedro Feliz after deciding to not pick up their 2010 option on Feliz. The Rangers appear to be the most likely destination for outfielder Milton Bradley, whom the Cubs are desperately trying to trade. The Cubs also want to move Kosuke Fukudome back to right field to replace Bradley in the lineup by adding a center fielder, possibly free agent Mike Cameron. The Reds and Mets have interest in trading for Diamondbacks catcher Chris Snyder, who appeared headed to the Blue Jays last weekend until a deal fell through. The Mets are also interested in free-agent catchers Bengie Molina and Rod Barajas. Unlikely to re-sign Molina, the Giants are targeting free agent Ivan Rodriguez to serve as a mentor to rookie catcher Buster Posey next season. The Giants also have decided to not re-sign veteran outfielder Randy Winn. The Brewers have interest in Washburn and fellow free-agent lefty Doug Davis, and will re-sign catcher Jason Kendall only if he agrees to a lesser role and serve as a tutor to prospect Jonathan Lucroy. The Indians figure to be the Twins' main completion for Pavano after trading him to Minnesota in late August. The Yankees plan to look at Alfredo Aceves, Joba Chamberlain, and Phil Hughes as starters in spring training next year, even though all three worked in relief during the postseason this year.

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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