RAR has Longoria, Ibanez as MVPs through May

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Fan Graphs is a site that I couldn’t live without and has a great stat called Runs Above Replacement
(RAR) that combines offensive and defensive contributions while
comparing players to “replacement-level” guys at the same position.

For example, how many runs would the Cardinals lose if they had to
replace Albert Pujols with a random first baseman called up from the
minors? Last year the answer was 89.2 runs, which led baseball.

While not perfect, Runs Above Replacement is an excellent way to
examine all-around contributions and can be used to determine the top
MVP candidates based strictly on their between-the-lines performance.

Now that May is in the books I thought it would be interesting to update the RAR leaders through the season’s first two months:

Evan Longoria 33.1 Raul Ibanez 28.7
Joe Mauer 27.1 Albert Pujols 26.6
Jason Bartlett 27.1 Mike Cameron 26.5
Ian Kinsler 25.6 Ryan Zimmerman 26.3
Marco Scutaro 25.3 Hanley Ramirez 26.1
Kevin Youkilis 25.0 Adrian Gonzalez 26.0
Nelson Cruz 23.9 Matt Kemp 25.2
Victor Martinez 23.3 Chase Utley 23.0
Aaron Hill 23.2 Justin Upton 22.1
Torii Hunter 22.2 Ryan Braun 20.8

Evan Longoria ranked as the best player in baseball through the end of April
and he’s still atop the RAR leaderboard a month later, hitting
.327/.396/.623 with 13 homers, 20 doubles, 55 RBIs, and excellent
defense in 51 games overall. Through his first 173 career games,
Longoria has been 86.7 runs better than a replacement-level third

Joe Mauer has amazingly vaulted into the No. 2 spot among AL
position players despite spending all of April on the disabled list,
which shows just how spectacular he was in May. Mauer hit
.414/.500/.838 with 11 homers and 32 RBIs in 28 games while logging 176
innings at catcher last month, guiding Twins pitchers to a 4.19 ERA
with him behind the plate after the staff posted a 5.26 ERA in April.

Raul Ibanez ranked second among NL position players in RAR through
the end of April and barely slowed down in May, hitting .312/.366/.661
with 10 homers and 29 RBIs in 28 games to take over the top spot from
Mike Cameron. Of course, Ibanez is having by far the best season of his
14-year career, topping his previous high OPS by nearly 200 points, yet
has been all of 2.1 runs better than Albert Pujols.

At the other end of the RAR spectrum, Garrett Atkins (-13.3) and Delmon Young (-12.2) rank as the least valuable all-around players in their respective leagues, with Brian Giles (-10.5) and David Ortiz (-11.8) not far behind.

Tigers in discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.

Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.

Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.