First-third awards – NL MVP

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We’ll use VORP
to come up with a list of candidates and go from there. Position
players only. I think Dan Haren should figure into the mix for the
bottom half of the ballot, but the rest of the top 10 will be hitters.

1. Albert Pujols – 37.2
2. Raul Ibanez – 33.4
3. Carlos Beltran – 30.0
4. Hanley Ramirez – 27.9
5. Adrian Gonzalez – 26.5
6. Chase Utley – 26.1
7. Miguel Tejada – 24.7
8. Ryan Zimmerman – 23.4
9. Justin Upton – 23.1
10. Brad Hawpe – 22.4
11. Orlando Hudson – 21.3
12. Ryan Braun – 21.2
13. David Wright – 20.9

That’s everyone over 20.0.

Moving on to OPS:

1. Albert Pujols – 1168 in 53 G
2. Raul Ibanez – 1091 in 52 G
3. Adrian Gonzalez – 1075 in 53 G
4. Brad Hawpe – 1051 in 46 G
5. Carlos Beltran – 1022 in 47 G
6. Justin Upton – 1000 in 50 G
7. Chase Utley – 998 in 50 G
8. Prince Fielder – 979 in 54 G
9. Ryan Braun – 964 in 52 G
10. Hanley Ramirez – 962 in 51 G

Playing time isn’t as much of an issue here as it was in the AL,
where it was tough to figure out where to put Joe Mauer and Jason
Bartlett. The only player in the NL to perform like an MVP candidate
over 30-40 games is Joey Votto, who had a 1091 OPS in 38 games before
landing on the DL.

Finally, the RBI list, since that’s what the real voters will be mostly concerned about:

1. Raul Ibanez – 53
2. Prince Fielder – 52
3. Albert Pujols – 48
4. Ryan Howard – 46
5. Adrian Gonzalez – 43
6. Adam Dunn – 42
7. Brad Hawpe – 41
8. James Loney – 41
9. Brandon Phillips – 40
10. Dan Uggla – 39

I see five legitimate candidates: Pujols, Ibanez, Beltran, Gonzalez
and Utley. Fielder isn’t hitting any better than the top two first
baseman and he’s a weaker defender. As a subpar shortstop, Hanley is
rather overrated by VORP. Also, he hasn’t been as much of a force on
the basepaths as usual, and even though he’s hitting .400 with RISP, he
has just 25 RBI while batting third. That knocks him down to sixth.

Of the top five, two are quality defenders at key positions, two are
quality defenders at first base and one is a below average defender in
left field. Beltran’s candidacy takes a hit because he’s missed five of
the Mets’ 52 games.

As outstanding as Ibanez has been, I don’t see a reason to go away
from Pujols, last year’s MVP. He has the OPS lead, he’s a positive in
the field and on the basepaths and he’s hitting .341 with RISP. Utley
also contributes in more ways than Ibanez.

What Gonzalez has gone is truly remarkable — he’s on pace for more
than 60 homers while playing half of his games at Petco Park — but he
doesn’t have the same kind of average as the other candidates and his
OBP is being inflated by teams working around him with RISP. It’s not
his fault that the Padres can’t protect him, but it has made him less
valuable. He’s hit just .231 with RISP.

First-third NL MVP

1. Pujols
2. Utley
3. Ibanez
4. Gonzalez
5. Beltran
6. Ramirez
7. Haren
8. Fielder
9. Hudson
10. Mike Cameron

Video: Angels use eight pitchers in spring training no-hitter

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Who says no-hitters can’t be just as fun when they happen during spring training?

Angels’ right-hander Bud Norris delivered two perfect innings on Friday night, paving the way for an eight-pitcher no-hitter against the Mariners at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Jose Alvarez, Cam Bedrosian, Andrew Bailey, Austin Adams, Drew Gagnon and Justin Anderson each filed a hitless inning of their own, leaving right-hander Abel De Los Santos to close out the ninth inning with just three pitches — and three game-saving plays by the defense.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that the Angels were facing a bevy of Mariners’ backups, rather than their starting lineup. In fact, Seattle’s lineup featured just two starting players — outfielder Leonys Martin and shortstop Jean Segura — while the majority of their everyday position players took on the Royals in a 4-3 win elsewhere in the Cactus League. The Mariners managed to reach base twice, first on catcher interference in the fourth inning, then on a four-pitch walk in the sixth, spoiling the Angels’ chances of turning their combined no-hitter into a combined perfect game.

Still, whether it’s executed in spring training or the regular season, against an All-Star lineup or one comprised of minor leaguers, a no-hitter is a no-hitter. The team’s eight-pitcher effort marked the first spring training no-no the Angels had completed since 1996, when they took on the Giants in a 15-0 showdown. Unfortunately for the 1996 squad, their regular season ended with a 70-91 record, good for last place in the AL West. Perhaps this no-hitter will prove a better omen for the coming season.

Tanner Scheppers leaves Cactus League game with lower core injury

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Rangers’ bullpen candidate Tanner Scheppers left Friday’s Cactus League game with pain in his “lower half,” according to reports by Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The specifics of the right-hander’s injury have yet to be determined, but he was accompanied by the athletic trainer when he exited the game and is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Saturday.

Scheppers, 30, has a long history of elbow and knee injuries. He missed all but 8 2/3 innings of the 2016 season after undergoing a procedure to repair torn articular cartilage in his left knee. While he appeared healthy enough through his first seven appearances this spring, he failed to impress with three runs, five walks and six strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings with the club.

Should Scheppers find himself on the disabled list for another lengthy stay, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan speculates that his absence could clear some room in the bullpen for Rule 5 draft pick and fellow righty Mike Hauschild. Hauschild, 27, has dealt seven runs, five walks and 15 strikeouts through 17 1/3 innings in camp.