Meet the AL leader in OPS … Ben Zobrist?!

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Ben Zobrist became eligible for the league leaderboards after batting five times last night and immediately took over the AL lead in both slugging percentage and OPS. Seriously. Ben Zobrist. No, really.

He’s hitting .307/.415/.665 with 14 homers, 14 doubles, 33 walks, 39
runs, and 41 RBIs in 212 plate appearances, which is basically a
50-homer, 100-walk, 125-RBI pace over the course of a full season of
everyday playing time.

Zobrist was an on-base machine in the minors, hitting .318 with a
fantastic .418 OBP thanks to averaging 90 walks per 600 plate
appearances, but had a grand total of 23 homers in 364 games and never
went deep even 10 times in a season. That is until last year, when he
homered 12 times in just 227 plate appearances for the Rays

Many people wrote Zobrist off as a long-term utility man when he hit
just .200/.234/.275 with three homers in 83 games during his first few
stints in the majors and no one could have possibly imagined him
developing into anything resembling a slugger. Yet here he is leading
the league in slugging percentage and OPS while sporting a
.279/.376/.581 line with 26 homers in 439 plate appearances since the
beginning of last season.

Unfortunately for Zobrist his reign atop the AL leaderboards will be
short lived regardless of whether he keeps up his current pace, because
Joe Mauer is close to accumulating enough plate appearances
to qualify for the batting title himself and … well, he scoffs at a
measly .615 slugging percentage and puny 1.080 OPS (although not for the same reasons as Harold Reynolds). Mauer is slugging .750 and OPSing at 1.245.

Zack Greinke named the Dbacks’ Opening Day starter

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 21:  Pitcher Zack Greinke #21 of the Arizona Diamondbacks poses for a portrait during photo day at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on February 21, 2017 in Scottsdale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Not a surprise, but a news item on a slow news day is a news item on a slow news day: Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo has named Zack Greinke as the club’s Opening Day starter.

Greinke’s first season with the Diamondbacks is not exactly what the club hoped for when he signed a six-year, $206.5 million deal in December of 2015. He dealt with oblique and shoulder issues while struggling to a 4.37 ERA over 26 starts. Greinke hasn’t pitched yet this spring, but will make his spring debut on Friday. He and the club are obviously hoping for a quiet March and a strong beginning to the season.

Either for its own sake or to increase the trade value of a player who was acquired by the previous front office regime.

“La Vida Baseball,” celebrating Latino baseball, launches

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A new website has launched. It’s called “La Vida Baseball,” and it’s all about celebrating the past, present and future of Latino baseball from a Latino perspective.

The site, produced in partnership with the Hall of Fame, has four general areas of focus:

  • Who’s Now: Focusing on current Latino players;
  • Who’s Next: Focusing on top prospects here, in the Caribbean and in Central and South America;
  • Our Life: Off-the-Field stuff, including player’s lives, lifestyles and hobbies; and
  • Our Legends: Focusing on Latino baseball history, Hall of Famers and overlooked players.

As the site has just launched there aren’t yet a ton of stories up there, but there is one about Roberto Clemente, another about Felix Hernandez and some other stuff.

The site is much-needed. Baseball reporters for American outlets are overwhelmingly white, non-Spanish speakers. Reporters, who, generally, gravitate to the players who are the most like they are. Which is understandable on some level. When you’re writing stories about people you need to be able to communicate with them and relate to them on more than a mere perfunctory level. As such, no matter how good the intentions of baseball media, we tend to see the clubhouse and the culture of baseball from a distinctly American perspective. And we tend to paint Latino players with a broad, broad brush.

La Vida Baseball will, hopefully, remedy all of that and will, hopefully, give us a fresh and insightful depiction Latino players and their culture.