Projecting the NL All-Star roster, Take 2

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Four weeks ago, I projected the following roster for the NL All-Star team (starters in bold):

C – Yadier Molina, Brian McCann, Bengie Molina
1B – Albert Pujols, Adrian Gonzalez
2B – Chase Utley, Orlando Hudson, Freddy Sanchez
3B – David Wright, Ryan Zimmerman, Chipper Jones
SS – Jimmy Rollins, Hanley Ramirez
OF – Ryan Braun, Raul Ibanez, Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Beltran, Justin Upton, Adam Dunn, Brad Hawpe
P
– Johan Santana, Chad Billingsley, Tim Lincecum, Yovani Gallardo, Wandy
Rodriguez, Josh Johnson, Johnny Cueto, Francisco Rodriguez, Jonathan
Broxton, Heath Bell, Trevor Hoffman, Francisco Cordero

Let’s look at the new vote totals and put together a better guess now.

Catchers

Starter: Yadier Molina
Backups: Brian McCann, Bengie Molina

If three catchers are chosen, it figures to be the same trio. Yadier
Molina has a nice edge on McCann in the balloting (1.85 million to 1.46
million), and McCann is a lock to be on the team either way. There
aren’t any other catchers truly deserving of a spot, but Bengie leads
the field in RBI and his team is playing very well.

First basemen

Starter: Albert Pujols
Backups: Adrian Gonzalez, Prince Fielder

I went with just the two first basemen in the first projection, but
it’s going to be very difficult to deny Fielder and Gonzalez is still
very deserving, even if he’s no longer hitting a homer a day. My guess
is that Pujols and Gonzalez will be named to the team and Fielder will
win the fan vote for the last spot on the roster. It’s just too bad
there’s no DH. Ideally, Pujols would get to play the entire game at
Busch Stadium, but that can’t happen now.

Second basemen

Starter: Chase Utley
Backups: Brandon Phillips, Freddy Sanchez

I’m still going with the three second basemen, but Phillips is
replacing Orlando Hudson for one of the spots. Hudson has been just as
valuable this year, but Phillips has the sexier numbers, with his 11
homers and 51 RBI. Sanchez makes a ton of sense as the lone Pirate on
the team, though Zach Duke also has a case.

Third basemen

Starter: David Wright
Backups: Mark Reynolds

Wright has locked up the starting spot, leaving quite a competition
for perhaps just one reserve spot. Reynolds (916 OPS, 21 HR, 54 RBI),
Pablo Sandoval (965 OPS, 11 HR, 38 RBI), Chipper Jones (884 OPS, 9 HR,
33 RBI) and Ryan Zimmerman (861 OPS, 12 HR, 43 RBI) are all deserving,
and Zimmerman has the big advantage in that he could be the only
National selected. Reynolds will probably make the squad, and Chipper’s
career should outweigh Sandoval’s hot streak if the NL finds room for
three third basemen.

Shortstops

Starter: Hanley Ramirez
Backup: Miguel Tejada

The balloting was very close between Jimmy Rollins and Ramirez when
it was time to make the first projection, and I had Rollins winning the
vote. Now that Ramirez has a 255,000-vote lead, we no longer have to
worry about that possibility, and Rollins has no chance of making the
squad as a backup with the way he’s performed. Tejada is hitting .330
and has driven in 41 runs, giving him a pretty good case for the backup
job. Besides Ramirez and Tejada, Troy Tulowitzki is the only NL
shortstop with an 800 OPS.

Outfielders

Starters: Ryan Braun, Raul Ibanez, Carlos Beltran
Backups: Justin Upton, Adam Dunn, Brad Hawpe, Matt Kemp

I’d like to cut an outfielder to make room for a third third baseman, but seven figure to go.

The last outfield spot would seem to be the only one still up for
grabs in the NL. The injured Beltran currently has a 170,000-vote edge
on the struggling Alfonso Soriano. Beltran might not be able to play
even if he does win the vote, but I’m still rooting for him. Not only
is Soriano undeserving, but his addition would likely cause the NL to
put two center fielders on the bench and none have truly earned in.
Kemp is a stretch for one spot, and Shane Victorino would likely be
next in line.

If Beltran is on the team, then we could have a situation in which
the NL’s top six outfielders in OPS are all represented. Ibanez is
first, followed by Hawpe, Braun, Upton, Beltran and Dunn.

Pitchers

Starters: Dan Haren, Tim Lincecum, Chad Billingsley, Johan Santana, Matt Cain, Javier Vazquez
Relievers: Francisco Rodriguez, Jonathan Broxton, Heath Bell, Trevor Hoffman, Francisco Cordero, Ryan Franklin

Now that we’re closer to the game, we can see what starters might be
unavailable to pitch in the All-Star Game because they’re scheduled to
work the Sunday before. Matt Cain, Josh Johnson, Yovani Gallardo,
Johnny Cueto, Adam Wainwright all appear set to pitch then and could be
scratched from consideration as a result. For that reason, I’m going
with six starters and six relievers. Too many of the deserving starters
are likely to be unable to pitch.

Should Dave Roberts have taken Clayton Kershaw out of Sunday’s game?

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 29:  Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers delivers a pitch in the first inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field on May 29, 2016 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Dodgers manager Dave Roberts will likely be second-guessed heavily during tomorrow’s news cycle. Starter Clayton Kershaw had pitched a terrific ballgame, as is his tendency, but with 114 pitches to his name, Roberts decided to pull him from the game in the eighth inning with two outs and a runner on first base.

Roberts opted not for closer Kenley Jansen, who hasn’t pitched since Wednesday, but for another lefty in Adam Liberatore. He was playing the numbers, with the left-handed-hitting Curtis Granderson coming up. Liberatore, much to Roberts’ chagrin, served up what turned out to be a game-tying triple to Granderson, hitting a rocket to right-center just out of the reach of a leaping Yasiel Puig.

Jansen has, for six years, been one of the game’s elite relievers. Kershaw, though at a high pitch count, doesn’t seem to suffer from the times through the order penalty like most pitchers. Kershaw’s opponents’ OPS facing him for the first time was .525 coming into Sunday. Twice, .597. Three times, .587. Four times, .526 (but this suffers from survivorship bias so it’s not exactly representative).

Furthermore, Kershaw held lefties to a .546 OPS over his career. Liberatore, in 99 plate appearances against lefty hitters, gave up a .575 OPS. Jansen? .560. It seems that, faced with three decisions, Roberts arguably made the worst one. Playing conservative with Kershaw at 114 pitches is defensible, but only if Jansen comes in. If Roberts wanted the platoon advantage, Kershaw should have stayed in.

Luckily for the Dodgers, Mets closer Jeurys Familia didn’t have his best stuff. He loaded the bases with one out in the top of the ninth on a single and two walks, then gave up a two-run single to Adrian Gonzalez, giving the Dodgers a 4-2 lead. Jansen came on in the bottom half of the ninth and retired the side in order to pick up his 15th save of the season.

Royals sweep White Sox over the weekend on three late rallies

KANSAS CITY, MO - MAY 28:  Brett Eibner #12 of the Kansas City Royals celebrates his game-winning RBI single with teammates in the ninth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium on May 28, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. The Royals won 8-7. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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The Royals had themselves a pretty good weekend. The quickly fading White Sox, not so much.

On Friday, the Royals fell behind 5-1 after the top of the sixth. They would score once in the bottom of the sixth, four times in the seventh, and once in the eighth to steal a 7-5 win facing pitchers Miguel Gonzalez Dan Jennings, Matt Albers, Zach Duke and Nate Jones.

On Saturday, the Royals entered the bottom of the ninth down 7-1. They scored seven runs on closer David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to win 8-7.

On Sunday, the Royals were down 4-2 after the top of the eighth. They plated three runs in the bottom half of the eighth against Jones and Albers, going on to win 5-4.

Coming into the weekend, the Royals were 24-22 in third place. The White Sox were 27-21, a half-game up in first place. Now the Royals are in first place by a game and a half, and the White Sox are in third place, two games out of first.

Here’s video of the Royals’ comeback on Saturday, since it was so unlikely:

Report: Ryan Braun is “the hot name out there”

ATLANTA, GA - MAY 24: Ryan Braun #8 of the Milwaukee Brewers waits to hit during the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on May 24, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
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In Saturday’s column for The Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo notes that, according to a scout, Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun is “the hot name out there.” Braun has been bothered by neck and back issues this year, missing on Sunday his eighth start out of the Brewers’ last 14 games, but he has still put up a quality .351/.424/.583 triple-slash line in 170 plate appearances this year.

More importantly for an acquiring team, Braun is in the first year of a five-year, $105 million contract. He’s earning $19 million this season and in the ensuing two seasons, and then his salary decreases slightly to $18 million in 2019, $16 million in 2020, and $15 million if both sides pick up his mutual option (else a $4 million buyout would be exercised).

Per Cafardo, the Astros, Cardinals, Red Sox, Phillies, Mets, Giants, and White Sox are potential landing spots for Braun.

Mets unhappy with Dodgers’ request to make outfield markings to position fielders

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 28:  The 1986 New York Mets are honored before the game between the New York Mets and the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citi Field on May 28, 2016 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.The New York Mets are honoring the 30th anniversary of the 1986 championship season.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Mets have asked MLB for clarification on the Dodgers’ use of a laser rangefinder for defensive positioning over this weekend’s series at Citi Field. The Dodgers notified the Mets’ ground crew that they wanted to mark certain positions in the outfield grass after determining positions with the rangefinder. The grounds crew said they could leave two marks in center field and one in left field.

However, the grounds crew then went to their superiors and told them that the Dodgers threatened to dig holes in the outfield grass with their cleats, so the grounds crew was then instructed to “erase or obliterate” any of the Dodgers’ markings.

According to Rosenthal, Major League Baseball reinforced a few weeks ago that teams aren’t allowed to use markers to aid defensive positioning. The Dodgers haven’t been accused of doing anything nefarious during a game. Howie Kendrick was seen pulling something out of his pocket in the outfield, but Brett Anderson clarified on Twitter that it was just a piece of paper with notes for defensive positioning.

The series between the Mets and Dodgers has been heated, as Noah Syndergaard was ejected for throwing at Chase Utley on Saturday. Utley then responded by hitting two home runs, one of which was a grand slam. The Mets may have a legitimate concern, or it may just be gamesmanship.