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.

Wanna work as a baseball broadcaster for free?

Two drake Mallard ducks fly over Lake Erie near the Cleveland shoreline, Tuesday, April 1, 2014, in Cleveland. Warming temperatures have brought a variety of waterfowl to the area as they stage for the northern migration. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
AP Photo/Mark Duncan
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(Hat tip to @ItsTonyNow on Twitter for pointing this story out.)

The Madison Mallards are a collegiate summer baseball team in Wisconsin. College players join the league to have an opportunity to showcase their talents for scouts. Though they’re not exactly the New York Yankees, the Mallards do relatively well for themselves. In 2013, they had the highest average attendance among amateur teams, per The Capital Times.

That makes one of their latest job postings seem rather curious. The Mallards are looking for someone to handle both play-by-play broadcasting duties as well as media relations, as seen in this post. Only one problem: the position is unpaid. Here’s the full description (emphasis mine):

The Madison Mallards are looking for an enthusiastic and ambitious individual to join the front office as the Radio Broadcaster.

This position will manage all day-to-day media relations duties and act as the traveling secretary on all road trips. This is a seasonal position, beginning in May 2016 and ending in mid-August. This position is unpaid. The candidate will serve as the full-time radio broadcaster, traveling with the team during the season.

Duties and responsibilities include but are not limited to:
* Write press releases promoting team initiatives including post-game recaps for the team website.
* Coordinate all aspects of team travel including notifying restaurants, hotels, and other teams, getting team orders, room assignments, etc.
* Broadcast all 72 Northwoods League games on 1670 The Zone including pre- and post-game shows, during the regular season (and playoffs if necessary).
* Ability to work long hours, including weekends, as business indicates.
* Strong written and verbal communication skills
* Produce radio commercials for the Mallards and business partners
* Work closely with GM and Corporate Service team to include all sponsor and promotional live reads each gameUpdate the Mallards website daily
* Other duties as assigned by GM

The habit of baseball teams looking for free labor isn’t exactly new. The U.S. Department of Labor investigated the Giants and Marlins in 2013 for possible wage law violations. That included the Giants being investigated for “possible improper use of unpaid interns.” The Giants ended up paying $544,715 in back wages. In a memo that year issued by Rob Manfred, he cited the Department of Labor believing that MLB’s habit of taking advantage of unpaid interns was “endemic to our industry.”

According to U.S. law, a for-profit company can hire an unpaid intern by meeting each of six criteria, according to FindLaw:

  • The internship is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment
  • The experience is for the benefit of the intern
  • The intern does not displace regular employees but works under close supervision of existing staff
  • The employer providing the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded
  • There is no guarantee of a job at the conclusion of the internship
  • Both parties understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the internship

It would seem that the third and fourth criteria wouldn’t be met.

The Mallards are almost certainly looking for a college student — not a well-credentialed media veteran — looking to add to his or her resume. They are also very clearly looking to take advantage of that student given the plethora of job responsibilities with no pay. Current college students are part of the millennial generation which has increasingly been taken advantage of through unpaid internships. Steven Greenhouse wrote for the New York Times in 2012:

No one keeps statistics on the number of college graduates taking unpaid internships, but there is widespread agreement that the number has significantly increased, not least because the jobless rate for college graduates age 24 and under has risen to 9.4 percent, the highest level since the government began keeping records in 1985. (Employment experts estimate that undergraduates work in more than one million internships a year, with Intern Bridge, a research firm, finding almost half unpaid.)

In a capitalist society, businesses are always going to search for the cheapest source of labor. Considering how bad the economy is and has been for millennials, they’ve had a pretty good time finding it. It’s hard to fault college students jumping at the opportunity to work in an industry they like in the hopes of one day landing a dream job. But as much as those businesses might loathe admitting it, that labor is worth something whether it’s for an amateur baseball team or a major league team.

Joey Votto: “I’d rather quit and leave all the money on the table than play at a poor level.”

Cincinnati Reds' Joey Votto reacts after a swinging strike against Chicago Cubs starting pitcher John Lackey in the fourth inning of a baseball game, Saturday, April 23, 2016, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
AP Photo/John Minchillo
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Reds first baseman Joey Votto went 1-for-4 with a walk and an RBI single in Sunday’s 11-inning victory over the Pirates, but his overall stats remain dour. The 2010 NL MVP is batting a meager .230/.330/.310 with a pair of home runs and 12 RBI.

Votto spoke about his struggles in the first month of the 2016 season and he was quite honest. Via C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer:

“It’s not something I’m OK with. I’d rather quit and leave all the money on the table than play at a poor level,” Votto said before Sunday’s game against the Pirates. “I’m here to play and be part of setting a standard. It’s something I’ve always taken pride in. I love to play at a really high level. So far this year, it’s not been that. I will not be a very satisfied, happy person if I don’t perform at the level that I expect.”

Votto added, “I refuse to accept my peak has [passed], I refuse to accept that my best days are in the past. I’m not there yet. I just don’t see that, I don’t feel that.”

Votto, 32, has eight years and $199 million remaining on the 10-year, $225 million contract extension he signed with the Reds in April 2012.

Bryce Harper struck out four times in a game for the first time in nearly four years

Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper reacts after he struck out during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Thursday, April 28, 2016, in Washington. The Phillies won 3-0.(AP Photo/Nick Wass)
AP Photo/Nick Wass
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Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper has not exactly been strikeout-averse over his five-year career, but he has been pretty good about not bunching them up. Entering Sunday’s game against the Cardinals, Harper had struck out three or more times in a game only 21 times in 533 games. He had registered two four-strikeout games, the last of which occurred on August 21, 2012 — his rookie season.

On Sunday, Harper struck out three times against Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez and once against reliever Seung Hwan Oh for the dreaded golden sombrero. The reigning NL MVP has now equaled his walk and strikeout totals at 17 apiece.

Despite the rough afternoon, Harper still owns a lusty .272/.390/.679 triple-slash line with nine home runs and 24 RBI.

Chase Headley doesn’t think Yankee Stadium is as hitter-friendly as advertised

New York Yankees Chase Headley (12) breaks his bat on a ground out to third during the third inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers on Monday, April 25, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)
AP Photo/Brandon Wade
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Yankees third baseman Chase Headley finished April without registering an extra-base hit. Across 71 plate appearances, he registered only nine hits for an uninspiring .150/.268/.150 triple-slash line. Speaking to David Laurilia of FanGraphs, Headley said that Yankee Stadium isn’t as hitter-friendly as many people think it is, and added that the shift has helped to limit his offensive success.

“Everybody talks about how good of a ballpark Yankee Stadium is to hit in, but it’s pretty big with the exception of right field,” said Headley. “The rest of it plays as big, or bigger, than most yards. It’s maybe a better fit for guys who hit the ball high down the line than it for guys who hit the ball like I have for a lot of my career.”

[…]

“Because of the shifting that’s going on now, if you hit the ball on the ground, for the most part you’re out,” Headley told me. “I’m trying to get the ball elevated — I want to hit it hard in the air — and if I never hit another ball on the ground, I’ll be happy.”

According to StatCorner.com, Yankee Stadium is indeed better for left-handed hitters, and particularly so when it comes to extra-base hits. It lists park factors for handedness, setting 100 as average. A higher number means it’s more hitter-friendly. Here are the left-right numbers as of today’s writing:

  • Singles: 101 for left-handed hitters, 102 for right-handed hitters
  • Doubles and triples: 101 LH, 82 RH
  • Home runs: 137 LH, 127 RH

Headley’s hypothesis seems to have some merit. But his claim that shifts have been hurting him doesn’t seem to hold up to the numbers.

babip

Headley’s ground ball BABIP (batting average on balls in play) this season is only .022 behind his career average of .239. As he’s only hit 23 ground balls total this season, the difference between .239 and .217 is less than one hit.

Where Headley’s BABIP is notably lower is line drives. His career average line drive BABIP is .698, but it’s only .333 on nine line drives in 2016. This could be simple bad luck or it could mean Headley is making worse contact. FanGraphs’ batted ball data suggests Headley has been pulling significantly fewer balls (36 percent to his 45 percent career average), and he’s making “hard” contact less often (21 percent versus his 31 percent career average). Overall, there’s been very little change in his ground ball rate versus his fly ball rate.

Headley mentioned to Laurila that if he could, he would try to hit fly balls to the pull side more often. “I’m working on that,” he said.