Projecting the AL All-Star roster – Take 2

Leave a comment

With All-Star balloting set to wrap up this week, I’m going to try
projecting the AL All-Star roster one more time. Here’s what I went
with four weeks ago (starters in bold):

C – Joe Mauer, Victor Martinez
1B – Kevin Youkilis, Justin Morneau, Mark Teixeira
2B – Ian Kinsler, Aaron Hill, Dustin Pedroia
3B – Evan Longoria, Brandon Inge
SS – Derek Jeter, Jason Bartlett
OF – Jason Bay, Josh Hamilton, Ichiro Suzuki, Carl Crawford, Torii Hunter, Adam Jones, Johnny Damon
– Zack Greinke, Roy Halladay, Mark Buehrle, Justin Verlander, CC
Sabathia, Edwin Jackson, Joe Saunders, Mariano Rivera, Jonathan
Papelbon, Frank Francisco, Andrew Bailey, Joe Nathan, Scott Downs

And now:


Starter: Joe Mauer
Backups: Victor Martinez

The vote was over long ago, and Martinez has always been a
no-brainer as the backup. Now it just remains to be seen whether the AL
will opt to make room for a third catcher. No player is especially
deserving, and I imagine everyone would like to see Mauer play at least
six innings.

First basemen

Starter: Mark Teixeira
Backups: Justin Morneau, Kevin Youkilis

Youkilis just reclaimed a modest 40,000-vote lead in the balloting,
but the Yankees are at home this week and the Red Sox are on the road,
suggesting that Teixeira will move back in front. Both should go
regardless, though I’d still prefer to see Youkilis considered the
backup third baseman, making room on the roster for Miguel Cabrera,
Carlos Pena or even Russell Branyan.

Second basemen

Starter: Ian Kinsler
Backup: Aaron Hill, Dustin Pedroia

In an extremely close vote, Kinsler currently leads Pedroia
2,170,100 votes to 2,163,270. But again, the Rangers are at home this
week and the Red Sox are on the road, so barring a big Internet push,
Kinsler would seem to have the clear advantage. Aaron Hill has been the
league’s best regular second baseman and should make the team as the
backup. Pedroia, as the defending AL MVP, is quite worthy of a spot
even if his recent slump has left him with weaker numbers than some of
the competition. Odds are that he’d win the Fan Vote for the last spot
if left off the team initially.

Third basemen

Starter: Evan Longoria
Backup: Brandon Inge

Longoria has a lead of 1.6 million votes on Alex Rodriguez for the
position. Inge still seems like the best choice as a backup, though
it’d be hard to argue with Scott Rolen. Inge has an 894 OPS to Rolen’s
881 mark. Unfortunately, Michael Young might trump them both. Chone
Figgins is another possibility.


Starter: Derek Jeter
Backup: Jason Bartlett

Jeter is the AL’s leading vote-getter, and Bartlett has been the
league’s most productive shortstop. They’re the obvious two, even if
Bartlett did recently spend some time on the DL.


Starters: Jason Bay, Ichiro Suzuki, Josh Hamilton
Backups: Torii Hunter, Carl Crawford, Ben Zobrist, Jermaine Dye

Hamilton hasn’t even been any good when healthy this year, but the
fans clearly want to see him again after what he did in last year’s
Home Run Derby. He has a 145,000-vote lead on Torii Hunter for the last
outfield spot.

I’ve replaced Adam Jones and Johnny Damon from the list of backups
with Zobrist and Dye. Zobrist, who wasn’t on the All-Star ballot, has
to be included somewhere and the outfield is the easiest place to do
it. Dye has been just about as valuable as Adam Lind and has his career
numbers on his side. He could be the White Sox representative, though
Mark Buehrle and Bobby Jenks have cases for spots.


Starters: Zack Greinke, Roy Halladay, Felix Hernandez, Edwin Jackson, CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Tim Wakefield
Relievers: Mariano Rivera, Jonathan Papelbon, Joe Nathan, Andrew Bailey, Brian Fuentes, George Sherrill

Josh Beckett, Justin Verlander and Jered Weaver would receive
consideration, but they’re due to pitch on the Sunday before the
All-Star break, likely ruling them out for the game itself. Kevin
Millwood, Buehrle and Joe Saunders are also deserving.

Wakefield may seem like an odd choice, but he is 10-3 and the Red
Sox are pushing for him. It’d be great to see him get to go to his
first All-Star Game at age 42.

Bailey and Sherrill have strong cases anyway, but they can be the
token picks for the A’s and Orioles, respectively. Fuentes isn’t
especially deserving, but he is the AL leader in saves and he’d still
be a fine choice to face a key left-hander in the All-Star Game.

The Cubs’ NLCS finish was one for the history books

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  Chicago Cubs fans hold a sign after the Chicago Cubs defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 in game six of the National League Championship Series to advance to the World Series against the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

The Cubs obliterated the Dodgers in Game 6 of the NLCS, riding nine shutout innings to their first pennant win since 1945. Here’s what you should know about their historic finish:

  • By virtue of the Cubs’ 71-year World Series drought, Jon Lester and Javier Baez became the club’s first and only postseason MVPs in franchise history. The World Series MVP award was first distributed in 1955, while the NLCS MVP awards have been issued since 1977.
  • Lester and Baez are also the first co-MVPs of the Championship Series since the 1990 Reds celebrated left-hander Randy Myers and right-hander Rob “Nasty Boy” Dibble following the team’s ninth pennant win (per’s Jenifer Langosch).
  • Anthony Rizzo’s fifth inning solo shot in Game 6 tied him with Miguel Cabrera, Alex Gonzalez, and Kyle Schwarber for the most postseason homers hit at Wrigley Field, with three (per Comcast SportsNet’s Christopher Kamka).
  • Rizzo and Willson Contreras’ home runs were the first Clayton Kershaw had given up in the playoffs since Game 4 of the 2015 NLDS. The twin blasts also accounted for a fifth of the total home runs Kershaw had given up in 2016.
  • Clayton Kershaw’s Game Score of 33 was not only the lowest the left-hander had put up since the start of the 2015 season, but the lowest the Cubs had seen from an opposing pitcher in the postseason since 1989. During Game 4 of the 1989 NLCS, Giants’ right-hander Scott Garrelts pitched 4 2/3 innings with eight hits, four runs, and two homers en route to a 6-4 loss and a 33 Game Score.
  • By contrast, Kyle Hendricks’ Game Score of 86 was the third-highest among Cubs’ postseason starters, ranking just below Jake Arrieta’s 11-strikeout complete game during the 2015 wild card tiebreaker and Orval Overall’s three-hitter in Game 5 of the 1908 World Series.
  • The last major league season to feature an ERA leader on the Cubs’ roster was 1945, also the last season in which the Cubs rode to the World Series. In 2016, the MLB ERA leader is Game 6 winner Kyle Hendricks (2.13 ERA); in ‘45, it was left-hander Ray Prim (2.40 ERA), who capped a dominant year with a loss against the Tigers in Game 4 of the World Series and blown save in Game 6.
  • Not to be overlooked in the lefty’s gem on Saturday night: Hendricks and Aroldis Chapman combined to face the minimum number of batters, at 27. According to MLB Stat of the Day, only the 1956 Yankees had also faced the minimum batters in a postseason game, though they did it with just a bit more panache.
  • With Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, Albert Almora Jr., Javier Baez, and Addison Russell penciled into the lineup, the Cubs became the first MLB team to utilize five starters under 25 years old to clinch the NLCS (also via MLB Stat of the Day).
  • If you want to talk postseason drought, the Cubs-Indians World Series will set a precedent for combined championship-less streaks, at 174 years between the two clubs (per ESPN Stats & Info).
  • Speaking of unpleasant streaks, there’s this: with the Dodgers’ loss in the NLCS, they’ve now gone to the postseason four consecutive times without participating in a World Series showdown. According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, that’s a first in major league history.


The Cubs clinch World Series berth with NLCS Game 6 win

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  The Chicago Cubs celebrate defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 in game six of the National League Championship Series to advance to the World Series against the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Getty Images

After 71 years, the Cubs are headed back to the Fall Classic.

The dominance with which Clayton Kershaw attacked the Cubs in Game 2 of the NLCS was nonexistent in Game 6 as the Dodgers’ ace loaded the bases to start the first inning and scattered five extra bases and five runs over five frames. By the time Dave Roberts pulled his starter in the sixth inning, Kershaw was sitting on a Game Score of 33, the lowest he’s mustered since the start of the 2015 season. Only one of his strikes came via curveball, and whether he was having difficulty locating his off-speed stuff or felt more confident with the fastball-slider combo, it was the fewest curves he’d seen land for strikes all year (per David Adler).

Where the Dodgers were able to give Kershaw the edge in Game 2, they found themselves powerless against opposing hurler Kyle Hendricks. Hendricks turned out 7 1/3 scoreless frames with two hits and six strikeouts, preserving the Cubs’ second shutout of the postseason and the first since they bested the Giants in Game 1 of the NLDS. After his 1-0 loss to the Dodgers early in the NLCS, seeing the MLB ERA leader turn out a gem was a relief for the Cubs, especially one as spectacular as an 88-pitch two-hitter.

With Hendricks effectively stymieing the Dodgers’ best attempts to get on base, the Cubs played to their strengths at the plate. Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist cleared the bases in the first inning for a two-run lead, followed by a Dexter Fowler RBI single in the second. Willson Contreras came through in the fourth inning for the Cubs, lifting an 87 m.p.h. slider to left field for his first home run of October, while Anthony Rizzo hit his second homer of the postseason on a 1-1 fastball in the fifth.

Neither bullpen allowed a single run from the sixth inning onward. Dodgers’ right-hander Kenley Jansen took the ball from Kershaw in the sixth, scattering four strikeouts over three innings and denying the Cubs so much as a single baserunner through the end of the game. Aroldis Chapman, meanwhile, issued just one walk in 1 1/3 scoreless frames, inducing a Yasiel Puig double play to clinch the Cubs’ 17th franchise pennant.

With the win, the Cubs will face off against the Indians in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday at 8 PM EDT. And, in case you needed a reminder: