Projecting the AL All-Star roster – Take 2

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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
P
– 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:

Catchers

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.

Shortstops

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.

Outfielders

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.

Pitchers

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.

Major League Baseball limits mound visits, puts off pitch clock until 2019

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Major League Baseball just announced its much awaited pace-of-play initiative for 2018. The big news: no pitch clock, with Rob Manfred deciding, in the words of the league’s press release “to defer the implementation of a pitch timer and a between-batter timer in 2018 in order to provide players with an opportunity to speed up the game without the use of those timers.”

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be changes. In rules changes which were reached with the cooperation of the Players’ Union, teams will now be limited to six non-pitching change mound visits per team per game, and one extra visit if the game goes into extra innings. Also, a new rule is being introduced that is designed to reduce the time required for inning breaks and pitching changes.

The mound visit rule is NOT limited to coach or manager mound visits. It also includes position players, including catchers, visiting the mound to confer about signals and the like. It will not count the normal conversations which take place between plays, such as when a pitcher says something to a fielder as they throw the ball around the horn. It likewise does not include things like a first baseman coming to the mound to clean his spikes off with the pitcher’s gear on the back of the mound. Mound visits to check on injuries will not count either.

While six visits may seem like a lot, it really isn’t once you realize that a pitching coach may go out two or three times in a close game and that a catcher, especially in close games, may come out to talk about signs and things seemingly countless times. Heck, they could re-name this the Jorge Posada or Gary Sanchez rule.

There will be one big exception to the rule, which relates to catchers and pitchers truly being crossed up on signals after they have exhausted mound visits. It reads thusly:

3) Cross-Up in Signs. In the event a team has exhausted its allotment of mound visits in a game (or extra inning) and the home plate umpire determines that the catcher and pitcher did not have a shared understanding of the location or type of pitch that had been signaled by the catcher (otherwise referred to as a “cross-up”), the home plate umpire may, upon request of the catcher, allow the catcher to make a brief mound visit. Any mound visit resulting from a cross-up prior to a team exhausting its allotted number of visits shall count against a team’s total number of allotted mound visits.

This makes sense as a matter of safety, if nothing else, as you don’t want a catcher truly not knowing where a pitch is going. It’s also notable as one of the few rules changes in recent years that actually adds in an umpire’s judgment rather than takes a judgment call away from an umpire. It’ll be worth watching, however, to see how easy a touch umpires are about this. Again: if we have a tense September game between Boston and New York and everyone has used up their mound visits, I wonder if the umps will truly enforce the rule.

The big problem here is that there is nothing in the new rule which talks about the penalty for trying to make a seventh mound visit. To that end:

This is gonna lead, at some point, to a pretty big argument. Should be amazing.

As for innings breaks, There will be a timer that counts down from 2:05 for breaks in locally televised regular season games, from 2:25 for breaks in nationally televised regular season games, and from 2:55 for postseason games. The timer shall start on the last out of an inning for an inning break. 

There are set things the players must be doing at certain points on the clock. To wit:

  • When there are 25 seconds left, the umpire will signal to the pitcher to complete his last warm-up pitch;
  • When there are 20 seconds left, the batter will be announced and must leave on-deck circle, his walk-up music shall begin, and the pitcher shall complete last warm-up pitch;
  • When the clock gets to zero, the pitcher must begin his motion for his first pitch of the inning.

There will be “special circumstance” exceptions, such as when other random things are happening on the field that prevents this, such as in-between inning events going too long or something, and an umpire can determine that a pitcher or batter needs more time for safety purposes.

Enforcement of the clock will be handled by umpires directing players to comply. Players who consistently or flagrantly violate the time limits will be subject to progressive discipline by the league. Put differently, no one is issuing automatic balls or strikes here. It’ll be handled by fines.