We did this yesterday for the American League, so now it’s the senior circuit’s turn. Your NL All-Star ballot leaders to date:
C: Yadier Molina
1B: Albert Pujols
2B: Chase Utley
3B: Placido Polanco
SS: Jimmy Rollins
OF: Ryan Braun, Jayson Werth, Shane Victorino
Yeah, Phillies fans are stuffing the ballot box. Whatever. This is what happens when you leave democracy to the people. Nothing will change in this regard until everyone comes to their senses and installs me as Benevolent Dictator.
Of course not all of these choices are bad. Pujols is Pujols (though more on him below), Chase Utley is by far the best second baseman in the league, and Jayson Werth is more than worthy to start for the NL All-Stars. But if we were going purely on early-season performance — which, as I noted yesterday is my personal preference even though I realize that reasonable people may disagree — we’d have a different setup:
- For the first time in forever you have an argument that someone besides Pujols deserves first base. His name is Joey Votto and he currently has an OPS a mere .013 behind El Hombre. No, I don’t think that will last all year or that he’s close to being as good as Pujols is, but Votto at deserves to at least have his name mentioned. Lucky that the fans don’t get to pick backups. Instead of Votto we’d get Rico Brogna or Ricky Jordan or someone.
- Jimmy Rollins and Placido Polanco are beyond lame picks and even the Phillies fans who wrote their names down know it. One has hardly played and the other is currently 10th at OPS in the NL at his position. How about Hanley Ramirez and Ryan Zimmerman instead? If attitude bugs you, swap out Tulowitzki or Stephen Drew instead.
- There aren’t a ton of great choices at catcher in the National League. Brian McCann is having a hot and cold year, currently at cold, and the NL’s best hitting catcher — Ryan Doumit — is a defensive disaster. When in doubt go Molina? Sure, why not. Yadier is great on defense even if he’s not hitting a lick so maybe that should be recognized.
- My first impulse was to give the fans the benefit of the doubt on leaving Andre Ethier out of the top three due to his injury, but given the Polanco and Rollins picks it’s possible that they’re not even watching baseball this year, let alone discounting for lost playing time. Alfonso Soriano has apparently gone from no one realizing how bad he had gotten to no one realizing how good a season he’s having. And c’mon: don’t we have room for Jason Heyward? He’s a modern day Chris Sabo! Or am I the only one who remembers the 1988 All-Star game?
Oh well. Like I said yesterday: it’s an exhibition and not a competition. At least not anymore, so let us not get too bent out of shape about it, mmm-kay?
Former first base and infield coach Nick Leyva was promoted to senior advisor of baseball operations on Saturday, per a report by Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The Pirates also fired third base coach Rick Sofield, with no named successor as of yet.
Leyva joined the Pirates’ organization in the 2011 offseason as a third base coach under manager Clint Hurdle. He shifted to his role as the first base coach and infield coach in 2014, when first base coach Rick Sofield was reassigned to third base prior to the 2015 season. According to Biertempfel, the swap was made in order to optimize the team’s baserunning strategies, all of which appeared to fall flat during the 2015 and 2016 seasons:
The results this season were awful. The Pirates ranked 13th in the National League with a minus-7.0 BsR — a FanGraphs.com metric that measures how many runs above or below league average a team gets via its baserunning.
In 2013 and 2014, the Pirates had one of the top five BsR ratings in the NL. In 2015, they were seventh with a 2.8 BsR.
This season, the Pirates made the second-most outs at third base in the league and were last in taking extra bases on singles and doubles. Their baserunners went from first to third base on hits a league-low 63 times.
Sofield, in particular, highlighted the Pirates’ poor baserunning choices in games like this one, when he sent Sean Rodriguez home too early during the last vestige of a ninth inning rally against the Phillies.
Following the announcement, Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington issued a statement elaborating on Leyva’s role within the organization:
We have great respect and appreciation for both men. We thank them for their time and effort as part of our Major League team and the Pirates organization. It was a difficult decision, but we felt it was the right time to make this change on our Major League staff. We look forward to Nick’s continued impact in his future role with the Pirates. Nick has held nearly every coaching position at the major league level and at the minor league level, including Major League manager, in his extensive career and will be a quality mentor for our minor league managers, coaches and players.
With Game 6 of the NLCS just hours away, the Dodgers will opt for a lefty-heavy lineup against right-hander Kyle Hendricks. Batting leadoff is rookie outfielder Andrew Toles, who made one appearance at the top of the lineup during the 2016 season. The Cubs, meanwhile, will bench Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.. This will be Almora’s first start of the playoffs, and while he has yet to face Kershaw in October, his right-handed bat could play well against the lefty at the bottom of the lineup.
Game time is scheduled for 8 PM EDT; lineups are below.
1. Andrew Toles (L) LF
6. Wilson Contreras (R) C
8. Albert Almora Jr. (R) RF
9. Kyle Hendricks (R) RHP