Last night’s go at the catchers led to some hard feelings apparently, so let me make it clear, these are just OPS projections for 2012, they’re not meant for a hard statement on the game’s best at a position. Anyway, here are the top 10 at first base:
1.017 – Miguel Cabrera (Tigers) – 589 AB – 1.033 in 2011
.993 – Albert Pujols (Angels) – 596 AB – .906 in 2011
.990 – Joey Votto (Reds) – 567 AB – .947 in 2011
.946 – Adrian Gonzalez (Red Sox) – 604 AB – .957 in 2011
.921 – Prince Fielder (Tigers) – 563 AB – .981 in 2011
.873 – Mark Teixeira (Yankees) – 583 AB – .835 in 2011
.864 – Ike Davis (Mets) – 553 AB – .925 in 2011
.860 – Lance Berkman (Cardinals) – 485 AB – .959 in 2011
.850 – Ryan Howard (Phillies) – 380 AB – .835 in 2011
.846 – Paul Konerko (White Sox) – 551 AB – .906 in 2011
– I’ll rank Cabrera with the first basemen for now. He’ll open the season at third for Detroit, but I doubt he’ll finish it there. Of course, he would have topped that list, too. The 1.017 projection is the highest I’ve given to any player this year.
– I would have had Fielder higher had he stayed in the NL, but there will probably be an adjustment period with the league switch. Also, Comerica Park favors right-handed hitters over lefties, which will probably cost Fielder some homers. I have him hitting 32 this year after he finished with 38 last season.
– Just missing the cut were sophomores Eric Hosmer and Freddie Freeman. I have Hosmer improving from .799 to .836 in year two and Freeman going from .795 to .823.
Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.
While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.
When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.
Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.
More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.
Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)
It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.