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Marty Brennaman slags Saberists, Joey Votto’s lack of RBI

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It’s not just the walks that make Saberists praise Joey Votto, though. Entering tonight’s game against the Diamondbacks, Votto was hitting .330 with a .441 on-base percentage and .525 slugging percentage. He is one of only five players in baseball to have a .300/.400/.500 or better slash line, along with Miguel Cabrera, Chris Davis, Yadier Molina, and Troy Tulowitzki, all  of them with legitimate early cases for their respective league MVP award. Votto has done the .300/.400/.500 thing in each of the last four seasons. If he does it again in 2013, he would be one of only 35 players in baseball history to have at least five such seasons. Other players to have accomplished the feat five times include Shoeless Joe Jackson, Frank Robinson, Jeff Bagwell, Larry Walker, Lance Berkman, and Miguel Cabrera.

Votto’s RBI total (37) is often compared, disparagingly, to teammate Brandon Phillips (58). According to FanGraphs, Phillips has hit at exactly the league average with a 100 wRC+ (weighted runs created), a stat that weights each offensive event according to its contribution to run scoring, then adjusts for league and park effects. Votto, comparatively, has a 165 wRC+, meaning he has been about 65 percent more productive than an average hitter. Phillips has more RBI than Votto not because he is a better hitter, but because he has simply had more opportunities, in part because Votto gets on base so often ahead of him.

According to Baseball Prospectus, Phillips has come to bat with 239 runners on base, the third-largest total in baseball. Votto has come to bat with 207 runners. It would be higher if Dusty Baker didn’t insist on batting Zack Cozart (.280 OBP) directly in front of him so often. Phillips also walks ten percent less than Votto does (16% to 6%). While Phillips puts the ball in play more often, allowing him to drive in more runners, this also causes him to hit into more outs. Indeed, Phillips has made the sixth-most outs in the National League with 223 in 311 plate appearances (71.7%). Votto has made 198 outs in 340 plate appearances (58.2%).

Look, you don’t have to care about Sabermetrics to recognize that Votto is one of his generation’s best hitters. Sabermetrics certainly help paint him in the light he deserves to be seen in, but all you really need is his slash line. It is criminal to not appreciate Votto’s 2013 as MVP-worthy and his career as being on a Hall of Fame trajectory.

Video: Nelson Cruz hits second-longest home run of 2016

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 14:  Nelson Cruz #23 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates his solo homerun with Daniel Vogelbach #20 of the Seattle Mariners to take a 2-1 lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the seventh inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 14, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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There’s certainly never a bad time to hit a home run, but when you get the opportunity to crush a triple-deck, 493-foot shot off of Tyler Duffey, you should take it. With the Mariners down 2-0 to the Twins in the fourth inning, Cruz hammered a fastball to deep left field for his 39th long ball of the season — and the second-longest home run hit in 2016, to boot.

It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners are 1.5 games back of a playoff spot, although they’ll have to oust the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers to get a wild card. They’ve gone 3-3 in the last week, dropping two consecutive series to the Astros and Blue Jays and taking their series opener against Minnesota 10-1 on Friday night.

Cruz, for his part, entered Saturday’s game with a .299/.337/.610 batting line and six home runs in September. According to ESPN.com’s Home Run Tracker, Cruz sits behind Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli with 13 “no-doubt” home runs in 2016, third-most among major league sluggers. It’s safe to say he can add Saturday’s moonshot to that list.

Marlins’ outfielder and undisputed home run king Giancarlo Stanton remains untouched at the top of the Statcast leaderboard with a 504-ft. home run, and it’s difficult to envision any slugger reaching beyond that before the end of the season. Even so, Cruz won’t need to clear 500 feet to extend an impressive hitting record. One more home run will put the 36-year-old at 40 on the year, making 2016 his third consecutive season with at least 40 homers, and his second such season doing so in Seattle.

Report: John Farrell won’t rule out a postseason return for Pablo Sandoval

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 11:  Pablo Sandoval #48 of the Boston Red Sox looks on from the dugout before the Red Sox home opener against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on April 11, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Orioles defeat the Red Sox 9-7.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.

On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.

At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.

If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.

Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.

Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.