Carlos Gonzalez

Pouliot’s midseason award picks: NL MVP

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Now it’s time for the NL midseason MVP, and this year’s picture to date is just as confusing as last year’s was, in my opinion. Of course, the BBWAA decided on Buster Posey pretty handily last year(27 of 32 first-place votes), but I ultimately picked Yadier Molina from a close group of five players.

Here are the current OPS leaders:

.991 – Michael Cuddyer: .343/.396/.594, 15 HR, 52 RBI, 6 SB in 254 AB
.967 – Carlos Gonzalez: .295/.362/.605, 23 HR, 62 RBI, 15 SB in 329 AB
.943 – Joey Votto: .323/.432/.511, 14 HR, 39 RBI, 3 SB in 319 AB
.930 – Paul Goldschmidt: .302/.380/.550, 20 HR, 69 RBI, 9 SB in 318 AB
.921 – David Wright: .306/.394/.528, 13 HR, 43 RBI, 14 SB in 307 AB
.916 – Buster Posey: .312/.390/.526, 12 HR, 48 RBI, 1 SB in 285 AB
.912 – Carlos Gomez: .311/.350/.562, 13 HR, 39 RBI, 17 SB in 299 AB
.889 – Yadier Molina: .351/.393/.497, 6 HR, 45 RBI, 3 SB in 302 AB
.883 – Carlos Beltran: .305/.346/.537, 19 HR, 50 RBI, 1 SB in 298 AB
.881 – Matt Carpenter: .320/.392/.489, 8 HR, 36 RBI, 1 SB in 325 AB
.875 – Shin-Soo Choo: .270/.419/.456, 12 HR, 27 RBI, 9 SB in 307 AB
.875 – Domonic Brown: .279/.326/.549, 22 HR, 60 RBI, 8 SB in 315 AB

Others

1.048 – Troy Tulowitzki: .347/.413/.635, 16 HR, 51 RBI, 0 SB in 222 AB
.856 – Jean Segura: .323/.359/.497, 11 HR, 33 RBI, 26 SB in 334 AB
.839 – Andrew McCutchen: .304/.355/.469, 9 HR, 44 RBI, 17 SB in 311 AB
.829 – Ian Desmond: .282/.323/.506, 15 HR, 49 RBI, 10 SB in 316 AB
.800 – Everth Cabrera: .305/.382/.418, 4 HR, 24 RBI, 31 SB in 275 AB

Baseball-reference WAR

5.4 – Clayton Kershaw
5.1 – Carlos Gomez
4.8 – David Wright
4.6 – Cliff Lee
4.4 – Andrew McCutchen
4.3 – Adam Wainwright
4.3 – Paul Goldschmidt
4.1 – Matt Harvey
4.0 – Carlos Gonzalez
3.7 – Troy Tulowitzki
3.7 – Yadier Molina
3.7 – Joey Votto
3.7 – Matt Carpenter

Fangraphs WAR

4.5 – David Wright
4.5 – Carlos Gomez
4.4 – Adam Wainwright
4.3 – Matt Harvey
4.1 – Matt Carpenter
3.9 – Troy Tulowitzki
3.8 – Andrew McCutchen
3.7 – Yadier Molina
3.6 – Carlos Gonzalez
3.6 – Everth Cabrera
3.5 – Jean Segura
3.5 – Cliff Lee
3.4 – Clayton Kershaw
3.4 – Buster Posey
3.3 – Paul Goldschmidt
3.2 – Joey Votto

So, as of July 5, the NL has different players leading in average (Molina), homers (CarGo), RBI (Goldschmdt), OBP (Vott0), rWAR (Kershaw) and fWAR (Wright). Plus, there’s a shortstop in Tulowitzki who would be leading the league in OPS, only he’s hurt and is about 20 plate appearances short of qualifying for the title. If Tulo had played in 75 games with his rate of production, rather than 61, he’d probably be the clear choice here. As is, he’s a down-ballot pick at best.

Molina makes for an interesting choice again. He’s hitting even better than last year, and he’s thrown out 13 of 29 would-be basestealers while starting 77 of the Cardinals’ 84 games behind the plate. Posey is having a similar season offensively, but he’s started 11 fewer games at catcher (plus eight at first base) and he’s just 11-for-54 throwing out runners. I think it’s a given that Molina has to rank higher than Posey here, though that doesn’t necessarily means he comes in first place.

Among those who have avoided DL stints, Gonzalez has pretty clearly been the league’s best hitter. He leads the NL in homers, slugging and runs scored. Especially impressive is that he’s been even better on the road (.312/.365/.610) than at home (.280/.360/.600) this season. He’s also 15-for-16 stealing bases, and while he’s never had very good defensive numbers in the massive Colorado outfielder, I think  he’s an above average left fielder. Cuddyer, on the other hand, is a below average right fielder. That and the 25 missed games hurt him here.

At first base, the Votto-Goldschmidt battle has to go to Goldschmidt at the moment. It’s not Votto’s fault that he has such a modest RBI total to go along with his outstanding OBP, and he’s probably worthy of a place in the top 10. Goldschmidt, though, has come up huge in big situations. He’s hitting .338/.394/.689 with runners on and .387/.449/.760 with RISP, plus he’s 3-for-5 with two homers with the bases loaded. That’s not something the Diamondbacks can expect to carry forward, but it’s given him a ton of value through 84 games.

And then there are the two position players WAR prefers. Gomez is seventh in the NL in OPS and is justifiably rated as the game’s best defensive center fielder. That makes him one of the league’s most valuable players even if he does play for a last-place Brewers team. Wright has been the Mets’ bright spot, ranking fifth in OPS. He’s playing quality defense, and he’s 14-for-15 as a basestealer.

That’s five paragraphs down and still no mention of anyone from the league’s most successful team. McCutchen is the Pirates’ MVP once again (sorry Mason Grillicon), but he’s also sported a sub-.800 OPS for good chunks of the year. He’s been worse than Gomez offensively, and he’s not quite in Gomez’s league with the glove. He’s worthy of a spot in the top 10, but he can’t come in ahead of Gomez just because his team has been so much better.

Finally, there are the pitchers. Kershaw’s shutout this week propelled him past Gomez into the NL lead in WAR, according to Baseball-reference. Meanwhile, Fangraphs still has Wainwright and Harvey out in front. They’re all close and they’re all worthy of down-ballot consideration, but I think I’m just going to go with the bats this time around.

NL MVP picks

1. Molina
2. Gomez
3. Gonzalez
4. Wright
5. Goldschmidt
6. Carpenter
7. McCutchen
8. Posey
9. Tulowitzki
10. Segura

Molina and Gomez are probably two of the NL’s three most valuable players defensively (with Andrelton Simmons occupying the other slot). That they’ve been top-10 hitters so far as well makes them very difficult to beat here. Both may well tail off in the second half and get passed by bigger bats, but right now, they’re one-two in my mind.

92-year-old World War II vet throws a nifty ceremonial first pitch

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Think of how many bad ceremonial first pitches you’ve seen. From the worm burners from local business owners and pillars of the community at minor league games to ex-big leaguers who obviously haven’t picked up a ball since they retired to the famous celebrity ones that go viral the next day, there are probably a lot more bad first pitches out there than good ones.

But when the good ones come, they’re really enjoyable. And few are more enjoyable than the one which preceded yesterday’s Padres-Mariners game in Seattle. The pitcher: Burke Waldron, a 92-year-old veteran of World War II. He did it in his dress whites. He ran out onto the field beforehand. And though his catcher didn’t set up the full 60 feet, six inches away from where Waldron threw it, it was still a spiffy pitch. Way better than most:

And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 30:  Matt Harvey #33 of the New York Mets celebrates after retiring the side in the seventh inning against the Chicago White Sox  during their game at Citi Field on May 30, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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There were a lot of complete games and a lot of non-complete games that nonetheless saved tired bullpens yesterday. It’s not like it was 1973 all over again or anything, but it was pretty notable all the same. Anyway, here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Mets 1, White Sox 0: Matt Harvey is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 6/1 since deciding to not talk to the media. Clearly avoiding the press is a good move for him and he should continue to do so.

Braves 5, Giants 3: Mike Foltynewicz gave up an early homer to Brandon Belt but then buckled down and allowed only one run over six innings. Mallex Smith hit a three-run triple. If you squint a little you can imagine those two starring in games that actually matter for Atlanta one day.

Red Sox 7, Orioles 2: Steven Wright allowed two runs on four hits in tossing a complete game. It was his third of those on the year. In 2015 the league leaders in complete games in both the NL and the AL notched four each. Will White had 75 of them in 1879. People always talk about Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak as being baseball’s ultimate unbreakable record. I got my money on Will White’s CG mark. If you insist on going post-deadball era I’ll take Bob Feller’s 36 in 1946, which I’m pretty sure is equally unbreakable.

Cardinals 6, Brewers 0: Carlos Martinez struck out eight in eight shutout innings — he needed that — and Matt Carpenter had four hits. Martinez has owned the Brewers so far in his career. He should be getting quarterly reports and have his own parking space at Miller Park.

Athletics 3, Twins 2: Kendall Graveman had an uncharacteristically solid start. Coco Crisp led off the game with a homer. He also added to the difficulty of a nice Chris Coghlan catch on a sac fly in the fifth, providing a body block of sorts. We’ve still never seen a heel-turn in a major league baseball game, but this is how one would start. They’re more creative now, but back in the 80s all the good heel turns started with some minor accident or miscommunication during a tag team match or something, causing the newly formed heel to believe his friend had turned on him when he really just made a mistake. If Coghlan was getting a push as a new heel, this is how it’d go. I doubt it will happen because MLB’s bookers really aren’t on top of things, but I’m gonna watch the next A’s game anyway to see if he hits Crisp with a metal chair during a standup interview with whoever the A’s version of Gordon Solie is.

Mariners 9, Padres 3Kyle Seager and Dae-Ho Lee homered. It wasn’t too long ago that the two teams combined in a Mariners-Padres game might not score nine runs in a whole three-game series. Or at least it felt like that. Seattle has come a long way.

Reds 11, Rockies 8: An 11-8 game with 28 hits and seven home runs that featured a big lead blown and a big rally that had its momentum maintained by a walk to a pitcher? Let me guess: Coors Field? *checks* Yes, I guessed correctly. Two homers from Adam Duvall who has 11 13 on the year somehow.

Astros 8, Diamondbacks 3: The offense was nice for Houston but a big game from Collin McHugh, going the distance the day after the Astros bullpen got sapped, was huge for them too. Jason Castro drove in three. Houston has won six of seven. I told y’all they’d come around eventually.

Cubs 2, Dodgers 0: Jason Hammel had to leave the game after two shutout innings with hamstring cramps. All the Cubs bullpen did was toss seven perfect innings. Not seven shutout innings. Seven perfect innings. Dang. One hit and one walk in the game for the Dodgers, each off of Hammel.

Rangers 9, Indians 2: Nomar Mazara’s hit a homer — a long homer —  in the fourth innins. He now has five home runs and 12 RBI in his last 11 games. The Astros may be turning it around, but the first place Rangers have won eight of 10 so it’s not like they’re gaining much ground.

Nationals 4, Phillies 3: Daniel Murphy hit a solo homer, singled, doubled and drove in three. He’s at .395/.426/.621 on the year. That’ll play. Bryce Harper had to leave after getting hit on the knee with a pitch, but he shouldn’t miss much time.

Blue Jays 4, Yankees 2: The Jays have taken five of six. Marco Estrada allowed three hits and struck out six in eight shutout innings. Just a ton of strong pitching performances yesterday. Not crazy Kershaw-style things, but a lot of “the bullpen was tired after the weekend and we need you to eat innings” kind of gutsy performances, this one being no exception.

Pirates 10, Marlins 0: OK, I take that back. Jeff Locke had a dominant performance with a three-hit shutout. Although he only struck out one dude, so that may or may not qualify depending on your definition of dominance. 105 pitches and no walks is pretty dang spiffy either way, though. Gregory Polanco hit a grand slam. Guy is hitting .315/.393/.565 from the 7-hole.

Royals 6, Rays 2: Eric Hosmer hit a three-run bomb in the Royals’ four-run eighth inning. Four wins in a row for the champs.

Angels 5, Tigers 1: Justin Verlander and Jhoulys Chacin traded zeroes until the eighth inning when Verlander ran out of zeros. The Angels rallied four five runs that inning, four charged to JV, and Chacin kept cruising, finishing the game with 10 strikeouts and allowing only one run in a complete game.

Chacin wins duel with Verlander, Angels top Tigers 5-1

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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Over the first 4 1/2 innings at Angel Stadium, Jhoulys Chacin and Justin Verlander retired all 27 batters they faced. They kept trading zeros deep into the eighth inning of a scintillating pitchers’ duel.

After the Los Angeles Angels finally cracked Verlander, Chacin kept pushing all the way to a breakthrough victory for his new team.

Chacin threw a four-hitter, and Cliff Pennington‘s tiebreaking RBI single during a five-run eighth propelled the Angels to a 5-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Monday night.

With shadows on the field for an early holiday start at Angel Stadium, nobody could get a hit off Chacin (1-1) or Verlander (4-5) until C.J. Cron‘s single leading off the fifth for Los Angeles.

Chacin lost his own perfect game bid on Andrew Romine‘s two-out single in the sixth, but the veteran Venezuelan right-hander persevered all the way to his third career complete game in his fourth start for the Angels.

“It felt great, and I’m really happy,” Chacin said. “I feel like my arm is just getting stronger, and hopefully it can stay like that the whole season.”

Los Angeles acquired Chacin from Atlanta earlier this month to bolster their injury-battered rotation. In his fourth start on the West Coast, he struck out 10 while throwing the Angels’ first complete game of the season.

“There’s no doubt he was hitting his spots,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “He got a lot of called strikes and some ugly swings from some really good hitters. His command was terrific. I don’t even think he threw 20 pitches (while) behind in the count. It was unbelievable.”

Chacin’s dominance was invaluable after the Angels’ bullpen was taxed in a 13-inning loss to Houston on Sunday, their fourth defeat in five games. Facing Detroit for the first time, the veteran right-hander threw his first complete game since 2011.

He fell just shy of the second shutout of his career when J.D. Martinez doubled and scored on Victor Martinez‘s long fly in the ninth, but Los Angeles had already given him plenty of room for error after eight nail-biting innings.

Chacin’s satisfaction was likely as large as the frustration felt by the Tigers, who wasted a gem from Verlander.

“When we don’t do anything offensively, it seems like it’s a lineup epidemic,” Detroit manager Brad Ausmus said. “When you’re in a 0-0 game, there’s no room for error, as you saw.”

Verlander, who threw eight scoreless innings last week against Philadelphia, gave up only one hit in the first seven innings while retiring the first 12 Angels he faced. He got no support from his teammates in Detroit’s fourth loss in five games.

“It’s tough for everybody here,” Verlander said. “You never know with our lineup. We can put up runs in a hurry, so you just kind of keep waiting for the big hit. Just keep going out there and plugging along, and hoping that it happens.”

BIG RALLY

Verlander sat down eight straight Angels shortly after Cron’s hit, but the bottom of their order finally beat him. After Johnny Giavotella and Rafael Ortega opened the eighth with back-to-back singles, Pennington failed on two bunt attempts before confidently lining a single to left.

Gregorio Petit then grounded to short, but Romine’s throw home was too late to get Ortega, and James McCann‘s subsequent throw to first skipped into right field, scoring Pennington.

HOLIDAY PAY

Albert Pujols and Cron added RBI singles off Buck Farmer in the eighth. Pujols has 20 career RBIs on Memorial Day, the most among active big leaguers. He is batting .363 with 32 RBIs against Detroit in his career.

FIELD OF SCREAMS

Detroit has lost 18 of its last 22 games in Anaheim since 2009, including eight straight and 14 of the last 15.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Tigers: Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann went through a pregame workout at Angel Stadium, and he’ll throw a bullpen session Tuesday in hopes of returning later this week from a groin strain.

Angels: Closer Huston Street was activated from the disabled list before the game. He hadn’t pitched since April 23 due to a strained oblique muscle.

UP NEXT

Tigers: Anibal Sanchez (3-6, 6.04 ERA) is winless in four career starts at Angel Stadium.

Angels: Hector Santiago (3-3, 4.58 ERA) got ejected in the third inning of his last start in Texas.

Cubs ‘pen perfect for 7 innings in 1-hit win over Dodgers

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CHICAGO (AP) Travis Wood and three other relievers combined for seven perfect innings after starter Jason Hammel left with cramps, and the Chicago Cubs held the Los Angeles Dodgers to one hit in a 2-0 victory Monday.

Hammel exited after his right hamstring cramped while warming up for the third inning. Wood (3-0) pitched four perfect innings in his longest stint of the season.

Justin Grimm, Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon pitched one inning each for the Cubs, with Rondon getting his ninth save. He has converted 20 straight save opportunities dating back to Aug. 14.

Ben Zobrist extended his hitting streak to a career-high-tying 16 games. He singled leading off the fifth and reached third when right fielder Yasiel Puig misplayed the ball. He scored on Jason Heyward‘s infield single.

Anthony Rizzo drove home Heyward with a double to right.

Zobrist has reached base in his last 35 starts, the longest streak by a Cub since Starlin Castro‘s 40 in 2011.

The Cubs (35-14) have the best record in baseball and are a season-high 21 games over .500. They have won six straight since dropping eight of 12.

They entered Monday 6 1/2 games in front of the second-place Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL Central.

The Dodgers had won six of seven entering this Memorial Day matinee. The Dodgers arrived at their Chicago hotel at 3:30 a.m. following a 4-2 win over Mets on Sunday in New York, but manager Dave Roberts said before the game that his team had no problem with the quick turnaround.

“It makes it a lot easier after you win a game like we did last night,” he said. “To be here (at Wrigley Field) in this environment, it’s pretty exciting. But it’s kind of business as usual.”

Dodgers starting pitcher Alex Wood (1-4) gave up two runs on seven hits in five innings, striking out seven and walking three. His normal turn would have been last Friday, but he injured his left triceps swinging a bat in his previous start, May 21 in San Diego. Nineteen-year-old Julio Urias started in his place Friday.

MEMORIAL DAY LAMENT

Cubs manager Joe Maddon said his father, uncles and grandparents served in the military – and that his Uncle Buzz was a POW.

“The one regret I have in my own personal life is the fact that I never did serve,” Maddon said. “At the time, it was very unpopular. The Vietnam War was going on, and I was in college. At the time, you really thought you were very fortunate not to have to do that. But retrospectively, that would be the one life experience that I missed out on. I wish I hadn’t.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Dodgers: OF Trayce Thompson, who left Saturday’s game in New York with lower back soreness, was 100 percent and available off the bench, according to Roberts. He’s expected to start in left field on Tuesday. … OF Carl Crawford, pulled from Saturday’s game with a hamstring injury, started in left Monday. “I just wanted to give him (Thompson) another day and give C.C. an opportunity,” Roberts said. “C.C. is a quick healer. I like the matchup of him and Hammel.” … RHP Brandon McCarthy (Tommy John surgery) was scheduled to throw to hitters at Dodger Stadium on Monday.

CUBS: Maddon did not start center fielder Dexter Fowler, who has a sore heel. Maddon said he hoped Fowler would return to the lineup Tuesday. Maddon moved Jason Heyward from right to center, shifted Ben Zobrist from second to right, and inserted Javier Baez at second. Zobrist also took Fowler’s leadoff spot. Fowler entered Monday’s game with a six-game hitting streak.

UP NEXT

CUBS: RHP Jake Arrieta (9-0, 1.72 ERA) will try to become the major league’s first 10-game winner. He is the first Cubs starter to win his first nine decisions in a season since Kenny Holtzman in 1967. The only Cubs starter with a longer season-opening streak was Jim McCormick, who started 16-0 in 1886. Arrieta is 20-0 with a 0.98 ERA in 22 starts since Aug. 1, 2015.

DODGERS: LHP Scott Kazmir (4-3, 4.84) pitched for then-Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon’s 2008 World Series team. He has a 1-0 career record and 2.53 ERA in two games against the Cubs. Kazmir is 3-1 in May with a 4.13 ERA.