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Joey Votto wants to lead the league in OPS and WAR

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At FanGraphs, David Laurila polled a handful (12, to be specific) of Major Leaguers about with which offensive statistic they would like to lead the league. It’s quite fascinating, particularly that the most popular answer was not batting average, runs, or RBI, but OPS. Had you randomly polled 12 players five years ago, I would imagine nine or ten would have given you batting average or RBI. We’ve come a long way.

Reds first baseman had the best answer, landing on OPS, but saying that it would have been WAR if the question didn’t stipulate an offense-only stat.

“There’s no better thing you can do in baseball than hit home runs, so I’d like to lead in that. That said, I don’t know if there’s a correlation between home runs and general offensive dominance. I don’t know if there is one number that does that.

“I’ve always felt like the top guys in OPS are usually the best hitters in the league. I’m probably biased, because I led the league in it, but I think it’s a big stat. So I guess my answer is OPS, if you’re talking purely offensive stats. If you’re talking overall, I’ll say WAR.”

Votto did indeed lead the league in OPS in 2010, when he won the National League Most Valuable Player award. He has never led in WAR, though he came close in 2010, when his 6.8 FanGraphs WAR was just a hair behind the 7.0 of then-Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols.

Votto has been a bit of a lightning rod in the traditional stats vs. Sabermetrics debate, garnering criticism for not having many RBI (just 61) despite hitting over .300 with a .435 on-base percentage. Teammate Brandon Phillips, comparatively, has 95 RBI but trails Votto in almost all Sabermetric categories.

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.

Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).

A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.

The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.