WAR does the All-Star teams – NL version

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Presenting the 2011 NL All-Star team of the moment, courtesy of Wins Above Replacement (in this case, the Baseball-Reference version of it):

C Buster Posey (Giants) – 1.4
1B Joey Votto (Reds) – 2.6
2B Brandon Phillips (Reds) – 1.3
3B Pablo Sandoval (Giants) – 1.5
SS Jose Reyes (Mets) – 1.5
LF Ryan Braun (Brewers) – 2.2
CF Matt Kemp (Dodgers) – 2.5
RF Carlos Beltran (Mets) – 1.9
DH Lance Berkman (Cardinals) – 2.0

C Ramon Hernandez (Reds) – 1.4
C Yadier Molina (Cardinals) – 1.3
1B Gaby Sanchez (Marlins) – 1.9
1B Prince Fielder (Brewers) – 1.4
2B Neil Walker (Pirates) – 1.3
3B Chipper Jones (Braves) – 1.2
SS Troy Tulowitzki (Rockies) – 1.3
INF Ryan Roberts (Diamondbacks) – 1.3
OF Drew Stubbs (Reds) – 1.9
OF Andrew McCutchen (Pirates) – 1.8
OF Matt Holliday (Cardinals) – 1.8
OF Kosuke Fukudome (Cubs) – 1.3

Roy Halladay (Phillies) – 2.7
Kyle Lohse (Cardinals) – 2.4
Josh Johnson (Marlins) – 2.4
Cole Hamels (Phillies) – 2.1
Jaime Garcia (Cardinals) – 2.0
Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers) – 2.0
Hiroki Kuroda (Dodgers) – 1.7
Wandy Rodriguez (Astros) – 1.7

Francisco Rodriguez (Mets) – 1.7
Jonny Venters (Braves) – 1.4
Drew Storen (Nationals) – 1.4
Ryan Madson (Phillies) – 1.2
Mike Adams (Padres) – 1.0

– The Cubs and Padres were the only teams with iffy choices here.  Actually, the Cubs’ Carlos Marmol ranked as the No. 5 reliever at 1.1, but I went for Adams instead there and choice Fukudome as a reserve outfielder.

– Sandoval rates as the NL’s top third baseman despite having played in just 24 games.  Chipper and Placido Polanco both came in at 1.2 WAR.

– Some may be surprised to see Reyes on top of Tulo at shortstop, but Reyes actually has the better OPS of the two now, .840 to .837.  Factor in the park effects and Reyes has been clearly better offensively. 

– Tulo actually turned out to be the Rockies’ lone player on the squad, though both Jhoulys Chacin (1.6) and Matt Lindstrom (1.0) were close to making it.

The “Clayton Kershaw can’t pitch in the postseason” narrative should be dead

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For years, a bulk of the postseason coverage surrounding Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw focused on his poor results once the regular season ended. The three-time Cy Young Award winner carried a career 5.68 postseason ERA following his NLDS Game 1 start against the Diamondbacks last year, a sample size spanning 15 starts and four relief appearances totaling 95 1/3 innings.

Kershaw had a subpar start against the Astros in Game 5 of the World Series last year and the narrative hit a fever pitch. I dug into the numbers at that point and found that a not-insignificant portion of Kershaw’s playoff ERA could be attributed to relievers coming in after him and failing to strand their inherited runners. At the time of that writing (October 30, 2017), Dodger relievers allowed 10 of 16 runners inherited from Kershaw in the playoffs to score, a strand rate of 37.5 percent. That’s roughly half of the league average (around 75 percent).

Kershaw finished out the World Series last year by pitching four scoreless innings of relief in Game 7. He returned to the postseason, starting Game 2 of the NLDS against the Braves this year and tossed eight shutout frames on just two hits with no walks. The narrative should have died there, too. It, of course did not. As the Dodgers advanced to the NLCS, Kershaw got the Game 1 nod against the Brewers and struggled. The Brewers got him for five runs (four earned) across three-plus innings. One of those runs included a home run hit by the opposing pitcher (Brandon Woodruff). Kershaw was also hurt by a passed ball and catcher’s interference on the part of Yasmani Grandal in the third inning. Not a great outing, but not as bad as the line score read, either.

In Game 5 of the NLCS on Wednesday evening, Kershaw once again redeemed himself. He limited the Brewers this time around to a lone run on three hits and two walks with nine strikeouts over seven innings of work. The only run came around in the third inning when Lorenzo Cain hit an RBI double to center field. Kershaw’s career postseason ERA is now 4.11 and it would be much lower if his bullpen had, in the past, done its job more effectively.

According to Katie Sharp of The Athletic, tonight’s postseason start was Kershaw’s eighth in which he allowed one run or fewer and three hits or fewer. No other pitcher in baseball history has made more than five such starts. That’s partially a function of opportunity, as the Dodgers have been in the postseason every year dating back to 2013 as well as in 2008 and ’09. But Kershaw still has to go out there and make the pitches, and he largely has. The “Kershaw can’t pitch in the postseason” narrative is dead. It never should have lived.