A.J. Ellis: All-Star?

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The Dodgers picked up their MLB-best 31st victory on Saturday when catcher A.J. Ellis hit a walkoff three-run shot against the Astros’ Wesley Wright.

The heroics are nothing new this year for Ellis.

A 31-year-old former 18th-round pick, he’s batting .317/.442/.517 with five home runs, seven doubles and 23 RBI through 149 plate appearances. And here’s the current leaderboard for FanGraphs’ version of WAR (Wins Above Replacement):

A.J. Ellis – 2.5
Carlos Ruiz – 2.4
Yadier Molina – 1.9
Jonathan Lucroy – 1.9
A.J. Pierzynski – 1.8
Joe Mauer – 1.5
Matt Wieters – 1.4
Buster Posey – 1.2
Carlos Santana – 1.2
Brian McCann – 0.9

Ellis isn’t as consistently great on defense as Ruiz or Molina, but he’s thrown out 16 of 35 would-be base stealers and certainly seems deserving of his first National League All-Star nod. “This is the greatest moment of my personal baseball career,” Ellis told the Associated Press shortly after Saturday’s walkoff. “It’s really humbling, just to be a part of where this team is headed right now. It feels real special.”

Japanese Baseball to begin June 19

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Japanese League commissioner Atsushi Saito announced that Japan’s professional baseball season will open on June 19. Teams can being practice games on June 2. There will be no fans. Indeed, the league has not yet even begun to seriously discuss a plan for fans to begin attending games, though that may happen eventually.

The season will begin three months after its originally scheduled opening day of March 20. It will be 120 games long. Teams in each six-team league — the Central League and Pacific League — will play 24 games against each league opponent. There will be no interleague play and no all-star game.

The announcement came in the wake of a national state of emergency being lifted for both Tokyo and the island of Hokkaido. The rest of the country emerged from the state of emergency earlier this month. This will allow the Japanese leagues to follow leagues in South Korea and Taiwan which have been playing for several weeks.

In the United States, Major League Baseball is hoping to resume spring training in mid June before launching a shortened regular season in early July. That plan is contingent on the league and the players’ union coming to an agreement on both financial arrangements and safety protocols for a 2020 season. Negotiations on both are ongoing. Major League Baseball will, reportedly, make a formal proposal about player compensation tomorrow.