Friday, June 29, 2012

The All-Stars

I will be completely forthright with this. 

I hate the All-Star Game.  I hate the idea that it "matters," I hate the fact that every team gets a player, I hate that fans stuff ballots for their guy, and I hate the choices that managers typically make for who gets to go and who doesn't.  Too often, guys aren't selected for what they have done in that season.  Case in point..."let's send Chipper to the All-Star Game!"  This is an often used rallying point and it's absurd to me.  Chase Headley is second in WAR among NL 3B with 3.2.  He's not a power hitter, but he has played stellar defense, gets on base, and has enough pop to get into scoring position in a hurry.  Chipper's a 1.5 WAR player, which ranks sixth, and three months into the season, Larry has played just 42 games.  So, please, official Braves facebook page...knock it off with your #votechipper campaign.

But because this is a Braves blog and the All-Star Rosters will be announced Sunday, here are the Braves that should be in the All-Star Game.  For what it's worth, I don't really care about voting results, every team gets an All-Star, and so on. 

2B - Dan Uggla - Though he has been more 2011 1st Half Uggla and less Uggla Smash lately, the results favor Dan Uggla to back up Aaron Hill as the top two 2B in the NL this season.  Uggla leads NL 2B's with 11 homers, 51 RS, and ranks second in RBI.  More notable is the 15.9% walk rate he's sporting, 2 points higher than his previous best.  He's striking out at a career pace as well so this patient approach has been a bit of a double-edged sword.  In addition, his slugging is the worst of his career and he's in danger of missing out on 30 homers for the seventh consecutive season.  In the field, call it a fluke, but Uggla is posting his best UZR/150 since his rookie season.  While I don't believe he will continue with that all season, it's irrelevant in trying to find this season's All-Stars and Uggla is a deserving one.  That said, you can go with Brandon Phillips and make a valid argument. 

LF - Martin Prado - If there is likely to be a major snub, it could come in the form of Martin Prado, though the guy in right field could also be snubbed.  Prado is having a wonderful bounceback season after last year's troubles.  He continues to display tremendous defense in left, at third, and even in cameos at first.  But you cannot sleep on the job he is doing at the plate.  While Ryan Braun is the obvious better play and Melky Cabrera won't be held out doing what he's doing (still a douche), Prado's .380 OBP and .370 wOBA have been huge catalysts in pushing offense on what has been, at times, a punchless lineup.  He's embraced the speed factor, swiping nine bases compared to 13 bases before this season.  Prado could be the manager's pick to fill out the team like Omar Infante was a couple of years ago, but Prado deserves his spot.

CF - Michael Bourn - When talking up Trevor Bauer, MLB Network's Mitch Williams used footage of Bourn swinging through one of Bauer's pitches for a strikeout and added "and that's a guy (Bourn) that never strikes out."  Well, he does nearly 20% of the time.  And that criticism is all I can use against Bourn, who is having a monster season as a Brave.  With two hits tonight, he could reach the century mark.  He's swiped 20 bases, scored 50 runs, and muscled seven homers after hitting just seven the last three seasons.  While I think he could do a better job getting on base and he does K a shitload for a leadoff guy, Bourn (and the guy who usually has followed him) have given the guys behind them a wealth of opportunities to accumulate RBIs.  His defense in center isn't even close to being matched by anybody in the NL. 

RF - Jason Heyward - An All-Star his rookie season, Heyward should return in his third year as one of the best young talents in the game.  Heyward started off good, slumped in May, and has been a beast in June.  If he continues, we may remember 2012 as the year Heyward started to figure it out.  He's passed all RF's in WAR with 3.1 and is truly the whole package.  10 steals, 12 dingers, a .370 wOBA, and a 7.7 UZR/150.  Oh, and I think he's really only scratching the surface.  Expect him to become more patient and hit even more homers as his experience grows.  And for those who have either compared Heyward to Jeff Francoeur or called Heyward a bust...hey, I'm not the type to say "I told you so"...

P - Craig Kimbrel - How awesome has Kimbrel been this season?  When he gives up a run, we start being concerned that the world is off its axis.  When he gives up a homer, we search the skies for an alien invasion.  Kimbrel has continued to just get better.  After a superb rookie year, Kimbrel has followed it up with a ridiculous first half of the 2012 season.  He has posted a 1.23 FIP in 29 games.  To put that number in context...Arodys Chapman is second among NL relievers in FIP with a 1.77 FIP, or essentially a half-run higher.  Kimbrel's 14.9 K/9 rate is second to Chapman and as is his 1.4 WAR.  His 8.9 weighted fastball is second to Sean Burnett's 9.9.  His 3.4 wCB is third to David Hernandez and teammate Kris Medlen.  Kimbrel is simply dominating at an unGodly pace right now which has been all the more important because the rest of the bullpen has been a major disappointment, save Medlen and Chad Durbin (for the most part). 

There you have it...the five Braves that should be headed to the All-Star Game.  Andrelton Simmons and Brandon Beachy might have been included, but we all know why they won't be going. 

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