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Entries in All-Star Game (6)

Monday
Jun252012

My All Star Starters: AL 2B

Here we will discuss the American league second base all-star hopefuls. Updated voting totals are here.

Second base is a tough position to find pure hitters, especially those that can hit for power. This is what makes those few guys who can do it all extremely valuable to their teams. Second basemen don't need to have the best arms, but they need to have quick hands and feet, as that could mean the difference between one out and two when trying to turn a double play in the infield. Now we can discuss the top vote getters.

#1. Robinson Cano, New York Yankees 3,559,290

Has there been anyone better than this guy at hitting from second base in the past few years? Robinson Cano can hit for average and power, and he has speed, a great glove, and quick hands in the infield. Cano epitomizes what an all-star second basemen looks like, and he proved his power by taking home the Home Run Derby Title last season. I'm sure having that short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium certainly helps out the left hander as well. If Cano has any fault this season, it is that he has had trouble hitting left handed pitching. As you can see below, the average heat map versus left handed pitching leaves a little to be desired (he is only hitting at a .228 clip versus southpaws).

Taking a look at his average in the lower third of the zone versus lefties (specifically his groundball rate), may show the struggles.

It is fairly clear that Cano's inability to keep the ball off the ground in the lower part of the zone versus left handed pitching has contributed to lowering his average. Besides this small knock, Cano has been the best second basemen in the American League. Here are his stats:

71 G, 274 AB, 82 H, 21 2b, 1 3b, 16 HR, 50 R, 36 RBI, 1 SB, 29 BB, 42 SO, .299 AVG, .367 OBP, .558 SLG 

Cano has been awesome, and he just recently jumped over Ian Kinsler to take over the starting nod in the most recent voting update. I believe that the battle between the two of them in fan voting is not equivalent to the battle between the two of them on the field. (as I'm writing this, Cano hit his 17th)

 

#2. Ian Kinsler, Texas Rangers 3,462,367

Kinsler and Cano have been neck and neck since the voting started, but Cano has been hot lately, which has hurt Kinsler's starting bid. Kinsler has been just average since the season started, but compared to other second basemen, he's been slightly above average. We'll take a look at his average heat map to see what he has brought to the table this season.

Kinsler hasn't had much of a hot zone this season, as he has been just average. Hopefully soon he will catch fire and turn into the Ian Kinsler of previous seasons. His BABIP is higher than his current average which means he may be over achieving a little bit even now. If we look at Kinsler's stat line, it is pretty evident that he is having a non-Kinsler type year. 

71 G, 306 AB, 82 H, 23 2b, 3 3b, 7 HR, 53 R, 35 RBI, 13 SB, 27 BB, 40 SO, .268 AVG, .333 OBP, .431 SLG

Kinsler has appeared in as many games as Cano, but has really only out played him in the stolen base department. Otherwise, their stats are equivalent or Cano has posted better numbers. Cano just recently passed Kinsler for first on the voting list, which I believe is absolutely the appropriate order. Kinsler could provide a back up role on the all-star team, but that would mostly come from past exploits than from this year's production.

 

#3. Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox 1,666,282

Pedey has been an anchor at the second base position for the Red Sox for many years now, having reeled in an AL Rookie of the Year Award and an AL MVP in consecutive seasons. In the past, Pedrioa's strength has been on the inside half of the zone, and this year has been no different. Pedrioa has quick hands and incredible hand eye coordination that allows him to put almost any ball in play. This year has been no different, as most of his power has come from inside pitches. 

Pedrioa has been underwhelming thus far, which much can be contributed to the torn muscle in his thumb. It seems lately though that the Muddy Chicken may have turned the corner, as he has been swatting the ball the last couple of games. Lets take a look at his year to this point.

65 G, 269 AB, 72 H, 18 2b, 1 3b, 5 HR, 37 R, 28 RBI, 3 SB, 23 BB, 35 SO, .268 AVG, .327 OBP, .398 SLG

To this point, the Laser Show hasn't quite been himself, but a solid second half could level out his numbers. With an average similar to Kinsler's, I believe he is in an appropriate position behind the other two second basemen in front of him, and behind by two million votes, I don't see him making a come back.

 

#4. Jason Kipnis, Clevland Indians 852,325

Fans are recognizing how good this kid actually it, as the rookie is nearing one million votes. Kipnis is well deserving of the votes, in fact I think he needs to get some more. He has been almost as productive as Kinsler and Pedroia combined in the HR column. He has had a better average than the two and has knocked in more runs than even Cano. This kid has a bright future in the MLB and his success has come from his ability to make contact with balls all over the strike zone. 

This has led to a good rookie batting average. He has also shown excellent power, driving the ball to all fields.

 

Let's take a look at Kipnis' stats in the first half of his first big league season.

70 G, 283 AB, 78 H, 6 2b, 3 3b, 11 HR, 46 R, 41 RBI, 17 SB, 22 BB, 50 SO, .276 BA, .330 OBP, .435 SLG

This kid has been excellten for Clevland, leading the charge of young talent and should absolutely be considered to make an appearance in Kansas City at the Midsummer Classic. 

 

Wild Card - NONE

I don't believe there is another American League second baseman that should be considered in this discussion, so there is not a wild card who has a chance to break into the discussion.

 

RESULTS:

1. Robinson Cano

2. Jason Kipnis

3. Ian Kinsler

4. Dustin Pedroia

Tuesday
Jun192012

All-Star Starters Debate

The 2012 Major League Baseball All Star Game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City is only a few weeks away, and the fan voting is heating up. Household names like David Ortiz and Joey Votto are leading the charge, but old time players as well as new faces are making their way to the forefront.

Over the next few weeks, I will be chronicling the heated voting as well as cast my decision for who this year's all star starters should be.

First up this evening: American League Catcher which will feature Mike Napoli, Joe Mauer, Matt Wieters, AJ Pierzynski, and Jarrod Saltalamaccia.

Tuesday
Jul122011

Robinson Cano and the Long Ball

New York Yankee Robinson Cano put on quite a show last night as he outdueled Adrian Gonzalez (BOS) in the final round of the HR Derby, winning it with 32 total HRs.  His 12 homers in the final round set a record for the derby.

Playing for the Yankees, a team that has big sluggers like Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, Cano's power sometimes gets short shrift.  But after last night, it will be hard for anyone to ignore his long ball proclivity.

Cano seemed more than comfortable having his father, Jose Cano, throw to him last night.  While BP pitchers usually soft toss fastballs one after another, one wonders if Cano could have produced even more HRs last night if he was facing sliders.

Since 2009, Robinson Cano has hit more HRs off sliders than any AL batter with 21, and second behind fellow HR Derby contestant and former derby winner Prince Fielder (MIL), who has 23.  Those 21 homers tie the number he has hit off fastballs in that same span of time.  His 8.0 HR% on sliders (highest among any pitches he has seen since 2009) ranks 5th in baseball behind Jason Giambi (9.1%), Russell Branyan (9.0%), Prince Fielder (8.3%), and Hideki Matsui (8.3%).

Since the 2010 All-Star Break, Cano has hit 11 HRs off sliders, best in the league.  He has a 27.5% HR/FB rate on sliders, ranking him in the top 4% of the league.    And his 11.0 HR% on sliders in that time is best among all major league hitters, even Jose Bautista (10.4 HR%).

If Cano is looking to top last night's performance in next year's home run derby, perhaps Jose will break out the slider in Kansas City.

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