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Entries in Boston Red Sox (105)

Monday
Jul022012

My All Star Starters: AL SS

Voting has concluded and the starters are in, but I will continue to put forth my opinion on who should have been chosen for this year's Summer Classic. Up next is American League Shortstop. Voting from the last published tally can be found here.

Excellent shortstops are the best defenders in the infield, combining speed, quick hands, and a strong arm to patrol the depths of the left side of the field. the candidates being voted on were good, but not many American League Shortstops are having monster seasons. Lets take a look at how everything panned out.

 

#1. Derek Jeter, New York Yankees 4,407,982

Who says you can't get better with age. Jeter started this season off on a tear, and though he slowed down a bit, it was enough to propel him to another starting spot on an All Star squad. Let's go back to guess that player.

Player A: 36 G, 153 AB, 56 H, 9 2b, 5 HR, 13 BB, 19 K, 15 RBI, 2 SB, .366 AVG, .413 OBP, .523 SLG

Player B: 40 G, 175 AB, 42 H, 4 2b, 2 HR, 11 BB, 25 K, 10 RBI, 4 SB, .240 AVG, .293 OBP, .297 SLG

Player A is the Captain from before a mid-May off day on the 16th. At the time, Jeter led all of Major League Baseball in hits and was fourth in batting average. After that, the power numbers slipped dramatically, and he quite frankly stopped hitting. Much of this could be attributed to his batting average on balls in play. Below shows his BABIP from the first segment and then the second segment, respectively.

Player APlayer BIn the second quarter of the season, Jeter wasn't catching some of the breaks he was early on, which resulted in a significant drop in average. The Captain is still an integral part of a high powered New York Yankees offense, and his past pedigree may be what won him the starting nod over other qualified candidates. here are his numbers to this point. 

76 G, 328 AB, 41 R, 98 H, 13 2b, 7 HR, 25 RBI, 6 SB, 24 BB, 44 SO, .299 AVG, .349 OBP, .402 SLG

Overall, these numbers are good, but I believe the simple fact that his is a major household name helped him gather the vote numbers he did.

 

#2 Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers 2,764,888

Elvis Andrus has made the American League All Star team as a reserve, but I think that with a more rounded stat sheet than Jeter, he should have won the starting nod. While he is a baseball generation younger than Jeter at only 23 years old, he has shown poise and maturity as he has improved his offensive game, posting a .307 average to this point in the season to couple with his mastery of glovework at the position. Andrus has the potential to be a cornerstone in a potent Texas Rangers lineup for a long time. Andrus' success this season thus far has been capitalizing on mistake pitches, really hitting the ball well on fastballs up in the zone. his average against those particular pitches is .398, which is unreal.

He has only managed a .237 clip on balls down in the zone, which could be due to his high ground ball rate on balls low in the zone. Almost 56% of balls he connects with down there are being pounded into the ground and less than half of those have snuck through as seeing eye grounders.

Elvis has shown off his speed as well, connecting on five triples and swiping sixteen bases. Let's look at his overall numbers.

77 G, 306 AB, 51 R, 94 H, 19 2b, 5 3b, 1 HR, 32 RBI, 16 SB, 36 BB, 40 SO, .307 AVG, .383 OBP, .412 SLG

What stands out to me here is that Andrus leads Jeter in some pretty major categories, most importantly, strikeout to walk ratio. The fact that Andrus has received almost as many free passes as K's has allowed him more opportunities to steal and really shows how he has matured at the plate. While he may not he hitting HRs, the extra base hits are there and he leads Jeter in slugging as well. If we went purely by numbers (not including fan vote numbers), Andrus should be the guy starting the All Star game with Jeter coming off the bench. 

 

#3. J.J. Hardy, Baltimore Orioles 1,331,927

I wish I knew how this guy garnered over a million votes this year. Per usual, the power numbers are there for Hardy, but the average is a putrid .232. In order to be considered an All Star, you need to be good in every facet of the game, not just one. Hardy has displayed some high caliber defense at times this season, which is a very welcome addition to his other talents. Lets look at what Hardy has done successfully.

Hardy is a pure pull hitter now, absolutely annihilating hard stuff on the inside of the plate that he manages to get his hands through the zone quickly on. 

That big red heat zone has resulted in a .400 AVG, .855 SLG, 1.255 OPS against the hard stuff. If you are a pitcher who thinks you can sneak one past Hardy on the inside, I would behoove you to reconsider. If you want to get him out, go with the soft stuff low and away, which seems to be Hardy's dead zone.

Offspeed pitches out here have resulted in a .140 AVG, .160 SLG, .333 OPS. Here are Hardy's stats to this point.

76 G, 326 AB, 39 R, 77 H, 15 2b, 2 3b, 12 HR, 32 RBI, 15 BB, 49 SO, .236 AVG, .270 OBP, .405 SLG

When you have an OBP under .300 for the first half, I don't think your name should even be in the conversation for an All Star appearance, but an admirable power output from Hardy, nonetheless. 

 

#4. Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland Indians 1,063,137

Cabrera has been quietly building on a breakout 2011 campaign, and is well deserving of the All Star reserve spot he was given. He has been an offensive force for Cleveland and his fantasy baseball owners, ranking second among American League fantasy options at the year's thinnest position. 

Our switch hitter on this list, Asdrubal has had some pretty even splits. While he has hit for a slightly better average versus lefties, he has managed to hit for slightly more power versus righties, resulting in almost equivalent OPS's from either side of the plate (.874 from the right and .873 from the left). His most success has come in no strike counts, where he has hit .354. Once the count gets to two strikes, he drops down to .268. The images below show the heat maps, respectively.

No StrikesTwo Strikes

Cabrera's stats speak for themselves.

69 G, 277 AB, 41 R, 83 H, 19 2b, 1 3b, 11 HR, 40 RBI, 2 SB, 32 BB, 39 SO, .300 AVG, .379 OBP, .495 SLG

This is the highest slugging percentage of the group by far. Cabrera could have even been considered for the starting job, but I think he is just fine where he is right now. 

 

Wild Card: Mike Aviles, Boston Red Sox

I'm surprised Aviles wasn't even in the conversation for an All Star bid, considering he leads all AL shortstops in RBI while pounding out more extra base hits than Jeter and Andrus. The average isn't quite there, and neither is the plate discipline, but he should have at least been mentioned. I did a piece on the Sox shortstop before the season started; click here to read.

 

Results:

1. Elvis Andrus

2. Asdrubal Cabrera

3. Derek Jeter

4. Mike Aviles

In the end, I believe the right three were chosen to represent the AL SS's in the All Star game, but the starter could easily have been different as the three seasons each had their own strengths.

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

Monday
Jun252012

Greek God of...Grounders?

With rookie Will Middlebrooks increasingly bumping Kevin Youkilis to the bench and the Chicago White Sox getting such paltry production from the hot corner that manager Robin Ventrua had to think about unretiring (a combined .467 OPS at third base), Sunday's trade that sent Youk and cash to the South Side for Brent Lillibridge and Zach Stewart makes sense for both clubs.

It's impossible for Youkilis not to be an upgrade over the likes of Brent Morel and Orlando Hudson. But Youkilis, who raked to the tune of a 142 OPS+ from 2008-2011, is having a miserable year himself. The 33-year-old has a career-low walk rate (8.5 percent), is punching out more than ever (23.6 percent) and hasn't shown much power, with four home runs in 165 plate appearances. The result? an 87 OPS+.

Youkilis' power outage can be traced to his soaring ground ball rate, particularly against inside pitches. He hit few grounders during a 2010 season in which he slugged a robust .544. Youk's grounder rate increased significantly in 2011 as he was slowed by back, hip and sports hernia injuries and he slugged .459. This year, while again battling back problems, he's slugging just .377 and his ground ball rate is way above the league average:

YearGround Ball Pct.
2010 36.5
2011 41.6
2012 50
MLB Avg., 2010-12 44.6

 

While Youkilis once crushed inside pitches and rarely rolled over on the ball, he has become a ground ball machine against inside stuff lately. Check out his ground ball rate by pitch location over the past three years:

2010

Youkilis' ground ball rate by pitch location, 2010

 2011

Youkilis' ground ball rate by pitch location, 2011

 2012

Youkilis' ground ball rate by pitch location, 2012

Youkilis hit a ground ball against inside pitches about 30 percent of the time in 2010, well below the 41 percent MLB average. That increased to 34 percent in 2011 and has shot up to 53 percent in 2012. Not coincidentally, Youk's slugging percentage versus inside pitches has nosedived: .560 in 2010, .455 in 2011 and .244 this season (.424 average).

If Youkilis can hit anything near his ZiPS projection for the rest of the year (.262/.364/.466), he'll be a gargantuan upgrade for the White Sox and well worth the price of a couple million dollars, a utility player and a so-so swingman. But that's predicated on Youkilis being both healthy and able to handle inside pitches. If he keeps chopping so many inside offerings into the grass, a change in nickname might be in order. "Greek God of Grounders" isn't nearly as catchy, though.