To get right down to it, one year after the Cubs…I mean the National League…battled the American League with mostly Cubs’ players, we’re talking about who will lead the forces of good against the dark side and their evil leader, Darth Designated Hitter.
Yeah, maybe it’s lame to pull in a Star Wars reference here, but it does sum up rather nicely my distaste for the DH. Anyway…
It seems like just yesterday the Cubs were lined up across the entire infield and part of the outfield for the All Star game. Rizzo, Dexter, KB and more donned those (ugly) National League jerseys and went to work on what ended up being an ironically important losing effort for the Cubs a mere few months later. While I do hate the DH, without Kyle Schwarber in that role, we don’t win the World Series. It is what it is. I’ve moved on.
Getting back to this lackluster year (so far) for the Cubs, and with the All Star game starting to creep up on us, the questions are starting to arise. How many Cubs will be All Stars? Who deserves to go? There is quite a bit of wiggle room yet in terms of time (ends late June), but first off let me remind you of this before I start.
I still hate fan voting. Always have, always will.
It doesn’t mean I love media votes/team votes/etc either, but even though I loved seeing those boys across the field last year, and even though I defended the most bewildering selection to the public in Russell, I still have a distaste for fan voting. You had to admit we aren’t always perfectly rational. At least this year we won’t have to fight that quite as much!
Moving on, here are my personal votes for the National League All Star Team: Note this was written over the course of a day or two, so stats could be off slightly.
C: Buster Posey. Not a hard decision. I trust him behind the dish, he’s smart, and he’s clobbering the baseball. The obnoxious Yadi comments will inevitably arise from “baseball’s best fans,” and while he does have a bit more flair behind the dish than Buster, come on. If you’re voting for Yadi over Buster here, you’re nuts. Buster Posey, and it is easy.
1B: It would be Freddie Freeman, but with the injury, I roll with Ryan Zimmerman, and it isn’t hard to see why. In the past I’ve enjoyed the votes for an underappreciated Paul Goldschmidt, but he and Rizzo aren’t simply doing enough to beat out the absurd numbers Zimmerman is displaying. He won’t keep it up, Rizzo has the base to catch him, but it’s all going to depend on how quickly Zimmerman fades. I’m not buying him yet, but for now, he deserves it. I do think Rizzo will catch him soon.
2B: This is interesting to me. Javy’s name comes to mind because of that ridiculous glove, and I hate ignoring defense (wait till we get to the outfield) and making this all about offense, but even Javy hasn’t been perfect here. Baez has the pop and flash, but I have to roll back to Washington here and go with Daniel Murphy, who for some reason I cannot stand. Still though, the man’s hitting a solid .338 with 10 HR’s and 41 RBI’s as of June 13th. Javy is not close to that outside of home runs, and WAR suggests Murphy is also the better player right now. I don’t like it, but I move on.
3B: This is shocking to me for a few reasons. First off, Kris Bryant will be your Cubs All Star representative here, but considering his entire year so far, and considering what other third basemen have been in the past, it’s really unbelievable. My guess is Kris will put together a solid stretch soon ending any debate that might suggest otherwise, but it isn’t like my other favorite in Arenado should be ignored. He and Bryant both have 14 home runs, but Nolan has nearly double the RBI total and we know he plays a spectacular third base. I want to give it to Kris, and I’m not sure the RBI can’t be entirely blamed on him with his team struggling and Arenado’s team thriving, but deep down, in this very moment, Arenado gets the vote. This is close, though, and subject to change when this sentence ends.
I now choose Kris Bryant.
But really I’ll list Arendo, because it’s the right thing to do.
SS: I kind of hate this spot. The defense here can, more than any other position I think, change everything. I love defense (I love pitching more), so it isn’t that bringing in the topic hurts the argument as you’ll see soon enough in the outfield, but normally I can use defense to separate close calls. Here, however, it can totally dismantle subpar offense, as we saw with Russell last year, even though everybody ignored the fact he had about 100 RBI in a terrible spot in the order. 2017 hasn’t been the same, and as of now Zack Cozart (who didn’t see that coming, am I right?) leads the position in votes. Corey Seager isn’t far behind, nor is Addison Russell, and of course this will be a fascinating fan vote push the closer and closer we get. While in this exact moment I want to choose Cosart, Seager will and should be the NL Starter. Cozart leading the position in hits goes well with his 4th in MLB WAR of 3.1 and great defense, but I believe Seager will take it over, and rightfully so, by July and obviously therefore the late June vote deadline. I hate to do this, but I’m taking Seager because of what I believe he WILL do, not just what’s he’s already done, and I hate myself for it. Really, really, really hate myself for it.
OF: It might not seem like it, but I’m a little OCD about how everything is organized. I can hear my wife laughing now. Sure, maybe I don’t seem organized to you, but I can make sense of my own chaos, which leads me to the outfield voting. It’s just a giant list because they are voted in as outfielders only, not by specific positions, and then slammed in one group. So rather than seeing my nice, simple list for 1B only, I see a gigantic list that contains room for all three outfield spots…and it frustrates me. Therefore I’ve decided rather than trying to go piece by piece here on positions, I’m just going to give you my list of my top three with some explanations.
Bryce Harper. The easiest name on the list, the leading vote getter by 17,567,245,124 votes, and an absolute fireball. Personally, I dig Bryce Harper. Of my two best friends, one hates him and the other loves him too (I’ll let you guess as to which of us are Cubs fans and which is a freaking Braves fan…I know, right?). I love his fire, find it healthy for his team, and think he likes winning more than anything in the world.
I want that, and I think it should be included here in the process.
He won’t come to Chicago, so don’t read this wrong, but when he said he’d like to play with us, I almost died. It won’t happen because of money, but the kid is an absolute beast and deserves his spot here.
2) Next on my list is Charlie Blackmon, who in the past I’ve written about with the greatest hopes he’d become a Cub. I’m a big, burly, bearded guy, so it isn’t hard to figure out why I like him, even if I have Blackmon by a few pounds or so…ish…cough…35….cough…and he’s two inches taller than me.
He’s a ballplayer, and unfortunately with the Rockies playing well, he’s not going anywhere. FYI, the Rockies won’t win much of anything this year even if they make the playoffs. They won’t win that division, but if they hung on for a Wild Card it wouldn’t make me believe in them…not yet. I think he’s a good teammate, likes to play the way he needs to, and while he’ll certainly slide a little bit offensively, so does every other guy who starts off that hot not named Tony Gwynn.
3) This is where it gets tricky, and why I wish defense was appreciate more, and why I should pay more attention to it in the other spots. Like shortstop, defense in the outfield is always ignored until it’s needed, and Jason Heyward is currently in third on the voting, with his defense not going unnoticed. While he is indeed hitting extraordinarily better than 2016, guys like Matt Kemp are beating the ball up out there. WAR suggests Heyward is a much better choice than Kemp (1.4 vs .5), and I like keeping that in mind if I can here, but I also hope I’m not letting my bias show. I like Kemp’s bat, but I truly would prefer Heyward fielding out there than Kemp’s offense. Marcell Ozuna on the other hand is hitting like a madman with a 2.8 total WAR, so there’s that too. All of this together, Heyward is the only one even on the ESPN Defensive War Leader page at .8, so clearly he is far and above the man with the glove.
That begs the question. Do you want Kemps resurgence and lack of arm? Ozuna’s no name offense and better than average defense? Or Heyward moderate offense with stellar defense? Truly, I have no idea how to answer it, which I both love and hate. I just said earlier that shortstop is the place I like to use defense most, and I hate letting offense lead the way, but it is difficult to let this go to any of them without getting blown up for one reason or the other.
Kemps defensive dWAR is currently listed at -.9, so I eliminate him. The problem with bringing in dWAR is guys like Stanton have a -.2, so that’s better than my second pick in Blackmon (FYI Harper’s dWAR is listed at 0.0), but it’s not as bad as Kemp. Ozuna is at .2, so at least he’s in the positive, and while Heyward is better with the glove, the offensive lines are not close:
Heyward: .262, 6 HRs, 29 RBI, .8 dWAR
Ozuna: .332, 16 HRs, and 44 RBI, .2 dWAR
Heyward beats Stanton because of defense, but Ozuna beats Heyward because of offense, and Kemp follows both because he’s old and can’t move or something.
That’s the best I can do for now working 3 jobs and trying to write on the side. I feel like I deserve some credit for that. If not, meh. I’ll live.
In closing, the condensed list, subject to change.
C: Buster Posey
1B: Ryan Zimmerman
2B: Daniel Murphy
3B: Nolan Arenado
SS: Corey Seager
OF: Bryce Harper
OF: Charlie Blackmon
OF: Marcell Ozuna
It’ll all change in a week anyway.