Friday, April 29, 2005

American League April All-Stars

At the end of each month, I'm going to take a look at the best players in each league, creating ongoing All-Star teams. I'll use VORP early on in the season, but as the season wears on and defensive data accumulate, I'll start factoring in FRAA, or Fielding Runs above average. At this point, just about every fielder is hovering around average. I'll start to consider that in June. I'll pick out one player at each position (including DH for the AL), 5 starting pitchers using VORP, and 3 relievers using Baseball Prospectus's stat reliever expected wins added. It's impractical to use VORP for relievers, since relievers always have lower VORP than starters, because they throw fewer innings. American League tonight, National League coming this weekend.

C: Javy Lopez, Baltimore
.356 AVG/.405 OBP/.575/SLG/3 HR/11 RBI

Lopez, Pudge Rodriguez, Jason Varitek, and Joe Mauer are all off to good start. Not surprising. Surprise? Toronto's Gregg Zaun is hanging right there with them. Expect Victor Martinez to break out of his slump and push his way into the top 5 soon. A very deep position in the AL--haven't even mentioned Posada and Kendall yet.

1B: Paul Konerko, Chicago
.241 AVG/.333 OBP/.544 SLG/7 HR/17 RBI

Not overly impressive numbers by Konerko, yet the AL is so weak at this position, even mediocre numbers will put you on top. Expect Mark Teixeira and Justin Morneau to be up here in the coming months. Morneau probably would be had he not spent time on the DL already.

2B: Brian Roberts, Baltimore
.368 AVG/.446 OBP/.713 SLG/7 HR/23 RBI

Quite simply, one of the most improbable breakouts in recent memory. The guy almost doubled his 2004 home run total in one month. This can't last forever, but at a weak position, expect him to stay on top for awhile. O's fans better hope he's not another Brady Anderson.

3B: Alex Rodriguez, New York
.319 AVG/.381 OBP/.713 SLG/8 HR/26 RBI

One caveat here: almost half of his production came on one ridiculous night. That doesn't make the production count any less, but the most consistent performer at third base in the AL so far has been Detroit's Brandon Inge, showing that last year was no fluke. Expect A-Rod to stay on top for the rest of the year, however.

SS: Carlos Guillen, Detroit
.406 AVG/.468 OBP/.565 SLG/1 HR/8 RBI

Another caveat here: Guillen has far fewer plate appearances than either Miguel Tejada or Derek Jeter. Despite only the one homer, Guillen has produced enough in his limited plate appearances to come out on top so far. Tejada will be the best when the season is done, but keep in mind that Jeter is off to the best start of his career.

LF: Manny Ramirez, Boston
.273 AVG/.385 OBP/.623 SLG/7 HR/25 RBI

A man amongst boys at a pretty weak position in the AL. And that's including his 2 week slump to start the season. He's almost worth the money they pay him.

CF: Johnny Damon, Boston
.360 AVG/.409 OBP/.442 SLG/0 HR/11 RBI

Jesus hits lots of singles. If Torii Hunter didn't have such a dreadful OBP, he'd probably be tops here. Luis Matos on Baltimore is also off to a nice start with a .419 OBP. He's a good table-setter for the O's big boppers.

RF: Jacque Jones, Minnesota
.390 AVG/.507 OBP/.678 SLG/3 HR/13 RBI

The former free swinger improved his plate discipline and is on a blistering pace. He'll recede somewhat, but that improved walk rate means Jones could have a career year and push his trade value through the roof. Neck and neck with Jones is Vlad Guererro, who will make a serious run for a back-to-back MVP campaign. Ichiro and Gary Sheffield are also off to great starts.

DH: Shea Hillenbrand, Toronto
.398 AVG/.436 OBP/.545 SLG/2 HR/9 RBI

This is a VORP built largely on singles, and Shea still can't draw a walk to save his life. David Delluci is off to a ridiculous start, and only lack of at bats are keeping him out of the top spot. Dmitri Young has hit well even factoring out opening day. Papi Ortizzle looms in 5th place, ready to pounce.

Starting Pitchers

1. Jon Garland, Chicago
4-0/1.80 ERA/11 K/5 BB

This can't last, can it? The miniscule K rate says no but the miniscule BB rate could counteract that. Stranger things have happened. Garland is only 25, and while his ERA should balloon a bit, this could be the start of an upward arc that will keep the White Sox happy for a long time.

2. Gustavo Chacin, Toronto
4-1/2.48 ERA/18 K/8 BB

Definitely rookie of the month in the AL, and you gotta love the glasses. Pretty much in the same boat as Garland. You know he'll have a few bad starts, and he doesn't strike out nearly enough batters. But his control is good, and that means he should be above average for the rest of the year.

3. Freddy Garcia, Chicago
2-1/2.83 ERA/19 K/9 BB

Garcia is taking the right step back toward the pitcher he was in 2001. Still only 29 years old, he is still capable of a rebirth. He'd better raise that K rate though (I know, broken record).

4. Jamie Moyer, Seattle
4-0/2.53 ERA/23 K/7 BB

Finally, a pitcher with a decent K:BB ratio! And it's ageless wonder Jamie Moyer! Proving you don't have to throw hard to dominate, Moyer is still flummoxing hitters with his lethal changeup. Having Ichiro, Jeremy Reed, and Randy Winn patrolling spacious Safeco Field can't hurt either.

5. Joe Blanton, Oakland
2-0/1.75 ERA/7 K/6 BB

Red flag warning on this one. His tiny batting average on balls in play seems to indicate that he's lucky to have gotten such good results so far. Only 7 strikeouts? Seems a bit ridiculous. He's averaging around 6 1/2 innings per start; the A's need to make sure they don't overtax his arm and make strikeouts even less likely.

Relievers

1. Joe Nathan, Minnesota
1-0/6 SV/.00 ERA/11 K/0 BB

Still hasn't walked anyone. That's impressive. He's not striking as many people out now as he will later, but no walks? No wonder he's on top.

2. Francisco Cordero, Texas
0-0/8 SV/3.48 ERA/14 K/3 BB

Basically one bad game on top of 8 or 9 amazing games. His season should continue in a similar fashion.

3. B.J. Ryan, Baltimore
0-0/3 SV/2.53 ERA/17 K/4 BB

He's emphatically claimed the closer role as his. Can't argue with all those strikeouts--he should be an elite reliever for some time to come. One of the best sliders in baseball.

All-Ignominy team: a quick roundup of the worst AL players so far (min 50 PA). Stats have been hidden to protect your innocent eyes.

C: Miguel Olivo, Seattle
1B: Eli Marrero, Kansas City
2B: Luis Rivas, Minnesota
3B: Mike Cuddyer, Minnesota
SS: Wilson Valdez, Seattle
LF: Eric Byrnes, Oakland
CF: Gary Matthews Jr, Texas
RF: Jermaine Dye, Chicago

Starting pitchers (worst at top)

Jaret Wright, New York
Rob Bell, Tampa Bay
Barry Zito, Oakland
Brian Anderson, Kansas City
Daniel Cabrera, Baltimore

Relivers (worst at top)

Steve Kline, Baltimore
Justin Speier, Toronto
Ugueth Urbina, Detroit

3 Comments:

Anonymous Dan said...

Oh come on! I gotta get some hate for Carlos Pena! This guy has gotta be the worst first baseman out there. His stellar stats: .183, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 22 Ks, 13 hits, .282 slugging. And he plays EVERY DAY. Argh.

10:55 AM  
Blogger tylernu said...

In the time since I posted, Pena has quickly dropped to the bottom. He's been brutal so far.

4:03 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Of course, the day of this post...what does Pena do? He hits two homers to lead us past the BoSox. Hey, i ain't complaining!

11:18 PM  

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