Saturday, April 30, 2005

National League April All-Stars

Without further ado, the NL VORP-masters (that definitely sounds like something from Dungeons and Dragons).

C Paul Lo Duca, Florida
.344 AVG/.420 OBP/.426 SLG/1 HR/8 RBI

Where are the good NL catchers? Lo Duca's line is nice enough, but he's totally punchless. The NL is devoid of slugging catchers. Piazza needs to be put out to pasture, and Johnny Estrada and Michael Barrett seem to be regressing after career years in 2004.

1B Derrek Lee, Chicago
.430 AVG/.511 OBP/.797 SLG/7 HR/27 RBI

Lee is otherworldy, but we'll see how he handles the Astros. He's mostly feasted on Cincinnati's pitching staff. Still, this is impressive if only because Lee is usually around a .230 hitter in April. He's already the front-runner for NL MVP, and while he'll regress, look for him to finally have that 40 HR/100 RBI season to go along with the Gold Glove.

2B Jeff Kent, Los Angeles
.342 AVG/.458 OBP/.671 SLG/6 HR/18 RBI

Another year, another solid season for Kent, at least that's how it's shaping up. He'll be a classic borderline Hall-of-Fame candidate. He and Sandberg will end up with virtually identical numbers, but Kent is playing in a hitter's era and has never been the star on his team, both of which will count against him. That, and the porn 'stache. Anyway, he's drawing lots of walks this year, which bodes well for his chances to remain the best 2B in the NL.

3B Chipper Jones, Atlanta
.381 AVG/.512 OBP/.698 SLG/4 HR/13 RBI

Chip-Chip is rebounding nicely from his worst season ever, and is making that .248 AVG in '04 look like a fluke. Edgardo Alfonzo and Vinny Castilla are also off to fast starts, seemingly eager to prove to legions of statheads that they are not washed up. Troy Glaus and the young Met-ster David Wright are also off to good starts--this is a very deep position in the NL.

SS Clint Barmes, Colorado
.421 AVG/.476 OBP/.658 SLG/4 HR/14 RBI

Here we have the Brian Roberts of the NL--the poor man's Brian Roberts (does that make Neifi Perez the poor man's Clint Barmes?). This guy's a rookie, so there's no telling what he might do. His minor league career certainly gave no indication this would happen. He's 26, so he may just be entering his peak. Drawing only 4 walks in a month is not a good sign, however. With the injury to Nomar, this is a position that lacks star power in the NL.

LF Adam Dunn, Cincinnati
.312 AVG/.450 OBP/.766 SLG/6 HR/15 RBI

16 of his 20 hits have gone for extra bases this year. He's not striking out nearly as much as last year, and his walk rate continues to be stellar. This donkey will be kicking in Cincinnati for a long time. Along with other young stars like Miguel Cabrera and Jason Bay, Dunn will make this one of the premier NL positions for years to come.

CF Brad Wilkerson, Washington
.348 AVG/.414 OBP/.596 SLG

He needs to cut down on the strikeouts and raise the walks, but the Last Expo is doing quite nicely in Washington. He's going to do very well for them over the next few years, and his gritty style will make him a fan favorite. Milton Bradley has also started off well. For all the hype about Andruw Jones's spring numbers, his regular season has flopped--even though he's regarded by many as the best defensive centerfielder ever, even that characterization is a bit undeserved. He needs to rebound in May if he's ever to shake the underachiever label.

RF Jason Lane, Houston
.312 AVG/.353 OBP/.587 SLG/4 HR/12 RBI

Jason Lane finally gets playing time, and he finally produces, although who knows what will happen when Lance Berkman returns. Victor Diaz of the Mets has been equally good, so good that he may force the Mets to trade Mike Cameron (possibly to the Yankees, who are making a case to be the least effective defense of all time). Bobby Abreu and J.D. Drew got off to slow starts, but expect one of them to top the list at the end of May. And props to Wily Mo Pena, who put up an unreal .814 SLG in limited at bats.

Starting Pitchers

1. Roger Clemens, Houston
1-0/0.32 ERA/32 K/6 BB

The ageless wonder. Most people guessed that Randy Johnson would be the 40+ pitcher to dominate this season, but he's struggled in New York. The Rocket continues to destroy NL hitters with his splitter. I didn't take Friday's loss to Maddux into account, but if he keeps this up, he'll solidify his case for best right-handed pitcher of all time.

2. Mike Hampton, Atlanta
3-0/1.67 ERA/14 K/10 BB

Mike friggin Hampton? No one saw this one coming. And looking at that K:BB rate, it probably won't continue either. Hampton is also allowing more hits per 9 innings than any other starter that you'll see on this list. Nevertheless, the Braves are happy to be getting some return on his ridiculous $15 million per year contract.

3. Tim Hudson, Atlanta
2-0/0.96 ERA/19 K/8 BB

Hudson's K rates have been declining for the past 3 seasons, but so far in Atlanta, they've leveled off. This is a good sign for the Braves, as Hudson is proving that he can pitch successfully without striking out a huge number of batters. It's not as if Hudson is punchless, but his K rate is about the only thing average about him. Hudson should be a Cy Young contender by the end of the year.

4. John Patterson, Washington
2-1/0.98 ERA/23 K/8 BB

This could be the case of a young pitcher finally putting it together, which would give Washington two pretty strong horses at the front end of their staff (along with Livan Hernandez). Patterson has cut down on his walks and maintained a high K rate, which means he's learning how to harness his stuff. He probably won't continue at this rate for the whole season, but his drop off won't be very steep if he keeps his control.

5. Brett Myers, Philadelphia
1-1/1.35 ERA/34 K/9 BB

Myers is starting to live up to the hype that had people talking about him in the same breath as Mark Prior. Unlike Prior, however, Myers could never translate his nasty repertoire into success until this season. Myers's 9.2 strikeouts per 9 innings is a testament to that; his walk rate is also the lowest it's ever been. The Phillies desperately need an ace to compete in the division with the best pitching in the majors (Willis, Beckett, and Martinez are in the top 10 in VORP), and this could be the year Myers fulfills that role.


1. Billy Wagner, Philadelphia
0-0/5 SV/0.00 ERA/10 K/1 BB

Nathan has been virtually perfect in the AL, Wagner is right behind him. Making his comeback from injuries last year in a big way so far. Phils need him to stay healthy this year.

2. Jason Isringhausen, St. Louis
0-0/7 SV/1.08 ERA/6 K/6 BB

The K:BB ratio isn't pretty, but Isringhausen has gotten the job done...until he got injured. Julian Tavarez and Al Reyes will take over the closing duties. The Cards will have to hope they don't lose too much ground with Izzy on the shelf.

3. Jose Mesa, Pittsburgh
0-0/1.12 ERA/10 K/2 BB

Statheads everywhere predicted the demise of Mesa, but all he's done so far in Pittsburgh is close games. His K:BB ratio was dismal last year, but he's turned it around, and just saved his 300th game. A free fall is still possible with someone his age, but it's looking like Mesa will stave off the inevitable for another year.

All-Ignominy Team: The worst NL position players, starters, and relievers (min 50 PA, worst pitcher is at the top)

C: Yadier Molina, St. Louis
1B: Jim Thome, Philadelphia
2B: Ray Durham, San Francisco
3B: Ty Wigginton, Pittsburgh
SS: Jack Wilson, Pittsburgh
LF: Brian Jordan, Atlanta
CF: Marquis Grissom, San Francisco
RF: Raul Mondesi, Atlanta

SP: Gavin Floyd, Philadelphia
SP: Tim Redding, San Diego
SP: Vicente Padilla, Philadelphia
SP: Brandon Duckworth, Houston
SP: Joe Kennedy, Colorado

RP: Scott Dohmann, Colorado
RP: Byung-Hyun Kim, Colorado
RP: Ryan Speier, Colorado


Anonymous Dan said...

Heh, I like how all the all-ignominy pitchers seem to be from the Rockies. Shouldn't they be given some slack? Oh, and here's an interesting question: How good, honestly, is Todd Helton?? I've been having this debate with Jerry Lai. His numbers are terribly inflated by playing at Coors. Is he a Hall of Famer? Or even a possible one? I mean, could he even hit .330 anywhere else? What do you think?

10:50 AM  
Blogger tylernu said...

First off, VORP is a normalized stat: it takes into account park effects and all that. So yeah, the Rockies pitchers have been really bad.

Let's look at Helton's career away stats to answer your question. His line: .299 AVG/.395 OBP/.523 SLG/96 HR/325 RBI. Now let's look at his home numbers: .374 AVG/.465 OBP/.696 SLG/156 HR/520 RBI.

My guess is that without Coors, Helton at this point in his career would be about a .300 hitter with about 200 homers and 600 RBI. Not bad for a 31-year-old first baseman, but not a Hall-of-Famer. As it is, he stands at .337 with 252 HR and 845 RBI. Let's be conservative and say he ends up around .325 with 350 HR, 1110 RBI, and over 2000 hits. My guess is that won't be enough. That he's playing in a hitter's era is going to count against him, and the Coors effect will count against him a great deal. Heck, there are even whispers that Palmeiro might have a tough time getting in even though he has over 550 HR. Even with Coors, Helton won't get anywhere near that number. Another strike against Helton is the emergence of Albert Pujols, who is putting up basically the same numbers that Helton does (and with more power) outside of Coors. Barring disaster, Pujols will be seen as the premier 1B of the 2000s, and Helton didn't play enough in the 1990s to really be considered part of that decade.

The things Helton has going for him are his high batting average, his consistency, and his gold gloves. Helton's been the best fielding 1B of the 2000s, and since the year 2000, he hasn't had an off year. And part of me guesses that HoF voters will consider Coors to have more of an effect on power numbers than on batting average, even though that's a misconception. If Helton is to make it, he will have to hit .330 for another 5 or 6 years and continue to be strong in the field.

So what do I think of Todd Helton? I think he's an excellent all-around first baseman, but I don't think we'd be talking about Hall of Fame if he weren't in Colorado. At first base, hitting for a high average and being a gold-glover just isn't enough. You need the power to get into the Hall. Just ask Keith Hernandez.

4:28 PM  
Anonymous Sean said...

Helton hits .310 / .422 / .517 on the road, so I'd say he's the real deal. Combine that with an excellent range factor and you have an all-around great player.

Now he just needs to get it together in 2005.

4:29 PM  

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