The Baseball Notebook

June 21, 2010 9:32 PM

All Star Ballot: AL Outfield reports that Texas' Josh Hamilton has overtaken teammate Nelson Cruz for third place in the American League All-Star balloting for outfielders. Cruz's fall has been due to an injury that interrupted an extraordinary start to the season, where he was slugging .729 after 107 at-bats. Hamilton's a worthy replacement, but I believe there are there are three who are even more so. If I had to vote today, my AL outfielders would be the trio of Magglio Ordonez (Detroit), Tori Hunter (LAA) and David DeJesus (Kansas City).

The latter would be the most surprising choice in a lot of people's eyes, but DeJesus is having a fantastic season. With an on-base percentage of .400 and a slugging of .492, he's a complete offensive package. But it's his defense that really sets him apart. His zone rating (a stat at that measures range) is tied for the best among any serious All-Star contender.

It's the complete package that attracted me to my other two picks. Ordonez is the one who is tied with DeJesus defensively; he also has a strong arm and is having an excellent offensive season. Hunter's reputation for D is well-known, and with an OBP/Slugging line of .367/.528 he's helped carry an Angel offense playing without Kendry Morales back into contention. Other contenders for All-Star votes either were missing one of these three components--ability to get on base, ability to hit for power, and ability to play defense--or just haven't excelled to quite the degree that DeJesus, Ordonez and Hunter have.

The strongest two arguments come from Hamilton and Tampa's Carl Crawford, who joins Hamilton in the top three of the current voting (Ichiro Suzuki being the other). Hamilton's defense is way below average, at least compared to All-Stars. Crawford's profile is similar to DeJesus', except his OBP is lower, his defense is lower and he hits in a lineup that has a lot more support.

Honorable mention, and worthy of consideration for a roster spot are J.D. Drew (Boston), Shin Soo-Choo (Cleveland), Nick Swisher (NYY), Ichiro and also Nick Markakis (Baltimore), who joins DeJesus in laboring away from the bright lights of contention. If I could only choose one player from this group, it would be Choo, who's quietly become one of the best and most consistent rightfielders in baseball.


In yesterday's post, I touched on the White Sox recent surge back to contention. Today, let's take a brief look and see if this is something that can sustain, or if Chicago was just the flavor of the week.

Pitching was what keyed the White Sox surge, and that's appropriate, because it was pitching that caused their problems to begin with. John Danks is the only member of this rotation who's really been there all year. Ozzie Guillen is dealing with substandard performance from Jake Peavy, Mark Buehrle and Gavin Floyd. In the case of Peavy, it makes one wonder if he can really succeed outside of the National League and away from Petco Park. Nothing has happened on the South Side to indicate that it's so. Nonetheless, he still has to be considered capable of more than a 5.07 ERA and Floyd and Buerhle have demonstrated they can give much more. So Guillen can reasonably count on the fact that the recent pitching surge will stay around for a while.

Scoring runs is a real problem for this club though. Paul Konerko and Alex Rios are the only ones having truly good years, with perhaps a brief nod to veteran DH Andruw Jones for some modest power. Otherwise, it's dead wood up and down the lineup. If we were back at the start of the season, I'd feel that strong pitching would be enough to win the Central. But we're into Week 12, they're already 5.5 games out, with two teams to catch. We have to further add that the White Sox are too hot not to cool down and the ebb and flow of the season virtually guarantees that they'll lose 2-3 games in the standings before launching another push at the top. A stretch in the summer where the bats disappear for ten games or so ,and the team goes 3-7 is all that's needed to finish them off.

Chicago can still have a good team and a nice season. But they waited too long to get started.

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