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The Baseball Notebook


June 22, 2010 10:24 PM

All-Star Ballot: NL Outfield

The options for the National League's All-Star outfielders aren't quite as attractive as their American League counterparts. There are fewer players who have complete All-Star resumes in all facets of the game, but the three who would get my vote are Andre Ethier for Los Angeles, along with the St. Louis duo of Matt Holliday and Colby Rasmus.

On the surface, Ethier would seem to be the easiest pick, but his relative lack of defensive skill made me more hesitant on him than any of the three. The key factors that swung me where not only weaknesses in the alternatives, but also that it does not do the Dodger rightfielder justice to simply say he's good at getting on base and hitting for power. He is, in fact, superlative in both areas and as a corner outfielder Joe Torre can live with a lack of range afield. Ethier's .382 OBP and .582 slugging are strong to begin with, but consider that the NL West is to hitters, what the AL East is to pitchers--the death knell for their numbers.

Holliday's power is down a bit, but he's still a balanced hitter and his defense is excellent. The same goes for Rasmus, who's .378/.552 line has been a big shot in the arm to an offense that can't afford to be only a Pujols/Holliday show if they want to get to the World Series.

Six others got consideration, with the best of the rest being Atlanta's star rookie Jason Heyward. I would like to see his slugging get over the .500 threshold though. He's at .481 currently. While Holliday, at .494 is also below that, the Cardinal left fielder has a substantial edge defensively. Voting for Milwaukee's Ryan Braun will never get you laughed at either. I would have liked to vote for the man from my old hometown where my couisins still frequent Miller Park, but Braun just needs modest step-ups across the board. The same goes for Philly's Jayson Werth. And let's given honorable mention to Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen, with a dazzling .392 OPB and could get the nod with improved defense in center field.

It may seem to the reader that I discuss defense to excess. Let me explain, by saying that offense is still the first qualifier. None of the players I looked at were defensive specialists--they could all hit. Once you reach this level, the ability to field your position is often what separates the stars from the very good and that is, of course, what this exercise is about.

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The Mets have won 8 of their last 10 and lead the National League wild-card race. They're just 2.5 games behind Atlanta, and have the hated Phillies in their rearview mirror by three games. They've done it in spite of being hit hard by injuries, at least as hard as their rival, but strong pitching has turned them into something of a surprise team.

It's even more of a surprise when one considers that Johan Santana isn't the one leading the way. Sure, at 5-4, 3.31 ERA, he's far from a liability, but it's Mike Pelfrey whose won nine games and leads the rotation with a 2.69 ERA. And it's the heretofore unknowns of R.A. Dickey and Hisanori Takahashi that have been right behind him. It says something about your pitching when Santana's fighting with Jonathan Niese to be the #4 guy. Pitching cures a lot of ills and that's what happened at Citi Field.

Some of this is due to the park they play in, as Citi works to the pitcher's advantage. And that has its natural correlation in that the hitters don't dazzle you. Jason Bay's power is down, although it's gradually improving after a very slow start. Jose Reyes still hasn't gotten into consistent rhythm since returning from a thyroid problem. It's David Wright who's carried the offense thus far and can't afford to let up.

Now Omar Minyana and Jerry Manuel have to hope they get midseason help, and if all breaks in their favor, they won't need to go outside to the organization to do it. Carlos Beltran has missed the entire year, but could be back in July. John Maine is on a Triple A rehab assignment. Sean Green could help strengthen a shaky setup crew if he returns next month. The same goes for Oliver Perez. Luis Castillo is out with a broken foot. Those are the kinds of names you look to acquire in midseason deals and they could all potentially return to the field in July. The NL East has turned into a tough and competitive fight and the Mets need all hands on deck. 

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