The SweetSpot National League All-Stars
September, 27, 2011
By David Schoenfield | ESPN.com
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesClayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp have been the bright spots in a tough year for Dodger fans.Yesterday, I presented my American League 2011 All-Stars. Now I give you the National League.
Catcher: Miguel Montero, Diamondbacks (.283/.353/.471, 18 HR, 86 RBI). Atlanta's Brian McCann seemed the favorite here most of the season, but he hasn't been the same since straining an oblique in late July. He hit .146 in August and he's hitting .192 in September. Montero has a .969 OPS with runners on base and has thrown out 40 percent of runners on the bases.
First base: Joey Votto, Reds (.312/.418/.532, 28 HR, 102 RBI). A pretty easy choice over Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols. Fielder and Votto have similar numbers at the plate, but Votto gets a big edge in the field and on the bases.
Second base: Brandon Phillips, Reds (.300/.353/.458, 18 HR, 82 RBI). He's had his best all-around season, batting nearly 30 points over his career mark, posting a career-best on-base percentage and playing his usual excellent defense.
Third base: Pablo Sandoval, Giants (.314/.357/.553, 23 HR, 70 RBI). It wasn't a great year for NL third basemen, with Ryan Zimmerman and David Wright battling injuries and others having poor seasons. Sandoval gets the edge over the Cubs' Aramis Ramirez despite missing more than 40 games himself. But his overall batting line is superb in a tougher pitcher's park and his defense has been excellent, a big advantage over the cement-footed Ramirez.
Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies (.302/.372/.544, 30 HR, 105 RBI). Mets fans aren't going to like this with the season Jose Reyes had, but Tulo has 25 more home runs, more walks, is better with the glove and has played 20 more games. For those who label him only a Coors Field hitter, he's hit .292/.362/.519 on the road.
Outfield: Matt Kemp, Dodgers (.324/.399/.593, 38 HR, 123 RBI, 113 R). Here's a consideration: Is this greatest season ever by a Los Angeles Dodgers' position player? According to Baseball-Reference WAR, his season ranks only behind Adrian Beltre's 48-homer season in 2004, and just ahead of Mike Piazza's 1997. In fact, forget limiting it to just Los Angeles. The only Brooklyn Dodger seasons that rate higher are two from Jackie Robinson, in 1949 and 1951.
Outfield: Ryan Braun, Brewers (.334/.398/.601, 33 HR, 111 RBI, 107 R). In so-called High Leverage situations, he's hit .367/.408/.667. Yes, he's been awesome and clutch.
Outfield: Justin Upton, Diamondbacks (.291/.372/.533, 31 HR, 88 RBI, 105 R). Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman have had slightly better years with the bat, but Holliday missed too much time and Berkman can't match Upton in right field. And remember: He just turned 24.
Starting pitcher: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers (21-5, 2.28 ERA, 233.1 IP, 174 H, 54 BB, 248 SO). He leads the NL in wins, ERA and strikeouts as well as opponents' batting average, OBP and slugging percentage. It's called The Leap.
Starting pitcher: Roy Halladay, Phillies (19-6, 2.35 ERA, 233.2 IP, 208 H, 35 BB, 220 SO). Yeah, he's still pretty good.
Starting pitcher: Cliff Lee, Phillies (17-8, 2.40 ERA, 232.2 IP, 197 H, 42 BB, 238 SO). He had six shutouts (the first pitcher since Randy Johnson in 1998 with that many) and 11 starts where he allowed no runs. If he gets hot in the playoffs like he was in June (0.21 ERA) or August (0.45 ERA), watch out.
Starting pitcher: Ian Kennedy, Diamondbacks (21-4, 2.88 ERA, 222 IP, 186 H, 55 BB, 198 SO). He went 12-1 with a 2.11 ERA in the second half to lead Arizona to the NL West title. Also went 10-0 against the NL West.
Starting pitcher: Cole Hamels, Phillies (14-9. 2.75 ERA, 213 IP, 165 H, 44 BB, 193 SO). Has allowed two runs or fewer in 21 of his 31 starts. Not bad for a No. 3 starter.
Setup: Tyler Clippard, Nationals (3-0, 37 holds, 1.85 ERA). He flew under the radar all season, but he leads the NL in holds, has more strikeouts (103 in 87.1 innings) and a lower WHIP than Jonny Venters. In a year with several outstanding setup men, he's been a dominant workhorse.
Closer: John Axford, Brewers (2-2, 45 saves, 2.01 ERA). Over Craig Kimbrel? Yes, Kimbrel owns an off-the-chart strikeout rate, but the closer's job is to preserve leads, not just strike batters out. Kimbrel has blown seven saves -- that's actually a lot for a modern closer. Axford is 45-for-47, including 42 in a row.
Player of the Year: Kemp. Braun may win the MVP Award and he'd be a deserving honoree, but I'm giving Kemp my mythical Player of the Year award. His big edge, of course, is that he plays center field. Given similar stats, you have to rate the center fielder over the left fielder.