Presenting the April All-Stars
May, 1, 2012
By David Schoenfield | ESPN.com
Yep, just another boring April of baseball where nothing exciting happened. We only had one of the greatest April performances of all time. We had a perfect game. We saw the Red Sox blow a 9-0 lead at home to the Yankees -- and lose by six runs. We saw one of the best hitters of all time turn into one of the worst players in the game, at least for a month. We saw pitchers dominate -- 20 starters have an ERA under 2.00. We saw a 19-year-old phenom make his major league debut. We saw a venerable veteran hit .389 with 37 hits. To cap it off, on the final day of the month we saw Ryan Braun hit three home runs out of the Grand Canyon -- aka, Petco Park.
Braun is the first player to hit three home runs at Petco, no mean feat considering it's something like 748 feet to the power alleys. As impressive as that achievement is, it doesn't quite land Braun on our all-April All-Star team.
C: Yadier Molina, Cardinals (.316/.369/.592, 4 HR, 15 RBIs)
Molina is proving last season's power surge was no fluke as he ripped out nine doubles and four home runs in April. He's nailed 43 percent of basestealers and the Cardinals have a 2.61 staff ERA. Terms like team leader are thrown out a bit loosely, but there's little doubt Molina is the heart and soul of the Cards. If not for Matt Kemp, you could make a case for Molina as April's MVP.
1B: Bryan LaHair, Cubs (.390/.470/.780, 5 HR, 14 RBIs)
One of the feel-good stories of the month, the 29-year-old minor league veteran was given the first base job only as a placeholder for prospect Anthony Rizzo. He may not give it up quite so easily. Thirteen of his 23 hits have been for extra bases and, incredibly, he's batting .676 when not striking out. Yeah, yeah ... that impossible to keep up, of course. Still, he could make for some interesting trade bait for a team in a pennant looking for some power at first base. (Yes, we mean you, Los Angeles Dodgers.)
2B: Ian Kinsler, Rangers (.298/.400/.574, 5 HR, 12 RBIs)
Most impressively: 24 runs in 23 games. Since 1950, only 11 times has a player scored 140 runs in a season. Only one of those -- Jeff Bagwell in 2000 -- scored 150 runs. If Kinsler can maintain that .400 OBP -- 45 points higher than last season -- he may have a shot.
3B: David Wright, Mets (.389/.494/.569, 3 HR, 14 RBIs)
Last season was a rough one for third basemen, as several of the top guys landed on the DL. Things got so bad that Scott Rolen made the NL All-Star team. It's a different story in 2012, as six regulars are hitting over .300, Miguel Cabrera is hitting .298 with power and Chase Headley is off to a terrific start for the Padres. But Wright kept his OBP over .500 until the final day of April. Cardinals fans will point to David Freese's 20 RBIs, but Wright's big lead in walks (16 to four) gives him the edge.
SS: Derek Jeter, Yankees (.394/.437/.585, 4 HR, 13 RBIs)
So much for needing a rest. Jeter played every game this month (four starts at DH) and led the majors with 37 hits. His 10 extra-base hits are already nearly one-third of the 34 he punched out a year ago. The range at shortstop remains problematic, but nobody seems to care right now.
LF: Josh Hamilton, Rangers (.395/.438/.744, 9 HR, 25 RBIs
OK, maybe I cheated a little bit here: Hamilton has played twice as many innings in center in left. Sorry, Josh Willingham.
CF: Matt Kemp, Dodgers (.417/.490/.893, 12 HR, 25 RBIs)
We bow down to your greatness, Mr. Kemp, and can't wait to see what you do in May.
RF: Corey Hart, Brewers (.270/.360/.635, 6 HR, 13 RBIs
Not bad for a guy who had knee surgery in early March and wasn't expected to be ready for the start of the season.
DH: David Ortiz, Red Sox (.405/.457/.726, 6 HR, 20 RBIs)
Remember April and May of 2009, when Big Papi hit .185 with one home run? "Trust me, I am not finished," Ortiz said in early June of that year. Many Red Sox fans wanted the club to release him. A Boston columnist called for the club to do so. Maybe it did come close to doing so.
P: Jake Peavy, White Sox (3-1, 1.67, 37.2 IP, 21 H, 5 BB, 33 SO
My pitcher of the month for April, it's great to see Peavy healthy and slinging again. He put together a terrific first five starts, in part because had to face Boston, Texas, Detroit and Baltimore in four of those games.
P: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals (2-0, 1.13, 32 IP, 22 H, 6 BB, 34 SO
He's allowed four runs in five starts ... and has two victories. Please explain to your friends why wins are overrated. He's been absolutely dominant, hasn't allowed a home run and with the Nationals leading the NL East, the speculation has already heated about what the club will do about Strasburg's supposed innings limit if the club is in the pennant race in September. We'll worry about that then; for now, let's enjoy a master at work.
RP: Aroldis Chapman, Reds (2-0, 0.00, 12.1 IP, 5 H, 4 BB, 21 SO)
He's gotten 37 outs -- so 57 percent of his outs have come via the strikeout. It leaves one to wonder: How would he do starting? Please, Dusty, give us the chance to find out.
Guy I wanted to put on the team: Jose Altuve, Astros (.360/.404/.547)
The little guy can flat rake. Enjoy, Astros fans.
Strikeouts don't mean everything award: Derek Lowe, Indians
Lowe is 4-1 with a 2.27 ERA even though he has just nine strikeouts in five starts.
Most un-All-Star: Albert Pujols, Angels (.217/.265/.304, 0 HR, 4 RBIs)
Sorry, with $240 million comes more pressure, more scrutiny and expectations that maybe you'll hit one or two home runs per month. Pujols was arguably the worst player in baseball in April. Who would have thought we'd ever hear such words?
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Denis Poroy/Getty ImagesRyan Braun hits his fourth-inning home run -- his first of three big blasts.Follow David Schoenfield on Twitter