Tag Archives: Angels

3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Los Angeles Angels

The next AL West team in our continuing previews all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2017 season, is the Los Angeles Angels, who finished in fourth place in the division last season

Coming off a 74-88 season, the Angels made some trades intended to upgrade their offense, namely getting 2B Danny Espinosa from the Nationals and Cameron Maybin from the Tigers. They also made a swap of catchers, sending C Jett Bandy to the Brewers in exchange for C Martin Maldonado and a pitcher. In free agency, they signed 1B Luis Valbuena to a two-year contract, but a strained hamstring will cause him to miss four to six weeks, which opens the door for Jefry Marte and/or C.J. Cron to get more time at the position in the early part of the season. Other than that, the team remains largely intact from last season, including 2016 American League Cy Young winner Mike Trout manning center field. The starting rotation includes SPs Garrett Richards and Matt Shoemaker.

The Angels hit .260 last season, which ranked ninth in Major League Baseball, with 156 home runs, which were the sixth-fewest. They ranked in the bottom 10 with a .726 OPS. Trout hit .315 — 10th-best in the majors — with 29 home runs and a .991 OPS that was second-best in the majors. His 10.6 WAR was tops among all major leaguers. DH Albert Pujols led the team with 31 home runs and hit .268, which was 24 points higher than a season before. Cron hit .278 with 16 home runs, and OF Kole Calhoun hit .271 with 18 home runs. With the Astros last season, Valbuena hit .260 with 13 home runs. Espinosa hit 24 home runs but hit just .209 with Washington last season, and Maybin hit .315 with 4 home runs in 94 games with Detroit.

The pitching staff finished in the bottom half of the league with a 4.28 ERA and was last in the majors with 1,136 strikeouts. The bullpen wasn’t much better, saving 29 games, which was the third-fewest in MLB. Richards only made six starts, but he pitched well with a 2.34 ERA with 34 strikeouts in 34.2 innings over that limited sample size. Shoemaker posted a 3.88 ERA with 143 strikeouts in 160 innings. Veteran SP Ricky Nolasco, who was acquired midseason in a trade with the Twins, put up decent numbers in his 11 starts with the Angels, posting a 3.21 ERA, with 51 strikeouts in 73 innings. SP Tyler Skaggs, who spent much of the year on the disabled list, had a 4.17 ERA with 50 strikeouts in 49.2 innings over 10 starts. No reliever saved more than 10 games, with RP Huston Street leading the team with 9 saves while RPs Fernando Salas and Joe Smith each recorded 6. RP Cam Bedrosian, pitched in 45 games, striking out 51 batters in 40.1 innings as he put up a 1.12 ERA and recorded 1 save.

The offense should be improved this season with the acquisitions of Maybin, Espinosa and — when he returns — Valbuena, but the pitching is where the team will again suffer this season. There is no true ace in the rotation,though I suspect Showmaker could have a breakout season this year. And if Nolasco can continue the strong performance he had in the second half after coming to the team, it would help the team win more games. There’s no clear closer in the bullpen. Going by numbers, Bedrosian is probably the best option, but Street and RP Andrew Bailey both have experience in the position, which could sway old-school manager Mike Scioscia to use them in the role.

The division should be a three-team race again this season with the Rangers, Astros and Mariners competing for the top spot, leaving the Angels and A’s on the outside of the race. As was the case last year, the Angels are probably a better team than Oakland, which should help them avoid a last-place finish, but the Angels aren’t looking like they’ll be able to avoid another fourth-place finish in 2017.

Be sure to check back every day around 12pm Eastern for another team preview, see them all here, and follow me on Twitter for a link to each new post when it’s posted.

Source: http://www.angels.comhttp://www.baseball-reference.com

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3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: San Diego Padres

Continuing with the NL West, the next team in our continuing series previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2017 season is the San Diego Padres, who finished in last place in the division last season

The Padres went 68-94 last season — their worst record since 2008 — and are entering this season with a team made up of mostly inexperienced hitters and veteran pitchers who don’t have a great track record in the majors. The team traded away C Derek Norris — who was subsequently released by the Nationals and then signed by the Rays — this winter, which means Austin Hedges, who has played 64 games in Major League Baseball, will begin the season as the starting catcher. The rest of the offense includes 1B Wil Myers — who signed a six-year contract extension with the team in January — and 3B Yangervis Solarte, who are the team’s best hitters, and 2B Ryan Schimpf, who showed some power in about half-a-season in the majors last year. The rotation is led by veteran SPs Clayton Richard and Jered Weaver, who comes to the Padres after spending the first 11 years of his career with the Angels.

Last season saw the Padres hit a MLB-worst .235 while finishing in the bottom half of the majors with 177 home runs. Their .689 OPS was tied for the second-worst in the majors. Solarte hit .286 with 15 home runs and a .808 OPS. Myers hit .259 with a team-high 28 home runs and a .797 OPS. Myers also stole 28 bases, which was the 10th-most in the National League. In 89 major-league games, Schimpf only hit .217, but he smacked 20 home runs in 330 at-bats and led the team with a .869 OPS. OF Alex Dickerson showed some promising signs in 84 games, hitting .257 with 10 home runs in 253 at-bats.

The pitching staff also wasn’t very good last season, finishing the year with a 4.43 ERA that was the eighth-worst in the majors. The pitchers recorded 1,222 strikeouts, which ranked in the bottom six, and the bullpen totaled 35 saves, which was fifth-worst. In 36 appearances last season, but only nine starts, with the Cubs and Padres, Richard posted a respectable 3.33 ERA but had just 41 strikeouts in 67.2 innings. Weaver started 31 games for the Angels last season and posted a career-worst 5.06 ERA with 103 strikeouts in 178 innings. SP Christian Friedrich, who is fighting for a spot in the rotation, put up a 4.80 ERA with 100 strikeouts in 129.1 innings. RP Fernando Rodney, who is now with the Diamondbacks, led the team in saves last season, but RP Brandon Maurer wasn’t far behind him with 13 saves. Maurer’s 4.52 ERA wasn’t great, but he did get 72 strikeouts in 69.2 innings.

Again, apart from Myers and Solarte there’s not a lot to get excited about with the Padres’ offense. Hedges could show the team something as he gets to be he everyday starter behind the plate, but the most promising prospect on the team is OF Hunter Renfroe, who hit .371 with 4 home runs in 11 games last season. Obviously a miniscule sample size, but if he can even be around the .275 mark with about 20 home runs for a full season, it would provide a significant boost to an offense that desperately needs it. Look for Renfroe as a potential NL Rookie of the Year candidate as the season progresses. There’s not a lot to talk about with the starting rotation, unless SP Luis Perdomo can put together a strong season, but that’s not likely after he put up a 5.71 ERA in his rookie season last year. There’s not a clear-cut closer in the bullpen, though Maurer will probably get the first shot at closing out games. RP Carter Capps could get some saves during the season, but he’s dealing with an elbow injury that could prevent him from being ready for Opening Day.

Barring a miracle, don’t expect the Padres to even come close to a .500 record this season. Not only are they the worst team in the division, but they’re probably one of the worst teams in the National League with a rotation made up of guys who would be at the backend of most teams’ rotations, if they even made the starting lineups on other teams.

Be sure to check back every day around 12pm Eastern for another team preview, see them all here, and follow me on Twitter for a link to each new post when it’s posted.

Source: http://www.padres.comhttp://www.baseball-reference.com

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2016 World Series preview: Chicago Cubs vs. Cleveland Indians — A battle of the droughts

With the conclusion of the ALCS and NLCS, we have reached what may be the most anticipated World Series in quite some time with the Cleveland Indians, who haven’t won the World Series since 1948, taking on the Chicago Cubs, whose World Series-winning drought famously dates back more than a century to 1908, and their last World Series appearance taking place in 1945 — before the World Series was even televised.

Regardless of the lack of World Series success the teams have had in their respective histories, they both deserve to be in this year’s Fall Classic; the Cubs had a MLB-best 103 wins during the regular season, while the Indians’ 94 wins left them one victory behind the Rangers, giving them the second-best record in the American League. The Indians bulldozed their way through the American League playoffs, sweeping the Red Sox in the ALDS and beating the Blue Jays in the ALCS, losing just one game to win the series in five. The Cubs’ path to the World Series was a little more difficult; they needed four games to beat the Giants in the NLDS and the Dodgers took them to six games in the NLCS.

The American League won this year’s All-Star Game for the fourth straight season, giving the Indians home-field advantage in the World Series. As a result, Games 1 and 2 will be in Cleveland. Wrigley Field will host its first World Series game in 71 years on Friday when Game 3 takes place, with Games 4 and, if necessary, 5 following it over the weekend — assuming there are no weather issues that affect the schedule. If Games 6 and 7 are necessary, they are scheduled for Cleveland on Nov. 1 and 2, respectively. First pitch for all games, except Game 5 on Sunday, are scheduled for 8:08pm Eastern; first pitch Sunday is at 8:15pm Eastern. All games are on Fox in the U.S.

The Cubs have the advantage in the starting rotation, led by likely National League Cy Young winner SP Kyle Hendricks, who pitched 7.1 innings of 2-hit ball in Game 6 of the NLCS to clinch the pennant for the Cubs. During the regular season, Hendricks was 16-8 with a 2.13 ERA. SP Jon Lester also had a big season for the Cubs, going 19-5 with a 2.44 ERA. After a strong start to the season, SP Jake Arrieta was inconsistent in the second half en route to a 18-8 record and 3.10 ERA. If a fourth starter is needed in the series, the task would likely fall to veteran SP John Lackey, who is a two-time World Series champion, having won it with the 2002 Angels and 2013 Red Sox. Injuries have had an affect on the Indians’ rotation, with SPs Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar missing significant chunks of the season; Carrasco is out for the season, but Salazar has recently started throwing and could be added to the World Series roster. Leading the Tribe’s rotation is SP Corey Kluber, who led the team during the season with a 18-9 record to go with his 3.14 ERA. Behind him in the rotation are SP Josh Tomlin, who was 13-9 with a 4.40 ERA this season, and SP Trevor Bauer, who is confident he’ll be able to pitch in the World Series despite a well-publicized finger laceration caused by a recent drone accident. If Bauer can’t go, P Ryan Merritt may get his second start of the postseason; he went 4.1 scoreless innings in the Game 5 clincher.

While the Cubs have the better rotation, the bullpen advantage goes the other way, with the Indians. RP Andrew Miller, who was acquired from the Yankees in a midseason trade, was an X-factor in the ALCS and could be the same against the Cubs. He can come in in the middle of the game if needed or pitch later in the game to get the ball to closer Cody Allen with the lead intact. In six appearances in the postseason, Miller has struck out 21 batters in 11.2 innings while earning a win and a save and not allowing an earned run. Allen is a perfect 5-for-5 in save opportunities this postseason. Like the Indians, the Cubs acquired a top-level reliever from the Yankees before the trade deadline, RP Aroldis Chapman, who saved 18 games for the Cubs during the regular season after the trade. His numbers in the postseason haven’t been great, however. Chapman has gone 8 innings, with 10 strikeouts and a 3.38 ERA. He is 1-0 and a has 3 saves in 5 opportunities. That’s not the way you want your closer to be pitching heading into the World Series.

Offense is another part of the game in which the Cubs have the edge.  OF Javier Baez has been leading the charge at the plate for the Cubs, with 13 hits in 38 at-bats, with 4 doubles, 1 home run and 2 steals. 3B Kris Bryant is right up there with Baez; he’s 13-for-39 with 5 doubles and 1 home run. 1B Anthony Rizzo and SS Addison Russell have underperformed in the first two rounds of the playoffs. Each of them is currently hitting under .200 so if they can get back to the offensive production the Cubs have come to expect from them, that would give the Cubs more of an offensive boost. For the Indians, SS Francisco Lindor is the sole regular hitting over .300; he has 10 hits in 31 at-bats, with 2 doubles and 2 home runs. Other key hitters, like 2B Jason Kipnis and 1B Mike Napoli have sub-.200 batting averages in the postseason. If they can’t get out of their slumps early in the series, don’t expect them to have much success against the Cubs’ stellar starting pitchers.

Neither team is lacking in the managerial department, with Cubs manager Joe Maddon and Indians skipper Terry Francona both considered among the best in the majors.

My preseason prediction for the World Series was the Blue Jays over the Cubs. Toronto fell just shy of making it, but the Cubs are in it. With the way the Cubs played all season and the strong starting pitching they’ve gotten in the postseason, I’m going to pick them to win their first World series title in 108 years. I think the series will go six games, which would mean the series would finish in Cleveland and the Cubs wouldn’t be able to celebrate the title at Wrigley.

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The latest MLB All-Star Game voting results: How are the fans doing?

The MLB All-Star Game is scheduled for two weeks from tomorrow in San Diego, which means voting is almost over, with the deadline being 11:59pm ET on Thursday. Earlier today, MLB released the latest results from the All-Star Game balloting. As usual, the fans who vote are choosing some players who frankly don’t deserve to be starting in the game. So which positions are the fans getting it right and which selections seem to be the result of popularity contests rather than stats?

Last year, Royals fans seemed to be stuffing the virtual ballot boxes in support of their players on the American League side, but this year it seems to be the Cubs fans trying to get as many of their team’s players on the National League as possible. Do the Cubs deserve five starters, as they currently have? Let’s take a look.

American League

1B The Royals’ Eric Hosmer leads the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera by about 550,000 votes. I had Hosmer as my selection in the last ballot I published, and I’m sticking with him. I would, however, put the Orioles’ Chris Davis over Cabrera as the runner-up at the position.
2B Jose Altuve of the Astros is on pace to far surpass his single-season home run mark; he currently has 13 long balls and is hitting .347 to go with the power. He definitely deserves the nod here, and he has a significant 900,000 vote lead over the Mariners’ Robinson Cano in second place.
SS I previously had the Astros’ Carlos Correa as my selection here, but I’m jumping off that bandwagon. It’s hard to go against Xander Bogaerts, who is hitting .344 for the Red Sox with 9 home runs and 50 RBI. He’s currently in first, nearly doubling the vote total of the Royals’ Alcides Escobar, in second place. Surprisingly, Indians SS Francisco Lindor doesn’t even make the top five; he would’ve been my second selection behind Bogaerts.
3B The Orioles’ Manny Machado has been my selection all along at the hot corner, and I’m sticking with him. Todd Frazier, of the White Sox, has more home runs (21 vs. 18) but his .201 batting average isn’t in the same neighborhood as Machado’s .325 so Manny gets the nod from me — and the fans. Machado is in the lead, with about a 600,000-vote lead over the Blue Jays’ Josh Donaldson, who is in second (Frazier doesn’t make the top five).
C Royals backstop Salvador Perez is the leading vote-getter at any position in either league, with more than 3.7 million votes and a lead of about 2.7 million over the Orioles’ Matt Wieters. Perez is the top offensive catcher in the American League so far this year so it’s hard to argue with that selection.
DH There’s no competition here, with David Ortiz having a monster year for the Red Sox, and it is being reflected in the voting. He has the second-highest overall vote total, with more than 3.4 million. The Blue Jays’ Edwin Encarnacion is in a distant second, with about 1.1 million votes.
OF While the Angels’ Mike Trout has the most votes among AL outfielders, the Red Sox are well represented, with Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts in second and third, respectively, earning them starting nods if their totals hold. The Royals’ Lorenzo Cain and the Orioles’ Mark Trumbo are about 100,000 votes behind Betts. I think Trumbo should be in the top three, replacing Betts. The Astros’ George Springer is having a good season, as well, but I have to put him behind Trout, Bradley and Trumbo on my list. The fans aren’t voting for Springer, who isn’t even in the top 15.

The latest selections on my AL all-star ballot

The latest selections on my American League all-star ballot

National League

1B Anthony Rizzo is the first of five Cubs leading the voting at their position. He has a sizable lead over the Giants’ Brandon Belt. I think it’s a toss-up between Rizzo and the Diamondbacks’ Paul Goldschmidt, who currently sits in third in the voting. I had Rizzo on my previous ballot, so I’ll stick with him, although I couldn’t argue with people who prefer Goldschmidt. Belt is also having a good season, but I’d put him behind Rizzo and Goldschmidt.
2B The Cubs’ Ben Zobrist leads the Nationals’ Daniel Murphy by about 300,000 votes, but the fan voting is getting this one wrong. Murphy is having a better season in just about every notable offensive category. Zobrist is having a good year, but Murphy is having a better season. Let’s see if Murphy can pass Zobrist in the final days of voting.
SS This may be the position in either league that I disagree with the most. The Cubs’ Addison Russell is in the lead despite hitting .241 with 7 home runs and 40 RBI. Compare those numbers to the Rockies’ Trevor Story, who is hitting.271/19/50, and there’s no question that Russell doesn’t deserve to get the start. Story needs more than 300,000 votes to surpass Russell. It’ll be tough to do in just a few days, but Story definitely deserves to be the National League’s starting shortstop with the rookie season he is having.
3B Once again, a Cub is atop the vote — this time at third base. This time, it’s Kris Bryant. His 18 home runs and 51 RBI are good, but he’s hitting .263, which prevents me from picking him when the Rockies’ Nolan Arenado has stats of .296/21/63. There’s no comparison there; Arenado deserves the start, but he needs to make up about 350,000 votes to get it.
C This is the tightest race is either league, with the Cardinals’ Yadier Molina leading the Giants’ Buster Posey by a mere 5,130 votes. Unfortunately, neither of them deserves to be the starter, with Nationals C Wilson Ramos — who’s currently third in the voting, nearly 300,000 votes out of first — hitting .342 with 12 home runs and 41 RBI.
DH With no DH in the National League, fans don’t get to vote for one.
OF The Cubs’ Dexter Fowler, the Nationals’ Bryce Harper and Yoenis Cespedes of the Mets are the top three in voting among outfielders. There’s a significant margin separating that threesome with the Cubs’ Jason Heyward and the Brewers’ Ryan Braun, who round out the top five. Of the top three, only Cespedes would be on my ballot. In addition to him, I’d go with the Marlins’ Marcell Ozuna and the Rockies’ Carlos Gonzalez. Braun is having a good year but not as good overall as the three I selected.

The latest selections on my NL all-star ballot

The latest selections on my National League all-star ballot

Starting pitchers are not on the ballot and are chosen by the all-star managers, but if I were to choose, I’d go with White Sox SP Chris Sale in the American League and the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw in the National League.

The all-star teams and candidates for the Final Vote ballots will be announced next Tuesday, July 5.

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Angels SP Tim Linecum

MLB Weekly: Lincecum gets a win, Ichiro passes Rose?

In this week’s MLB WeeklyTim Lincecum makes his first start in nearly a year, Ichiro Suzuki gets a controversial hit and the Mets could be without captain David Wright for the rest of the season.

Looking Back

A few weeks ago, we told you about Lincecum signing a one-year contract with the Angels and told you he’d spend some time in the minors before getting up to the big leagues. After performing well in his three starts with Triple-A Salt Lake City, he got the start for the Angels on Saturday, marking his first start in a Major League Baseball game since June 27, 2015 — nearly a full calendar year. He put up good numbers in the 6-inning effort at the A’s. The 32-year-old veteran allowed 4 hits and 1 earned run while striking out 2 and walking 2 in his 6 innings of work. He got the win as the Angels won the game 7-1. The numbers look good, but it was against an A’s team that ranks near the bottom of the league in offense so you shouldn’t put too much into it. That being said, his next scheduled start is also against the A’s in Anaheim on Thursday. With the Angels not in playoff contention, if Lincecum can put together a string of good starts through July, he could be trade bait if a contending team is in the market for a veteran to add to the back of their rotation.

Ichiro got 2 hits in the Marlins’ 6-3 loss to the Padres on Wednesday, which gave him 2,979 hits in his major league career, a number that normally wouldn’t be a big deal. But when you add it to the 1,278 hits he got in his professional career in Japan, it gave him a total in the two countries of 4,257 — one more than MLB’s all-time hit king, Pete Rose. That has caused a discussion of whether to consider Ichiro as the new hit king. Some people say he is, but I’m in the camp that says his hits in Japan don’t count as part of his MLB total, so the 2,980 hits he now has is the number that matters when it comes to his major-league stats. That’s still an impressive number for the 42-year-old who is in his 16th season in the majors. Needing just 20 more hits, he will likely surpass the 3,000-hit mark (in the U.S.) sometime in the next few weeks, and he will likely land in the Hall of Fame after he retires. After hitting a career-worst .229 last season, Ichiro is enjoying a bounceback season, with his average sitting at .354 in 56 games.

Although he’s not having a great offensive season, Wright is still an important part of the Mets clubhouse — after all, he is the team’s captain — but they might have to do without him for the rest of the season. Wright underwent surgery on Thursday to repair a herniated disk in his neck and, although a recovery time is not yet known, it looks likely that he won’t be able to return this season.

Elsewhere in MLB, all three division leaders in the National League have big leads, with the Nationals leading the East by 6.5 games over the Mets, the Cubs ahead of the Cardinals by a seemingly insurmountable 11.5 games in the Central, and the Giants 7 games clear of the Dodgers in the West. It’ll be hard for any of those second-place teams to overcome those deficits so they’ll likely be fighting for the league’s two Wild Card spots, with the Pirates likely in that mix as well despite a 33-35 record entering Sunday. Things are closer in the American League, with the Orioles leading the East with a 1-game lead over the Red Sox and the Indians holding just a 0.5-game cushion in the Central, with the defending World Series champion Royals on their heels. The Rangers have a bigger lead in the West, 7.5 games ahead of the Mariners.

The Week Ahead

Citi Field World Series rematch, Royals at Mets

Citi Field hosts a World Series rematch this week when the Mets host the Royals

Featured series this week include a World Series rematch with a 2-game series between the Royals and Mets at Citi Field. On the West Coast, there’s a battle between potential playoff teams in the National League as the Nationals visit the Dodgers from Monday through Wednesday. Later in the week, two of the division leaders in the American League meet starting Friday when the Red Sox visit the Rangers in what should be a series with a quite a bit of offense. There will also be an interleague battle featuring second-place teams facing large deficits in their divisions when the Cardinals-Mariners series gets underway Friday in Seattle. And the Dodgers face another potential playoff foe as they travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Pirates for an extended weekend series Friday through Monday.

This week’s pitching performances are highlighted by a West Coast duel on Monday when Nationals SP Stephen Strasburg is slated to oppose Dodgers SP Clayton Kershaw in what should be a strong pitcher’s duel. Indians SP Corey Kluber will look to bounce back from an 8-run outing his last time out on Tuesday when he goes against young Rays SP Blake Snell. Yankees SP CC Sabathia, who is having a surprisingly good season, takes the mound against Rockies SP Jon Gray Wednesday at Yankee Stadium. Royals SP Yordano Ventura is scheduled to return from his suspension Friday to for a home start against the Astros and SP Dallas Keuchel, who is coming off one of his better starts in what has been a disappointing season for the reigning AL Cy Young winner.

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One month later: My updated MLB All-Star Game ballot

It’s been a month since Major League Baseball first released the All-Star Game ballot and accepting votes. At the time, just three weeks into the season, was too early to start picking all-stars, but I decided to play along has make my way-too-early All-Star Game selections. It’s a month later now, and we’re closing in on two months since the season began so there’s a better idea of what players deserve all-star recognition. So a month after my initial ballot, here are my latest MLB All-Star Game picks for the game, which will be played in San Diego on July 12.

Some of my selections have changed in the last month, and for those positions I have noted in parentheses who I picked at that position last month. Now, here are my picks for the American League and National League all-star teams.

American League

1B Eric Hosmer, Royals (Chris Davis): I switched from the Orioles’ Davis to Hosmer despite Davis having a couple more home runs, but Hosmer has been the better overall hitter, with his .311 trumping Davis’ .237 to get the nod.
2B Jose Altuve, Astros: Altuve hit a career-high 15 home runs last season, and he’s already up to 9 this season. Even with the added power, he’s still running — he has 15 steals — and hitting for average, at .328.
SS Carlos Correa, Astros: Correa had a strong start to the season but has slowed down since then. He’s still having a good season and without a breakout player at shortstop this season in the American League, he’s still my pick to make it to San Diego in July.
3B Manny Machado, Orioles: Machado’s 13 home runs are second at the position, behind White Sox 3B Todd Frazier, but Frazier is hitting just .238 so Machado’s .308 average helps him keep this selection in his favor.
C Matt Wieters, Orioles (Brian McCann): This was a close call, but switching from the Yankees’ McCann to Wieters was again because the latter is having a better overall season at the plate, with his .283/4/16 winning out over McCann’s .258/5/17 for me.
DH David Ortiz, Red Sox: Ortiz continues to hit in what he says is his last season before retiring. I can’t leave him off the ballot while he’s hitting .329/11/37.
OF Jackie Bradley Jr., Red Sox; Mike Trout, Angels;  Mark Trumbo, Orioles (Colby Rasmus): There was some movement here, with the Astros’ Rasmus replaced with Bradley, who  is on a 27-game hit streak and hitting .342 on the season with 8 home runs. Trout and Trumbo remain, hitting .321/10/31 and .293/13/31, respectively.

American League all-star ballot

My second ballot for the American League all-star team

National League

1B Anthony Rizzo, Cubs (Adrian Gonzalez): Rizzo has been slumping of late, but he still has 11 home runs on the season, giving him the edge over the Dodgers’ Gonzalez, who I removed from the ballot as he has only 4 home runs so far. I’d like to see Rizzo raise his average some, but I think he’s having a season worthy of an all-star selection.
2B Daniel Murphy, Nationals (Neil Walker): I replaced the Mets’ Walker with former Met Murphy at second base. He is hitting .387, which is bound to come down some as the season progresses, with 6 home runs and 28 RBI.
SS Trevor Story, Rockies: Many people expected Story to regress after his quick start to the season, but he’s still hitting. He’s up to 12 home runs and continues to hit for a decent average, at .278.
3B Nolan Arenado, Rockies: Arenado is up to 14 home runs on the season with an average just below .300 as he continues to have a good follow-up to his 42-home run season from a year ago.
C Welington Castillo, Diamondbacks: The Diamondbacks backstop keeps providing offense at a position where we don’t see much of it. He’s hitting .288/7/20. Defensively, he is also above the league average in terms of throwing out potential base-stealers.
DH With no DH in the National League, fans don’t get to vote for one.
OF Yoenis Cespedes, Mets; Bryce Harper, Nationals; Marcell Ozuna, Marlins (Dexter FowlerCarlos Gonzalez): Cespedes and Ozuna replace the Cubs’ Fowler and the Rockies’ CarGo in the outfield. Harper remains from my initial ballot. His .260 average isn’t great, but he’s making up for it with 11 home runs, 30 RBI and 7 steals. At .303/15/36, Cespedes is showing the performance he had in the second half of 2015 was not a fluke. And Ozuna is having a good year, hitting .311 with 8 home runs.

My National League all-star ballow

My second ballot for the National League all-star team

Starting pitchers are not on the ballot and are chosen by the all-star managers, but I’m sticking with a pair of Chicago aces to start the All-Star Game, Chris Sale of the White Sox in the AL and the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta in the NL.

Stay tuned for more ballot updates as the season progresses.

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Tim Lincecum pitching showcase

MLB Weekly: Angels sign Lincecum, Braves get rid of Fredi, MLB gets rid of intentional walks?

In this week’s MLB Weekly, the struggling Angels sign a veteran hurler, the Braves fire their manager and Major League Baseball takes the first step toward rule changes.

Looking Back

For a period of several years over the last decade, Tim Lincecum was one of the best starting pitchers in the majors, striking out more than 200 batters in four straight seasons from 2008-2011 and winning the NL Cy Young in 2008 and 2009. He began to regress, though, in 2012 and since then has not had an ERA lower than 4.13, which he achieved in 15 starts last season. He was a free agent this offseason but didn’t sign with a team. He recently held a pitching showcase for teams to show them what he has left in him, and on Thursday the 31-year-old right-hander signed with the Angels. The nine-year veteran will have to pitch in the minors for a while before being called up to the big leagues, which could be in about a month. The $2 million deal covers the rest of the season and has incentives valued at $1.7 million depending on how he pitches. The Angels were in need of starting pitching, with three of their starters on the DL, and are willing to take a chance on  Lincecum to see if he can improve his performance from the past several seasons.

We had the season’s first managerial firing of the season this week, with Fredi Gonzalez becoming the fall guy for the Braves’ 9-28 start at the time of his firing on Tuesday. Overall, Gonzalez was 434-413 over six seasons with the Braves, his second managerial stint in the majors after leading the Marlins from 2007-2010. The team named Triple-A Gwinnett manager Brian Snitker, who has been with the Braves organization for 40 years, as the team’s interim manager. Entering Sunday’s game against the Phillies, the Braves were 3-1 so far under Snitker.

Also this week, the league’s competition committee agreed to changes to the strike zone and intentional walks that would take effect for next season if they receive the needed approvals from the playing rules committee. Both rules are intended to help speed up the game, a key interest of commissioner Rob Manfred since he replaced Bud Selig last year. One rule would raise the bottom of the strike zone from the bottom of the knee to the top of the knee. The other would do away with actually throwing the ball during an intentional walk; after a team indicating its intention to issue an intentional wall, the batter would go straight to first base without the pitcher needing to throw the customary pitches out of the strike zone. Neither of these changes is likely to make a big impact on the game. For one, most umpires have their own strike zones and don’t stick to the zone as defined in the rulebook. And intentional walks are so infrequent — there were just 951 in 2,429 MLB games in 2015 — that it won’t have much of an effect on the league overall.

Elsewhere in MLB, not much has changed at the top of the standings over the last week with the same teams still leading their divisions. The Cubs still have the best record in the majors, but the Orioles have passed the White Sox to take over the best record in the American League entering Sunday’s action. As for individual performances, with a hit today Red Sox OF Jackie Bradley Jr. has extended his hitting streak to 27 games, nearly halfway to Joe DiMaggio‘s record 56-game hit streak.

The Week Ahead

Mets at Nationals this week

The Mets head to Washington D.C. to take on the Nationals this week.

First place in the AL Central is on the line early in the week with the White Sox hosting the Indians for four games, including a doubleheader on Monday. The top two teams in the NL East are also playing each other Monday through Wednesday as the Nationals host the Mets. Later in the week, it’s a battle of second-place teams as the Rangers host the Pirates in an interleague series and the White Sox travel to Kansas City to take on the defending World Series champion Royals, who will look to gain ground in the division. The Rockies, currently second in the NL West, also take on the division-leading Giants.

Some scheduled pitching performances and matchups to keep an eye on this week include Nationals SP Stephen Strasburg looking to go 8-0 on Tuesday when he faces struggling Mets SP Matt Harvey. White Sox SP Chris Sale also looks to keep his undefeated record intact on Tuesday as he duels with Indians SP Josh Tomlin. Rockies SP Tyler Chatwood, who has been solid on the road this season, with a 0.53 ERA, looks to duplicate that success at home when he is slated to take to the Coors Field mound on Thursday against Giants SP Matt Cain.

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