MLB Power Rankings After 100 Games

Throughout the week, teams around Major League Baseball all completed their 100th game of the season.  As teams pass that threshold, signaling there are only 62 games left for those hoping to make it to the postseason.  In that race for the playoffs in the two leagues, two different patterns are starting to emerge.

In the National League, eight teams have legitimate shots at the playoffs, while the bottom seven are seemingly out of the race and will likely be “sellers” at the upcoming trade deadline.

National League

1. San Francisco Giants (57-45, 1st in NL West)
The Giants started the season at 42-21, and led the NL West by 9.5 games on June 8.  They then lost 14 out of 18 to fall into a tie, but have since rebounded, winning seven of their last 10 to regain a 1.5 game lead.  This franchise which won the World Series in 2010 and 2012 (there seems to be a pattern here; it’s 2014), takes the top spot in the NL, although they are actually a half game behind the Brewers for the best record in the league, as no one is pulling away from the pack at the top, and they have a better record on the road (29-20) than at home (28-25).  They are also 8-2 in extra inning games.

2. Milwaukee Brewers (58-45, 1st in NL Central)
Like the Giants, the Brewers got off to a hot start, including an early 10-game winning streak, and sat at 51-34 on July 1, leading by six and a half games in the NL Central.  A seven-game losing streak before the All-Star Break dropped them into a tie, but their current four-game winning streak has given them not only the best record in their division, but the NL.  They have a 12-5 record against the NL West, the second best mark in the league, which has helped propel them to a three-game lead in the crowded NL Central race.

3. St. Louis Cardinals (54-47, tied for 2nd in NL Central)
The defending NL champions got off to a rough start (by their standards), falling to 19-20 after a 17-5 loss to the Cubs on May 12, but have played better throughout the summer months, catching the Brewers briefly, and currently trailing them by three games.  The Redbirds have had their share of injuries, but have therefore been able to show off their pitching depth.  If it weren’t for a 5-9 record in interleague games, the Cardinals might be at the top.

4. Los Angeles Dodgers (56-47, 1st in NL Wild Card, 2nd in NL West)
Like last year, the Dodgers fell well behind the division lead at the start, falling nine and a half games behind the Giants on June 8.  Also like last year, they got hot in June and were tied for the division lead by June 29.  They have fallen back out of first by a game and a half, although they aren’t playing poorly; the Giants are just playing superbly.  The team does currently hold the first NL Wild Card spot, despite a 3-8 record in extra inning games.

5. Washington Nationals (55-44, 1st in NL East)
The Nationals are getting healthy again, and it shows, as they have won 14 of their last 20 games, passing the Braves for first in the NL East, currently up by a game and a half, holding a 28-17 mark in June/July.  Pitching is the key, as they have allowed just 3.5 runs per game, which is second in the league.  Like the Dodgers, they have struggled in extra innings, going just 3-8.

6. Pittsburgh Pirates (54-47, tied for 2nd in NL Central)
After game one of a May 18 doubleheader in New York, the Pirates sat at 17-25 and nine games behind the Brewers, and had been written off by almost everyone, even with 120 games remaining.  But never underestimate the power of a callup from the minors; in this case, Gregory Polanco.  Since his June 10 arrival in the big leagues, the Pirates are 24-14, and last year’s playoff darlings are back in the race, closing within two and a half games of the Brewers.  Against the NL Central, the Bucs are a poor 22-30, but are 26-10 against the rest of the NL.

7. Atlanta Braves (55-47, 2nd in NL Wild Card, 2nd in NL East)
The Braves have led the NL East off and on for much of the season thus far, but currently find themselves a game and a half behind the Nationals.  Looking at their season closely, there haven’t struggled in any certain type of game (other than against the NL West, at 8-11), but aren’t overwhelming in any category either.  This streaky team, which has a nine-game winning streak, and a seven-game losing streak, will have to play well to catch the Nats, although they currently hold the second NL Wild Card spot by a half game over the Cardinals and Pirates.

8. Cincinnati Reds (51-50, 4th in NL Central)
The Reds are last among the probable playoff contenders, and even that is a feat after dropping as many as eight and a half back in the division race at one time, and sitting six games under .500 on May 29.  Their 28-20 record within the NL Central is the best in that tight division, helping them to get within a game and a half at the all-star break.  They currently sit six games back, as they try to get back to October and play more than the one playoff game they played in a year ago.

9. New York Mets (48-54, 4th in NL East)
The “best of the rest” is a Mets team that hasn’t stopped playing hard, despite currently sitting seven games out of the playoffs and eight and a half back in the NL East.  Despite being on no one’s list of playoff contenders, they have won six out of 10, 11 out of 20, and 16 out of 30, almost playing themselves out of the title of trade deadline “sellers”.  Almost.

10. Miami Marlins (48-53, 3rd in NL East)
The Marlins began the year as surprising contenders, leading the division by a half game as late as May 8, and being tied for the lead as late as June 8.  Since then, they are 15-23, and have fallen into this second category of NL teams.  Although they are currently just six and a half games back in the Wild Card, and eight back in the division, While their home/road splits aren’t as radical as they were earlier in the season, they are 28-24 at home and 20-29 on the road.

11. San Diego Padres (45-56, 3rd in NL West)
The Padres began the year cautiously optimistic that they could be a dark horse playoff contender, but by June 22, GM Josh Byrnes had been fired.  This is in spite of leading the NL in runs allowed, giving up just 3.4 per game.  The key factor in their lack of success is offense, scoring just 3.1 runs per game (which is the worst in the NL by over half a run), and an absolutely abysmal team batting average of .216, with only one starter hitting over .247 (Seth Smith at .293).  And that player at .247 (Cameron Maybin) was just suspended 25 games for a failed drug test.  With all these issues persisting in San Diego, the Padres sit 11.5 games back in the NL West, and have already traded Chase Headley and Huston Street.

12. Arizona Diamondbacks (44-58, 4th in NL West)
Last year, the D-Backs led the NL West for much of the first half, eventually finishing second with an 81-81 record.  This year has not been at all similar.  It started with a 1-7 record after eight games, and it hasn’t gotten better.  They were 3-15 at home in April, and by the end of May had fallen 15 games out of first.  They are currently 13 games back.  This is a team with some good players, pieces that may be very attractive to the trade deadline’s “buyers” next week.  That home record hasn’t improved much; it’s now 21-33.

13. Philadelphia Phillies (44-58, 5th in NL East)
While no one necessarily expected the Phillies to contend, this one is, at least to me, a head-scratcher.  The Phillies have a high payroll, strong veteran leadership, and several budding young talents which they have drafted and developed through their farm system.  And yet, they are last in the NL East, 12.5 games behind Washington, and are easily deadline sellers.  Perhaps the most telling stat is that they are around .500 on the road with a 24-26 record, but at home they have lost nearly two out of every three, with a 20-32 mark.

14. Colorado Rockies (41-60, 5th in NL East)
A case could be made for both the Rockies and Cubs to be last on this list, but I’ll give the Rockies a slight edge for 14th.  It isn’t because of anything the team is doing on the field; they’ve lost 23 of their last 30 games to fall 15.5 games back in the NL West, after being surprisingly close at Memorial Day.  It’s because of the excellent individual season Troy Tulowitzki is having.  The shortstop leads the league in batting average (.340), on base percentage (.432), and slugging percentage (.603), to go along with 21 HR and 52 RBI, all with nearly as many walks as strikeouts.  He is threatening to become the first MVP from either league to play on a last place team since Alex Rodriguez on the 2003 Texas Rangers.

15. Chicago Cubs (41-59, 5th in NL Central)
It appears the Cubs streak of not winning a title since 1908 will continue.  A team that was widely picked before the season as the worst in the NL struggled from the start, and by April 29 they were 8-17 and already 11 games behind the Brewers.  It hasn’t gotten much better since, as they have fallen 15.5 games back, and the team recently traded their two best pitchers to Oakland (Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel).  The good news on the North Side of Chicago is that they have some tremendously talented prospects cutting their teeth in the minors, and that the Cubs should use that talent to be competitive again in the not too distant future.

American League

In the American League, 13 of the 15 teams are within seven games of a playoff spot, with, in my opinion, ten of them having legitimate shots to not only make the playoffs, but be a threat to go deep once they get there.  Another difference in the two leagues is the superiority of the teams at the top in the AL, while no one is threatening to be a 100-game winner in the NL.

1. Oakland Athletics (63-38, 1st in AL West)
The A’s are the consensus “best team in baseball” as the Moneyball story continues.  While the team doesn’t have any superstars (although you could make a case for Yoenis Cespedes), they are the best unit of players the game currently has to offer.  They have the best record in the game, three games ahead of the Angels for both that title and the AL West lead, while sitting six games better than the best record in the NL.  Oakland is tied for first in the AL in both runs scored per game (5.0) and runs allowed (3.4), a stat which should suit them well in October.  Additionally, the A’s are 34-17 at home, 29-21 on the road, 10-6 in extra innings, and 10-2 in interleague play.  This is quite a team.

2. Detroit Tigers (57-42, 1st in AL Central)
The Tigers have been strong from the start, leading nearly wire-to-wire thus far in the AL Central, with that lead currently stretched out to seven games, easily the largest in baseball.  They are attempting to win their fourth straight division title, which would extend the longest active streak in the game.  While we’re used to the Tigers pitching leading the way, it is their offense that has made the difference, averaging 4.8 runs per game.  Interestingly, the Tigers are around .500 at home at 26-25, but are 31-17 on the road, and their 17-11 record in one-run games is the best in the league.

3. Los Angeles Angels (60-41, 1st in AL Wild Card, 2nd in AL West)
The Angels have the second best record in baseball, but if the playoffs started today, they would be stuck in the one-off Wild Card Game because they’re in the same division as Oakland, currently trailing in the AL West by three games.  The money the team has spent in free agency over the last few years is finally beginning to pay off, as are the excellent players they are bringing out of their farm system, with the best all-around player in the game, Mike Trout, among them.  They have won 22 out of their last 30, and are 33-9 against teams under .500, all thanks to an offense that produces 5.0 runs per game, tied for the best in the league.

4. Baltimore Orioles (56-45, 1st in AL East)
Buck Showalter is, somehow, doing it again, leading the AL East with an Orioles team most didn’t expect to be in the hunt.  A big part of their surprise season is Nelson Cruz, the $8 million, last-minute free agent signing (what a bargain), who has hit 28 HR, ranking second in the majors.  Baltimore led the division early in the season, as late as may 20, before falling six and a half on June 6.  Going 26-16 since, they have taken a three game lead, although everyone around the AL East knows that it won’t be easy, as it never seems to be in, perhaps, the most covered division in the game.

5. Seattle Mariners (53-49, 3rd in AL West)
The Mariners were one of the more active teams in the offseason, most notably adding Robinson Cano in free agency, but many didn’t expect them to contend this quickly.  However, there are a lot of good, young players who are now prime and ready for a possible run at the playoffs.  They stayed around the .500 mark for the first two months, dipping under .500 as late as May 31, and while they’re only 26-21 since (nothing overwhelming), that stretch is enough to get them to within a half game of the second AL Wild Card spot.

6. New York Yankees (53-48, tied for 2nd AL Wild Card, tied for 2nd in AL East)
Another team that made a free agency splash was the Yankees, although they haven’t necessarily been the offensive juggernaut they had hoped to be.  Their pitching, however, has been hit hard by the so-called “injury bug”, which most recently bit ace Masahiro Tanaka.  Hovering at or around .500 for much of the year, they have never been more than six games back, and currently sit three back and tied for a Wild Card spot.  The Yanks are actually under .500 against the AL, at 40-41, but a 13-7 record in interleague play has them well within the pennant race.

7. Toronto Blue Jays (54-49, tied for 2nd AL Wild Card, tied for 2nd in AL East)
Tied with the Yankees for the last playoff spot are the Blue Jays, who haven’t been to the playoffs since Joe Carter’s World Series-winning homer in 1993.  This team of sluggers started 38-24 and had a six game lead in the AL East on June 6.  While they are 16-25 since, they have won five out of seven since the All-Star Break, proving they will be in the race in the second half.

8. Tampa Bay Rays (49-53, 4th in AL East)
After a 24-42 start which gave them, at the time, the worst record in the AL, the biggest question around the Rays was not if David Price would be traded, but where he would land.  But the Rays are 25-11 in the 36 games since, and have won 16 out of 20 and 8 out of 10, climbing within seven and a half games in the NL East, and four and a half in the Wild Card.  According to Baseball Prospectus, their odds of making the playoffs are 11 times better now then they were at their lowest point on June 10.

9. Cleveland Indians (51-51, 3rd in AL Central)
After hosting last year’s AL Wild Card Game, the Indians got off to a slow start, at 24-30.  While they are not likely to win the AL Central, sitting at seven games behind Detroit, their 27-21 record since has gotten them back into the Wild Card race again, as they are currently two and a half back.  Cleveland is 10 games over .500 at home, and 10 games under .500 on the road, resulting in a current record right on the .500 mark.

10. Kansas City Royals (51-50, 2nd in AL Central)
Like Toronto, the Royals last playoff berth was the year they won their last World Series, in 1985.  On June 18, the Royals led the AL Central by a game and a half, with a record of 39-32.  Since, they have fallen back to around .500, going 12-18 in that period, but they are just two back in the Wild Card.  Things might be different if they weren’t struggling so much in one-run games, at 12-20.

11. Boston Red Sox (47-55, 5th in AL East)
The defending World Series champions are threatening…to become the worst defending champs since the 1998 Florida Marlins.  While these Sox won’t be as bad as that 54-108 Marlins squad, something is missing from the drive and spirit the team had a year ago, and whatever it is has been missing from the start.  While they were over .500 as late as May 14, an ensuing 10-game losing streak and another 5-game losing streak a week later had the season doomed by mid-June.  A 17-25 record against the AL East doesn’t help, and they have fallen nine and a half games back in the division and six and a half back in the Wild Card, staying even that close after a recent five-game winning streak.

12. Chicago White Sox (49-54, 4th in AL Central)
The White Sox have been, as predicted, a somewhat mediocre team, although they have played 33 games as a team at or above the .500 mark.  The team sits ten games back in the AL Central but only five back in the wild card.  The Sox have the major league leader in homers in rookie Jose Abreu, who has hit 29 of them, and have a marginally better record against teams over .500 than against teams under .500.

13. Minnesota Twins (46-55, 5th in AL Central)
The Twins were picked by most to be where they are, last in the AL Central.  However, they weren’t in last from the beginning.  On May 21, they were 23-21, and sat five games behind Detroit.  Since, they have become the team most expected, going 23-34, falling to 12 games out in the AL Central and seven back in the wild card.  The Twins are over .500, at 16-15, against left-handed pitching, but are 20-30 against righties on the season, while going 19-16 in the division, but 27-39 against everyone else.

14. Houston Astros (42-60, 4th in AL West)
The Astros, with their wealth of young talent and a rich farm system, have as bright of a future as anyone, and that started to show early in the season.  While they never threatened to win their division, they briefly threatened the .500 mark, with a 32-38 record on June 14.  While they are 10-22 since, and have fallen 11.5 games back in the wild card, they are 11-11 against the AL Central, but they play in the West, where they are 18-28, and 21.5 games back.

15. Texas Rangers (40-62, 5th in AL West)
I hate to admit this, but I picked this team to win the AL West.  With Yu Darvish leading the pitching staff, and the offseason additions of Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo to a team that fell one game short of the playoffs a year ago, such a pick was warranted.  But unforeseen circumstances have hurt this team tremendously, particularly injuries, as the team has lost more games than anyone else to the DL, and have fallen to 13.5 games back in the wild card and 23.5 back in the division.  While they are 11-10 against the AL Central, they are 29-52 against everyone else, and have lost 25 out of 30.

LeBron James Returns To Cleveland

After days of speculation, hesitation, rumors, and preemptive assumptions, LeBron James announced today through a first-person piece in Sports Illustrated that he will return to Cleveland to play for the Cavaliers.

James, a native of Akron, Ohio, began his career in Cleveland, after being drafted out of high school, going first overall to his hometown team in the 2003 NBA Draft.  He was part of a class that included Miami Heat teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and fellow free agent Carmelo Anthony.  After seven seasons in Cleveland, with only one NBA Finals appearance and no titles to show for it, James departed to join Bosh and Wade in Miami, becoming part of the so-called “Big Three”.

That “Big Three” were together for the past four seasons, appearing in the NBA Finals all four years and winning the Finals twice, in 2012 and 2013.  The 2012 title was both expected and nearly painless, winning the best-of-seven series in five games over the Oklahoma City Thunder.  A year later, it took a miraculous and legendary comeback to stay alive in Game Six, before winning it all in another close game in the series finale against the San Antonio Spurs.  As it would turn out, LeBron’s last game in a Heat uniform was also against the Spurs, as San Antonio avenged the heartbreak of the previous June, beating the Heat in five games this time around.

At the start of the summer, many observers, including myself, didn’t see James leaving Miami as any kind of possibility.  I didn’t think he would be willing to leave what he has built in Miami, with his friends and teammates, under the direction of a Hall-of-Famer in Pat Riley.  Additionally, there had to be a sour taste in the mouths of everyone in the Heat organization after the humiliation of three straight blowout losses, with two coming at home, to fall in the Finals.

My initial theory when James opted out of his Heat contract, which had included, from the start, an “early termination option” for this summer, after his fourth season in Miami, was that he was simply planning to sign a new, restructured contract, along with Wade and Bosh, which would allow the Heat to pick up other supporting players in various roles, and make them better than ever.  As other teams, including Cleveland, began making roster moves to clear up money for a potential run at signing James, I thought that it was even a possibility that James had opted out simply to give other teams the hope they could sign him, leading them to weaken themselves trying to make room for him, and thus making the potential competition for James and the Heat weaker.

Then the Cavaliers were said to be believing James was listening to their recruiting pitch.  And suddenly, the sports media world (particularly ESPN) was thrust into a frenzy, asking “Where will he go?” and “When will he decide?”

Everyone was looking for potential clues as to where James would decide to play.  Every move made by LeBron, or anyone within his inner circle, was scrutinized without end.  For instance, large moving trucks appeared outside James’s Miami home to move his cars, which many took as a sign he was moving to Cleveland, until a reporter pointed out on Twitter that he moves his cars every summer (he has kept an offseason home in Ohio even while playing in Miami).  Also, a web developer pointed out that several pages on lebronjames.com, James’s official website, had been developed without content, and were waiting to be posted, with the Cavaliers colors of scarlet, gold, and dark blue.  This claim may have been accurate, but at the time many were skeptical of if the discovery had any meaning.

As the first days of July (also the first days on NBA free agency) unfolded, I gradually came to believe that he was, in fact, at least considering a return to Cleveland.  By Wednesday, ESPN seemed to be hinting that the return was certainly possible, and maybe even likely.  ESPN’s Chris Broussard even indicated there was, in his estimation, an “85% chance” James would sign with Cleveland.

As the tide shifted in Cleveland’s favor, many experts expected a decision to be announced before LeBron’s trip to the World Cup Final this Sunday in Brazil.  After James met with Heat executives, including Riley, on Wednesday, I had a feeling that an announcement was imminent by Thursday night or Friday morning.  Thursday morning, more than one reporter claimed that the police outside James’s Ohio house were expecting a 3:30 pm announcement, although that rumor was later denied.

Suddenly, Friday morning, instead of ESPN’s reporters and their “multiple sources” announcing James’s decision, one way or the other, it came out in an article published by James and journalist Lee Jenkins on SI.com, the website of Sports Illustrated.

Four years ago, James announced his landing spot after an equally wild free agency period in a highly criticized hour-long special on ESPN, known as “The Decision”.  This time, having learned from his mistakes, James’s latest decision was given to his fans, as well as his haters, in the form of an open essay, which you can read here.

LeBron began by speaking of his relationship with northeastern Ohio, and continued by chronicling how difficult a decision he had to make to leave Cleveland for Miami in 2010, defending the move, and thanking his Heat teammates as well as coach Erik Spoelstra and Riley for helping to make his four years in Miami such a success.

He continued by saying he left Cleveland to win championships, with the intention of eventually retiring a Cavalier.  In returning to Cleveland, he said, his goal is still to win championships, although he admits he is realistic and realizes that with the young roster the Cavs have, winning titles will require patience.

That roster certainly includes some very good young players.  Cleveland has had the top pick in three of the last four drafts, winning the draft lottery this year despite only narrowly missing the playoffs.  Kyrie Irving has already found his way to stardom, winning MVP at the most recent NBA All-Star Game in February.  Irving’s two all-star appearances the last two seasons are the only times he has played as a teammate of James, although James already seems like a big brother to Irving.  The most recent top pick, former Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins, is also expected to be a superstar.

Perhaps the biggest question mark for the Cavs is the coach.  David Blatt was hired this offseason, with no NBA head coaching experience.  The 55-year old Boston native and Princeton graduate has made a career of coaching in Europe, winning this year’s Euroleague title with Maccabi Tel Aviv, and being honored as Euroleague Coach of the Year.  He also led the Russian national team to a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics in London.  Many around the NBA believe he will be an excellent coach for a team that is, for the most part, very young, with the glaring exception of its new star, LeBron James.

This team will win titles.  It may not be immediate, although some are already picking them to win the Eastern Conference this coming season.  The East, however, is much weaker than the strong Western Conference, which includes at least four very legitimate title contenders (San Antonio, Oklahoma City, L.A. Clippers, Houston) and others who certainly could be very good (Portland, Dallas, Golden State, and the L.A. Lakers if they’re healthy).  Over time, with the star power of James, Irving, and Wiggins, as well as the other role players already on the roster and anyone they may add in the future, this team will surely bring a championship to northeast Ohio.

Potential titles in Cleveland for LeBron could be even more gratifying, even from a purely basketball standpoint, as it would potentially show how good James is, and would surely be harder earned than anything he did with his high-profile teammates in Miami.  When you add the personal standpoint for James, growing up in nearby Akron, and beginning his career with the Cavaliers, any potential title won in Cleveland would certainly be the highlight of his career.

Keep in mind that the city of Cleveland is thirsty for a championship.  The Cavaliers have not won a title since their founding in 1970, with the 2007 conference championship during James’s previous stint being the highlight of their existence.  The Indians haven’t won the World Series since 1954, 60 years ago, led by the starting rotation of Early Wynn, Mike Garcia, Bob Lemon, and Bob Feller.  The Browns won the city’s most recent title, in 1964, 50 years ago, in the era of Jim Brown and Lou Groza.  That was before the Super Bowl era of NFL play.

Interestingly enough, contrary to popular belief, Bosh re-signed with Miami just hours after James’s decision was announced.  The popular theory was that Bosh would stay if James stayed, but would leave for Houston, who had offered him a 4-year, $88 million contract, if James went to Cleveland.  The Heat, however, gave him a longer, richer contract, possibly after being informed they wouldn’t have James under contract anymore.  Wade is widely believed to be staying in Miami, although a report surfaced today that the Chicago Bulls, Wade’s hometown team, may be trying to lure him to the Windy City.

I don’t usually write about the NBA on this blog (I’m more of a college basketball guy), but this story seemed to transcend the game of basketball.  For many, this was about home, family, loyalty, the return of an icon, and even forgiveness.  Cleveland can finally move on from losing their native son in 2010; from the scathing letter written about James by Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert; from the jersey burnings of free agencies past; from the boos when James returned as an opponent.

But, as the fairy tales say, “they all lived happily ever after.”  A title, or multiple titles, would seemingly make this story continue to have an already happy ending.  The hometown player, coming back home, and leading a team and a city to one or more championships 50 years overdue?  It’s almost like he signed with the Lakers or the Clippers…because that’s the type of stories you only hear in Hollywood.

 

 

 

LeBron James Career Statistics

2003-04 (CLE): 20.9 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 5.9 APG, NBA Rookie of the Year
Cavaliers: 35-47, missed playoffs

2004-05 (CLE): 27.2 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 7.2 APG
Cavaliers: 42-40, missed playoffs

2005-06 (CLE): 31.4 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 6.6 APG
Cavaliers: 50-32, lost to Pistons in second round

2006-07 (CLE): 27.3 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 6.0 APG
Cavaliers: 50-32, lost to Spurs in NBA Finals

2007-08 (CLE): 30.0 PPG (led NBA), 7.9 RPG, 7.2 APG
Cavaliers: 45-37, lost to Celtics in second round

2008-09 (CLE): 28.4 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 7.2 APG, NBA MVP
Cavaliers: 66-16, lost to Magic in Eastern Conf. Finals

2009-10 (CLE): 29.7 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 8.6 APG, NBA MVP
Cavaliers: 61-21, lost to Celtics in second round

2010-11 (MIA): 26.7 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 7.0 APG
Heat: 58-24, lost to Mavericks in NBA Finals

2011-12 (MIA): 27.1 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 6.2 APG, NBA MVP
Heat: 46-20, defeated Thunder in NBA Finals

2012-13 (MIA): 26.8 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 7.3 APG, NBA MVP
Heat: 66-16, defeated Spurs in NBA Finals

2013-14 (MIA): 27.1 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 6.4 APG
Heat: 54-28, lost to Spurs in NBA Finals

My 2014 MLB All-Star Ballot

The Midsummer Classic is approaching, and all-star voting ends at 11:59 tonight on mlb.com.  It was, as always, very difficult to choose one player at each position in each league to give a vote to send to Minneapolis for the game on July 15.  Whether an individual position had several sluggers, all-around hitters, defensive specialists, base stealers, or all of the above, weeding through the numbers and seeing the strengths of each player has shown that, in almost every case there is more than one deserving player.  That being the case, there were some tough decisions to be made as I made out my ballot.

Note: since only position players are on the fan’s ballot, and the players and coaches pick the all-star pitchers in addition to reserve position players, I have only included my position player picks for the All-Star Game.

American League

1B: Miguel Cabrera (Detroit Tigers, .311 BA, 14 HR, 67 RBI)
Miggy is easily one of the best all-around hitters in the game, and is the two-time defending AL MVP.  He is the spearhead of the Tigers offense, as they lead the AL Central, and has become a sure-fire hall-of-famer, even if his career ended today at the age of 31.  It was tough to pass up Jose Abreu, however, as the rookie is tied for the MLB lead in homers, even after missing time with injury.
Also considered: Jose Abreu (Chicago White Sox, .280 BA, 26 HR, 67 RBI), Albert Pujols (Los Angeles Angels, .254 BA, 17 HR, 50 RBI)

2B: Jose Altuve (Houston Astros, .343 BA, 2 HR, 26 RBI, 37 SB)
Altuve is a different kind of player.  The 5’5” Venezuelan will never be a 20 HR, 100 RBI player for the Astros.  His role is to get on base in front of the team’s power-hitting prospects, and he does.  His 118 hits lead all of baseball, and his 37 steals lead the American League.  Unfortunately, he plays on a bad Astros team, and doesn’t get nearly the attention he deserves.
Also considered: Robinson Cano (Seattle Mariners, .323 BA, 6 HR, 51 RBI), Ian Kinsler (Detroit Tigers, .308 BA, 10 HR, 43 RBI)

SS: Alexei Ramirez (Chicago White Sox, .294 BA, 8 HR, 41 RBI)
While baseball fans certainly need to thank Derek Jeter for his contributions to the game, as he appears to be headed for the start in his final all-star game, the best shortstop in the American League today is Alexei Ramirez.  He began the year on a hot streak on the south side of Chicago, where he is enormously popular, and has continued to put up strong offensive numbers while playing strong defense at a position not traditionally known for producing offensive stars.
Also considered: Erick Aybar (Los Angeles Angels, .277 BA, 6 HR, 42 RBI), Derek Jeter (New York Yankees, .271 BA, 2 HR, 20 RBI)

3B: Josh Donaldson (Oakland Athletics, .245 BA, 18 HR, 61 RBI)
Somehow, someway, Donaldson is flying under the radar while leading the Oakland Athletics to the best record in baseball to this point.  He actually doesn’t lead his own team in any of the major offensive categories, but he is certainly a leader in that clubhouse, and could lead them to a deep run in October.  Passing on the talented young Kyle Seager and the veteran Adrian Beltre was difficult.
Also considered: Kyle Seager (Seattle Mariners, .283 BA, 13 HR, 59 RBI), Adrian Beltre (Texas Rangers, .335 BA, 9 HR, 44 RBI)

C: Derek Norris (Oakland Athletics, .309 BA, 8 HR, 35 RBI)
Norris didn’t even begin the year as the starter behind the plate in Oakland, sharing duties with John Jaso.  Jaso hasn’t played poorly, if you look at his numbers, so Norris clearly earned the starter’s role.  He’s played so well, both offensively and defensively, he may have earned the starter’s role in Minneapolis, too.  Matt Wieters is currently the leader at this position in the fan voting, but is out for the year with an injury, so he was left off my ballot.
Also considered: Brian McCann (New York Yankees, .224 BA, 10 HR, 37 RBI), Mike Zunino (Seattle Mariners, .223 BA, 12 HR, 32 RBI)

DH: Edwin Encarnacion (Toronto Blue Jays, .281 BA, 26 HR, 69 RBI)
This may have been the toughest call of all, as three really good players all deserve this honor, and it’s hard to believe none of them are named David Ortiz, who is also having a great year.  What gave Encarnacion the nod over Nelson Cruz was literally 1 RBI and 1 point on his batting average, while leading a team that leads their division.  Comparing those two to Victor Martinez was tough, since it’s apples and oranges; Victor’s power numbers aren’t as good, but his average is 40 points higher.  Encarnacion has been the hottest lately, so he just barely has the edge.
Also considered: Nelson Cruz (Baltimore Orioles, .280 BA, 26 HR, 68 RBI), Victor Martinez (Detroit Tigers, .323 BA, 20 HR, 52 RBI)

OF: Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels, .311 BA, 19 HR, 62 RBI), Yoenis Cespedes (.272 BA, 14 HR, 55 RBI), Michael Brantley (Cleveland Indians, .312 BA, 12 HR, 54 RBI)
Trout, as most of you already know, may be the best all-around player in the game, combining a great power bat with a high average, good speed, and good defense, and his numbers prove it.  Cespedes is on pace for his best year yet at the plate (which says a lot) in his third major league season, and has made a few jaw-dropping defensive plays as well.  Brantley is mostly under the radar, almost singlehandedly leading the Indians back to around the .500 mark after a terrible start.  And as you’re about to see, there are many other deserving outfielders, in every facet of the game.
Also considered: Adam Jones (Baltimore Orioles, .307 BA, 16 HR, 52 RBI), Jose Bautista (Toronto Blue Jays, .304 BA, 17 HR, 51 RBI), Melky Cabrera (Toronto Blue Jays, .301 BA, 11 HR, 43 RBI), Josh Hamilton (Los Angeles Angels, .313 BA, 5 HR, 21 RBI in limited at-bats due to injury), Lorenzo Cain (Kansas City Royals, .309 BA, 3 HR, 35 RBI), Jacoby Ellsbury (New York Yankees, .288 BA, 4 HR, 34 RBI, 23 SB)

National League

1B: Justin Morneau (Colorado Rockies, .315 BA, 13 HR, 58 RBI)
I don’t understand why Morneau isn’t getting more attention, like his teammates who are (keep reading).  He is leading all NL first baseman in RBI, is second in batting average, and is fifth in HR.  And yet, he isn’t in the top five in the fan voting, as other, more popular first baseman are leaving guys like him in the dust.  Here’s to you, Justin, and the credit you deserve.
Also considered: Paul Goldschmidt (Arizona Diamondbacks, .305 BA, 15 HR, 53 RBI), Anthony Rizzo (Chicago Cubs, .281 BA, 17 HR, 44 RBI)

2B: Anthony Rendon (Washington Nationals, .280 BA, 12 HR, 48 RBI)
Rendon is a guy who is even under the radar on his own team, at least to an extent, with other, bigger stars around him.  But all he does is help the Nationals win.  He can play at second or third base, although he spends the most time at second, and is often as good defensively as he is with the bat.
Also considered: Chase Utley (Philadelphia Phillies, .288 BA, 6 HR, 38 RBI), Dee Gordon (Los Angeles Dodgers, .295 BA, 2 HR, 25 RBI, 40 SB)

SS: Troy Tulowitzki (Colorado Rockies, .351 BA, 18 HR, 47 RBI)
This was the probably the easiest pick of all, as Tulowitzki is easily a MVP candidate in the NL.  While the Rockies haven’t been able to sustain their hot start and remain in playoff contention, Tulowitzki hasn’t dropped off a bit from his crazy start that had people talking about whether or not someone playing half their games in Denver (at altitude) could hit .400 for the season (it would be easier than anywhere else).  In making this pick, I passed over arguably the best defensive player in the game, Andrelton Simmons.
Also considered: Starlin Castro (Chicago Cubs, .288 BA, 11 HR, 48 RBI), Andrelton Simmons (Atlanta Braves, .255 BA, 5 HR, 24 RBI, .982 fielding pct. with only 3 errors)

3B: Casey McGehee (Miami Marlins, .312 BA, 1 HR, 49 RBI)
It’s not often a player with only 1 homer on the year deserves an all-star bid, but in this case, McGehee does.  He played in Japan last year because no one wanted him, then signed with the Marlins this year to be a veteran leader.  He’s been more than that, batting behind Giancarlo Stanton for most of the season and helping lead the Marlins into a division race in the NL East no one expected them to be in.  With a good second half, he could wind up with 100 RBI for the year.
Also considered: Todd Frazier (Cincinnati Reds, .289 BA, 17 HR, 47 RBI), Nolan Arenado (Colorado Rockies, .305 BA, 6 HR, 28 RBI)

C: Devin Mesoraco (Cincinnati Reds, .314 BA, 15 HR, 41 RBI)
This was a tough call, as Mesoraco and Evan Gattis have similar numbers, and have both been hot lately.  Gattis is temporarily out with a back injury, but I would have likely picked Mesoraco anyway as his numbers are in less at-bats, and he has had a flair for the dramatic, helping the Reds in key situations (then again, Gattis does too).  Johnathan Lucroy’s numbers aren’t bad.
Also considered: Evan Gattis (Atlanta Braves, .290 BA, 16 HR, 39 RBI), Johnathan Lucroy (Milwaukee Brewers, .331 BA, 8 HR, 43 RBI)

OF: Giancarlo Stanton (Miami Marlins, .313 BA, 21 HR, 61 RBI), Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh Pirates, .313 BA, 12 HR, 49 RBI), Charlie Blackmon (Colorado Rockies, .295 BA, 12 HR, 46 RBI)
Stanton was an easy call, and would even have my vote for MVP if the season ended today.  He is among the league leaders in every offensive category.  McCutchen is the defending league MVP, and he is having a better year offensively, and is also invaluable for the Pirates defensively.  Blackmon is the one unusual pick.  He has come from out of nowhere to hit over .300 for most of the season, and has impressive power numbers as a leadoff man for the Rockies offensive juggernaut (yes, I know they’re in Denver).  It was very close between Blackmon, Carlos Gomez, Yasiel Puig, and Ryan Braun, with Blackmon’s defense helping to give him a slight edge.
Also considered: Carlos Gomez (Milwaukee Brewers, .306 BA, 13 HR, 45 RBI), Yasiel Puig (Los Angeles Dodgers, .314 BA, 11 HR, 46 RBI), Ryan Braun (Milwaukee Brewers, .293 BA, 11 HR, 49 RBI), Justin Upton (Atlanta Braves, .271 BA, 16 HR, 46 RBI), Michael Morse (San Francisco Giants, .273 BA, 13 HR, 44 RBI), Billy Hamilton (Cincinnati Reds, .279 BA, 4 HR, 28 RBI, 35 SB)