In the past, I’ve used this space to name my quarter-season All-Star team. With the actual All-Star ballot now out, I’m tempted to post both a novelty piece about the players enjoying unexpected success through 40-45 games and an actual All-Star ballot, which would incorporate some 2012 results as well as early returns from ’13. I think I’ll do both.
Quarter Season: Joe Mauer, Buster Posey
Last Calendar Year: Joe Mauer, Buster Posey
Carlos Santana (.411 wOBA) has actually hit more than Mauer in ’13, but he’s played more first base (nine games) than Mauer as well. We’ll find a place for him. As great as Posey’s been (.309/.416/.567), who knew that Mauer’s been nearly as good, at least with the stick (.336/425/.474)?
Quarter Season: Chris Davis, Joey Votto
Last Calendar Year: Prince Fielder, Paul Goldschmidt
Goldschmidt was a tough omission in ’13, as he’s hitting .333/.414/.635 with 12 homers and leading the NL in Win Probability Added. Of course, the guys I picked as my NL DH and 1B are third and second, respectively, in WPA, and each has an OBP over .450 (Votto .473, Choo .456), so Goldschmidt had some stiff competition. Davis (.441 wOBA) has probably been the best non-Cabrera hitter in the AL so far this year, but Fielder has quietly hit .307/.421/.542 with 33 homers since this time last year.
Quarter Season: Dustin Pedroia, Matt Carpenter
Last Calendar Year: Robinson Cano, Aaron Hill
Carpenter’s split his time between second and third (he played first a lot last year), but I had to put him somewhere in deference to his 1.9 fWAR, which would lead the NL at either position. Hill leads a weak field over the past year, but his .321 average and 23 homers justify his spot.
Cano picked up where he left off last season, earning 8.3 fWAR over the past 365 days, and would have been a reasonable choice for the quarter-season pick as well, but Pedroia’s got him by almost .100 points of OBP (.432 to .337) this year, and, as usual, has been the better fielder and baserunner.
Quarter Season: Jhonny Peralta, Jean Segura
Last Calendar Year: Elvis Andrus, Ian Desmond
With Derek Jeter and Jimmy Rollins well past their primes and Troy Tulowitzki and Jose Reyes so fragile, there are no superstar shortstops in the game today. Segura may change that soon, as he’s done it all for the Brewers this year (.364, 14 stolen bases, above-average defense). Peralta leads a weak field, but he’s hitting .320 with solid D. Andrus noses out Peralta over the past year by virtue of his advantages with the glove (12.5 FRAA) and his legs (3.1 BRAA, 25 steals), while Desmond has hit 25 homers and stolen 21 bases over the past calendar year.
Quarter Season: Miguel Cabrera, David Wright
Last Calendar Year: Miguel Cabrera, Chase Headley
He wasn’t the most valuable player in the AL last year, but Cabrera probably has been this year, despite his horrid defense. Over the past year, he’s hitting .352/.420/.647 with 47 home runs. He takes this crown despite Evan Longoria’s hot start and Adrian Beltre’s sustained greatness. Headley’s got 30 homers, 17 steals, and 10.1 FRAA over the past year.
Quarter Season: Mike Trout, Justin Upton
Last Calendar Year: Alex Gordon, Ryan Braun
Trout may not be hitting .300 in 2013, but his all-around game is still off the charts. Similarly, Braun and Gordon are great players with the bat, the glove, and their legs, compiling 7.4 and 6.6 fWAR, respectively, since last May. Upton’s cooled off since hitting almost a homer a day for much of April, but even while striking out over a quarter of the time, he still has a .418 wOBA in 2013.
Quarter Season: Adam Jones, Carlos Gomez
Last Calendar Year: Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen
Jones has been mostly great since last April, but Trout was a center fielder last year, so he gets this spot with no debate. Gomez has probably been the most valuable player in the NL so far, on pace for a Trout-esque 10+ fWAR.
Quarter Season: Jose Bautista, Bryce Harper
Last Calendar Year: Alex Rios, Bryce Harper
If Rios had played as much right field as center this year, he’d probably deserve both awards, as he’s hit .310 with 34 homers and 26 steals since last May. Much ado has been made about Harper’s start to 2013, but over the past year, he’s been almost a 6-win player, with 31 homers, 18 steals, and excellent defense.
Quarter Season: Carlos Santana, Shin-soo Choo
Last Calendar Year: Edwin Encarnacion, Aramis Ramirez
These are not all real DHs, of course, but the players with the best offensive numbers not already filling one of the positions above. E5 has been a beast for Toronto, with 41 homers and a .382 OBP over the last year, while Aramis has quietly hit .330/.387/.600 over the same spell.
Quarter Season (AL): Clay Buchholz, Anibal Sanchez, Felix Hernandez, Yu Darvish, Hisashi Iwakuma, Casey Janssen
Quarter Season (NL): Adam Wainwright, Matt Harvey, Clayton Kershaw, Shelby Miller, Jordan Zimmermann, Jason Grilli
Last Calendar Year (AL): Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander, Yu Darvish, Hiroki Kuroda, Chris Sale, Junichi Tazawa
Last Calendar Year (NL): Clayton Kershaw, Adam Wainwright, Jordan Zimmermann, Cliff Lee, AJ Burnett, Craig Kimbrel
Pitching numbers through eight or nine starts (or 20 relief innings) are more curiosity than information, which is why the names on the last two lines are, for the most part, bigger names than those on the first two. The AL has been an Asian pitcher’s league, with Darvish leading in strikeouts (249), Iwakuma leading in ERA (2.56), and Kuroda leading in RA-9 Wins (7.9). Tazawa’s 2.14 FIP, while no match for Kimbrel’s 1.02, is best among AL relievers.
Hernandez leads all pitchers in fWAR (6.6) over the last year, narrowly edging out Wainwright (6.5). Lee is among the top ten NL pitchers in both ERA (3.26) and FIP (3.17). He’s 10-10.