Monday, July 13, 2009

Washington's Would-Be All-Stars

Given their record, it's pretty amazing how many players could make a reasonable claim at an all-star appearance for the Nationals this season.

Ryan Zimmerman is the choice, which is appropriate given that his hitting and fielding together make him as valuable as any thirdbaseman in the NL, even if fielding doesn't usually count in all-star selections.

Adam Dunn's 23 homers puts him one back of Adrian Gonzalez and Mark Reynolds for second place in the NL.

And in a terrible field of NL shortstops, MLB thought Cristian Guzman deserved consideration, despite the fact that since the first month of the season his OBP is below .300, and he's a poor fielder.

The Nationals have two other guys who might have been the best choices of all, had they gotten a full first half's worth of playing time: Jesus Flores and Josh Willingham.

Flores only played in 26 games, about one-third what most starting catchers have done by now. But before he went down with a stress fracture in his right shoulder he had a "slash line" of .311 / .382 / .522, far-and-away better than any catcher in the NL not named Brian McCann.

McCann's hitting .298 / .375 / .487. After that, you're looking at Chris Iannetta at .232 / .347 / .463 or John Baker at .258 / .332 / .421.

With his exceptional defense, Yadier Molina is an appropriate pick even while hitting .280 / .350 / .384. And with a BABIP of .400, Flores surely would have cooled off. But he would have had to slump terribly to fall out of the top three catchers in the NL.

Willingham's first half pace has been even more all-star worthy. His .303 / .418 / .580 line has been as good as any outfielder in baseball. Those are MVP rates. He's getting on base more but hitting for less power than Raul Ibanez at .314 / .372 / .659. Everyone else is a notch below.

And unlike Flores, there isn't much smoke-and-mirrors here. Willingham's walk rates and strikeout rates are better than ever, and his ISO power has seen a 60-point jump from his career best.

And the truth is that Willingham has actually played a pretty solid right field. He seems to be benefiting quite a bit from Nyjer Morgan's presence--his range allows Hammer to shade to the line, and he's making running catches in foul territory that he simply would never have made with Dukes or Milledge in center.


Will said...

So they finally pulled the trigger on Manny?

Also, don't forget John Lannan. If a guy like Zach Duke can be an All Star this year, Lannan isn't too much of a stretch.

Deacon Drake said...

Willingham is the only guy I know will hit the ball hard each at bat. Dunn takes too many pitches, Zimmerman swings at pitches out of the zone, Johnson goes the other way.

The Hammer, though, is a professional hitter who really makes the pitcher work to get him out. He crushed two 380 foot outs to right on Sunday, so even when he is making outs, he is putting pressure on the pitcher. I'm glad others are noticing.

Souldrummer said...

Do you like the Hammer so much that you would keep him, Steven? He's hot right now, and may be at his most tradable.