Coming off of a holiday weekend, there was plenty of time to catch a lot of baseball. In the period it’s time to start looking forward to the MLB’s mid-summer holiday, the All-Star Game. And for any debates about the All-Star Game, whether it’s about the winner’s stipulation so it “matters” or if it’s the the seemingly 45-man rosters that take to each dugout for it now, it’s still one of the most fun things to debate in the first half of the season.
The first half of the year is for the individual and watching, debating and ultimately being upset about who makes (or doesn’t) the All-Star team. The league format of the MLB still creates a unique tension in all of sports about which side is superior, so in that way, it sort of does matter…even if it’s just for bragging rights.
The National League is the owner of the most recent bragging rights, as they have won the past two summer classics, and are offering another very strong group this year. And at the half way point to the half way point, here’s how I see the NL’s best shaping up. Some will stick, some won’t, but this is the best chance the senior circuit has of pushing their streak out to three years as of today.
It’s not a tough call, and the names are familiar for a reason. The top two catchers in the game are right back where they would be expected to be. Molina is hitting over .330 for the year, in addition to his all-time great level defense. Posey is having another strong season as well, with an on-base percentage over .402 and a .311 average.
Votto is back to being the on-base machine that he was before his season-slowing injury last year. He’s leading the NL in batting average (.351), on-base percentage (.476) and hits (67) and having another MVP-caliber year. Goldschmidt is also factoring into that MVP picture, sitting in the top 2 in the NL in home runs and RBI. Rizzo is far from the mandatory Cub on the roster, as he’s coming into his own as a prominent power hitter in the league.
Phillips is producing runs at an elite clip. His 43 RBI have him atop the NL currently. Behind him, Scutaro has propelled his season on the back of an 18-game hitting streak, and is in the top 5 in the NL in hits.
Third base hasn’t been as strong of a position as it usually is in the NL, but Sandoval has carried his hot October into the new year as well. He’s drove in 34 already with 8 home runs. David Wright not representing New York in the ASG would be a huge upset, but he’s playing the part as well, with 16 extra base hits and 11 stolen bases as well.
With Tulo, it’s always “if” he’s healthy, there’s nobody in his league at shortstop. Well, health has been on his side again, and that is proving to be the case again. His 10 home runs and 39 RBI have propelled the Rockies to being one of baseball’s best clubs. Segura has come into his own in his first full year in Milwaukee, hitting sparking the Brewers with a .347 average and 14 steals.
The NL outfield is ridiculous this year. Upton has taken Atlanta by storm, leading the league in home runs with 14. Carlos Gonzalez is on his heels with 13, while Harper has continued his precocious assent up the “Best in baseball” ladder. The NL Central is host to dynamic trio of run producers, in Braun (.310, 33 RBI), McCutchen (27 RBI, 14 steals) and Gomez (.331 avg, 10 homers).
Starters: Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers), Jordan Zimmermann (Nationals), Matt Harvey (Mets), Adam Wainwright (Cardinals), Patrick Corbin (D’Backs), Shelby Miller (Cardinals), Jose Fernandez (Marlins), Lance Lynn (Cardinals)
Pitching has been fantastic in both leagues this year, but the NL has offered an amazing assortment of performances. There’s been the youth movement of Harvey, Corbin, Miller and Fernandez (who have combined for 15 wins and a 3.02 ERA), the continued coming of age of Zimmermann and Lynn (who are 1 & 2 in the league in wins), as well as the continued excellence of Kershaw (77 strikeouts, 1.68 ERA) and Wainwright (seven wins, 74 strikeouts).
Kimbrel and Chapman have been their usual overwhelming selves out the pen, while Grilli has been a ninth inning revelation (an NL-best 20 for 20 in saves opportunities). Papelbon (0.96 ERA) and Gregorsen (0.87 ERA) have been nearly untouchable on the season.
For more on the season as it’s forming and taking shape, follow me in real-time, all the time, on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan