Will Derek Jeter be good for the Marlins? Plus, Joey Votto, Andrelton Simmons, Chad Bettis, MLB power rankings and more.

Earlier this year, we heard Derek Jeter was part of a group intent on buying the Marlins. Fans both in Miami and across baseball celebrated the news, mostly because it meant the end of Jeffrey Loria’s reign of baseball terror in South Florida, but also because Jeter is a good baseball man and it’s nice to see a future Hall of Famer involved in the game again (even if he was overrated as a shortstop). Then the deal fell through.

However, last week, we found out Jeter would indeed be part of an ownership group (headed by Bruce Sherman) expected to purchase the club from Loria, the longtime team owner who bought the franchise in 2002.

The former Yankees captain won’t be the principal owner, and won’t have a particularly large stake in the franchise (reports suggest Jeter’s investment in the $1.2 billion deal will be $25 million), but Jeter is expected to play a big role in the baseball operations for the Marlins, assuming MLB owners approve the transaction. And apparently, Jeter is already suggesting changes, including removing the so-ugly-and-weird-people-kind-of-love-it-now home run sculpture beyond the left-center wall at Marlins Park.

But Jeter’s bigger impact is likely to come in how he helps shape the Marlins roster. Known for his grit, guts and leadership ability in two decades in the Bronx, Jeter is expected to take an old-school approach to the job.

Kevin Kernan of the New York Post put it well last week:

Jeter believes in scouting, talent, heart and soul, and he will look to fill the Marlins roster with the same kind of winning player he was during his 20-year championship career with the Yankees. In doing so he will slow down the rush to analytics that is now being portrayed the answer to all of baseball’s questions.

and

In his heart, Jeter wants to run a baseball team that crushes what he views to be over-the-top analytic-based teams.

Some baseball fans welcome a traditional approach. Many of them are intimidated by abbreviations and acronyms they don’t comprehend, such as wRC+, wOBA, FIP, Z-Swing% and even WAR. I understand. I was once one of them.

However, there’s a reason teams have become overwhelmingly analytical since Jeter won his fifth World Series ring, and there’s a reason why even big-money clubs like the Dodgers and Red Sox crunch numbers and analyze every data point available to them.

Jeter isn’t likely to ignore analytics completely. It’s hard to say how much his views may have changed since his playing days, or how they will involve once he’s involved in the day-to-day operations of the Marlins front office (again, assuming sale becomes official, since things fell apart before). And having Derek Jeter back in baseball is good for the game as a whole, and odds are it will be good for Miami, the Marlins fanbase and the overall health of the franchise. He’s a big name, a baseball legend, and he’ll bring a spotlight (and hopefully plenty of revenue streams) to the club, which should help both the bottom line and the on-field product.

Nevertheless, if Jeter is determined to approach his job in spite of the advances MLB organizations have made in sabermetrics and analytics, his involvement may actually make it harder for the Marlins win.

Three things we learned this week

1. Joey Votto doesn’t get enough attention

It’s easy to overlook Joey Votto, particularly because he plays for the last place Cincinnati Reds. Though Votto has made quite a few headlines this season. He’s fun to watch, whether shutting up trash talkers in the on-deck circle, launching a foul ball dribbler out of Wrigley Field instead of tossing it to a fan in the expensive seats by first base.

But Votto is also one of the best players in baseball. The 33-year-old first baseman has been worth 4.9 Wins Above Replacement this season according to Fangraphs (fWAR), which ranks eighth in the majors. Votto is hitting .316/.448/.600 with 31 home runs, 83 RBI and 83 runs scored and he leads the major leagues in games played (120), OPS (1.048), walks (98), walk rate (18.7 percent), wOBA (.433), wRC (113) and on-base percentage (.448). He also leads the National League in OPS+ (171) and wRC+ (166).

Votto reached base three times Tuesday night against the Cubs. He walked three times in five plate appearances. By doing so, he moved into a tie with Pete Rose and Barry Bonds, one spot behind Ted Williams for the MLB record of reaching base at least twice in 21 consecutive games. Williams set the mark in 1948.

2. Andrelton Simmons put his stamp on AL MVP race

Speaking of players that don’t get enough attention, it’s time we discussed Andrelton Simmons. Known for his wizardry with the glove at shortstop and his cannon right arm, Simmons has been a fixture on highlight reels since he made his major league debut with the Braves as a 22-year-old in 2012.

Traded to the Angels before the 2016 season, Simmons is often overshadowed by teammate and world’s greatest baseball player Mike Trout, or he plays too late for many baseball fans on keep up with on a daily basis. Nevertheless, Simmons has paired his elite defensive skills with improved production at the plate, and he might even earn some MVP votes in the process.

In 118 games this season, Simmons is hitting .298/.352/.453 with 12 home runs, 55 RBI and 60 runs scored. He has already set a career high with 28 doubles, and is five RBI and six homers away from new career bests in those categories as well. Overall, Simmons ranks No. 10 among major league position players with 4.5 fWAR, and his 6.2 Wins Above Replacement according to Baseball-Reference (bWAR) ranks second behind Astros second baseman and MVP candidate Jose Altuve.

His Defensive WAR (3.0) is the best in baseball according to Baseball-Reference, and he also leads the majors in FanGraphs’ defensive rating (15.5) and ranks second in Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) with 23.

Most importantly, Simmons helped keep the Angels afloat when Trout was on the DL with a thumb injury, and the pair has led Los Angeles in its climb into the second AL Wild Card spot.

3. Chad Bettis beat cancer, tossed seven scoreless innings

Last week we touched on the loss of former AL MVP and Colorado Rockies manager Don Baylor as well as All-Star catcher Darren Daulton after their battles with cancer. However, Rockies pitcher Chad Bettis offered an emotional lift by returning to the mound after his cancer fight.

Bettis was a top of the rotation starter for Colorado in both 2015 and 2016, and posted a 14-8 record and 4.79 ERA in 32 starts for the Rockies. However, he had been on the disabled list for the entire 2018 season after being diagnosed with testicular cancer in November and undergoing chemotherapy to treat it beginning in March.

Despite missing Bettis, the Rockies have played like a playoff team this year. But the right-hander’s return to the mound Monday lifted the team in more ways than one. First of all, it’s wonderful to see someone beat cancer and return to his or her normal life. Secondly, after tossing seven scoreless innings against the Braves, Bettis looks capable of returning to the top of the rotation for Colorado’s stretch run.

Our friend Kevin Henry of Rox Pile was there to see Bettis in action, and had an opportunity to observe Bettis in the media room after the game. Also, the Topps Company released a special trading card to commemorate Bettis’ return, with the proceeds of its sale going to Stand Up To Cancer.

Quotable

“It’s 2017. Actual Nazis just marched on Charlottesville. We have to come together and drive this hatred and domestic terrorism from our country. Since I’m new in DC, I’ve purposely kept a low profile and stayed off social media but what happened in VA made me sick. While it’s important to protect free speech, we have a patriotic obligation to condemn racism and domestic terrorism by white supremacists. The C’Ville I knew of my time at UVA is a diverse and accepting community. It’s no place for Nazis. People say ‘if we don’t give them attention they’ll go away.’ Maybe. But if we don’t condemn this evil, it might continue to spread…. This kind of hatred was never gone, but now it’s been normalized. They didn’t even wear hoods. It’s on us to condemn them and drive it out.”

Washington Nationals reliever and former Virginia Cavaliers player Sean Doolittle, on Twitter, in response to the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend

Don’t stick to sports. Some things are far more important.

Play of the Week

Triple Play! Catchers are known for their slow feet, though Yadier Molina is one of the better running catchers on the bases. Nevertheless, Molina’s ground ball to Red Sox rookie third baseman Rafael Devers started a 5-4-3, around-the-horn triple play Tuesday night at Fenway Park. It was the first triple play for the Red Sox in seven years.

Analytical League Leaders

We’re six weeks away from the end of the MLB season, and it’s as good a time as any to catch up on Wins Above Replacement according to Fangraphs, which is the best overall tool at our disposal for gauging the overall performance of a player.

Wins Above Replacement (fWAR), Position Players

  • Jose Altuve, Houston Astros (6.2)
  • Aaron Judge, New York Yankees (6.1)
  • Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks (5.5)
  • Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels (5.3)
  • Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals (5.2)
  • Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers (5.0)
  • Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals (5.0)
  • Justin Turner, Los Angeles Dodgers (4.9)
  • Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds (4.9)
  • Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies (4.6)
  • Andrelton Simmons, Los Angeles Angels (4.5)

Jose Altuve and Aaron Judge have been the best position players in the baseball by a wide margin this season, and the two are neck-and-neck in the race for the AL MVP, but how about Mike Trout? Despite missing six weeks of action, Trout is third in the league and fourth in all of baseball in fWAR and there’s still time for him to catch Altuve and Judge.

As for the National League, Bryce Harper was the favorite to win the NL MVP before he suffered his own injury. Fortunately, Harper’s slip on a wet first base bag over the weekend didn’t result in any structural damage to his knee, but it will put him on the shelf for a few weeks, and is likely to allow Paul Goldschmidt, Corey Seager, Justin Turner or teammate Anthony Rendon an opportunity to make their case for the award.

Wins Above Replacement (fWAR), Pitchers

  • Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox (7.4)
  • Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians (5.0)
  • Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals (5.0)
  • James Paxton, Seattle Mariners (4.1)
  • Luis Severino, New York Yankees (4.1)
  • Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers (4.1)
  • Zack Greinke, Arizona Diamondbacks (4.1)
  • Chris Archer, Tampa Bay Rays (4.0)
  • Jimmy Nelson, Milwaukee Brewers (4.0)
  • Alex Wood, Los Angeles Dodgers (3.6)

We’ve discussed the AL MVP race between Judge and Altuve, but Chris Sale should get some love as well, especially since Sale has a commanding lead in fWAR among all major league players. Corey Kluber would be a runaway Cy Young winner in almost any other season, but Sale has been even more dominant. As for the NL, it’s Max Scherzer’s crown to lose, especially since top contender Clayton Kershaw is still on the disabled list.

Random MLB Power Rankings

Top 10 players in baseball in 2017

  1. Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels
  2. Chris Sale, SP, Boston Red Sox
  3. Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros
  4. Corey Kluber, SP, Cleveland Indians
  5. Max Scherzer, SP, Washington Nationals
  6. Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals
  7. Aaron Judge, OF, New York Yankees
  8. Clayton Kershaw, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
  9. Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds
  10. Andrelton Simmons, SS, Los Angeles Angels

Useless Info

The Cleveland Indians noted the Tribe’s run of 12 straight games with at least 10 strikeouts is an MLB record for the era covered by the Baseball-Reference Play Index (the gold standard for baseball research). Corey Kluber has eight or more strikeouts in 14 consecutive starts, which is the third best streak in a single-season in baseball history. Randy Johnson set the MLB make with 15 in 1999 and tied it in 2000.

With their 10-4 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, the Boston Red Sox improved to 15-2 on Tuesdays this season.

The day after Bettis’ start, the Atlanta Braves beat the Rockies 4-3 at Coors Field Tuesday night. As Mark Bowman noted, the win snapped an 11-game losing streak for the club in Denver, which dated back to June 11, 2014.

According to MLB Stat of the Day, Reds speedster Billy Hamilton became the 14th player in MLB’s modern era to steal 50 or more bases in four straight seasons, and the 25th player to do it in four seasons overall.

Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Aaron Hicks all hit career home run No. 40 Saturday.

One day earlier, Giancarlo Stanton (who cleared waivers recently and is therefore available to be traded) hit career home run No. 250. Stanton has since hit two more home runs, the first of which set a new Marlins single-single record. He leads the majors with 44 homers this season, and has hit a long ball in each of his last six games.

Stanton has 11 homers in his last 12 contests, tying Troy Tulowitzki, Sammy Sosa and Ralph Kiner for the most home runs in a 15-day period, according to Elias Sports.





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