Brian McCann is also better than Yadier Molina at thumb wrestling.
Welcome to the tail end of what has amounted to a second All-Star break for the Atlanta Braves. Having not played a game since Friday, the intervening three days off have given the club a chance to rest their starters, rest their bullpen, and rest their battered lineup. They need only wait two more days until rosters expand and they can add all the additional
help warm bodies they need.
Hurricane Irene has given us an opportunity to take a look at which players would likely be chosen for an All-Star game were it to be held now, instead of way back in mid-July -- over a month ago. The Braves five All-Stars were Brian McCann, Chipper Jones, Jair Jurrjens, Craig Kimbrel, and Jonny Venters. We'll take a look at each one, and see if they're still All-Star-worthy, and then see who else on the Braves might be Second Break All-Star worthy.
Brian McCann is clearly still the best catcher in the NL. He leads all NL catchers is OPS -- regardless of plate appearances -- and is tied for the Major League lead in home runs by a catcher. Oh, and all this despite missing almost three weeks with an oblique injury. McCann is still the starting catcher for the All-Star team.
In the National League, with a minimum of 55 innings pitched, the top three relievers in ERA are Eric O'Flaherty (1.23), Jonny Venters (1.33), and Craig Kimbrel (1.70). Wow! When people say this is a good bullpen, I always nod in agreement, but what I really should be doing is screaming "Hell Yeah It Is!" Venters made the All-Star team on the first go-around, but it took Kimbrel until the eleventh hour to be added to the team, and O'Flaherty never made the team, and was rarely even talked about as being a snub. All three of these guys make my Second Break All-Star team.
Jair Jurrjens was the only starting pitcher to make the team, and he's still got some of the better obvious stats on the team -- lowest starters ERA, most wins -- even though he's been injured a lot since the first All-Star break, and has struggled since returning. He still likely makes the team, just from the virtue of being lucky -- he has the highest xFIP among starters, and the lowest fWAR. In fact, he's tied with Tommy Hanson at 1.9 (FanGraphs) Wins Above Replacement. Hanson being the pitcher who most people thought was the biggest snub of the All-Star game. Since then he's had a rough July that has led to a diagnosis of a slight tear in his pitching shoulder, an injury that could sideline him for the rest of the year.
As much as the traditional stats make Jurrjens and Hanson look like safe bets for a second break All-Star team, the advanced stats say that Brandon Beachy has been better (2.0 fWAR), Tim Hudson has been better (3.0 fWAR), and even Derek Lowe (2.4 fWAR) has been better -- as hard as that is to believe. Even Mike Minor has an fWAR (1.7) that is on par with Jurrjens and Hanson. Of course rWAR tells a totally different story -- Jurrjens (4.1) and Lowe (0.6) -- so maybe Jurrjens is still an All-Star.
If I was picking for the second break All-Stars, I'd still like to see Jurrjens make the team, and I'd probably give Huddy the nod as well. Beachy would be a Vogelsong-esque homer pick, but probably not deserving this year, though next year he could be a contender for the team.
Now to the old man, Chipper Jones. He was voted in by the players, a sign of respect among his peers more than a reward for having a good season. Chipper may still make the second break All-Star team as a player selection, and by virtue of this year's weak crop of NL third basemen. Look out though, Chipper is hitting .386/.410/.649 in August, and his continued production will be a key as the Braves drive toward the playoffs and (deep) into the postseason. Chipper's body is probably really enjoying these three days off.
As important as Freeman, Uggla, and Bourn have been to the Braves, they don't quite rate up there at the top of the league at their position -- not yet at least. Michael Bourn might get some consideration for the team, but the center field position is deep in the NL.
As much as many Braves fans would probably want to include Freddie Freeman on an All-Star team, the first base position is stacked with stars. Frito's .819 OPS, while better than Ryan Howard's, is still only good enough for sixth among qualifying NL first basemen.
Even with the torrid second half Dan Uggla has had, he probably still doesn't make the team, though never discount shiny things like hitting streaks that distract voters into selecting players for the team who may not deserve it. Maybe next year Uggla will have two halves of a season like he's had in the second half of this season.
So my Second Break Braves All-Stars are all the guys that made the team during the regular All-Star break (a good sign that none of them have dropped off too much), plus Eric O'Flaherty and Tim Hudson -- a solid group of players. In the comments, tell me who you would pick for the Second-Break All-Star team.