One of the Giants’ best hitters will be only the 8th-best hitter for the National League in tomorrow’s All-Star Game in Washington, D.C. Crawford, recently voted on by his peers as one of the most underrated players in the game, might have the opportunity to drive in Bryce Harper a year before it becomes his literal job to do so.
Max Scherzer will start the game. The full lineup with notes (2018 OPS+ in parenthesis):
2B Javier Báez (131 OPS+)
He’s the most explosive player in the lineup, the most annoying player on the field, and so supremely talented that it drives me nuts. He’s not, however, facing the Giants, so if he really wants to have a great game, he’ll need to actually work hard for it this time.
If the American League has scouted him properly, then they know they can get him on plays like this:
But... also... he... can... do stuff like this, too:
Cubs Javy Baez steals home with a swim-move slide! pic.twitter.com/ihPgFDWqJA— Disco Sports (@DiscoSports) July 8, 2018
3B Nolan Arenado (145 OPS+)
Here’s another situation where the All-Star is facing the American League and not the Giants. His season line (90 games) is .312 / .395 / .586 (.981 OPS). In 13 games against the Giants, it’s .321 / .410 / .566 (.976 OPS). So, okay, actually lower. But, as you’re about to see for the rest of this lineup, All-Star Games are all about reputation!
For his career (810 games), Arenado is a .292 / .347 / .540 (.887 OPS) hitter. Against just the Giants, in 101 games, it’s .312 / .366 /.597 (.962) with 126 hits (37 doubles, 24 home runs, 3 triples), 90 RBI, 67 runs scored, 29 walks, 51 strikeouts, 6 hit by pitches, and a sacrifice fly.
If you subtract his line against the Giants from his career total, you get a line of .290 / .344 / .532 (.876)!
As... you can see... he’s still the same hitter (over his career). He has a reputation of being... good. So, wait, yeah. Nolan Arenado is, uh, he’s actually just really good. And we already know about his defense. So, yeah, he’s great. An All-Star, even.
DH Paul Goldschmidt (138 OPS+)
Eh. We kinda already know the deal with this guy. He’s really good and underrated. But, again, he’s not facing the Giants, which according to this handy chart that Grant created back in 2013, is the team he’s the 10th-best at killing (all-time for the franchise).
This here’s an exhibition game, so, A.J. Hinch might just pitch to Goldschmidt regardless of the circumstances, giving Goldy the leverage he needs to smack a dinger or two.
1B Freddie Freeman (156 OPS+)
Here’s the most underrated player of his lineup. He hits for power, he gets on base, he has no platoon split. He’s a solid defender, and he looks like this:
and goes on road trips with his cat:
which is something I can relate to:
"Life's a journey, not a destination." - Aerosmith pic.twitter.com/KwAPAphf5f— Bryan Murphy (@Every6thDay) November 26, 2017
He was the leading vote-getter in both leagues and for good reason!
LF Matt Kemp (135 OPS+)
Kemp has always been an above average hitter, (career 123 OPS+, no seasons except his rookie year that was beneath 104), defying The Narrative that he’s been washed up for 5 years, however, it’s Matt Kemp, and he’s having the fourth-best season of his career at 42 years old (oof, he’s still just 33).
On the one hand, I think it’s good when baseball players aren’t immediately “done” once they turn 33, but on the other hand, the Dodgers.
CF Bryce Harper (120 OPS+)
For a player who’s hitting 20% better than league average, industry people sure are talking about him like he’s Chris Davis, and that’s simply not the case. Maybe the American League won’t use any shifts, allowing him to scorch a couple of leadoff singles between first and second base, or maybe he’ll just hit a home run and make a great play or two in the field.
Then again, my foggy recollection of the All-Star Game has it that the star of the hosting city doesn’t usually do well or at least anything memorable in the game itself.
RF Nick Markakis (140 OPS+)
Which brings us to this guy, who’s having the best season of his 12-year career. By OPS+, he’s the best player in the lineup. 40 of his 120 hits have been extra base hits (29 doubles, 1 triple, 10 home runs) and he’s struck out only 46 times in 419 plate appearances (basically, only 11% of the time) and walked 42 times. His hit total is 2nd overall in MLB (#1 in the NL), and despite having played in 5 fewer games than league-leading Jose Altuve, he’s just 9 hits behind him.
After leaving the Orioles in the 2014 offseason, his career has experienced a resurgence. He hit only 3 home runs in 156 games in his first year with the Braves (as part of a 4-year $44 million deal that concludes this season), but has hit 31 (and counting) since then. He gets on base and has a decent arm in right field (Gold Gloves in 2011 and 2014), and this will be the first time he’s in the All-Star Game. And he’s starting.
Brandon Crawford (126 OPS+)
He parlayed the best month of his career into a career profile-altering stretch where the Giants now consider him a key part of the offense and opposing teams actively pitch around him (he already has a career-high 11 intentional walks through 93 games) and he won the shortstop ballot category rather easily.
The national perception might not have caught up to what everyone in the industry and everyone on this site knows, but after tomorrow’s game, there’s a very good chance everybody will be saying, “Yeah, Brandon Crawford is the best shortstop in the National League.”
C Willson Contreras (116 OPS+)
He takes pitches and gets on base, but mainly, he’s a fantastic defender. We’ll definitely see a snap throw to first base and he’ll probably work out a key walk at some point. He snuck up on Buster Posey and won the starting spot at the last minute, and it seems like everyone’s fine with that. Posey’s hip is barking and he can’t hit or play defense anymore the way Contreras does, so maybe this quiet changing of the guard — nope. Yadier Molina’s a reserve, so, let’s just keep banging the Buster Is Best drum for a while longer.
The American League also has a lineup. Who do you think will be the game’s MVP? And, remember, you have to care about that, because you clicked on the article and read all the way to this point.