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A play-by-play guy trying to survive in a mid-major world

Erik Kratz is an All-Star

For the first time in his professional career C Erik Kratz was selected to play in a mid-season All-Star game.  Back in July he made the most of it taking home the MVP award.  Earlier this week another honor came his way as Kratz was selected by the coaches and media to the post-season All-Star team.  He was excited and humbled by the honor and said that only once before in his career did he think he was even in the discussion for an All-Star bid.  Talk to the Indians pitchers and they feel this is a well deserved honor. 

Erik Kratz.JPGRHP Jason Davis said Kratz is the MVP of the Indians team (I agree).  RHP Ty Taubenheim said Kratz deserves the real reward of a September call-up.  Unfortunately for Kratz that would require the Pirates adding him to the 40 man roster…a long shot at best.  Kratz isn’t the only guy who is having a year worthy of a September call-up, but there may not be a player remaining on the team who deserves a 40 man spot more than Kratz.

Here is my 2009 All-Star ballot with the winner in parenthesis.

1B:  Kevin Barker, Louisville (Andy Tracy LHV) Tracy was one of the players I was considering, but in the end it was an easy call for Kevin Barker.  His overall numbers were better than Tracy and Barker is the MVP for the best team in the West Division.  What Barker meant to a playoff team is the reason I picked him for first base.

2B:  Kevin Russo, Scranton (Russo) Seth Bynum at Syracuse was the only other 2B I check out, but Russo numbers (leading the league in hitting) was the deciding factor.  To be honest, I don’t even remember Russo when the Indians played the Yankees.  This was strictly a numbers pick.

SS:  Reid Brignac, Durham (Brent Dlugach TOL) On my mid-season All-Star ballot I picked Brignac over Dlugach and still feel he is the better player.  Both are terrific young players, but I like Brignac’s game and his ability to get on base.  Dlugach strikes out a lot and Brignac is a wiz at shortstop.  This pick was purely a personal choice of Brignac over Dlugach. 

3B:  Andy Marte, Columbus (Marte) A rebound year for a former #1 prospect.  Marte was not an everyday player until late April and immediately started to rake.  I considered Indians 3B Neil Walker for about 2 seconds, but in the end one month (a really good month though…360+ batting average, 6 HR, and 34 RBI from July 30-August 31) does not make you an All-Star.  Besides in Marte’s final full month he won the IL’s Triple Crown.  He led the league in hitting, home runs, and RBI’s for the month of July. 

C:  Erik Kratz, Indianapolis (Kratz) The only other catcher to consider was Lou Marson.  His numbers don’t stack up to Erik’s and the big number for me is the Indians record in games he catches.  The Tribe is 45-38 in games started by Kratz compared to 24-32 when he is not in the starting line-up

OF:  Shelley Duncan, Scranton (Duncan) He was the best player in the league for the first two months of the season and over that time Scranton jumped out to a huge lead in the North Division.  Duncan leads the league in home runs with 29 and is tops with 92 runs batted in.  Seventeen of his 29 home runs were hit before June 1st and because of his quick start and what it meant to his club I also voted Duncan and the IL MVP.

OF:  Jorge Padilla, Syracuse (Jordan Brown COL) Padilla was any easy choice for me and honestly I didn’t consider Brown because he doesn’t have a position.  Jordan Brown will finish in the top three in hitting this season, but to me his year was not better than Padilla.  The Syracuse OF hit .367 in 95 games with an OBP of .424, compared to Brown’s .332 average in 108 games and OBP of .374.  At the time of his promotion to the Nationals, Padilla was leading the league in hitting and never hit less than .340 in any MONTH.  He hit safely in 39 of his last 42 games with Syracuse and made two pitching appearances.  He worked 1.2 of scoreless relief. 

OF Brian Myrow, Indianapolis (Jon Weber DUR) Yup, this was a homer pick.  Myrow injured his right calf on Monday night and is done for the season, but not before making an impression on me and the rest of the league.  Myrow was hitting .277 with 7 home runs and under 30 RBI playing part-time for the Charlotte Knights.  In late June he was traded to the Indians and he took off.  Myrow would go on to hit .330 with the Indians with an OBP near .450.  The 32 year-old (he’ll turn 33 on Sept. 5) will finish the year 1st or 2nd in OBP and have a top ten batting average.

SP:  Carlos Torres, Charlotte (Torres) Torres was a 10 game winner this season with an impressive 2.39 earned run average.  Torres struck out 130 batters over 128 innings and what impresses me is his 1.59 ERA at Knights Stadium.  Charlotte’s home park is one of the smallest in the league and it’s a challenge keeping hitters in the yard. 

RP Winston Abreu, Durham (Luis Valdez GWN) Valdez, a former Pirates farmhand, leads the IL in saves.  That’s probably why he was voted the reliever of the year.  I picked Abreu because he has the best numbers of any reliever this season.  I tend to devalue saves and look at K/IP, WHIP, and batting average against.  Every reliever is in play, not just closers.  Abreu this season struck out 73 in 48.2 innings of work.  He walked 14 and none of the 12 runners he inherited scored.  For those who vote on closers…Abreu is 14 for 15 in save opportunities. 

MVP:  Shelley Duncan SWB (Duncan) See above…the best player for the first two months of the season. 

MVPitcher:  Justin Lehr, Louisville (Lehr) Carlos Torres is the pitcher of the year, but no doubt Lehr is the most valuable pitcher.  Lehr began the season with Lehigh Valley and signed a minor league deal with the Reds at the end of May.  It was a wise move for the right-hander who would turn around Louisville’s season.  Entering June the Bats were in 3rd place and by the end of the month they would be comfortably in first.  In June, Lehr won all six starts with a 2.20 earned run average.  By the end of July he won 13 games for the Bats and was in the Reds rotation. 

Manager of the Year:  Rick Sweet, Louisville (Sweet) I strongly considered Durham’s skipper Charlie Montoya, but in the end picked Sweet.  My deciding factor was the turnover the Bats experienced throughout the year and how they never missed a beat.  Sweet did a great job of juggling a bullpen (LOU will finish with three different closers earning at least 10 saves) and incorporating several young players from Double-A.  It also helps that I see Sweet several times during the season and only see Durham 8 times.  Sorry Charlie! 

Rookie of the Year:  Austin Jackson, Scranton (Jackson) The 22 year more than held his own in his first year at Triple-A.  Jackson in near to top of the league with 140+ hits and has been around .300 for most of the year.  Because of his all around game I picked Jackson over Louisville’s CF Drew Stubbs.  Stubbs was too inconsistent at the plate for me to vote over Jackson.  One more note on Jackson…Wednesday he took over the IL lead with his 9th triple on the season.  That ended Andrew McCutchen’s 134 day stint as the leader in triples.  McCutchen took the IL lead way back on April 21st and was either tied or all alone with the lead even through he has been playing with the Pittsburgh Pirates since early June.  More impressive than his season is that ESPN didn’t do a feature on him since he is a future Yankee and on the cusp on the bigs.  Sorry, having trouble keeping my Midwest bitterness back.  Imagine if Andrew McCutchen played for the Yankees or Red Sox?  Pirates fan worry that he probably will within five years.  Ok, back to the blog…  

The Indians have only two home games remaining and four games left in 2009.  The Tribe is 69-70 on the season and is trying to finish with a winning record for the first time since 2006.  With the loss to Louisville last night the Indians will need to win out to have a .500 record within the division.  Hard to believe, but the Tribe has not had a winning record vs. the West since collaborating with the Pittsburgh Pirates. 

One final note…please read this article on former Indians OF and current Bucs legend Garrett Jones.  The home run Jones hit on September 2, 2008 (it’s discussed in the article) was hit off RHP Brian Slocum.  “Sloc” was a teammate of Jones this season in Indy.  The last update I had on Slocum is he is out of baseball and concentrating on his barber business. 




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