We are all baseball fans here. And even if you try to avoid it, you can’t escape ESPN. So I know you’ve seen the ESPN 500 list of today’s best baseball players. They revealed the top ten players in baseball today, and there are some surprises.
Pardon me? ESPN has clearly been hitting some of whatever Ryan Leaf keeps stealing. There is no way in Hell, Heaven or anything in between that you can name 12 players better than Matt Kemp in baseball.
Now, I don’t know what kind of cracked-out formula the guys over in Bristol are using, but it’s clearly not working. You know what I think about formulas? Screw ‘em!
Maybe that’s why I nearly failed out of Biology 102. Oops!
Anyway, here’s my version of the top ten players in baseball today. No fancy formulas, no grading scales – just statistics. The best proof of who can hit, throw, run and field better than the other hundreds of pro ball players out there.
10. Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox (ESPN rank: 15)
How Gonzalez wasn’t included in the top ten boggles me in the first place. But I understand. I mean, look at the names I’m leaving out! When you are talking about importance to a team, how about a guy who literally, singled-handedly carried the San Diego Padres to contention? Last year, he hit .338 with 27 homers and 117 RBI. My goodness.
9. Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays (ESPN rank: 14)
Just because he plays in Canada doesn’t mean he deserves to be snubbed. Bautista has become a bona fide star in Toronto, blasting nearly 100 home runs over the last two years. Last year, he got his average up above .300, but the most shocking number I came across was his on-base percentage: .447 is astounding. Almost half of his plate appearances, he ended up on base.
8. Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies (ESPN rank: 18)
Eighteenth? Really? That’s nine spots BEHIND Lincecum, who can’t touch Lee’s consistency or numbers. In 2011, Lee won 17 games with a 2.40 ERA and 238 strikeouts. He also led the majors in shutouts (6). You can talk all you want about how many Cy Young awards Lincecum has, but the fact of the matter is Lee deserves this spot.
7. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers (ESPN rank: 6)
I get it. I really do. Braun won the MVP last year, blah blah blah. Everyone not directly related to Braun or currently wearing a Brewers cap knows that was Kemp’s award. I struggle to say, fairly, if Braun’s numbers were boosted by Prince Fielder‘s presence in the lineup. We will find out this year. Still, .332/33/111 is a line that deserves a top-10 ranking.
6. Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers (ESPN rank: 13)
I can’t believe I even had to take the time to slide him up this far. And it still might be a bit of a snub, because while I have a hard time listing guys that play every fifth day as more valuable and more important than a position player, the three ahead of Kemp are too studly to ignore. I don’t know what else to tell you besides that Kemp was one homer shy of 40/40 and about eight hits shy of a Triple Crown in 2011. A .324 average, 39 homers, 126 RBI and 40 steals, plus a Gold Glove in center field? Oh, did I mention he led all of baseball with a 10 WAR (yes, that stat does really matter)? I rest my case.
5. Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies (ESPN rank: 2)
I think ranking Doc second behind Pujols might have been ESPN’s version of a “he’s-a-really-nice-guy-so-he-gets-bonus-points” selection. You can’t hate Halladay. If you do, you’re a Communist. He’s been one of the most consistently incredible pitchers in the game for over a decade, and he’s not slowing down any time soon. I for one, hope that he wins that elusive Series ring. Just not in that jersey. Last season’s 19-6/2.35/220 line doesn’t hurt his case.
4. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers (ESPN rank: 7)
Yes, he’s young. No, he’s not unproven. Let’s throw age out the window, considering he’s a freakin’ prodigy. Besides, you don’t see me ranking older players higher just because they are past 30. Kershaw, at 23 last year, won the pitching Triple Crown in the National League. Just because it’s not an official “thing,” people fail to realize how impressive that is. Especially given his competition in the league each year. Last year’s Cy Young winner was a no-doubter top-five selection here, based on his 21-5/2.28/248 (with a .207 batting average against, might I add) line.
3. Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers (ESPN rank: 4)
There is one pitcher that is better overall than Kershaw right now. And that’s the American League’s reigning Cy Young AND Most Valuable Player winner. He was absolutely dominant in 2011, and it was a long time coming. Barring injury, I don’t see Verlander slowing down any time soon. He could really become an all-time great. Good head on his shoulders, plus un-hittable stuff is a pretty deadly combination. The results showed last season when he posted a 24-5 record with a 2.40 ERA and 250 K’s, to go along with a batting average against of .192. Wow.
2. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers (ESPN rank: 3)
Let me stop you right there before you say anything about his drinking problems or his habit of fielding baseballs with his face. Cabrera has been one of the greatest players of our generation. His swing from the right side of the plate is impeccable, and he’s actually been an underrated defender for most of his career. He’s my early pick for A.L. MVP, and I’m sticking to it. Can you blame me? He hit .344 with 30 homers and 105 RBI last year, getting on base at a .448 clip. With Fielder in the lineup now, he should go even higher in every category. Seriously.
1. Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels (ESPN rank: 1)
I know, I know. After all this re-arranging and bashing of ESPN’s list, I ultimately agree on the best player in baseball. The most valuable player. He’ll show it this year, too. The Angels’ offense is just above average without Pujols. A couple hundred million dollars later, they are absolutely terrifying. If Albert’s Spring isn’t proof enough, just go ahead and look at his career numbers. The slick-fielding first baseman (who actually runs the bases extremely well for a big guy, too) hit .299 with 37 home runs and 99 RBI in a down year. It’s the first time in his career he’s hit below .300 and driven in less than 100 runs. But the future Hall-of-Famer still carried his Cardinals to a World Series victory.
Well, there you have it. My official ten best/most valuable players in baseball. Please comment below and tell me what I messed up! Although, I don’t mess anything up. So you’ll be wasting your time. But go ahead anyway.
Thanks for reading! And you can follow me on Twitter @Jamblinman.