MLB Team of the Week: Chris Sale, Chase Utley and Albert Pujols Star
A lot has gone down across Major League Baseball since last Friday.
Masahiro Tanaka will be unavailable for at least six weeks and may require Tommy John surgery after partially tearing his UCL, per MLB.com's Bryan Hoch. Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel both found a new home with the Oakland A’s in a blockbuster trade on the Fourth of July.
That wasn’t it, however. The MLB All-Star roster was announced, and after the nation debated the merits of those invited and the players left off for various reasons, Chicago White Sox left-hander Chris Sale and Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo were selected in the fan vote.
And to everyone’s amusement, A.J. Pierzynski was designated for assignment by the Boston Red Sox.
Let’s take a step back from the chaos and look at the best performances in MLB last week and identify the stars at each position.
As always, this will be to the point. One player will represent each fielding position and the designated hitter, while one hurler will get the call for the lot of them. The only caveat is that each player must have appeared in at least four games at the position for which he is being considered.
With that said, it’s time to get started.
Albert Pujols, 1B, Los Angeles Angels
2014 Stats: .272/.322/.489, 20 HR, 62 RBI, 56 R, 18 2B, 123 wRC+
For the first time this season, Los Angeles Angels first baseman Albert Pujols makes the grade.
He collected at least two hits on six separate occasions this past week and drove in a minimum of two runs in five different games. On top of those statistics, he scored two runs or more four times and hit three home runs.
Frankly, it has his best week in some time and serves as a reminder that he is still capable of putting a team on his back and carrying it to victory. It doesn’t hurt that he has Mike Trout as a teammate, of course, but Pujols is certainly up to the task on his own.
To be sure, Matt Adams (.520/.538/.760) from the St. Louis Cardinals and Paul Goldschmidt (.381/.500/.762) from the Arizona Diamondbacks did everything they could to get the nod. They both came up with clutch hits and played very well, but Pujols’ ability to generate runs was too much for either of them to overcome.
Last Week’s Stats: .483/.484/.828, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 10 R, 267 wRC+
Chase Utley, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies
2014 Stats:.294/.352/.452, 8 HR, 46 RBI, 50 R, 24 2B, 121 wRC+
After a relatively slow start to the week, Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley came alive.
During the four-game set with the Milwaukee Brewers, he went 7-for-14 with four runs scored and six RBI. It was an impressive performance and a large part of the reason the Phillies took all four games in the series.
All told, Utley collected nine hits, knocked in seven runs and had a .273 ISO. He will also make his sixth All-Star appearance after being chosen as the only representative from the Phillies.
Neil Walker from the Pittsburgh Pirates (.381/.462/.714) and Ben Zobrist (.458/.536/.542) from the Tampa Bay Rays also had nice weeks. Utley’s overall run production put him over the top.
Last Week’s Stats: .409/.462/.682, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 4 R, 215 wRC+
Erick Aybar, SS, Los Angeles Angels
2014 Stats: .280/.316/.412, 6 HR, 47 RBI, 46 R, 22 2B, 11 SB, 105 wRC+
Overall, the play at the shortstop position this past week was woeful. But someone has to take the prize, so we’ll go with Erick Aybar from the Los Angeles Angels.
On the week, he had nine hits, four runs scored and collected five RBI. He also stole three bases, laced two doubles and hit safely in his last six games.
Aybar sealed things up this week with a three-RBI performance against the Texas Rangers on Thursday night. He did his damage with a ground out to first in the first inning and a single to center field in the second. Not exactly the most exciting way to collect three RBI, but it got the job done.
Jed Lowrie (.393/.414/.500) from the Oakland A’s and Jose Reyes (.370/.414/.481) from the Toronto Blue Jays made a run at the crown here, but fell short in a couple of categories. Aybar’s baserunning and consistency proved to be the deciding factors.
Last Week’s Stats: .310/.333/.379, 5 RBI, 4 R, 2 2B, 3 SB, 103 wRC+
Conor Gillaspie, 3B, Chicago White Sox
2014 Stats: .323/.371/.480, 4 HR, 35 RBI, 33 R, 21 2B, 133 wRC+
Chicago White Sox third baseman Conor Gillaspie has been sitting on his power stroke all season. It appears as though he felt that the series against the Boston Red Sox was a good time to turn it on.
Entering the four-game set with the Red Sox, Gillaspie had gone yard once in his first 64 games. He has since homered in three straight, the last one a game-tying, two-run shot in the top of the ninth inning off of closer Koji Uehara. Talk about timing.
True, Gillaspie was awful versus the Seattle Mariners, but his production against the Red Sox more than made up for it.
Manny Machado (.522/.542/.870) from the Baltimore Orioles and Adrian Beltre (.400/.400/.900) from the Texas Rangers made a run at Gillaspie this week. Unfortunately, they fell short in ISO, OPS and wRC+.
Last Week’s Stats: .412/.524/1.176, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 7 R, 2 2B, 343 wRC+
Travis d'Arnaud, C, New York Mets
2014 Stats: .214/.289/.352, 6 HR, 19 RBI, 16 R, 7 2B, 78 wRC+
New York Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud has been on a run since being recalled from Triple-A on June 24, and this past week only added to his aura.
He drove in a run in three straight at one point, hit two home runs and scored three times. He also had two doubles, seven hits and stroked a tie-breaking double in the eighth inning versus the Texas Rangers that ended up being the game-winner.
Now, after a successful minor league career, the transition to the majors wasn’t as smooth as anyone hoped it would be. At his manager’s behest, he adjusted his routine, and the results are evident, per Jason Rubinstein from the New York Daily News.
Wilson Ramos (.391/.417/.565) from the Washington Nationals and Russell Martin (.350/.435/.550) from the Pittsburgh Pirates had nice weeks as well, but d’Arnaud edged them in RBI, ISO and slugging percentage.
Last Week’s Stats: .292/.320/.625, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 4 R, 2 2B, 167 wRC+
Jayson Werth, RF, Washington Nationals
2014 Stats: .278/.361/.427, 10 HR, 47 RBI, 52 R, 20 2B, 125 wRC+
After collecting six extra-base hits in the month of June, Washington Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth broke out in a big way, winning the first National League Player of the Week award for the month of July. He continued his hot hitting through Thursday.
In six games over the past week, he hit four doubles, three home runs and drove in seven runs. He also reached base in five out of six games and had a plus rating on the basepaths. All told, he was superb.
Expect for the results to continue. Don’t forget, he exploded in July last season as well, and recently made an adjustment in his stance that is allowing him to stay “on top of the ball,” according to manager Matt Williams, via The Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan. That is good news for the Nationals and bad news for the Atlanta Braves.
J.D. Martinez (.435/.481/.870) from the Detroit Tigers, Kole Calhoun (.444/.500/.852) from the Los Angeles Angels and Hunter Pence (.429/.467/.643) from the San Francisco Giants also had nice weeks. Werth’s edge in ISO, RBI and slugging percentage ended up being the difference-makers.
Last Week’s Stats: .348/.423/.913, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 6 R, 4 2B, 261 wRC+
Billy Hamilton, CF, Cincinnati Reds
2014 Stats: .280/.314/.421, 5 HR, 37 RBI, 44 R, 18 2B, 6 3B, 37 SB, 102 wRC+
Cincinnati Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton has put up phenomenal numbers lately. From June 11 through July 2, for example, he had a .345/.367/.529 slash line with 15 RBI, 12 stolen bases and a 150 wRC+, per game logs taken from FanGraphs. Proportionally, this past week was better.
In seven games, Hamilton had a double, three triples and nine RBI. He also scored four times, stole two bases and had an exceptional .643 slugging percentage. In other words, he was without peer over the last week.
Quite simply, he has turned into the catalyst at the top of the order the Reds have been searching for. And considering his rather slow start, that is a fantastic development.
Sam Fuld (.476/.560/.619) from the Minnesota Twins and Andrew McCutchen (.345/.355/.759) from the Pittsburgh Pirates kept the competition close, but Hamilton’s overall body of work was significant enough to earn the recognition.
Last Week’s Stats: .286/.355/.643, HR, 9 RBI, 4 R, 3 3B, 2 SB, 171 wRC+
Chris Coghlan, LF, Chicago Cubs
2014 Stats: .252/.327/.424, 4 HR, 10 RBI, 21 R, 8 2B, 106 wRC+
Chicago Cubs left fielder Chris Coghlan had an amazing week.
Not only did he become the first guy to hit a home run in each game of a doubleheader in Cincinnati since Ron Santo accomplished the feat in 1965, per MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat, but he also had a hit in seven out eight games.
That wasn’t it, though. He drove in three runs, hit four doubles and scored an impressive nine times. Couple his prowess at the dish with his baserunning, and it is safe to say that Coghlan has found a regular spot in manager Rick Renteria’s lineup.
To be sure, the competition this week in left field was ferocious. Michael Brantley (.484/.485/.742) from the Cleveland Indians and was terrific. Coghlan’s ISO, base running and combined run production gave him the edge.
Last Week’s Stats: .414/.485/.759, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 9 R, 4 2B, 241 wRC+
Chris Carter, DH, Houston Astros
2014 Stats: .198/.277/.447, 17 HR, 37 RBI, 31 R, 12 2B, 100 wRC+
Houston Astros designated hitter Chris Carter went on a tear last week.
Not only did he score a run in each game, but he delivered a grand slam versus the Los Angeles Angels on July 5 and hit two solo home runs against the Texas Rangers two days later. True, he struck out 27.3 percent of the time, but he kept his bat in the zone long enough to do some serious damage.
For as good as his week was overall, the series against the Rangers was special. In the three-game sweep, Carter hit .385 with an .846 slugging percentage and set the tone early. All told, he raised his batting average from .182 to .198.
True, he is having a rough season overall, but with weeks like this last one, Astros fans can temporarily bask in the idea that he is indeed a feared slugger. Simply put, they are a different club when he is performing at a high level.
Last Week’s Stats: .400/.455/1.000, 4 HR, 7 RBI, 7 R, .600 ISO, 300 wRC+
Chris Sale, SP, Chicago White Sox
2014 Stats: 8-1, 2.08 ERA, 2.46 FIP, 102 K, 16 BB, 14 GS, 95.0 IP
Talk about earning your way onto the All-Star team.
Left off the roster by American League All-Star manager John Farrell, Chicago White Sox left-hander Chris Sale took matters into his own hands and had his best week of the season.
In two starts, he tossed 16.2 innings, struck out 18, walked none and only gave up 10 hits en route to a 1.08 ERA and a 1.13 FIP. He also only allowed a .244 batting average on balls in play against and would have won both starts had the bullpen not blown the lead versus the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday.
For his efforts (and the rest of the season’s, of course), Sale received 6.7 million fan votes and earned a spot on the AL All-Star roster, per MLB.com’s Mark Newman. Say what you want about White Sox fans not showing up to U.S. Cellular, but Newman also noted that he is the fourth player—Scott Podsednik, A.J. Pierzynski and Paul Konerko were the others—the fanbase has voted onto the All-Star team in the last 10 seasons.
Jon Lester (0-0, 0.60 ERA, 0.59 FIP) from the Boston Red Sox and Jose Quintana (0-0, 1.84 ERA, 1.42 FIP) from the White Sox were great in their two starts. Oakland A’s left-hander Scott Kazmir (2-0, 0.64 ERA, 1.34 FIP) and Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw (2-0, 0.53 ERA, 2.00 FIP) also had fantastic weeks.
Last Week’s Stats: 1-0, 1.08 ERA, 1.13 FIP, 18 K, 0 BB, 2 GS, 16.2 IP
Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are courtesy of FanGraphs. Weekly statistics were taken from the "leaders" page at FanGraphs and are for the week ending Thursday, July 10. Transaction, injury and game information courtesy of MLB.com.