Ladies and gentleman, can I please have your attention. I've just been handed an urgent and horrifying news story and I need all of you to stop what you're doing and listen.
JOE PANIK IS AN ALL STAR!
On Sunday night, the starters for the All Star game were announced. Not surprisingly, Panik was not in the National League's starting nine, butnot because he didn't deserve to be. The writing had simply eeen on the wall the week prior, when he fell to fourth place among NL second basemen in the last All Star voting update.
That didn't mean Panik was down for the count, however. Less than 24 hours later, he was named a reserve on the NL roster. You know what that means? It means we did it. #VotePanik worked. Here's a recapturing of the Big East Coast Bias offices when the news broke:
Congratulations are in order for anyone who sent #VotePanik out across the interwebs on their social media machines. You guys are the real heroes. Oh, and Panik. He deserves some credit as well.
Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.
Joe Panik (St. John's)
A lot of time and page space has been used to discuss Panik's merits as a batter and for good reason. The San Francisco Giants' second basemen is hitting a robust .306, getting on base at an incredible clip (.370) and turning a great deal of the line drives that fly off his bat into doubles (21). In addition, he is third among all MLB second basemen in wRC (51), trailing only Jason Kipnis and Brian Dozier, who both feature much more power in their repertoire than Panik.
While Panik wouldn't be where he is today without his bat, it is his glove that deserves a bit more praise. He is certainly not the Omar Vizquel of his generation, with a lackluster number in defensive runs saved (1), but Panik has only two errors this season. Having such a consistent player at one of the spots in the infield is a major reason the Giants have been one of the better defensive teams in the game, ranking third in defensive runs saved (27).
Amir Garrett (St. John's)
It's about time Garrett gets his shine and isn't stuck buried in the lower recesses of this post. He has been a revelation in the minors for the Cincinnati Reds, twirling gem after gem down on the farm for the Daytona Tortugas. He is a perfect example of why wins and losses are an outdated and largely team-dependent stat for pitchers. He has a 2.79 ERA and has struck out 89 batters in 84 innings. Yes, his WHIP is too high (.132), but he has pitched much better than his 4-6 record would indicate.
Last Friday he hurled seven shutout innings and struck out seven batters. He was a little more erratic last night, lasting only five innings, while surrendering six hits and four walks, but he still let up just a pair of runs, albeit in a losing effort.
Jason Grilli (Seton Hall)
Perhaps it was because teammate Shelby Miller has been lighting the world on fire. Perhaps it is because the Atlanta Braves are hovering around .500 (42-43). Whatever the reason, the Grill man was not put on the All Star team, despite his strong season (2.67 ERA, 24 saves). It didn't seem to affect him at all this week, which has featured a heavy workload. He pitched in three straight games from July 5-7 and recorded nearly identical results in all three, tossing a trio of shutout innings, while striking out the side twice.
Pat Neshek (Butler)
Neshek is another guy who could be an All Star. On some of the Houston Astro squads of the past, a reliever with a 2.78 ERA and 20 holds would likely be the representative. But these aren't your older brother's Houston Astros. They are still leading the American League West (49-38) and with Dallas Keuchel and Jose Altuve hogging the spotlight, there isn't much room for any other stars.
During the last week, Neshek did blow his first save of the season, letting up an RBI double to David Ortiz with two outs in the eighth inning, but hecleaned up his act in his next two appearances, combining for 1 1/3 shutout innings.
Matt Szczur (Villanova)
It has been a difficult season for Szczur. He has shown that he can be a valuable piece to a Big League club, especially as a platoon outfielder. As our friends at Bleed Cubbie Blue pointed out, he has thrown up great numbers against lefties this season (.294/.315/.510), but he has really struggled against right-handers (.162/.219/.206). That is probably one of the major reasons he finds himself on the bus to Iowa and back so frequently. His most recent stint in Chicago ended on Sunday, but he played well during the call up, batting .286 across nine games.
Darin Ruf (Creighton)
Just imagine if Szczur was on the Phillies. He would be playing everyday. Alas, #WeAreGood doesn't come without a few casualties. Ruf has managed to be a consistent plug in the Philadelphia lineup, despite rather appalling numbers (.228/.270/.378). He has started in three of the last four games he has played in and batted .231 in that time, with a home run and three RBI.
Danny Burawa (St. John's)
Burawa only pitched in two games during the last week, including an outing this afternoon. He still got plenty of work, as he threw four innings of one-run ball today, after tossing 2 1/3 scoreless innings against Buffalo on July 4. He is now 1-2 with a 2.12 ERA in 31 games (46 2/3 IP) for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. It is only a matter of time before he gets a shot at redemption at the next level.
Pat Venditte (Creighton)
Updates have been pretty much nonexistent when it comes to Oakland's ambidextrous pitcher. He remains on the 15-day DL with a sprained right shoulder, but there continues to be no real timetable for his return.
Before we go this week, let's discuss the Final Vote for the All Star game. Originally, it looked like Panik might be a prime candidate for the final spot in the NL, but since he is not, let's use that #VotePanik magic for some other worthy players.
On the NL side, you have to go with Clayton Kershaw. People were going out of their minds because last year's MVP had an ERA above 3.00 as recently as yesterday afternoon. Last time I checked, that is still damn good. Plus, his advanced metrics are still as Kersahwian as ever. He is second in the NL in FIP (65) and first in xFIP (55).
For the AL, the job is a bit easier, as Brett Gardner was placed on the team to replace the injured Alex Gordon. To be fair, Gardner wasn't my pick anyway. That honor belongs to Xander Bogaerts. The X Man leads all AL shortstops in RBI (41), ranks second in batting average (.304) and third in wRC (107). He is also fourth in defensive runs saved (2) and third in base running runs (1.2). Oh, and the coup de grâce, he is the AL leader in WAR among shortstops. (2.2). Mic drop. #XForASG