With the 2013 regular season having concluded, the staff members here at Blog Red Machine made our voices heard as we voted for the “All-NL Central Team.” As Reds fans, everyone should be familiar with the teams that accompany the Redlegs inside the National League Central; the St. Louis Cardinals, the Chicago Cubs, the Milwaukee Brewers and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Sadly, the Houston Astros bolted for the American League a year ago. Every position has been voted on and the results have been tabulated, so here it is.
Catcher: Yadier Molina (STL)
In what was a unanimous selection, the Cardinals MVP candidate was a clear choice as the best catcher in the National League Central this year. Molina not only has completely dominated the running game behind the plate this season, but also batted .319 and caught nearly 140 games. Manager Mike Matheny continues to profess that Yadi’s most important role though is his handling of the entire pitching staff which seems to be a valid claim based on the exceptionally high-level Cardinals pitching has revved it up to this year.
(2nd place – Jonathan Lucroy (MIL), 3rd place – Russell Martin (PIT))
First Baseman: Joey Votto (CIN)
Yet again, another unanimous selection, as the Reds superstar set a franchise record for times reaching base this season with 316, eclipsing that of the legendary Pete Rose. Votto was under heavy fire all season for his lack of RBI’s (73) and Homeruns (24) for what some fans and media consider inadequate numbers for a third-hole hitter. His defense was also lacking, making a career-high 14 errors. At the end of the day, Votto still believes that he had a productive season as he led the National League in on-base percentage for a third consecutive year.
(2nd place – Allen Craig (STL), 3rd place – Anthony Rizzo (CHC))
Second Baseman: Matt Carpenter (STL)
At the beginning of the season, it was uncertain as to where Matt Carpenter would play on a daily basis but the old adage of hitting well enough and finding a position later certainly applied. Carpenter led the National League in hits, runs and doubles mainly out of the lead-off spot for the 97-win Cardinals. He’s seen time all-around the infield this year, but found his niche at second base for the majority of the season, making him not only a MVP candidate, but the clear-cut choice as the Central’s best second baseman.
(2nd place – Brandon Phillips (CIN), 3rd place – Neil Walker (PIT))
Third Baseman: Pedro Alvarez (PIT)
The former first-round pick seemed to finally unlock his potential this season as he tied for the league lead in homeruns with 36 long balls. Alvarez also touched the 100-RBI mark for the first time in his career driving in exactly 100 runs for the wild-card winning Pittsburgh Pirates. Where the argument can be made against Alvarez is in his league-leading strikeout total, as well as his 27 errors. Regardless, it was a kind of down year for third basemen in the NL Central so Alvarez walks away easily with the crown this season.
(2nd place – Todd Frazier (CIN), 3rd place – Aramis Ramirez (MIL))
Shortstop: Jean Segura (MIL)
Also a unanimous selection, the young Brewers shortstop started off the year on a historic pace. Segura was swiping bags and hitting line drives all over the field, but after losing Ryan Braun and Carlos Gomez in the lineup for an extended period of time, a lot bigger load fell on his shoulders which ultimately led to a dip in his batting average. He swiped 44 bases and finished the year batting .294 along with making the All-Star team; it has been a steal of an acquisition for the Brewers thus far after dealing Zack Greinke to acquire what seems to be their shortstop of the future.
(2nd place – Zack Cozart (CIN), 3rd place – Starlin Castro (CHC))
Outfield Spot #1: Andrew McCutchen (PIT)
The league’s leading candidate for the MVP award, Andrew McCutchen, more than anyone, may be responsible for the revival of baseball in the city of Pittsburgh. The man nicknamed “Cutch” had his third consecutive 20-20 year for the Buccos and also batted .317 on the season. One of the more disciplined and patient hitters’ in the league, selecting McCutchen was one of the easier selections to make.
Outfield Spot #2: Jay Bruce (CIN)
The Reds right fielder led the league in extra-base hits this season as well as playing Gold Glove defense. While he was unable to top his homerun total from his previous season for the fifth straight year, he extended his lead for homeruns against left-handed pitching as a left-handed batter since 2010. His peaks and valleys this year were much more manageable, a part of Bruce’s game that he admitted he must corral in order to have a successful 2013 campaign.
Outfield Spot #3: Shin-Soo Choo (CIN)
Not even the most optimistic Reds fan could have imagined the South Korean “Mr. Choo” having the kind of season that he did when he was acquired from the Cleveland Indians. Choo and Votto combined to be the first pair of teammates since Pete Rose and Joe Morgan to lead the league in on-base percentage as Choo finished with an incredibly impressive .423. While he struggled against left-handers early on in the season, his average against lefties crept up near .300 for the final months of the year. His defense was thought to be a focal point, but outside of one bad game in St. Louis in April, Choo showed that whatever club purchases his services this off-season will be getting an outfielder who is adept at playing anywhere.
(4th place – Carlos Gomez (MIL), 5th place – Matt Holliday (STL))
Starting Pitcher #1: Adam Wainwright (STL)
With Chris Carpenter’s career possibly coming to a close, Adam Wainwright has taken over the ace status for the Cardinals for many years to come. Wainwright led the National League in a laundry list of categories such as; wins, innings pitched, shutouts and complete games. Had Clayton Kershaw not had the year he had, it would be quite interesting to see if Wainwright would indeed be the favorite for the NL Cy Young award.
Starting Pitcher #2: Francisco Liriano (PIT)
After signing a 2-year/14-million dollar contract in the off-season to join the Pirates, Liriano subsequently broke his arm on Christmas and his contract was abruptly voided. The Bucs still brought him on for a much lower price, but they certainly got bang for their buck. Liriano pitched in the biggest game in Pittsburgh baseball in 20 years against the Reds in the Wildcard game and dominated. He had 16 wins on the season and his ERA just barely cracked over 3.
Starting Pitcher #3: Mat Latos (CIN)
At about the same time that Johnny Cueto was going on the disabled list for what was believed to be the rest of the season in late June, Mat Latos was apparently dealing with an abdominal injury that he kept quiet from the public. Out of the All-Star break, Latos began to pitch some of the best baseball of his career and looked like a legitimate Cy Young potential pitcher. He seemed to run out of steam towards the end of the year, and ultimately his season ended when he had to miss his Wildcard game start with bone spurs in his throwing elbow. With that being said, Latos has established himself as the Reds ace for many years to come.
(4th place – Shelby Miller (STL), 5th place – Travis Wood (CHC))
Reliever (non-closer): Mark Melancon (PIT)
Melancon still qualified as a set-up man even though he did serve as closer for about two months in the summer with Jason Grilli being on the disabled list. After failing miserably in Boston last year, Melancon helped lead the relief group dubbed “the Shark Tank” in Pittsburgh to a remarkable season. All summer long, it was believed that the Pirates bullpen could not possibly withstand all the innings that were being piled on their arms, yet they answered the bell and have led Pittsburgh back to the Postseason.
(2nd place – Trevor Rosenthal (STL), 3rd place – Sam LeCure (CIN))
Closer: Aroldis Chapman (CIN)
The final unanimous selection belongs to that of the Cuban flamethrower. While Jason Grilli had a fine season, there was arguably no more electrifying player in baseball all season as Aroldis Chapman was, with every person in attendance craning their head towards the radar gun at the conclusion of every pitch. Striking out 112 batters in just 63 and two-thirds innings of action goes to show just how dominant Chapman was this season for the Redlegs.
(2nd place – Jason Grilli (PIT), 3rd place – Edward Mujica (STL))
These were our thoughts and observations. Agree? Disagree? Chime in and let your voice be heard.