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Posted at 06:00 AM ET, 06/14/2011

So who’s the Nationals’ pick for the 2011 All-Star Game?

There’s less than three weeks, and just 18 Nationals game, until the all-star teams will be announced on July 3. The Nationals have a few candidates, but there is not yet one clear-cut choice. Who should it be?

It’s not impossible that the Nationals send two players to the All-Star Game, but a lot would have to happen. For the purposes of this post, let’s assume the Nationals will have one. Here are the best bets, in order of least likely to most likely, keeping in mind the next three weeks, of course, could change things.

>>> Michael Morse has not played quite enough to be considered among the likes of Joey Votto, Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder. But if Morse plays the next 18 games like he’s played the last 21 – during which time he’s got eight homers, 25 RBIs and an 1.124 OPS – then he’ll have to at least be considered. But still, it’s a tough year to be a National League first baseman.


>>> Jordan Zimmermann does not have a very compelling case based on traditional measures. His 3.10 ERA ranks 11th in the NL. His 4-6 record is obviously not very special. He has 61 strikeouts, tied for 31st.

But Zimmermann’s advanced stats tell a different story. is fourth in the NL with a 2.70 tERA, fifth with a 2.56 FIP and sixth with a 3.81 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The National League had seven starters on last year, so Zimmermann, especially if he continues his outstanding recent stretch, could have a strong case. But chances are, those who pick the team will focus more on the standard metrics.

>>> Danny Espinosa is second behind only Rickie Weeks among National League first baseman with 2.0 fWAR*, based largely on the fact that he has the best UZR. It will be difficult, though, for the folks who pick the team to look past his .212 batting average.

*Wins Above Replacement, per FanGraphs.com

>>> Drew Storen has 15 saves, which is tied for 10th in the National League. But he’s also only had 16 chances, which gives him the fourth-best save percentage in the league. His 2.36 ERA ranks 25th among relievers. A lot of closers are bunched up at the top of the league, and Storen is among that elite cluster. He has not necessarily separated himself, but he’s got a chance.


>>> Tyler Clippard stands out for both his dominance and his workload. He has thrown 38 2/3 innings, more than any reliever except the Braves’ amazing Jonny Venters. He’s got a 1.86 ERA, and he has inherited 30 base runners, more than reliever, while allowing just six to score. In Baseball-Reference’s version of WAR, he’s at 1.4, second to Venters among relievers.

This doesn’t necessarily factor into the decision, but it Clippard would probably provide the best entertainment value of any National. How fun would it be to watch him wear those goggles, wind up with all arms and legs and see if can fool, say, Mark Teixeira with a changeup? Or try to sneak a chest-high fastball past, say, Evan Longoria?

It has historically been difficult for non-closers to make the All-Star Game as relievers, bur last year three of the seven relievers who made it from the National League were set-up men. That bodes well for Clippard. And so does this: So far, Clippard has performed his role better than any other Nationals player has performed theirs.

FROM THE POST

The Nationals will welcome back Ryan Zimmerman from the disabled list after missing him for 58 games.

NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre 8, Syracuse 3: In his first rehab assignment, Tom Gorzelanny allowed four earned runs on five hits, one walk and a homer while striking out three. Gregor Blanco went 1 for 2 with two walks.

Harrisburg was off.

Potomac was postponed.

Lakewood 3, Hagerstown 1: Bryce Harper did not play. David Freitas went 3 for 4. Blake Kelso went 2 for 4.

By  |  06:00 AM ET, 06/14/2011

 
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