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MLB Saturday review: All-Star starters announced

With just about a week remaining before the MLB’s All-Star break, a few stories have emerged that are grabbing the attention of fans across the league. 

Below, we’ll recap Luis Arraez’ race for .400, the 2023 All-Star Game starters and Ronald Acuna Jr.’s historic stretch of play.

Luis Arraez chases history

Perhaps the biggest individual story in baseball right now is Miami Marlins’ Luis Arraez and his bid to become the first player since Ted Williams to record a .400 batting average in a season. 

Williams, often considered the greatest pure hitter to play the game, was the last player to eclipse the .400 mark. He managed the feat in 1941, when he hit .406 for the Boston Red Sox

Arraez currently sits with a .388 average (116-299), 55 points higher than the second-best average in the league – Ronald Acuna Jr. at .333. 

Arraez isn’t the first player since Williams to threaten to eclipse the .400 mark: George Brett flirted with history in 1980, though he finished at .390; John Olerud similarly held a .400 average through about 100 games for the Toronto Blue Jays in 1993, though he finished with a .363 mark after sliding in the second half. 

However, Arraez’ situation is a bit different than that of either of those players.

Arraez’ entire hitting philosophy is based around hitting for average, and he sells out for it. 

Through 78 games and 299 at-bats, Arraez has hit just three home runs, one triple and 16 doubles, equating to a slugging percentage of .478 (just 49 points higher than his .439 OBP). 

Arraez has been playing like a guy who stepped out of a time machine from baseball’s heyday; forgoing the power currently desired by most for a 25/17 BB/K ratio. 

With his entire game geared toward hitting for average, Arraez may have a realistic chance to become the first player since Teddy Ballgame to hit .400, as long as he keeps up the pace he’s on. 

It would be a welcome sight and somewhat ironic if Arraez was to eclipse the mark in the modern era. 

Batting average was once the be-all-end-all of baseball statistics, and hitting .400 was the holy grail of athletic achievement. 

However, today’s game has de-emphasized batting average in favor of on-base percentage and OPS (on-base plus slugging). 

With players now focused on driving the ball into the seats, it’s nice to see a top-tier player who is more concerned with getting hits and avoiding strikeouts.

All-Star Starters announced

The 2023 MLB All-Star starters have been announced, and this season, there’s few surprises. 

While we can squabble about who should get the nod at certain positions, this season’s starting lineups are perhaps the most appropriate in several years. 

Here are the two lineups:

American League: 
C: Jonah Heim, TEX 
1B: Yandy Diaz, TB 
2B: Marcus Semien, TEX 
3B: Josh Jung, TEX 
SS: Corey Seager, TEX 
OF: Mike Trout, LAA 
OF: Randy Arozarena, TB 
OF: Aaron Judge, NYY

National League: 
C: Sean Murphy, ATL 
1B: Freddie Freeman, LAD 
2B: Luis Arraez, MIA 
3B: Nolan Arenado, STL 
SS: Orlando Arcia, ATL 
OF: Ronald Acuna Jr., ATL 
OF: Mookie Betts, LAD 
OF: Corbin Carroll, ARI

Braves on fire heading into All-Star Break

The Atlanta Braves have been the hottest team in baseball over the past 10 games, going 9-1 over that stretch with victories over the Marlins, Minnesota Twins, Philadelphia Phillies and Cincinnati Reds

The hot streak has improved their record to an NL-best 55-27, and they sit eight games in front of the second-placed Marlins for first place in the NL East. 

While the Braves were expected to be one of the better ball clubs in the National League, few expected the level of sheer dominance Atlanta has exerted over the rest of the league. 

The Braves will likely have at least four position players make the All-Star team – Ronald Acuna Jr. (named starter), Sean Murphy (named starter), Orlando Arcia (named starter) and Matt Olson (.928 OPS, 28 HR, 68 RBI) are essentially locks, while Austin Riley (.273/.339/.463, 15 HR, 43) stands a strong chance of making the roster at a shallow third base position. 

With one of the most talented lineups in baseball, the Braves can score with anyone in the league: they rank third in the league in runs scored (464), third in hits (764), first in home runs (155), eighth in stolen bases (64) and first in OPS (.837). 

On top of their offensive prowess, their pitching is beginning to come into its own, led by Spencer Strider; with Mike Soroka recently returning from an extended IL stint and Max Fried expected back in the coming weeks, the Braves may get even better in short notice. 

That could be enough to bring the National League pennant back to Atlanta.

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