NL All-Star outfield boasts historic young trio

Bellinger, Yelich, Acuna Jr. approaching record-setting 1st half production

June 29th, 2019

It’s been more than 15 years since the National League trotted out an All-Star outfield better than the one that will take the field in Cleveland in a week and a half. An outfield this good and this young? A lot longer than that, if ever.

There’s the current favorite for NL MVP honors, Cody Bellinger, 23. There’s the reigning NL MVP winner, Christian Yelich, the old man of the group at 27. And there’s the youngster who looks like he’ll have an MVP trophy sooner rather than later, Ronald Acuna Jr., still just 21.

On July 9, the day of the Midsummer Classic, their average age will be 24 years, 4 months, and 18 days. If they were merely good players, that would be noteworthy; as three of the best players on the planet, it’s historic.

As of Friday morning, Bellinger sported a 5.7 fWAR, with Yelich at 4.5 and Acuna at 3.1. That’s a combined 13.3 fWAR, with a week and a half to go before the All-Star Game. Since WAR is cumulative, there’s a good chance (not a guarantee, but a good chance) that that number will go up in that time.

If it climbs even slightly, they’ll have the highest combined fWAR at the break of any NL starting outfield since the 2003 version, featuring Jim Edmonds, Albert Pujols and Gary Sheffield. (The 2014 NL group of Andrew McCutchen, Carlos Gomez and Yasiel Puig came in at 13.5).

And regardless of their performance, they’ll be the youngest NL All-Star outfield since 1957. The 1984 group of Tony Gwynn, Dale Murphy and Darryl Strawberry came close, with an average age of just under 25. But their combined fWAR at the break was a “mere” 8.4. You may recall that those guys went on to be pretty good.

Before that? Try perhaps the greatest All-Star outfield ever assembled: The NL’s 1957 group of Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Frank Robinson had an average age of just under 23 years, 10 months. We don’t have half-season WAR numbers for those guys, but maybe just take my word that it was a pretty special group.

The 2019 installment obviously isn’t anywhere near that level yet. But history suggests that when we have a crew of All-Star outfielders this good, this young, we’re going to be enjoying them for a long time.

Player of the week: Max Scherzer

Following a rough (by his standards) start on May 17 against the Cubs, Max Scherzer had a pedestrian 3.72 ERA. The Nats were 2-8 in his starts. It was a brief blip -- Scherzer is Scherzer again, the dominant No. 1 starter that Washington has come to expect.

Over his past seven starts, Scherzer is unbeaten in five decisions (the Nats did lose the two no-decisions) with 69 strikeouts and eight walks in 49 innings. He’s struck out at least 10 in four of his past five starts. He’s allowed more than one run once in that span, and walked more than one batter twice.

Oh, and of course, he has delivered the last two of those starts with a black eye and a broken nose. As Scherzer approaches his 35th birthday, he’s as good as he’s ever been.

Stat of the week: Machado’s road surge

You’ve probably noticed that Manny Machado has come on strong lately. You probably wouldn’t be surprised to know that Petco Park is suppressing his numbers just a bit. If you’d like those two facts summarized on one short line, it’s your lucky day.

Machado (who, by the way, is up to a rather nice .280/.358/.500 slash line on the year overall entering play Friday), has put up the following line over his last four road trips: .391/.460/.724. That covers 22 games, going back to May 10.

Looking ahead: Series of the week

With the exception of the Central, the NL’s division races have fizzled a bit. But the Wild Card race looks like an awful lot of fun. And for the Rockies and D-backs in particular, the best chance at October, by far, seems to be via the Wild Card.

The West rivals, currently one and two games out of postseason position entering Friday, respectively, will meet for three games in Phoenix next weekend to close out the first half. They’re both off Monday and Thursday, so they’ll be able to set up their rotations as they wish.