José Abreu, MVP reinante de la Liga Americana, volverá a liderar el proyecto de los White Sox. Foto: Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images.

MLB in the seventh: Cuba and a decade of stars

For the tenth consecutive season, Cuba will have at least one representative in the MLB All-Star Game, after the American and National League rosters for the traditional mid-season classic were made official earlier this week.

Néstor Cortés (Yankees) and Yordan Álvarez (Astros) were chosen this time, although in the end only the Bronx Bombers’ left-hander will be in the duel of the luminaries in Los Angeles, after confirming Yordan’s injury that will keep him away from diamonds for at least ten days.

With the best records of his career in ERA (2.63), average number of runners on base per inning (1.003), wins (seven) and starts (17), Cortés earned the right to participate in the All Star, an event they had only reached two other openers from the Island in this century: José Fernández (2016) and Liván Hernández (2005). As if that were not enough, the Yankees shooter joins Mike Cuéllar (1967, 1970, 1971 and 1974) as the only Cuban left-handed starters in All-Star Game history.

Cortés will be in charge of extending the chain of Cuban participations in the mid-season classic to ten, which represents the second best historical streak of the Island, only surpassed by the 19 consecutive interventions between 1959 and 1977. Since 2012, always We have had at least one player from the Island in the event, with a cap of five (José Abreu, Yoennis Céspedes, Aroldis Chapman, Alexei Ramírez and Yasiel Puig) in 2014.

Cuban history in the All Star

Cuba began writing its first episodes in the All-Star Game in 1935, when Martin Dihigo, Luis Tiant Sr. and Alejandro Oms, members of the New York Cubanswere called to the Negro Leagues show staged at Chicago’s Comiskey Park. These duels began in 1933 and just two years later, the Antilleans already made merits to be recognized among the most brilliant on the circuit.

If we take into account only the All Stars between the National League and the American League, the first Cuban participation came in 1951 thanks to Orestes Miñoso, who was in these games 13 times (four in the Negro Leagues and nine in the Majors).

In total, 48 players from the Island have been called up to 48 different editions of the All-Star Game from 1933 to 2022. The year with the most Cubans on the rosters was 1968, thanks to the selection of six players: Tony Oliva, Tany Pérez, Joe Azcue, Bert Campaneris, Leo Cardenas and Luis Tiant.

Of all those chosen, only 11 have been starters. The first was Miñoso in 1954, when he was placed as a forward man and left fielder in the American League, a team where authentic stars converged: the Mexican Bobby Ávila, the Venezuelan Chico Carrasquel or the immortals Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford.

Cuba in the MLB All-Star Game: 10 basic questions

Mr. White Sox is the Cuban with the most starts (four) in All-Star Games, followed by Tony Oliva (three), Bert Campaneris (three) and José Canseco (two). They are the only players on the Island who have made the regular team on more than one occasion, while Zoilo Versalles, Luis Tiant, Yasiel Puig, Tany Pérez, Rafael Palmeiro, Leo Cárdenas and José Abreu have made it on one occasion.

As you can see, there is one pitcher on the list, Luis Tiant, who is the only Cuban shooter with an All Star start. The right-hander, also a representative of the American League, was given the ball in the 1968 challenge, in the which scored the loss after allowing a run in two innings of work.

Cionel Pérez was one step away from Los Angeles

Probably, the Cuban who came closest to going to the 2022 All-Star Game in Los Angeles was Matanzas Cionel Perez, not so much because of the votes, but because of his performance from the center of the diamond. The left-hander has been a true revelation for the Orioles, who made a bet with the Cuban in a relief role and it has worked out wonderfully.

It had been a month since Cionel had allowed any earned runs with Baltimore. From June 17 to July 14, the pitcher had worked in 11 games and 10.1 innings, at the rate of eight batters retired by way of strikes and no walks granted. In this period, in addition, the rivals hit him for an anemic .162.

However, this Friday he gave up a two-run homer against Tampa that snapped his streak. Before that performance, the left-hander pitched on consecutive days against the Chicago Cubs and dispatched all six opponents he faced without major setbacks, enough to reach 13. holds in the current season.

Cionel Pérez has been one of the most important relievers in the resurgence of the Orioles. Photo: Julio Cortez/AP.

Before his losing start Friday, Cionel had a 0.90 ERA in 35 starts and 30 bouts of firefighting. Among all the relievers who have worked at least 30 chapters this campaign, the Cuban was the third lowest clean averagesecond only to Ryne Stanek (Astros/0.60) and Ryan Helsley (Cardinals/0.71).

Although the home run allowed this Friday shot his ERA to 1.48, the yumurino left-hander remains in the Top-10 of the firefighters with the best ERA in MLB, and is the pointer of his team in that regard. Despite this, the Baltimore reliever who received the call for the All Star was the Puerto Rican Jorge López, whose clean average is 1.70 after 39 outings, in which he has achieved 17 saves and three victories, although he has five defeats. and four blown saves.

The exclusive line of .300

Having an offensive average above .300 has been, since time immemorial, a clear sign that we are dealing with a good hitter, although in the last decade the average has lost weight as an aiming statistic to evaluate players. Either way, hitting over .300 isn’t as easy as we might think, especially not at the major league all-star level.

This season, for example, only 20 players were hitting .300 or more at the close of trading Fridaya figure very far from that of the 90s, when it was usual to see around 40 or 50 batters above that mythical mark each campaign.

Times have definitely changed, and since 2010 there has never been 30 hitters with an average of .300 or more in MLB, and the lowest point was found in 2021, when only 13 players achieved it.

But in the midst of this scenario we have good news: the Cubans in the Majors retain their touch to average above .300. They do not believe me? As we already mentioned, among all the players qualified for the offensive title this season, only 20 hit more than .300 and five of them are children of the Caribbean Island.

Yordan Álvarez (.306), José Iglesias (.302), Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (.303), José Abreu (.302) and Luis Robert (.301) have been on fire with the bat and make up the short list of hitters per above .300 in 2022. In it, there is also a Cuban-American (JD Martínez), a Venezuelan (Luis Arráez), two Dominicans (Rafael Devers and Manny Machado), a Mexican (Alejandro Kirk) and an Aruban (Xander Bogaerts). ).

In Cuban MLB history, never had more than three players completed the first half of the season (at least 250 plate appearances) with an offensive average greater than .300. The record in this regard was established in 1970 and then it has been equaled twice:

1970: Jose Cardenal (.309), Tony Oliva (.327) and Tany Perez (.356)

2015: Yunel Escobar (.321), Jose Iglesias (.314) and Yasmany Tomas (.314)

2016: Yunel Escobar (.318), Yoennis Céspedes (.302) and Aledmys Díaz (.315)

This detail perfectly illustrates the moment that Cubans are living in the Major Leagues, where they continue to shine with their own light.

Abreu picks up the rhythm of MVP

Between the first two months of the season, José Abreu hit 41 hits, 16 extra-base hits (five home runs), drove in 20 runs and scored 22. His offensive line (Average/On-Base Average/Slugging) in that period of 45 games was . 244/.340/.399, earthly numbers for the best Cuban hitter of this century and one of the most prominent in history.

However, from June to date, the man from Cienfuegos has taken an absolute turn and has begun to produce as the man who won the Most Valuable Player award in the 2020 campaign. In the last 43 games, “Pito” bats .359 /.427/.541, with 61 hits, 19 extra-base hits (six homers), 25 RBIs and 29 runs scored.

After this deployment of the last two months, Abreu has become the first Cuban and the fourth MLB starter with more than 100 hits in the current campaign, behind Freddie Freeman (Dodgers), Paul Goldschmidt (Cardinals) and Luis Arraez (Twins). Although he has hit 11 home runs and posted his ninth straight season with double digits for home runs, the southerner hasn’t been as focused on his feature-length production.

Rather, Abreu has been concerned with the quality of contacts, to the point that 52.7% of his hits are considered Hard Hits (batted balls greater than 95 miles), 10th among all Major League players. This is also the second best percentage of his career in that section, only surpassed by that of his MVP season (53.3%).

But the question does not end there. “Pito” has taken a leap in quality in terms of pitching discrimination. So far this season, the player from Cienfuegos is the fourth player in the Majors who has improved the most in terms of chasing pitches out of the strike zone. In 2021, the man from Cienfuegos was after 32.1% of the shipments made to him outside the zone, and now that indicator has dropped to 26%, the most notable of his career since he debuted in 2014.

On the other hand, Abreu is also among the ten players who have decreased their percentage of strikeouts the most compared to last year. The White Sox first baseman was retired via strikes in 21.7% of his trips to the plate in 2021, and this season that parameter has dropped to 15%.

It is not surprising then the high production of hits of the Antillean, who has pace to match his best historical record of hits, imposed in 2017 with 189 rockets. This was greatly influenced by the streak of 14 consecutive games hitting hits that Abreu materialized between June 25 and July 9.

After this chain, the Cuban became the fourth player in the history of the White Sox with at least seven streaks of 14 or more games connecting hit. According to the Elias Sports Bureau databases, the only ones who had achieved it in the South Chicago franchise are Nellie Fox (nine times), Luke Appling (eight) and Eddie Collins (eight).

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