MLB Interleague Play: Mike Trout and the American League All-Interleague Team
I have good news, American League fans. As it always does, the Junior Circuit dominated the Senior Circuit in interleague play this season.
Scott Boeck of USA Today was kind enough to collect the key numbers. There were 252 interleague games played this season, and the American League won 142 of them, outpacing the National League's 110 wins by a significant margin. This makes it nine years in a row that the AL has owned the NL in interleague play.
This year, there were a handful of AL players who made life particularly tough on the National League. They helped their teams dominate, and very much contributed to the league-wide ownage.
Let's pay homage to these brave souls, shall we? Here is this year's American League All-Interleague Team.
Note: You can find sortable interleague stats at MLB.com.
Catcher: Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
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OK, so maybe Joe Mauer isn't worth over $20 million a year after all. He has arguably the worst contract in baseball, and the Twins have no choice but to wait it out.
What they should do is find a way to play all 162 of their games against National League foes. If they do that, they will get more than enough bang for their buck where Mauer is concerned.
Spending time at both catcher and first base, Mauer collected 22 hits in 14 games against National League opponents, the most of any catcher in interleague play this year. All told, he hit .458/.500/.604, good for a 1.104 OPS.
Mauer didn't hit any home runs in interleague play, but he did manage to collect seven doubles and drive in 11 runs. The only AL catcher with more RBI in interleague play this season was Toronto's J.P. Arencibia.
Well played, Mr. Head & Shoulders.
First Base: Adam Dunn, Chicago White Sox
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Granted, Adam Dunn barely qualifies as a first baseman. Per Baseball-Reference.com, most of Dunn's at-bats this season have come as a designated hitter, and he played a little left field for the White Sox in interleague play.
Dunn did spend time at first base in interleague play, though. More importantly, he knocked the cover off the ball against National League foes.
Dunn hit seven home runs against NL opponents this season, the most of any first baseman in interleague play. He also led all AL first basemen with 16 RBI and a .966 OPS, and finished second to Carlos Pena in walks with 17.
For the National League, it was nothing they haven't already seen.
Second Base: Robinson Cano, New York Yankees
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Robinson Cano is in the middle of a classic Robinson Cano-like hot streak. At this point, all pitchers should be advised to throw him nothing in the strike zone, as all offerings will be obliterated.
National League pitchers learned this the hard way. In 18 interleague games, Cano hit .349/.453/.762 with eight home runs in 12 RBI.
Naturally, his eight home runs in interleague play led all AL second basemen. The next-closest guy on the list is Gordon Beckham, and he only hit three dingers in interleague play.
The scary part is that Cano picked up right where he left off in the Yankees' first post-interleague game on Monday. He collected two hits—one of which was a home run—and three RBI against the Cleveland Indians.
Yeah, he's hot.
Third Base: Trevor Plouffe, Minnesota Twins
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Before interleague play rolled around, Trevor Plouffe was hitting .145 with a .304 slugging percentage in 24 games for the Twins, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
Evidently, the coming of interleague play flipped the switch.
Plouffe teed off on National League pitching, hitting .343/.405/.806 with nine home runs in 18 interleague games. Only Jose Bautista hit as many as nine home runs, and Plouffe's .806 slugging percentage was tops among all American Leaguers with at least 30 at-bats in interleague play.
The utility man is now batting .247 with a .545 slugging percentage, and is on pace to hit over 30 home runs.
Interleague play was exactly the kick-start he needed.
Shortstop: Erick Aybar, Los Angeles Angels
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Much has been made of the resurgence of the Angels lineup over the last six weeks or so. Fans and pundits alike have chalked it up to Mark Trumbo's power, Albert Pujols' revival and Mike Trout's all-around awesomeness.
But in interleague play, Erick Aybar was as much a part of the Angels' success as anyone.
Aybar collected 29 hits in interleague play, the most among AL shortstops by a considerable margin. He finished with a .414/.446/.629 line, good for a 1.075 OPS.
No other AL shortstop managed even a .900 OPS in interleague play.
Aybar is finally starting to earn the $35 million extension that he didn't deserve.
Left Field: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
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Mike Trout freakin' rocks.
Major League Baseball's best rookie (not clowning, bro) collected 30 hits in interleague play, the most of any American League player. He also led all AL players with 21 runs scored and 15 stolen bases in interleague play. No other AL player stole even 10 bases in interleague play.
All told, Trout hit .395/.471/.592 in 18 interleague games, posting an OPS of 1.063.
Do yourself a favor and vote for Mike Trout.
It doesn't matter what the voting is for. Just vote for him.
Center Field: Colby Rasmus, Toronto Blue Jays
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At some point in the last couple weeks, a mysterious schemer replaced Colby Rasmus the dud with Colby Rasmus the stud.
Just like Plouffe, Rasmus was an afterthought when interleague play started. He entered the Blue Jays' series against the New York Mets on May 18 hitting .203 with a .338 slugging percentage in 39 games, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
That's when the mysterious schemer made his move.
In 17 interleague games, Rasmus hit .309/.365/.632 with six home runs and 17 RBI. Only Jose Bautista hit more home runs and drove in more runs among AL outfielders.
In his last 33 games overall, Rasmus has hit .331/381/.662 with 11 home runs and 30 RBI.
Right Field: Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays
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If you need a building destroyed in a hurry, I recommend hiring Jose Bautista and giving him a piece of rebar. He'll get the job done.
As is his custom, Bautista used his bat to destroy baseballs in interleague play this season. He only hit .286 in 18 interleague games, but he walloped nine home runs and racked up 18 RBI. He finished with a .730 slugging percentage.
It's worth noting that Bautista is on pace to hit over 50 home runs yet again. Talk of his demise late last season and early this season now appear very much exaggerated.
Designated Hitter: David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox
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The Red Sox played three of their six interleague series on the road this season, so Big Papi was playing at first base half of the time during interleague play.
Nevertheless, he is still a designated hitter at heart, and definitely had his bat working during interleague play.
Ortiz only hit .268 against NL foes this season, but he managed a .364 OBP and a .643 slugging percentage to achieve an OPS up over 1.000. He slugged six home runs and drove in 14 runs.
In Boston's first post-interleague game, Ortiz hit two home runs.
There's no slowing down Big Papi this season.
Starting Pitcher No. 1: Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
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Interleague play has never been a problem for Justin Verlander. He entered the season with a career record of 15-2 in 20 career interleague starts, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
That record now stands at 19-2. Verlander made five interleague starts this season, going 4-0 with a 1.62 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 39 innings pitched.
No American League pitcher logged more interleague innings than Verlander, and only Max Scherzer recorded more interleague strikeouts.
Of course, Verlander very nearly walked away with an interleague no-hitter. He had the Pittsburgh Pirates dead in the water back on May 18, but Josh Harrison broke up his no-hit bid with a seeing-eye single with one out in the ninth.
That single was just one of 22 hits that Verlander gave up in interleague play, as NL opponents managed just a .163 average against him.
Don't worry, NL hitters. American League hitters can't hit Verlander either.
Starting Pitcher No. 2: Matt Harrison, Texas Rangers
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By the time Matt Harrison got to make his first interleague start, he was very much in need of a pick-me-up. Through 11 starts, he had a 4.43 ERA and had given up 76 hits in 70 innings, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
National League teams gave Harrison the pick-me-up he was seeking. More than one, in fact.
Harrison went 3-0 in four interleague starts, allowing a grand total of one earned run in 27.1 innings. That was good for an ERA of 0.33, lowest among all AL pitchers with at least 20 innings pitched in interleague play.
He gave up just 22 hits in his 27.1 innings, holding opponents to a .224 batting average.
Harrison is now sitting on 10 wins, tied with David Price for the most in the American League.
Starting Pitcher No. 3: Justin Masterson, Cleveland Indians
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Justin Masterson was yet another guy looking for a pick-me-up in interleague play. His starts against American League opponents weren't going so well.
To say that he did well against National League opponents would be an understatement.
In four interleague starts, Masterson went 2-1 and allowed just three earned runs in 30 innings pitched, good for an ERA of 0.90.
Masterson's brightest moment in interleague play came at the expense at the NL Central-leading Cincinnati Reds on June 20. He pitched a complete game, allowing no earned runs and striking out nine.
Masterson's ERA has been up over 5.00 for much of the season, but it's sitting at 3.98 right now. You can count him among the many players who don't want to see interleague play abolished anytime soon.
Starting Pitcher No. 4: Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers
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As long as I live, I will never understand Max Scherzer. With his stuff, he should be one of baseball's most dominant pitchers.
For a variety of different reasons, he's not.
Except when he pitches against the National League, of course.
Scherzer went 2-1 in four interleague starts, posting a 2.67 ERA in 27 innings pitched. He struck out 42 hitters in those 27 innings, and he limited NL hitters to a .198 batting average.
His best interleague start was the one in which he struck out 15 Pittsburgh Pirates over seven innings on May 20. The start on June 17 in which he struck out 12 Colorado Rockies over eight scoreless innings was pretty good too.
Clearly, Scherzer belongs in the National League.
I'm looking in your general direction, Arizona Diamondbacks.
Starting Pitcher No. 5: Jason Hammel, Baltimore Orioles
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Jason Hammel's first two interleague starts didn't go so well, as he allowed a total of eight earned runs in 11.1 innings against the Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies.
The next two? Much better.
Against the Atlanta Braves and the Nationals, Hammel didn't allow an earned run in 17 innings, striking out 18 in the process. He very nearly pitched a no-hitter against the Braves, but ultimately had to settle for a one-hit shutout.
All told, Hammel went 3-0 in his four interleague starts with a 2.54 ERA, limiting hitters to a .175 batting average.
He now has a record of 8-2 on the season with a 2.61 ERA.
Hammal has to be sad to see interleague play go.
Closer: Ernesto Frieri, Los Angeles Angels
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Yankees closer Rafael Soriano led all AL relievers with seven saves in interleague play this season, but he's got nothing on Ernesto Frieri when it comes to interleague domination.
Frieri made 10 appearances in interleague play, pitching 9.2 innings and collecting five saves. What's more, he didn't allow a single earned run and struck out 12.
Frieri did walk five hitters in his 9.2 innings, but he only gave up three hits. NL hitters hit him at an even .100 clip.
Somewhere in Anaheim, Jerry DiPoto is pumping his fist and shouting, "I am invincible!"
If it had been you who had traded for Frieri in early May, you would be doing the same right now.
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