MLB All-Star Game 2012: Predicting the Starting Lineup for the American League
The time for campaigning has come and gone. On Sunday, fans of Major League Baseball will find out who will represent both the American and National Leagues in the 2012 MLB All-Star Game.
While the game is already a week away, there is still debate as to who has earned the honor of starting for their respective leagues.
This will be the third installment of my All-Star predictions, but this (obviously) will be the final one. Here are the players who I put on my All-Star ballot late Thursday night as online voting closed.
Catcher: Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
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As a Minnesota Twins fan who believes that Mauer hasn't lived up to his eight-year, $184 million extension he signed prior to the 2010 season, I have just one word to describe my feelings...
For the record, I don't believe Mauer should be in the All-Star game. He's hit three home runs. He's made virtually no impact on the Twins' offense except for getting on base (which makes me question why he's hitting third).
However, the American League catching corps is so bad, Mauer will find his way onto the All-Star roster.
A.J. Pierzynski (Chicago White Sox) was good for the first two months of the season, but has tailed off in the month of June (.233 average for the month).
Mike Napoli (Texas Rangers) has lead the American League All-Star voting for most of the season, but outside of his power numbers (12 home runs) he's not doing much for a loaded Ranger lineup.
Outside of that, we're looking at guys like Ryan Doumit (who is Mauer's backup in Minnesota) and Matt Wieters (who has similar numbers to Napoli in Baltimore).
I didn't want to do it, but with Mauer leading American League catchers in batting average (.321) and OPS (.848) he is the best choice to represent the American League at catcher.
First Base: Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox
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Like A.J. Pierzynski (and most of his teammates in Chicago), Paul Konerko has slowed down over the past month. The difference here is that Konerko's start was so good that he clinched his All-Star vote back in April.
Konerko hit .383 with five home runs and 15 runs batted in for April and followed that up by hitting .379 with six home runs and 18 RBI in May.
While his June has lacked something to be desired, Konerko still has an outstanding line (.332/13/39) compared to some of the other contenders in the American League such as Detroit's Prince Fielder (.300/12/50) and Kansas City's Billy Butler (.296/15/46).
Konerko has been one of the main reasons why the White Sox sit atop the American League Central, therefore he deserves the honor of starting at first base.
Second Base: Robinson Cano, New York Yankees
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Robinson Cano started slowly to begin the season, but has caught fire since and has propelled the New York Yankees back into the mix for the American League East.
Cano has hit 17 of his 18 home runs in May and June, and the Yankees have responded by going 33-20 and taking a five-game lead in the AL East over the Baltimore Orioles entering Friday.
I'd like to give you a list of guys who may come close to being in Cano's league, but there's just not anybody in his area code.
If Cano can keep his production up over the second half of the season, he'll be in the race for American League Most Valuable Player at the end of the year.
Shortstop: Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland Indians
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It's unlikely that Asdrubal Cabrera will actually start the All-Star game. However, he would be just as deserving as the man who was leading the final American League All-Star voting update, Derek Jeter (New York Yankees).
Cabrera is having a fine season in which he's turned it on as of late. In the month of June, Cabrera has hit .280 with five home runs and 17 runs batted in. For the season, Cabrera has gotten his line up to a .291 average with 10 home runs and 37 RBI.
It's not quite as impressive as Jeter hitting .304 with seven home runs and 25 runs driven in, but the difference between the two comes in Wins Above Replacement where Cabrera (2.3) leads Jeter (0.5) by nearly two full victories.
Jeter will probably get the start (which is okay with me), but Cabrera had the numbers to earn his way into the starting lineup.
Third Base: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
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Last month, I stated that Mark Trumbo (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) should be the starting third baseman in the All-Star game. The problem with that is I forgot to look at the defensive stats and realized that Trumbo has played just eight games at third base this season.
While Trumbo is having a fantastic season (.315/19/53), I can't put him in at a position he doesn't play (which is why I had problems voting in Joe Mauer, but that's another story).
That would leave a battle between Adrian Beltre (Texas) and Miguel Cabrera.
Beltre has been great (.330/13/51) for the Rangers and will probably start the game via fan vote. That's a solid choice, but I'm going with Cabrera due to the transition he's made to third base.
Cabrera has done what he does best for the Tigers, and that's hit.
Entering Friday, Cabrera was hitting .312 with 16 home runs and 62 runs batted in. In the field (which was a major concern when the Tigers signed Prince Fielder), Cabrera has committed eight errors and deserves a hand for that.
That's why I'm giving him the vote for the All-Star game. Cabrera's conversion was something that many people didn't think would work for the Tigers, and he's done everything to prove that theory wrong.
Outfielder: Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers
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The best player in the American League should be starting in the All-Star game. I don't know what else there is to say about the guy.
Basically, the guy is just that talented. He's hitting .316 with 24 home runs and 69 runs batted in for the best team in the American League (and maybe all of baseball like I mentioned before).
Hamilton also just got a big movie deal for the story of his life, so it's pretty good to be Josh Hamilton right now...especially when you're starting in the All-Star game like Hamilton will be.
Outfielder: Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
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Mark Trumbo is listed on the American League All-Star ballot as a third baseman, but ask me how much I care.
Trumbo deserves to be in the starting lineup because he's been one of the reasons why the Angels got out of their early season funk with a .315 average, 19 home runs and 52 runs batted in.
Trumbo is also several points away from being one of seven qualifying players with an OPS over 1.000 (it was .992 entering Friday). When it's up that high, it means that somebody is playing at an elite level.
When somebody is playing at an elite level, they should be starting in the All-Star game. And when somebody should be starting in the All-Star game...they should be listed at their correct position!
But I won't hold that against you MLB.
Outfielder: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
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Over the first month of the season, there were two names that had their own hashtags on Twitter. The first was #FreeRizzo for Cubs prospect Anthony Rizzo. The other was #FreeTrout for this guy.
I guess we know why.
Trout has had just as much impact on the Angels as fellow outfielder Mark Trumbo has had on the team.
Since Trout was promoted from Triple-A Salt Lake, he's been unstoppable. Trout has hit .345 with eight home runs and 32 runs batted in for the Angels, and he's shown speed by stealing 21 bases in 24 attempts.
It's been a good year so far for Trout, and he deserves the honor of starting the All-Star game despite playing just 54 games this season.
Starting Pitcher: Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox
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Fans don't get to vote for pitchers on the All-Star rosters, but since I don't believe the DH should be used in the All-Star game, I'm going to give you my choice for the starting pitcher for the American League instead.
Chris Sale started his career in the bullpen for the Chicago White Sox and was thrown into the rotation at the beginning of this season. The results have been glorious for the team that sits in first place of the American League Central.
Sale has been unhittable this season, as opponents are hitting .198 against him. Teams are also having a tough time getting on base, as his WHIP stands at a stingy 0.97. These factors have lead to Sale leading the American League with a 2.24 ERA and a 9-2 record.
Sale is currently the AL's most devastating starter, and it would be a good idea for Ron Washington to set the tone by having Sale begin the 2012 All-Star Game.
Closing Pitcher: Jim Johnson, Baltimore Orioles
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With Mariano Rivera out with a torn ACL, the American League will need to someone else to possibly slam the door on the National League late in the game. That closer should be Jim Johnson.
Johnson isn't a household name, but he's been dominant enough to become one by the time the All-Star game is over.
Opponents are hitting .074 off Johnson this season, and it's helped Johnson go 22-for-23 in save chances for one of the biggest surprises in the American League.
There are other options that Ron Washington will have at his disposal such as Chris Perez (Cleveland) and Fernando Rodney (Tampa Bay), who would also be solid choices to throw out there in the ninth inning.
With the surplus of solid closing options, Washington could sleep easy if things get a little tight.