The 83rd Major League Baseball All-Star Game was held last Tuesday at Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium. The fans still play a major role in the voting each year, as well as the managers, which makes it hard to find true objectivity. Team and individual player biases invariably creep in, and often many pure baseball fans are miffed, wondering how some fan favorites received a spot on the roster over a statistical star.
Here is one writer's take on the hitters that should have comprised each team's starting lineup and the top five starting pitchers and top reliever for each roster.
National League: Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia Phillies
American League: Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
Carlos Ruiz is having a remarkable season behind the plate for Philadelphia. He's currently fourth in the NL in OPS and third in batting average. Ruiz is also among the league leaders in fielding percentage for catchers. Joe Mauer leads American League catchers with a .881 OPS and is tops in MLB, among catchers, in hits and runs scored.
National League: Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds
American League: Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox
Joey Votto is a no-brainer here. Votto is this writer's unofficial NL MVP award winner through the first half of this season, with apologies to Andrew McCutchen. Votto is second in MLB in OPS and leads the majors in doubles. Paul Konerko has a .907 OPS and is fifth in the AL in batting average. Konerko has formed one-half of quite the power duo on the south side of Chicago, along with fellow veteran slugger, Adam Dunn.
National League: Aaron Hill, Arizona Diamondbacks
American League: Robinson Cano, New York Yankees
Hill easily leads all NL second basemen in OPS and has, incredibly, hit for the cycle twice this season. Hill has found a home in Arizona, producing at a high level since being traded from Toronto at the end of August in 2011. Robinson Cano leads all major league second basemen in OPS, home runs, batting average and RBI. Cano is having an MVP-caliber season.
National League: David Wright, New York Mets
American League: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
David Wright is enjoying an excellent 2012 season. Fortunately for the veteran Met, it's coming in a potential contract year. Wright has been head and shoulders above all major league third basemen in performance. Wright currently has over a .991 OPS while only one other major league third baseman is over .900. Miguel Cabrera, the other player over .900, is at it again, pulverizing the ball and leading all MLB third basemen in home runs, with 20.
National League: Jed Lowrie, Houston Astros
American League: Derek Jeter, New York Yankees
Forming the other half of Houston's dazzling middle infield duo is former Red Sox, Jed Lowrie. Lowrie is finally getting the chance for regular at-bats and he's making the most of it. Lowrie is second in the NL in OPS among shortstops and second among all MLB shortstops in home runs. Derek Jeter is second in the majors in batting average, and the future hall of famer has helped push the Yankees to the best record in the bigs.
National League: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers; Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates; Carlos Beltran, St. Louis Cardinals
American League: Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers; Curtis Granderson, New York Yankees; Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Hamilton should be the leading vote-getter here, even with Mike Trout’s exceptional first-half performance. The Texas slugger leads baseball in home runs and is the heart and soul of the potent Rangers lineup.
Granderson has anchored the Yankees' lineup with 25 home runs and is tied for the major league lead with 65 runs.
Mike Trout is playing at a level that conjures up images, for some, of a young Mickey Mantle. The “Commerce Comet” went on to become one of the best baseball players ever. Trout has a long way to go, though his combination of speed, raw power, baseball instincts and all-out effort are a sight to behold. Trout leads the AL in batting average and stolen bases.
Ryan Braun leads the National League in home runs and Carlos Beltran is third among National League outfielders in bombs. Both veterans are hitting for a high average and have at least 65 RBI, powering their respective NL Central clubs.
Andrew McCutchen has been flat-raking in Iron City, and he’s gotten blistering hot as the game has hit mid-summer. He leads MLB in OPS and batting average and is second in runs scored. This unbelievable talent, at the ripe age of 25, is one of the best in the game and worth the price of admission to watch him ply his trade.
National League: Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants
American League: Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
Matt Cain's perfect game helped the rest of the country discover what San Francisco fans, and many baseball insiders, already knew: Matt Cain is one of the best pitchers in the game. Cain is off to a dominating start in 2012 with by far the highest strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate of his career. He's emerged as the ace of the Giants staff.
Justin Verlander is, incredibly, having a better start to the 2012 season than he had in 2011. Though, unless the Tigers get hot, he may be impacted in the Wins column by the team's inconsistent hitting. Verlander is dominating once again, leading the majors in innings pitched and currently coming in second in strikeouts.
Top Four Starting Pitchers
National League: Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals; Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers; R.A. Dickey, New York Mets; James McDonald, Pittsburgh Pirates
American League: C.J. Wilson, Los Angeles Angels; Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox; David Price, Tampa Bay Rays; Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
Top Relief Pitcher
National League: Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds
American League: Fernando Rodney, Tampa Bay Rays
The Cuban sensation has energized baseball in Cincinnati, helping to steady the closer role in the Reds' rotation. Chapman has an incredible .73 WHIP and leads all MLB relievers with 80 strikeouts. Fernando Rodney has been a revelation in the closer role for the Rays. He's 27 for 28 in save attempts and has allowed a mere four earned runs in 41.2 innings pitched.