The 2013 MLB All-Star Game is just over a month away, and competition for the chance to start the game looks like it will go down to the wire in both the American and National Leagues. In the AL, Yu Darvish, Clay Buchholz and Hisashi Iwakuma have all made strong cases for the starting nod, while in the NL, Clayton Kershaw, Adam Wainwright and Jordan Zimmerman have staked strong claims to be the starter.
One of this season's breakout stars in the American League has been Texas Rangers starter Yu Darvish. Darvish leads the AL in strikeouts and batting average against, and is in the top six in wins, innings pitched, ERA and WHIP.
Though his ERA is almost a full run higher than that of the other candidates for the starting nod in the AL, Darvish's dominant strikeout numbers more than make up for it. His exciting arsenal of pitches would make him a fine choice to open the game, too.
Yu Darvish struck out 111 of 319 batters faced. Highest strikeout rate ranks 3rd in MLB history: pic.twitter.com/7uCJ4Gbq81— Baseball Tonight (@BBTN) June 3, 2013
Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz is in the midst of a career year and has also made a strong case to be the starting pitcher in the All-Star Game for the AL. His 1.71 ERA and nine wins lead the American League, and the right-hander has still yet to lose a game.
Seattle Mariners pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma has flown under the radar this season, and while he doesn't get the fanfare of many other pitchers in the league, his numbers thus far rival anyone's. Iwakuma leads the AL with a 0.82 WHIP and ranks in the top three in ERA, batting average against and innings pitched.
Iwakuma is something of an unknown, but if he continues on his current pace and starts the All-Star Game for the AL, even casual fans would be forced to take notice.
7-1 with a 1.79 ERA? Hisashi Iwakuma is a really, really, really, ridiculously good pitcher. pic.twitter.com/NOQC0L9nO4— MLB (@MLB) June 11, 2013
While the competition to start the All-Star Game in the American League is fairly even, the National League has a clear favorite in Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw leads the Senior Circuit with a microscopic 1.88 ERA and ranks in the top three in innings pitched, strikeouts and batting average against.
With his work over the past several years, Kershaw has established himself as one of the best pitchers in all of baseball and would certainly make for a fine choice for the starting nod.
Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright is in the midst of a Cy Young-caliber season and would also be a fine choice to start the All-Star Game for the NL. Wainwright's ridiculous 13-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio is more than double that of the next best pitcher, while his three complete games and two shutouts are also tops in the NL.
One final candidate in the NL is Nationals pitcher Jordan Zimmerman. Zimmerman is tied for the league lead in wins and is in the top four of the NL in ERA, WHIP, batting average against and innings pitched. Often overshadowed by much-ballyhooed teammate Stephen Strasburg, starting the All-Star Game would earn Zimmerman much fanfare in his own right.
All of the aforementioned candidates have strong cases to be the starter for their respective leagues, but my prediction is that nods will ultimately go to Kershaw and Darvish.
Kershaw is an obvious choice given his numbers, dominant stuff and pedigree, while Darvish, I believe, will be chosen because of his exciting ability to make even the best hitters in the league look silly at the plate.