The world's largest all-star tournament has just come to a close, as the World Cup ended Sunday. And wouldn't you know it? They wrapped up things just in time for another spectacle of stars, the MLB All-Star break.
The beautiful game passes the torch to America's pastime, and we're going to take a look at the updated rosters and break down some of the more intriguing aspects of the National and American league teams.
|National League Starters||American League Starters|
|C: Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers||C: Salvador Perez, Royals|
|1B: Paul Goldschmidt, D-Backs||1B: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers|
|2B: Chase Utley, Phillies||2B: Robinson Cano, Mariners|
|SS: Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies||SS: Derek Jeter, Yankees|
|3B: Aramis Ramirez, Brewers||3B: Josh Donaldson, A's|
|OF: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates||OF: Jose Bautista, Blue Jays|
|OF: Carlos Gomez, Brewers||OF: Mike Trout, Angels|
|OF: Yasiel Puig, Dodgers||OF: Adam Jones, Orioles|
|-||DH: Nelson Cruz, Orioles|
|National League Pitchers||American League Pitchers|
|LHP: Madison Bumgarner, Giants||RHP: Dellin Betances, Yankees|
|LHP: Aroldis Chapman, Reds||LHP: Mark Buehrle, Blue Jays|
|RHP: Tyler Clippard, Nationals||RHP: Yu Darvish, Rangers|
|RHP: Zack Greinke, Dodgers||LHP: Sean Doolittle, A's|
|LHP: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers||RHP: Felix Hernandez, Mariners|
|RHP: Craig Kimbrel, Braves||RHP: Greg Holland, Royals|
|RHP: Pat Neshek, Cardinals||LHP: Scott Kazmir, A's|
|RHP: Francisco Rodriguez, Brewers||LHP: Jon Lester, Red Sox|
|RHP: Tyson Ross, Padres||LHP: Glen Perkins, Twins|
|RHP: Julio Teheran, Braves||LHP: Chris Sale, White Sox|
|RHP: Adam Wainwright, Cardinals||RHP: Max Scherzer, Tigers|
|LHP: Tony Watson, Pirates||RHP: Fernando Rodney, Mariners|
|RHP: Henderson Alvarez, Marlins||RHP: Koji Uehara, Red Sox|
|National League Reserves||American League Reserves|
|C: Miguel Montero, D-Backs||C: Derek Norris, A's|
|C: Devin Mesoraco, Reds||C: Kurt Suzuki, Twins|
|1B: Freddie Freeman, Braves||1B: Jose Abreu, White Sox|
|1B: Anthony Rizzo, Cubs||1B: Brandon Moss, A's|
|2B: Dee Gordon, Dodgers||2B: Jose Altuve, Astros|
|2B: Daniel Murphy, Mets||3B: Kyle Seager, Mariners|
|SS: Starlin Castro, Cubs||3B: Adrian Beltre, Rangers|
|3B: Matt Carpenter, Cardinals||SS: Erick Aybar, Angels|
|3B: Todd Frazier, Reds||SS: Alexei Ramirez, White Sox|
|OF: Charlie Blackmon, Rockies||OF: Michael Brantley, Indians|
|OF: Josh Harrison, Pirates||OF: Yoenis Cespedes, A's|
|OF: Hunter Pence, Giants||2B: Ian Kinsler, Tigers|
|OF: Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins||-|
While a slew of injuries have deprived fans of some of the game's top stars—you could make a strong argument that the best All-Star team out there is the one comprised of injured players or players who pulled out of the game—a number of intriguing potential matchups and top-notch talent will be on display.
I mean, who doesn't want to see Clayton Kershaw face Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera? Who doesn't want to see what type of show Yasiel Puig will put on? Who isn't excited to see Derek Jeter in his final All-Star Game?
Because you know—you just know—Jeter will do something special. If there is one thing Jeter has proved in his career, it's that he knows how to rise to the occasion.
The AL lineup is stacked. Among the starters, Trout, Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Jose Bautista, Adam Jones and Nelson Cruz can all hit the cover off the ball.
And the bench players are hardly shabby. Jose Altuve was probably the biggest snub when it came to the fan vote, as the speedy, for-average hitter has been excellent this year. Perhaps Altuve's size had something to do with it. As Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports humorously noted, neither one of them is particularly tall:
You heard it. Altuve listed at 5-5. I'm 5-4 1/2. We will meet in Minneapolis! @MLBONFOX— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 13, 2014
Jose Abreu coming off the bench is one of the league's best power hitters this season.
Just how good is Abreu? Check out this tidbit passed along by ESPN Stats & Information on Sunday:
Jose Abreu has 50 XBH in 81 games, the fewest to reach 50 XBH since Ted Williams did it in 80 games in 1939 (via Elias)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 13, 2014
So yes, the American League can really rake. The National League has plenty of dangerous bats as well, but the real strength of the team is its pitching. Clayton Kershaw, for one, has basically been unbeatable, and he comes into the game on the hottest of all hot streaks:
Kershaw is 1st in MLB history to win 8 cons. starts in a single season with at least 80 K and a sub-1 ERA in that span - via @EliasSports— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 11, 2014
Were it not for Kershaw's brilliant start, Adam Wainwright would probably be the favorite for the National League Cy Young. Late additions such as Henderson Alvarez and Alfredo Simon have been excellent. Zack Greinke is that other ace in Los Angeles. Craig Kimbrel is the best closer in baseball.
In particular, Alvarez is an intriguing inclusion. The 24-year-old leads baseball with three shutouts, and he stepped in and became the ace for the Miami Marlins after Jose Fernandez went down to injury, as Miami's manager, Mike Redmond, told Joe Frisaro of MLB.com.
"We talked about a guy stepping up and stepping in [for Fernandez], and Henderson definitely has done that," Redmond said. "Last year, everybody talked about Jose, and rightfully so. He was amazing. But it's great to see guys step up and get recognized for their work. It's been fun to watch Henderson develop."
So, will this be a classic case of strong pitching against strong hitting? Well, that seems to be a bit of a generalization. The NL stars can really hit too, while the AL side has plenty of nasty pitchers.
But one would guess that if an offensive game breaks out, the AL will win, and if pitching and defense rule the day, the NL will take it. All-Star games are always tough to predict, of course, but with home-field advantage on the line in the World Series, both teams will be bringing it.
Look for the NL to win a tight battle, 4-3.