It's impossible to put together a bad starting lineup at the All-Star game. After all, we are talking about nine of the best players in both the American and National League, but some moves do raise an eyebrow in a good or bad way.
The job for AL manager John Farrell and NL manager Mike Matheny is to put their best foot forward and give their team a chance to win, thereby securing home-field advantage for their league in the World Series.
Now that we have seen the lineups that will start the game on Tuesday, it's time to offer a critique about the job Farrell and Matheny did.
|2014 MLB All-Star Game Lineups|
|NL Lineup||AL Lineup|
|1. Andrew McCutchen, LF, Pittsburgh Pirates||1. Derek Jeter, SS, New York Yankees|
|2. Yasiel Puig, RF, Los Angeles Dodgers||2. Mike Trout, LF, Los Angeles Angels|
|3. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies||3. Robinson Cano, 2B, Seattle Mariners|
|4. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks||4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Detroit Tigers|
|5. Giancarlo Stanton, DH, Miami Marlins||5. Jose Bautista, RF, Toronto Blue Jays|
|6. Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Milwaukee Brewers||6. Nelson Cruz, DH, Baltimore Orioles|
|7. Chase Utley, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies||7. Adam Jones, CF, Baltimore Orioles|
|8. Jonathan Lucroy, C, Milwaukee Brewers||8. Josh Donaldson, 3B, Oakland Athletics|
|9. Carlos Gomez, CF, Milwaukee Brewers||9. Salvador Perez, C, Kansas City Royals|
National League Lineup
Best Move: Andrew McCutchen leading off
The American League has a well-deserved reputation as being better for hitters, thanks mostly to the DH, but this year's National League lineup is stacked from top to bottom without a weak spot.
For proof, all you have to do is see that Andrew McCutchen, the reigning NL MVP who is slugging .575, will be the first hitter of the game against AL starter Felix Hernandez. Pittsburgh's superstar also has a .420 on-base percentage, so he's perfectly fine as a table-setter for Yasiel Puig, Troy Tulowitzki and Paul Goldschmidt.
It also doesn't hurt that McCutchen has been white hot since the start of June, as noted by ESPN.com's Mark Simon in a heat map:
McCutchen already has 50 extra-base hits and leads the NL with 115 total hits. The Pirates superstar is the perfect choice to kick things off against the best pitcher the AL has to offer.
Puzzling Move: Aramis Ramirez hitting sixth
While we can praise Matheny for loading the top of his lineup, the bottom half of the order gets sketchy. The problem begins—and largely ends—with Milwaukee third baseman Aramis Ramirez in the sixth spot.
Ramirez was an odd choice to start the All-Star Game because he's only played 70 games and has an unremarkable .288/.336/.459 slash line. There were plenty of better players at third base, like Cincinnati's Todd Frazier, but the format says whoever the fans vote gets to start.
Inserting Ramirez into the lineup directly behind Giancarlo Stanton and ahead of Chase Utley (.349 on-base percentage), Jonathan Lucroy (.879 OPS) and Carlos Gomez (41 extra-base hits, .510 slugging percentage) is puzzling.
In the scheme of things, it might not make much difference, especially if Frazier is in the game during the later innings with a chance to hit a big home run, but, given the star power behind Ramirez, his name in the sixth spot raises a lot of questions.
American League Lineup
Best Move: Derek Jeter leading off
Like the NL, we go to the leadoff spot for the best move. On numbers and talent, Derek Jeter no longer belongs at the top of a lineup with a roster as loaded as the AL's.
However, there's more to the All-Star game than simply trying to win. It's a showcase for the best that Major League Baseball has to offer. No one has garnered more respect or admiration over the last 20 years than New York's shortstop.
As ESPN's Numbers Never Lie noted on Twitter, Jeter's final All-Star bow shares some similarities with another icon from the previous generation:
If Jeter can hit a home run on the first pitch from Adam Wainwright, he will end his All-Star career exactly like Cal Ripken. With just two homers and a .322 slugging percentage in the first half, that doesn't seem likely. But baseball is a funny game.
Puzzling Move: Josh Donaldson ahead of Salvador Perez
Unlike the NL, there isn't one real weak spot in the AL lineup. You can say Jeter is the one soft area, but his presence in the leadoff spot is pure nostalgia.
The one minor quibble to have with Farrell's lineup is near the bottom, with Josh Donaldson hitting ahead of Salvador Perez. Kansas City's catcher only got the starting nod because Baltimore's Matt Wieters, who was voted the starter, is injured and unable to participate.
Donaldson looked like a potential MVP candidate through May, hitting 15 home runs and slugging over .500 in the first two months, but has scuffled with just five homers and OPS totals in the .500-.550 range since June 1.
Meanwhile, Perez continues to be a rock with the bat and behind the plate. He's got 11 home runs this season, just two shy of a career high, and dazzled in June with a .918 OPS. In the small sample size of July, the 24-year-old hit a rough patch with a .618 OPS, but no one will lose sleep over a bad two weeks compared to two months.
Swapping the eighth and ninth hitters isn't going to make a significant difference in predicted run production, so Farrell shouldn't be condemned for the choice.
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