It's very hard to believe that we are almost to the All-Star break. That's right, in a month from now, we will be seeing the sport's "greatest" taking part in the Mid-Summer Classic, this year taking place in Yankee Stadium. Every year, a lot is made of who should be in? Who shouldn't be in? Who is going to be left out that deserves a spot? After all, one of the traditions of the All Star Game is making note of all the All Star snubs. And something that has always irked me as a fan, is players making the All-Star team because of their name, and not their numbers (or players being left off the rosters because of their lack of a name, despite their numbers).
But this post is going to focus around something the fans have no say in - the starting pitchers for both clubs. There are a handful of pitchers in each league deserving of a start in the All Star Game. You decide who should actually get the nod. For the record, I am taking the stance that this is the year the National League finally defeats its counterpart, a feat they haven't accomplished since 1996.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CANDIDATES:
Scott Kazmir, TAM - This kid is a future Cy Young award winner, perhaps as soon as this season. Kazmir does not yet have the innings pitched to qualify for the league lead in ERA, but his mark of 1.74 is absolutely solid. Kaz missed the first month of the season with inflammation in his left elbow. He returned to the mound on May 5, and did not pitch all that well. But since then, the 2007 strikeout king has gone 6-1 with 49 Ks in seven games started. He was actually named the American League pitcher of the month for May. This 24-year old southpaw has all the makings of a bona fide ace, and will only get stronger. He is a sure-fire All Star, and has certainly made his case to get the start from AL manager Terry Francona.
Cliff Lee, CLE - This left-hander will most likely win the AL Comeback Player of the Year this season, as he enters play today with a 10-1 record (with that one loss coming in his last start) and a nifty ERA of 2.55. He's pitched fewer than six innings once (5 2/3 innings against the Reds last month). In 2007, Lee had the worst season of his seven year career. He went 5-8 with a paltry 6.29 ERA . It got so bad that, after he was sidelined for a month with an oblique injury, Lee was demoted to Triple-A. And remember, Lee was a Cy Young candidate in 2005. So while some players have great "fluke" seasons, perhaps 2007 was just a hiccup in Lee's career path.
Joe Saunders/Ervin Santana, LAA - No, two pitchers can not start the same game for the same team. But Santana and Saunders have both had incredible seasons, and could both make Francona's decision even more difficult. After Santana struggled mightily in '07, he has had an absolute turn-around here in '08. So far this season, the right-hander has gone 8-3 and has recorded 82 punchouts. And his 3.40 ERA is good for ninth in the league. As for Saunders, he has had a very surprising season. No one really expected this lefty to be 9-3 on June 15. Saunders has never won more than eight games in a season, and his 3.32 ERA places him eighth in the league. Either Angel would make a great selection to start the All Star Game for the American League at Yankee Stadium.
Other possible candidates (Win-Loss, Strikeouts, ERA)- Shaun Marcum, TOR (5-3, 80, 2.43); Felix Hernandez, SEA (5-5, 76, 2.81); John Danks, CHW (4-4, 61, 2.90); Roy Halladay, TOR (8-6, 86, 3.09, 5 CG).
NATIONAL LEAGUE CANDIDATES:
Brandon Webb, ARZ - It's very hard to discuss All Star Game starting pitchers, and not mention Webb. This guy is a perennial Cy Young candidate, and his 11 wins his good for tops in the sport. And his 2.73 ERA doesn't hurt his chances either. When his sinker is on, Webb is the toughest pitcher to get a hit off of. Webb also has the second-best WHIP in the game, with a mark of 1.00.
Edinson Volquez, CIN - What a deal. Josh Hamilton for Volquez. Volquez leads all of baseball with a 1.64 ERA, and is tied for second with 10 wins. Oh, and his 105 strikeouts is the best in the game. Can you say pitching Triple Crown?
Tim Lincecum, SFG - If there is anyone to threaten Volquez's attempt at the Triple Crown, it's this young righty. Lincecum will not get the wins necessary on a bad Giants team, but his 1.99 ERA is second to Volquez, as are his 92 strikeouts. Lincecum has failed to pitch at least six innings once this season, and that was his first start of the season. Even more impressive, he's yet to give up more than three earned runs in any of his starts so far. This kid is also a future Cy Young winner, no doubt.
Carlos Zambrano, CHC - This guy has had All Star starting pitcher stuff for years. This year, however, he may be at his best. So far in 2008, Big Z is 8-2 with a 2.98 ERA and 66 Ks. He wouldn't be the flashiest pitcher to start an All Star Game, but you can't argue with the numbers. Manager Clint Hurdle is going to have a few more gray hairs after trying to figure out his roster.
Other possible candidates (Win-Loss, Strikeouts, ERA) - Ben Sheets, MIL (7-1, 72, 2.72); Johan Santana, NYM (7-4, 86, 2.85); Cole Hamels, PHI (6-4, 86, 3.27); Ryan Dempster, CHC (8-2, 75, 2.81).
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