Have you ever been mixed in with a crowd of people and felt that you're more knowledgeable than everyone single of of them? Has the crowd ever been over 30,000 people? My answers, yes and yes.
A few weeks ago I was at Mariners game and was handed an All-Star game ballot. A part of me did not want to take part in this because I already knew that the majority of the starters (who are the only people the fans vote for), were going to be Red Sox and Yankee players. Especially with the event being held at Yankee Stadium later this month. But the Mariners were losing and I was bored so I thought I would entertain myself for five minutes.
As an avid fantasy baseball player where the game is based purely on numbers and numbers alone, I've developed the habit of taking all the ingredients out of the selection process except for the numbers each individual player has put up this year. I don't care what someone did last year or has done for an average of the past three. I don't care if he's a captain or an outspoken guy with the media. All-Star events in any sport are made to celebrate the players having good seasons, er...good first halves of seasons, that year and that year alone.
So who would make my All Star teams?
Catcher: A.J. Pierzynski - Chicago White Sox
Pierzynski hasn't batted over .300 since his final year in Minnesota back in 2003 but is on pace to do so for the third time in his 11th year in the bigs. Pierzynski ranks among the top three at his position in the American League in the following categories:
Games played(71) - ranked 2nd only 5 behind Joe Mauer
At-bats(287) - League Leader
Runs(39) - ranked 2nd only12 behind Joe Mauer
Hits(87) - ranked 2nd only 2 behind Joe Mauer
Doubles(20) - ranked 2nd only 2 behind Joe Mauer
Home Runs(7) - tied for 3rd only 5 behind Mike Napoli
Rbis(32) - tied for 3rd only 4 behind Joe Mauer
Total Bases(130) - League Leader
Slugging Percentage(.453) - ranked 1st among catchers with at least 200 at bats
Batting Average(.303) - ranked 3rd among catchers with at least 200 at bats
Joe Mauer's name does top AJ in a lot of these categories but the splits between Mauer's numbers home and away are staggering as a .376 home batting average compared to a .266 away batting average is just too big to ignore. It also helps that Pierzynski plays for Chicago who leads their respective division and currently holds the fifth best record in all of baseball at 49-36.
First Base: Justin Morneau - Minnesota Twins
While Morneau's teammate Mauer has a wide differential in his home and away numbers, Morneau is steady wherever he goes hitting .311 at home and .309 on the road for a .310 batting average, best in the American League for any first baseman with over 100 at bats. (Technically Sean Casey of the Red Sox has 106 at bats and a .358 average but c'mon, let's get serious). The former MVP leads AL first baseman in at-bats(329), hits(102), and rbis(63) and has played in all 85 of the Twins games helping them to a 47-38 record, good enough for 2nd in the division.
Second Base: Ian Kinsler - Texas Rangers
This isn't even close. Kinsler is only 13 hits away from his previous season high of 127 which he hit last year in only his second season with the Rangers. Kinsler is set to crush his old records and set new ones. Playing in Texas does help Kinsler with his league leading batting average of .323 as he's hit .373 in Arlington compared to .281 away from home but that's about all. Away from home, Kinsler has hit 10 of his league leading 13 home runs to go along with 33 of his league leading 50 rbi. The speed has also broken out with him already matching last years career high of 23 stolen bases and being caught only once, good for a .958 stolen base percentage.
Third Base: Alex Rodriguez - New York Yankees
Arguably the best player in baseball, continues to perform at an All-Star level as he deserves to be elected to his ninth straight All-Star game and 11th out of 12. His numbers, while might not be on par with his career, are still among the best at his position in the league for this season which is what counts, and this includes missing the first three weeks in May.
49 runs scored - League Leader
77 hits - Tied for 4th
17 Home Runs - League Leader
47 RBI - Tied for 3rd
145 Total Bases - League Leader
11 Stolen Bases - 2nd behind Chone Figgins who makes stealing bases his forte
.401 On Base Percentage - League Leader (Matt Macri doesn't count)
.594 Slugging Percentage - League Leader
.316 Batting Average - League Leader (Again...Matt Macri doesn't count)
Shortstop: Michael Young - Texas Rangers
What a down year for shortstops in the American League as none of them are currently hitting over .300 including Michael Young who has finished each of the past 5 seasons with an average above .300 and at least 200 hits. Despite the productivity drop from Young, no one else in the American league has taken away the title of the league's best overall hitter at shortstop. Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees gives Young a run for his money but when compared head to head Young still takes the cake.
BA: Young .288 > Jeter .279
Hits: Young 100 > Jeter 88
Runs: Young 58 > Jeter 48
Doubles: Young 23 > Jeter - 15
Home Runs: Young 7 > Jeter 4
RBI: Young 45 > Jeter 35
Total Bases: Young 146 > Jeter 121
On Base Percentage: Young .339 < Jeter .342
Outfield: Josh Hamilton - Texas Rangers, Grady Sizemore - Cleveland Indians, J.D. Drew- Boston Red Sox
Hamilton is the easiest pick of the three as his storybook comeback season is nothing short of amazing. His quest for the triple crown is alive and certainly possible as with 19 home runs, he sits only two behind the leader. Has a chokehold on the rbi title with 82 (18 ahead of 2nd place), and is batting .308, only third begins qualifying players David DeJesus (.321), and Johnny Damon (.317). Hamilton has shown signs of cooling off while he's only hit two home runs the past month and in the month of June only hit .278 and struck out 26 times compared to when he struck out just 32 times in April and May combined. Still the stats are good enough to be ranked among the best and he deserves to start in New York.
Sizemore is not your protypical leadoff hitter as his pop is good enough to give him the overall AL lead in home runs with 21. But he also brings the speed having stolen 20 bases and is on pace to set a career high in that category. I also have to believe that if he had a productive and healthy Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner hitting behind, his numbers would be even greater across the board. He's never hit .300 in a season so don't be turned off by the .267 BA. Even the greats like Manny Ramirez and Vladimir Guerrero are hitting just .279 and .282 respectively with less hit totals but both don't have this years production that Sizemore is posting.
Drew is a case of the saying it doesn't matter how you got there, all that matters is where you finish. It took a torrid month of June to get J.D. Drew of the Red Sox into my outfield where he hit .337 with 12 home runs and 27 rbi. That month has helped propel him to the top of the charts as he leads all AL outfielders in runs scored with 60 and in OBP with .412. While this may be a flash in the pan for the often referred overpaid and overrated outfielder who has only finished with 20 or more home runs three times, 100 or more rbi once, and a batting average over .300 twice in a 10 year career...it's still good enough for this year to make it to New York.
Starting Pitcher - Cliff Lee
Lee started off ridiculously hot going 5-0 with a 0.96 era in 37.2 innings in April while giving up just two walks. Those type of numbers are nearly impossible to keep up but Lee has still put up gawdy numbers of 11-1 with a 2.26 era. If not on a last place team in Cleveland (yes even Kansas City has a better record than them) Lee would be far away the front runner for Cy Young. An argument can also be made for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim's John Lackey who's 6-1 with a 1.44 era. Injury caused Lackey to sit out until his first start on May 14 but from that point on he's gone on to start nine games, all of which he's gone 7.0 innings or more and in seven of those nine starts has allowed just one earned run or less.
So that's who I think should be starting in New York for the American League.
C - Pierzynski
1B - Morneau
2B - Kinsler
3B - Rodriguez
SS - Young
OF - Hamilton
OF - Sizemore
OF - Drew
SP - Lee
Who do I think the fans will vote in?
C - Jason Varitek
1B - David Ortiz (even though he's injured) or Kevin Youkilis if Ortiz is listed as a DH where he would then be selected as the DH.
2B - Robinson Cano or Dustin Pedroia (I would guess Pedroia but it's in New York so who knows)
3B - Alex Rodriguez
SS - Derek Jeter
OF - Josh Hamilton
OF - Manny Ramirez
OF - Ichiro Suzuki
SP - Cliff Lee
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