Every year I like to give a group of players that don't make the MLB All-Star game some recognition.
I don't have set criteria; for the most part I try to choose guys who are having under-the-radar type seasons for their clubs. But, I also want to assemble a balanced lineup.
Sometimes I'll include All-Star snubs, but most of the time the players that make the team are ones that have a significant hand in their team's success, but don't get the publicity for it.
I select 20 players, including a starting lineup, five starting pitchers, two set-up men, a closer, and four reserves. In the AL it is only three reserves because of the DH.
Here are the players that made it last year.
C: Kenji Johjima, 1B: Kevin Youkilis, 2B: Dustin Pedroia, 3B: Casey Blake, SS: Jhonny Peralta, OF: Jose Guillen, Curtis Granderson, Reggie Willits, DH: Gary Sheffield, SP: Jeremy Guthrie, Kelvim Escobar, Chad Gaudin, Erik Bedard, Fausto Carmona, SU: Rafael Betancourt, Scot Shields, CL: Joe Borowski, RS: Carlos Pena, Kenny Lofton, Chone Figgins
C: Jhonny Estrada, 1B: Adrian Gonzalez, 2B: Brandon Phillips, 3B: Aramis Ramirez, SS: Hanley Ramirez, OF: Eric Byrnes, Brad Hawpe, Shane Victorino, SP: Ian Snell, John Maine, Tom Gorzelanny, Derek Lowe, Noah Lowry, SU: Heath Bell, Rafael Soriano, CL: Jason Isrignhausen, RS: Xavier Nady, Edgar Renteria, Hunter Pence
Without any further anticipation, here is this year’s list of MLB Non-Stars, voted on by myself and myself alone.
American League Position Players
2B - Akinori Iwamura, Rays: While he doesn't have the runs batted in that Jose Lopez does or the stolen bases that Brian Roberts has, Akinori Iwamura has made the transition to second base seamlessly. His two errors are the lowest among AL second basemen with at least 300 total chances. Iwamura also sets the table for one of the best teams in the American League.
CF - B.J. Upton, Rays: I'm going to stick with what's working and take two of the top three in the Rays' lineup. Upton has a great blend of base running, defense, hitting, and he's getting on base at a .392 clip.
RF - Nick Markakis, Orioles: It isn't very often you find a young hitter like Markakis with an on-base percentage hovering near the .400 mark. He's hitting .300 with the third most hits among AL outfielders.
3B - Mike Lowell, Red Sox: How does one of the most deserving Red Sox not make the All-Star roster? He leads all AL third basemen in RBI, which shouldn't be a surprise to anyone.
DH: Aubrey Huff, Orioles: I was going to go off the page and select the best available player for my DH, but Aubrey Huff is a nice player to have. He's knocked in 56 runs this year, more than All-Star starter Milton Bradley has, and he's in the thick of it for the AL home run lead.
SS - Jhonny Peralta, Indians: The pickings are slim and I need a run producer. Iwamura and Lowell will shield his defensive range but Peralta's surging power numbers will be a boost to the lineup. He leads all AL shortstops in home runs by a large margin, holding double the number of Michael Young with 14.
LF - David Murphy, Rangers: You might be wondering why I'm leaving off guys like Jermaine Dye and Jose Guillen. Truth is I think they get enough props for just getting on the Final Vote ballot. Murphy isn't even getting Rookie of the Year love so why not show some to the No. 4 man in RBI among AL outfielders. Murphy trailed off for a while but he might be starting to heat up again after going deep in his last two games.
1B - Casey Kotchman, Angels: It was a tough choice between him and Toronto's Lyle Overbay. While Overbay leads all AL first basemen in walks, Kotchman has the least strikeouts among all first baseman with at least 150 at bats. While he sits at just 17 walks, he only has one more strikeout the entire first half.
C - A.J. Pierzynski, White Sox: It's the catcher you love to hate and the White Sox you hate to love. Did you know A.J. leads all American League catchers in total bases and is second in runs batted in? I did, that is why he's my starting catcher for the AL Central Leaders.
Bench - OF Magglio Ordonez, 3B Casey Blake, 2B Brian Roberts: I will gladly take a former All-Star in Magglio Ordonez on the bench. Casey Blake will be my utility man to play multiple positions. My last spot goes to Brian Roberts, which was the most difficult choice. I wanted a middle infielder with some speed and while he is on the Final Vote ballot, he is also the best choice.
American League Pitchers
SP - Felix Hernadnez, Mariners: The lack of performance from his Seattle mates shouldn't prevent him from making this team, nor should his injury. King Felix has still logged over 100 innings and has struck out 93 hitters to this point. What’s his best number this year? A 2.83 ERA, which could signal the young ace has put it all together.
SP - Gavin Floyd, White Sox: Get used to seeing White Sox pitchers because it has been their bread and butter this year. From starter to closer, Chicago is in the position they are because of guys like Floyd.
SP - Nick Blackburn, Twins: What's so special about Twins' rookie Nick Blackburn? His 16 walks are the lowest among 100 inning starting pitchers in the American League.
SP - John Danks, White Sox: Danks has finally evolved into that pitcher Chicago thought he could be. He's sporting a 2.52 ERA over 107 innings pitched.
SP - Jon Lester, Red Sox: This was by far the toughest choice for me to make for the American League. It came down to James Shields, Mike Mussina, Zach Greinke, and Lester. Like Blackburn, Mussina has walked just 16 hitters this year, while Shields and Greinke have strikeouts. Lester's edge is in the fact that he has a lowest ERA and the most innings pitched. Not to mention the fact he's thrown a no-hitter.
SU -Dan Wheeler, Rays: The most holds, a great opponent batting average against, and no "blown saves" for Tampa Bay's primary set-up man. Wheeler has regained the form he had when setting up Brad Lidge and he is the best in the American League
SU - Scott Linebrink, White Sox: This seemed like such an obvious choice for me, but it was tougher than you think. There is a pitcher in Baltimore who has been just as good, if not better than Linebrink this year.
Jim Johnson's downfall is his high walk total, which severely outweighs his sparkling .172 batting average against. The determining factor to me is the fact that Linebrink has pretty much single-handedly given the Chicago bullpen an identity.
CL - Bobby Jenks, White Sox: Terry Francona pretty much cleaned me out in terms of what I had to pick from. B.J. Ryan would be my runner up, but I'll gladly take a former All-Star closer in Bobby Jenks. The best ERA of any of the closers who didn't make the team and he’s only blown three saves.
National League Position Players
SS - Jose Reyes, Mets: I'm once again bailed out by the fact that I have that extra bench spot. However this was no easy decision. I needed a starter with some speed and who better than Jose Reyes? He leads all NL shortstops in steals and only has ten more strikeouts than walks.
CF -Carlos Beltran, Mets: I could have taken other players, but Beltran plays centerfield and he has some good numbers.
1B - Derrek Lee, Cubs: This wasn't nearly as tough as I expected it to be thanks to the extra bench spot. Still it was a tough choice to get a starter here.
Derrek Lee ultimately makes it for his stellar defense and equally great hitting. He gets on base, knocks in runs, and pretty much does it all for the Cubs. He has one less hit than Lance Berkman the leader among NL first basemen.
DH - Mark Teixeira, Braves: You could make the argument that Mark Teixeira is having just as good of a year as Adrian Gonzalez. Because we are playing in the American League park, I needed a DH. Teixeira's 67 RBI was enough proof for me.
C - Ryan Doumit, Pirates: If not for injuries, Doumit would have been considered a snub by virtue of depth. I think he belongs in the top group of NL catchers without a doubt. He leads all of them in batting average and is third in home runs. He's also scored the second most runs and is fourth in on base percentage.
3B - Garrett Atkins, Rockies: A no-doubter for me with David Wright on the Final Vote ballot. He leads all NL third basemen in average and hits.
LF - Jason Bay, Pirates: Jason Bay got off to a sluggish start, but he's been All-Star like since. Bay's on base percentage is creeping up near .400 and he's belted 17 home runs on the year.
RF - Xavier Nady, Pirates: The only NL outfielder with a better average than "The X-Man" is Matt Holliday. Nady has 55 RBI on the year and had he not missed some time with a bad shoulder he could have been in the mix for the All-Star game.
2B - Brandon Phillips, Reds: The now two-time Non-Star can't seem to catch a break with the amount of second basemen in the NL. This was a harder choice than I thought it would be with Orlando Hudson having a good year. I wanted some speed at the bottom of the order so Phillips was my man as well.
Bench: 2B Mark DeRosa, OF Randy Winn, SS Ryan Theriot: I get two guys from the Cubs that can pretty much cover every spot between the two. Theriot gives me speed at both middle infield positions and DeRosa does a little bit of everything at every position on the field. Randy Winn is putting together a quiet, but productive year for the Giants.
National League Pitchers
SP - Cole Hamels, Phillies: How did Cole Hamels slip through the cracks? Quietly putting together another fine year for Philadelphia with a 3.16 ERA in a National League best 135 innings pitched.
SP - Tim Hudson, Braves: Timmy Hudson is putting together a fine season as one of the NL's premiere innings eaters.
SP - Jair Jurrjens, Braves: The Braves certainly could use John Smoltz at the top of their rotation, but Jurrjens and Hudson certainly are picking up the slack. Jurrjens is carrying an even 3.00 ERA on the season.
SP - Kyle Lohse, Cardinals: This spot came down to Lohse and Florida starter Ricky Nolasco. Similar numbers for the most part, but Lohse is one of the better pitchers in the NL in terms of not walking hitters.
SP - Chad Billingsley, Dodgers: One of the better strikeout pitchers in the National League, Billingsley gets a nod from me.
SU - Taylor Buchholz, Rockies: To me, Buchholz has pretty much been the most reliable set-up men in the National League. His ERA and on-base against is better than the other three guys I considered.
SU - Carlos Marmol, Cubs: I had a tough time picking between Marmol and Heath Bell, last year's set up man. Marmol in the end has more holds, a better average against and I need a guy who I can bring in to strike out any given hitter.
CL - Jon Rauch, Nationals: Clearly I don't get the choice of dependable closers of B.J. Ryan and Bobby Jenks in the National League. It came down to five guys and I went with Rauch for his 6 BB, low average against and ability to strike someone out as well.
The idea wasn't to select based off one set idea like, “best statistical performance.” It was to form a competitive team based off guys with certain skill sets, but they did need to be having good years for the most part. I did my best to at least name guys who I considered, just to make sure they got some notice in this.
Who would win this game? I'll leave that up for everyone else to decide. I think I did a good job in terms of putting together a solid all-around team in both leagues, so I can't pick a side in this matter.
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