Doc Halladay and the Much-Too-Early 2010 NL All-Stars
I know what you’re thinking.
“All Stars? It’s only the beginning of May!”
Well, believe it or not, All Star voting is well underway. MLB opened the ballots for this year’s game in Anaheim on April 20, the earliest in the league’s history!
Before you fill out your ballot, let me show you who I think should represent the National League in this summer’s showdown with the American League.
Catcher: Ivan Rodriguez
With Brian McCann off to a slow start, the starting position in the All Star games is up for grabs at the moment. While there is no one at the position who is truly tearing the cover off the ball, 38-year-old Pudge Rodriguez gets my nod.
As of Monday morning, the wily vet is hitting a phenomenal .400 with 10 runs, 10 RBI, and has even stolen a base for good measure. In addition, he remains one of the game’s best defensive catchers despite his advancing age.
First Base: Albert Pujols
Prince Albert has been playing right up to his own high standards, which makes him a lock to start for any All Star team. He boasts a .340 batting average, with 16 runs scored, 7 home runs, 24 RBI, and a stolen base.
As always, he remains one of the league’s premier defensive first basemen. He is well on his way to making his ninth All-Star appearance.
Second Base: Kelly Johnson
Second base was the hardest call to make, but I went with the reinvigorated Kelly Johnson over perennial All-Star Chase Utley. The two have very similar numbers, but I gave Johnson the nod because he holds a slight lead in both the power categories and in the average department.
Following a poor 2009 season, Johnson has gotten off to an exceptional start. He is hitting .309, with 17 runs, 9 home runs, 19 RBI, and a stolen base. Time will tell if Johnson is on his way to a monster break out season at the age of 28.
Shortstop: Ryan Theriot
After a slow start, Theriot has been absolutely on fire as of late. On April 12, his batting average stood at a measly .185, but he has gone 34 for 83 since and raised his average to .354.
In addition, he has scored 18 runs, collected 12 RBI and stolen five bases. The scrappy fan favorite has simply outperformed superstar Hanley Ramirez, and therefore is my choice at shortstop.
Third Base: Jorge Cantu
Cantu started the season by setting a major league record when he collected at least one RBI in each of his first 10 games. The streak had to come to an end at some point, but Cantu’s reign of terror at the plate hasn’t.
He is currently hitting .295, with 16 runs, six home runs and 25 RBI. The Marlins’ third baseman looks like he is headed for career highs in a bunch of offensive categories and is well on his way to his first All-Star Game.
Outfield: Ryan Braun
Braun has been considered one of the league’s elite sluggers for a few seasons now, but the 26-year-old appears to be on his way to taking his game to the next level in 2010. Braun has posted outstanding numbers despite the struggles of fellow Brewers masher Prince Fielder.
Braun is hitting .353 with 19 runs, five home runs, 20 RBI, and 6 stolen bases. Braun could post career highs in nearly every significant offensive category, and is a virtual lock to start his third consecutive All-Star Game.
Outfield: Matt Kemp
Despite criticism from Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti, Kemp is off to an All Star quality start in 2010. Kemp currently is hitting .288 with 23 runs, seven home runs, 20 RBI and three stolen bases.
Maybe Colletti knows something we don’t, but it’s hard to see fault with that line. Kemp emerged as one of the game’s finest talents last season, and his hot start in 2010 only confirms his status as a superstar.
Outfield: Andre Ethier
I don’t know if the Dodgers know how good they’ve got it. Being able to pencil two talents like Kemp and Ethier into your line-up day in and day out is the type of luxury afforded to few managers in the league. Like Kemp, Ethier broke out in monster way in 2009, and has confirmed his status as one of the game’s best with a hot start in 2010.
Ethier’s .365 batting average leads the National League, his 26 RBI are also tops in the league, and his nine home runs tie him for the league lead. He’s more than an All-Star—he is the current leader for the MVP award.
Designated Hitter: Marlon Byrd
A new All Star format will guarantee that a designated hitter will be chosen to represent the National League each season, and my selection for the position is Byrd, who barely missed getting the nod in the outfield. I trashed the Cubs for making this move in the offseason, but Byrd has more than proven me wrong.
He has shown that his big 2009 season in Texas was no fluke by posting a .353 average, with 16 runs, five home runs, 19 RBI and two stolen bases so far. It would be Byrd’s first All-Star appearance.
Starting Pitcher: Roy Halladay
Halladay has been everything the Phillies could have hoped for and more so far in 2010. The ace’s transition to the NL has been better than smooth, it’s been incredible. He holds a 5-1 record, with a 1.46 ERA, a 0.87 WHIP, and has struck out 39 and only walked four batters in 49.0 innings pitched.
There were some grumblings from the fans in Philadelphia after the Phils traded away the younger Cliff Lee to bring in Halladay, but it’s safe to say that the fans of Philadelphia are more than pleased to have Doc Halladay now.
Starting Pitcher: Tim Lincecum
This kid is simply incredible. At just 25 years old, he may already be the game’s best pitcher. He is off to an extraordinary start, and is pitching with more confidence than ever.
He is 4-0 with a 1.27 ERA, a 0.82 WHIP, and 43 strikeouts and just seven walks in 35.1 innings pitched. It’s likely that he and Halladay will match each other start for start all season long and will battle each other to the wire for the Cy Young award.
Starting Pitcher: Ubaldo Jimenez
This season he’s already pitched the first no-hitter in Rockies history and posted two other starts in which he didn’t allow a single run. As good as Jimenez was in 2009, he is showing us that he’s even better than we thought in 2010. He is arguably already one of the game’s elite starters, and at 25-years-old is only going to get better.
Jimenez gives the Rockies someone to build their rotation around, and 2010 will likely be the first of many All Star appearances. He is 5-0 with a 0.78 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and 31 strikeouts in 34.1 innings pitched.
Starting Pitcher: Barry Zito
Zito had a fantastic second half in 2009, and has picked up where in he left off in 2010. Zito has put up the type of numbers you’d expect from an ace on a Giants team that already boasts Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain.
Zito is 4-0 with a 1.52 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, and 24 strikeouts in 34.1 innings pitched, and in line for his first All Star appearance since 2006, his last season in Oakland. It looks like Zito is finally earning some of the seven-year, $126 million dollar contract the Giants gave him in back in December of 2006.
Starting Pitcher: Adam Wainwright
Barely beating out teammate Chris Carpenter for the fifth spot in my All Star rotation is Cardinals’ stud Adam Wainwright. Coming off a 19-win 2009 season, Wainwright has gotten right back in the groove in 2010. He is 4-1 with 2.13 ERA, a 0.89 WHIP, and 30 strikeouts in 38.0 innings pitched.
Despite his past successes, Wainwright has yet to be named an All-Star. It’s hard to imagine that Wainwright won’t make his first All-Star appearance in 2010.
Relief Pitcher: Matt Capps
Capps has simply been lights out for the Nationals this season. He leads the majors with 10 saves, and has yet to blow a save opportunity. Furthermore, he has earned a save in an impressive 10 of the Nationals’ 13 victories. His ERA stands at a minuscule 0.65 and he has collected 15 strikeouts in just 13.2 innings pitched.
Prior to the start of the season, rumors were floating around that Capps was simply keeping the closer’s job warm for young Drew Storen, but after the start he has gotten off to, Capps has a stranglehold on the Nats’ closing gig.