2011 MLB All-Star Starters: Position-by-Position AL and NL Starting Lineups
The 2011 MLB All-Star starters have been announced. Whether it's a good idea or not, the All-Star game has taken on some significance as the winning league determines which team has home field advantage in the World Series.
I've got to say, the fans got it (mostly) right this year. The fan vote usually credits at least one or two names who don't deserve an All-Star selection, but with the exception of one player, it would be hard to argue against any of the choices this year.
Dan is a Boston Red Sox featured columnist. Follow him on twitter @dantheman_06.
AL Catcher: Alex Avila
Alex Avila is having a fine season at only 24 years of age as the catcher for the Detroit Tigers.
He leads American League catchers in slugging (.531) and RBI (T-46). He's also second in batting average (.299), on base average (.369), and HR (10).
Injuries to Joe Mauer and underproduction from Carlos Santana threw the AL All-Star catching spot wide open, and Avila––who also has the highest WAR (2.6) of any AL catcher––was the logical choice.
This marks Avila's first career All-Star selection. Prior to this season, he had appeared in parts of two seasons with the Tigers, playing in just 133 games.
AL First Base: Adrian Gonzalez
Adrian Gonzalez has more than lived up to expectations since a blockbuster trade sent him to Boston during the offseason.
His batting average (.353) is the best mark in the American League and trails that of Major League leader Jose Reyes by only .001. He also leads the AL in hits (119), and all of baseball with 74 RBI and 27 doubles.
Furthermore, his 4.4 WAR is the highest among Major League first baseman, let alone the American League.
This All-Star selection is the fourth of Gonzalez' career, as well as his fourth in the last four years.
AL Second Base: Robinson Cano
The American League second base position League was one of the tougher All-Star calls.
While the power and the run production (14 home runs, 54 RBI) have certainly been there for Cano this year, his plate discipline (.339 on base average, 4.7 percent walks) has not.
Combine this with his sub-par defense (-3.0 UZR), and Cano's candidacy as the American League's starting second baseman becomes questionable.
Cano's WAR (2.5) is only the fifth best among AL second baseman. Ben Zobrist (4.0), Dustin Pedroia (3.8), Howie Kendrick (3.7), and Ian Kinsler (3.4) all rank ahead of Cano in WAR.
Ben Zobrist is one of the biggest All-Star snubs this year and certainly deserves the nod at second base. The facts that he plays multiple positions in a small market appear to have hurt his All-Star chances.
While Dustin Pedroia has been phenomenal defensively all season, he's been streaky at the plate, only coming into his own offensively in recent weeks.
Meanwhile, Kendrick's relative anonymity and Kinsler's low batting average (.238) probably scared voters off at the polls. You could make legitimate cases for a number of different AL second baseman, but Cano certainly ranks among the best in terms of raw offensive ability and power at the plate. This marks his third career All-Star appearance.
AL Shortstop: Derek Jeter
Derek Jeter flat out didn't deserve an All-Star selection this year. Not even close. His choice has everything to do with his iconic status and nothing to do with his level of play this season.
Asdrubal Cabrera, Jhonny Peralta, and Alexei Ramirez might have deserved the starting spot, and Jeter doesn't even come close to measuring up to any of them.
He's hit just two home runs this season, and his pop appears to be gone. His ground ball percentage (65.9) is the highest of any Major League player.
He's batting a paltry .260/.324/.324 at the plate, and he's missed time with injury. Furthermore, Jeter ranks 10th out of 11 qualified American League shortstops in WAR.
In any case, this will be the 12th All-Star selection of Jeter's career.
AL Third Base: Alex Rodriguez
A-Rod is having one of the most well-rounded seasons of any player in baseball.
He's hitting a smooth .304/.379/.509 with 13 home runs and 52 RBI. Recently, he's been blistering at the plate.
No other AL third baseman is hitting over .300. In fact, the player with the next highest batting average––Alberto Callapso––is hitting .281.
While he's received decent challenges from Kevin Youkilis and Adrian Beltre, Alex Rodriguez remains the cream of the crop among American League third baseman.
This will be Rodriguez' 14th All-Star appearance.
AL Outfield: Jose Bautista
Jose Bautista has been nothing short of the most dangerous hitter in baseball this season. He leads the league in home runs (26), on base average (.471), slugging (.679), and WAR (5.6).
Bautista is putting up video game-like numbers during a time when pitching is thriving. Simultaneously, he's proving that last year was no fluke, and that we actually haven’t seen him at his best yet.
This will be Bautista’s second All-Star selection.
AL Outfield: Curtis Granderson
Curtis Granderson's strong play this season has put him on the short list for early AL MVP candidates. A refined hitting approach and a clean bill of health has helped Granderson belt 22 home runs thus far, good for third in the league.
He’s been perhaps the most consistent offensive cog in the machinery of the Yankees’ offense, and he fully deserves to start in the All-Star game.
This is Granderson’s second All-Star appearance.
AL Outfield: Josh Hamilton
The reigning AL MVP Josh Hamilton has put up great numbers this season, albeit in limited play.
In just 46 games, Hamilton is batting .301/.364/.554 with 10 HR and 40 RBI. He’s been good while he’s been on the field; he just hasn’t been on the field very much.
It wouldn’t be too hard to make a case for a few other outfielders who deserve the starting spot simply because they’ve been productive longer than Hamilton––names like Jacoby Ellsbury and Alex Gordon come to mind––but there’s no denying Hamilton’s ability.
AL DH: David Ortiz
It's not even close. David Ortiz is currently far and away the best DH in baseball.
He's the only DH with a double-digit home run total (17) and is batting .301/.382/.563. He is also striking out at a career-low pace.
His 2.4 WAR is the highest of any designated hitter.
This will be Ortiz' seventh All-Star selection.
NL Catcher: Brian McCann
Catcher Brian McCann is the only real choice in the National League. There are only four catchers qualified in terms of having played the entire season, and McCann leads them all in batting average (.311), OBP (.386), SLG (.521), HR (14), and RBI (47).
Yeah. That pretty much sums it up.
NL First Base: Prince Fielder
2011 will mark the first time since 2006 that Albert Pujols has not started at first base for the National League All-Star team.
The last non-Pujols player to start at first? Your very own Prince Fielder.
Prince is having a kingly season, leading NL first baseman in home runs (21), RBI (69), slugging (.588), and WAR (T-3.6).
This will be Fielder’s third career All-Star selection.
NL Second Base: Rickie Weeks
2011 marks the second consecutive strong season from second baseman Rickie Weeks.
To date, Weeks is batting .276/.345/.472 with 14 home runs, 59 runs, and 33 RBI.
Solid defense combined and a big bat have earned Weeks his first career All-Star selection.
NL Third Base: Placido Polanco
From the wasteland that has been National League third basemen this season, Placido Polanco has emerged as the All-Star victor.
While Polanco (1.8 WAR) has been edged slightly by Ryan Roberts (2.1 WAR) and Chase Headley (2.0 WAR), his placement on such a big market and winning ball club as the Phillies has given him an advantage.
Polanco’s numbers––.280/.335/.354 slash line, 4 home runs, 39 RBI, 4.2 UZR––aren’t fantastic, but they aren’t too shabby compared with the rest of his meager competition.
This will be Polanco’s second career All-Star appearance.
NL Outfield: Ryan Braun
After a "down" season in 2010, Braun has returned to his previous elite slugger form.
He has 16 home runs and 62 RBI to date while batting .320/.402/.559. He has also stolen 19 bases, just one off his single-season career high. Braun remains one of the true 20-20 threats in baseball.
Braun's selection was well-deserved. It is the fourth of his career.
NL Outfield: Lance Berkman
Lance Berkman has put together one of the more improbable and remarkable first halves in recent memory.
After struggling mightily last season, hitting just .248 with 14 home runs, Berkman has put in one of the better offensive first halves of any hitter in the majors in 2011.
His .610 slugging percentage leads the majors; all in all, he's hitting .297/.409/.610 with 22 home runs and 61 RBI. He's already eclipsed last year's offensive output in just half the time.
This will be the sixth All-Star selection of Berkman's career.
NL Outfield: Matt Holliday
The All-Star selection of Matt Holliday was one of the fans' more questionable decisions. He's batting a healthy .319/.418/.540, but has missed significant time with injury and played in only 60 games.
As a result, his raw offensive output––10 home runs, 40 RBI––hasn't nearly measured up to that of players like Matt Kemp and Andrew McCutchen, who would be better candidates to start in the All-Star game.
Still, Holliday is about as talented as they come, and he's on pace to have one of his best seasons yet.
This will be Holliday's fifth All-Star selection.