B/R MLB Featured Columnist Poll: Who Should Be NL's 2011 All-Star Starters?
Hard though it may be to believe, we are already more than halfway to the 2011 MLB All-Star Game.
Of course, the All-Star Game would be a lot better if the most deserving players were the ones who got to play. But the fans cast their ballots for the biggest names, the players pick guys they like watching, and the managers take as many of their own players as humanly possible.
Hence the annual snubbing of some of the game's best players, like Ryan Zimmerman, Kelly Johnson and Francisco Liriano in 2010.
Luckily, there is one group who dares to challenge the Midsummer Classic's reputation as a popularity contest: Bleacher Report's MLB Featured Columnists.
Last week, 33 of B/R's top baseball writers held a mock All-Star vote to see who really deserves to start in the Midsummer Classic. On Wednesday, we unveiled our picks for the American League, and today, we take a look at the results for the NL.
In this slideshow are the vote totals at each position, along with commentary from the writers explaining why they made their picks.
Be sure to let us know who we got wrong!
First Base: Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
1. Joey Votto, CIN—67 percent
T2. Ryan Howard, PHI—12 percent
T2. Gaby Sanchez, FLA—12 percent
4. Prince Fielder, MIL—6 percent
5. Todd Helton, COL—3 percent
On Votto (by Lewie Pollis)
There were many who said Joseph Daniel Votto could not repeat his incredible production from last year, when he was named NL MVP. They were right—he’s actually gotten better.
Votto has been an offensive monster. He leads all NL first basemen in OPS (.991), wOBA (.427) and wRC+ (170). He’s been a defensive wizard too, with an insane 16.1 UZR/150 (from a first baseman!) and a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage.
His 2.7 WAR leads the Senior Circuit and puts him on pace for 8.7 wins over a full season. All-Star? No question.
Second Base: Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds
Bob Levey/Getty Images
1. Brandon Phillips, CIN—73 percent
T2. Darwin Barney, CHC—12 percent
T2. Rickie Weeks, MIL—12 percent
4. Neil Walker, PIT—3 percent
On Phillips (by Reed Domer-Shank)
Watching Phillips patrol the right side of the infield is like watching LeBron James play basketball. Seemingly every night, he’ll drop a "holy-sh*t-no-he-di’innnnnt" type of play and make you just shake your head and stare.
Thing is, Phillips has always been downright scary with the glove. Now, however, it seems his bat is catching up. With a .317 batting average, Phillips has teamed with incumbent-MVP Joey Votto to keep the Reds (starting pitching woes be damned) afloat in a tightly packed NL Central race.
Shortstop: Jose Reyes, New York Mets
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1. Jose Reyes, NYM—61 percent
2. Troy Tulowitzki, COL—27 percent
3. Starlin Castro, CHC—12 percent
On Reyes (by Dan Hartel)
Jose Reyes is the clear choice for NL shortstop. He’s healthy this year, and he’s returned to All-Star form. His 17 steals are second in the majors to only Michael Bourn. His glove has been great, and he’s one of only four NL shortstops with a positive UZR.
Reyes’ batting average (.310) and OBP (.362) would be career-highs if the season ended today. His 14 doubles are the highest of any big league shortstop.
Third Base: Placido Polanco, Philadelphia Phillies
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1. Placido Polanco, PHI—76 percent
T2. Chipper Jones, ATL—6 percent
T2. Pablo Sandoval, SF—6 percent
T2. David Wright, NYM—6 percent
T5. Aramis Ramirez, CHC—3 percent
T5. Ryan Roberts, ARI—3 percent
On Polanco (by Casey Schermick)
For me, Placido Polanco is an easy All-Star pick. Polanco leads all third basemen in the MLB in hits with 61. He also leads third basemen in batting average at .339. He is a very good defensive player as well and is very durable, leading the majors in games played at third base.
Polanco may not have the most power, but for me an All-Star is defined by overall play, not just home runs. Based on that, Polanco easily wins my vote as the NL’s best third baseman.
Catcher: Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
1. Brian McCann, ATL—45 percent
2. Yadier Molina, STL—24 percent
3. Buster Posey, SF—15 percent
4. Ramon Hernandez, CIN—12 percent
5. Miguel Montero, ARI—3 percent
On McCann (by Jeffrey Beckmann)
Over the last five seasons Brian McCann has established himself as one of the best catchers in the game—with the 2011 season being no exception. With four home runs and a MLB-leading 25 RBI amongst catchers, no backstop has come through for his team in as many clutch moments as McCann has for the Braves to start the new season.
The five-time All-Star and four-time Silver Slugger currently leads MLB in putouts and assists to go along with a sterling .994 fielding percentage—further proving that McCann is clearly an All-Star as well as the best catcher in the league.
Outfielder No. 1: Lance Berkman, St. Louis Cardinals
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
1. Lance Berkman, STL—28 percent
T2. Ryan Braun, MIL—25 percent
T2. Matt Holliday, STL—25 percent
4. Matt Kemp, LAD—13 percent
5. Andre Ethier, LAD—4 percent
T6. Carlos Beltran, NYM—1 percent
T6. Colby Rasmus, STL—1 percent
T6. Alfonso Soriano, CHC—1 percent
T6. Shane Victorino, PHI—1 percent
On Berkman (by Eli Marger)
What a big year for Big Puma. Lance Berkman has been playing out of his mind for the Cardinals, helping to pick up the slack during a down year for Albert Pujols. He is hitting .338 with 11 homers and 35 RBI, but the brilliance of his numbers comes at a deeper level.
His .460 wOBA (weighted on-base average) is second in baseball behind Jose Bautista. He’s hitting line drives at his highest rate in years. Looks like this great success will carry on all year. He is definitely worthy of an All-Star spot.
Outfielder No. T2: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
On Braun (by Samantha Bunten)
Braun is an offensive juggernaut, and let's face it; All-Star selections are all about offense. He has hitting for both power and average down to a science, and on top of that, he's shown he's got speed as well.
And maybe most important, this guy is a gamer. He looks 100 percent locked in every time he's at the plate, he leaves every game with a dirty uniform and when he sustained an ankle injury last week and a shoulder injury over the weekend, he was back in the lineup the very next day on both occasions.
Outfielder No. T2: Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
On Holliday (by Shaun Toback)
Despite a preseason injury to ace Adam Wainwright and Albert Pujols’ worst statistical season as a pro, the Cardinals currently sit atop the NL Central, largely because Holliday has arguably been the best player in the National League.
He currently has more hits, RBI and walks than Pujols, with only one less home run and a batting average almost .100 points higher than “The Machine.” Any player who has been that much better than one of the game’s all-time best must be considered a lock for an All-Star spot.