Detroit Tigers: Plenty of Candidates for the All-Star Game
Traditionally the All-Star game hasn't been kind to Tigers fans.
But the days of waiting to see if the requisite sole Tigers' All-Star rep would get a chance to pinch hit in the 8th inning of the game are long gone.
As the Tigers have improved in the standings the last half decade, their improvement has been reflected by the number of players they've sent to the Midsummer Classic.
From 1995 to 2003, the Tigers sent the minimum one player to the game. None started or were voted in. The names don't exactly evoke memories of winning baseball.
Justin Thompson, Tony Clark, Robert Fick, Damien Easley—the names roll off the tongue like a glob of bee-covered honey.
Things are different in the D now. Over the last five seasons Detroit has had 16 players invited to the game.
The Tigers have been (for the most part) relevant for much of the season. They have two bona fide superstars, a couple of veterans still at the top of their game and a few rapidly-ascending young players.
While none are likely to get voted in this year, there are eight players more than deserving of consideration.
Which Tiger on the bubble for the All-Star Game most deserves to go?
Justin Verlander SP, Alex Avila C
Justin Verlander is steadily establishing himself as the most dominating pitcher in baseball. Already a talented ace, he seems to have put it all together this season as he leads the AL in Wins, Whip, IP, and opponent batting averages.
Anyone who tells you he (or maybe Jered Weaver) isn't the best pitcher in the AL is a Red Sox fan.
Verlander would have a tremendous chance of starting for the AL in the All-Star game, but as fate would have it he's scheduled to pitch the game before the break and likely won't make an appearance in the game itself.
Although he definitely deserves to start at catcher for the AL over the Yankees' Russell Martin, Alex Avila should have no concerns about making the squad and he can prebook his flight to Arizona without any fear.
The AL will take two catchers and it's not even close how much better offensively Avila has been than the rest of the AL backstops. His breakout year is eye-opening when you realize he leads AL catchers in virtually every offensive category.
Oh, and he's second in the league in percentage of runners caught stealing.
Miguel Cabrera 1B, Jhonny Peralta SS
Thanks to Adrian Gonzalez taking over the voting lead from Mark Teixeira, Miguel Cabrera is probably in despite the crowded first base situation in the AL.
Outside of his February DUI arrest, Cabrera has had his typical, quiet, very productive season, and he'll probably be rewarded for it.
Paul Konerko will make it as the White Sox rep at first, leaving one other spot. It won't make Yankees fans happy, but Cabrera will beat out Teixeira and his sub .250 batting average.
Jhonny Peralta's season has been nothing short of amazing. His offseason signing upset some people in town, but he has been tremendously productive, especially in the clutch. He's been nearly as good as his replacement in Cleveland, All-Star shoe-in Asdrubal Cabrera.
Peralta either leads or is second in most offensive categories (with the Indians Cabrera) for AL shortstops. He already had a decent shot of making it before, but Derek Jeter's injury status makes it even more likely now.
Jose Valverde RP, Victor Martinez DH
Often cringe-inducing, Jose Valverde has had another solid first half of the season. He rarely sends opponents down in order, but he's been exceptional in save situations—he's 18-for-18 when brought in to close out a game.
He's the only AL closer yet to blow a game.
For Valverde it's going to come down to a numbers game that I'm guessing will land in his favor.
You can usually pencil the Royals' Joakim Soria in for a spot, but he's not making it this year, which might ultimately be what gets Valverde in the game.
At the DH spot, Red Sox nation has shown up in droves to vote for the deserving David Ortiz, meaning Victor Martinez might get pinched.
Martinez has been the professional hitter the Tigers hoped he'd be and he's making everyone around him better.
He'll likely be battling it out with fellow veteran Michael Young for a backup DH/Infielder spot. Young has had an equally good season as Martinez and he plays for the guy putting the roster together, Ron Washington.
Martinez' ability to play catcher and first base might help him make the team, but it will be close.
DESERVING, BUT SLIM CHANCE
Brennan Boesch OF, Al Alburquerque RP
Brennan Boesch has really been a blessing for the Tigers in the first half of the season. With the struggles of Ryan Raburn and Magglio Ordonez, Boesch has given Jim Leyland a dependable, productive bat at one of the corner outfield spots.
Among AL outfielders, he's fourth in batting average and runs, seventh in home runs and ranks near the top in most other offensive categories.
His lack of a proven track record, the number of Tigers already likely to make the game and the crowded outfield situation in the AL don't give him much of a hope, but he deserves consideration.
Al Alburquerque has come out of nowhere to electrify the Tigers bullpen. He leads AL relievers in K's per 9 innings, opponents batting average and slugging percentage and boasts a 1.95 ERA. Not bad for a guy didn't even make the team out of Spring Training.
As a non-closer and without a big name, it's hard to imagine Alburquerque being selected to the squad but this shouldn't take anything away from his amazing first half of the season.
No matter how the roster shakes out, the Tigers are sure to be well represented in Phoenix on July 12th.
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