Seattle Mariners: League, Felix Among AL All-Stars; Ichiro, Pineda Miss the Cut

Davis ZhaoCorrespondent IIJuly 3, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 22: Ichiro Suzuki #51 of the Seattle Mariners reacts after striking out in the seventh inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on June 22, 2011 in Washington, DC. The Washington Nationals won, 2-1. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

It was a pleasant Sunday morning for Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, who upon waking up found his cell phone message inbox full of congratulatory texts. Despite his blurriness, it didn't take Hernandez long to figure out that he had been selected to the 2011 AL All-Star squad.

He then realized he had slept-in for a bullpen session, but I'm sure the Mariners gave him a break for that.

In a season where dominant pitching all around has single-handedly kept the M's afloat, it seems fitting that the closer and the ace of the staff were given All-Star recognition. 

Now, I'll be the first to admit that Hernandez was not his sharpest in the first half of this season, but he still was third in innings pitched and strikeouts, in addition to having one of the highest WARs (Wins Above Replacement) among starters in what has become an increasingly popular statistic among educated voters.

Plus, it didn't hurt that he's the reigning AL Cy Young winner, making it a relatively easy decision for Rangers skipper Ron Washington, who has to face King Felix several times a year.

As for Brandon League, you'd be hard pressed finding an American League (pun intended) closer more deserving of All-Star honors. When you look at League's entire body of work, his numbers don't scream complete dominance, but once you take into account the one rough week in which he blew all four games, he has been truly remarkable. 

Not counting those three consecutive meltdowns, League has converted all 21 chances, good for first in the AL. 

Seemingly nondescript relievers like David Aardsma and League have done a great job of stepping in seamlessly since Putz's departure, which demonstrates that closers truly can be a dime a dozen.

However, this has certainly been a career-defining year for League, who went from eight career saves in seven seasons to facing more one-run games than a closer can dream nightmares of. 

Then, there's Ichiro, who really didn't deserve to be an All-Star this year by any stretch, but you secretly hoped he would anyways. Simply put, Ichiro tends to have a rough May, but the ruts in Ichiro's path have gotten deeper and longer this year. 

It's not like he's lost a step speed-wise, but the magic at the plate has seemingly faded a bit and when you've got outfielders like Jose Bautista who can smack the seams out of the baseball, Ichiro's unique reputation can only take him so far. 

Barring an unlikely injury, Ichiro will miss his first All-Star game in his 11-year career. 

And finally, there's rookie phenom Michael Pineda. Pineda didn't have as many innings pitched (resulting in fewer strikeouts), but the strikeout-per-nine innings was right there at the top. Then, you look at his 1.03 WHIP and 2.65 ERA and realize what an insane rookie campaign he's had. 

Ranking sixth in the league in ERA, you figured he would be at least be one of the final starters to make the team, next to the A's Gio Gonzalez and more deserving than Tampa Bay's David Price (3.43 ERA).

In that sense, Pineda was a snub for the All-Star squad, but there's still hope for him. Selected pitchers like Justin Verlander, James Shields and King Felix are scheduled to pitch the Sunday of the All-Star game, meaning they will need replacement pitchers and Pineda could very well find himself in that situation.

It's not a big deal, though, because I have a feeling Pineda will have his share of All-Star selections in the years to come.