I actually voted this year. In the past, it has been too easy to let time slip by and then complain that the fans selected the wrong Position X player wasn’t in the All-Star game. Yeah, in recent years, it has been made so easy by the advent of online voting, but still, in the past I meant to vote, and to do it intellegently by researching stats and voting for truly the best player, rather than just my favorites or the ones I’m most familiar with.
So here it goes, my picks for the starters, along with a reserve for each position and some honorable mentions, along with the reasoning for each. Some picks surprised even me.
First Base: Not just because I’m a Red Sox fan, Kevin Youkilis beat out Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera. It was close, but the sentiment is that Youk is a better fielder, and he beats out Cabrera in power numbers, extra base hits and OPS. So Cabrera gets the alternate slot.
Second Base: It pains me, but the Yankees’ Robinson Cano gets the start because his numbers are just better than those of Red Sox Dustin Pedroia’s. Pedrioa has more walks, doubles, and steals, but Cano has the edge in Avg, Hits, RBI, and HR.
Shortstop: Jason Bartlett from Tampa Bay. Hands-down, Bartlett has the best offensive numbers among AL shortstops. A few fewer runs, hits, & walks than Jeter & Scutaro, but with far fewer at bats; Bartlett leads in doubles & triples, and steals. Alternate: the Yankees’ Derek Jeter edges out Toronto’s Marco Scutaro by a nose; Scutaro has the edge in runs, walks, doubles, & triples, but that’s with 9 more games played – Jeter has a much higher Avg, OBP, SB, and SLG.
Third Base: The Bue Jays’ Scott Rolen leads AL 3rd basemen in AVG; about even with the Rangers’ Michael Young for doubles, walks, SLG, (but with fewer at bats), and Rolen strikes out a lot less than Young. Alternate: Micheal Young beats our the Rays’ Evan Longoria – Longoria has a big edge in power (RBI & HR) but Young beats him everywhere else.
Catcher: Joe Mauer from the Twins. How can you bat .392 and not be the starter? Sure, Cleveland’s Victor Martinez has more doubles, RBI, walks, runs, etc., but that’s with almost 100 more at bats. Alternate: Victor Martinez edges out the White Sox’ AJ Pierzynski, who has good numbers, but not quite good enough.
Outfield: Ichiro Suzuki – not just because he’s always an all-star – he leads AL outfielders in AVG & hits (again), and is near the top in extra-base hits. RBIs are low because no one gets on in front of him. Carl Crawford: 2nd to Ichiro in AVG & hits – leading AL OF in runs and stolen bases. Torii Hunter is the most powerful AL outfileder – leading in HR, doubles, OPS, RBI with fewer at bats than Ichiro & Crawford. For outfiled alternates, I’ll go with Baltimore’s Adam Jones and Nick Markakis, and Chicago’s Jermaine Dye. It’s hard to beat out the likes of Ellsbury, Abreu, Damon, & Guerrero, but Dye and the Baltimore guys do – when you balance all the numbers like hits, HR, 2B, AVG, RBI, they come out slightly better. Luke Scott would be a choice if he was a real outfielder and not a DH; Nelson Cruz and Jason Bay have great offensive numbers as far as HR & RBI, but AVG is way down in the .260s
Rounding it out: The rule is that each team has to have at least one representative; I didn’t take the time to compare pitching stats too much, so I’ll lump pitchers in together with the guys from the teams not yet represented:
Kansas City Royals: Zack Greinke leads KC’s surprising pitching staff, and is one of the best in the league.
Oakland Athletics: The A’s don’t have an all-star, but their best player is Dallas Braden, with 7 wins and a good 3.12 ERA.
First Base: This is the biggest no-brainer on the ballot. Albert Pujols wins by a landslide. Alternate Prince Fielder is a stud and having a great year, but Albert is in a class by himself.
Second Base: Chase Utley has the 2nd highest Avg of NL second basemen, and his power numbers and BB/OBP shame the others. The Alternate spot goes to the Pirates’ Freddy Sanchez. He’s the real deal – with 300+ at bats, his .316 AVG and .832 OPS are solid and he’s got as many extra base hits as and fewer strikeouts than Utley.
Shortstop: The Marlins’ Hanley Ramirez – this is the second-biggest no-brainer. Ramirez is leading NL shortstops in almost everything offensive: AVG, RBI, HR, SLG, OBP, even walks & total bases. The Alternate spot goes to the Astros’ Miguel Tejada: he’s tied with Ramirez for hits and doubles, killing everyone but Ramirez in most other offensive categories.
Third Base: San Francisco’s Pablo Sandoval edges out David Wright – .006 behind in AVG, but twice as many HR, strikes out half as often, has better SLG and OPS, more extra base hits. Alternate David Wright has the bast AVG of NL 3rd basemen, walks alot, and has 20 steals. More complete that the two bigger power guys (Ryan Zimmerman of Washington and Mark Reynolds of Arizona).
Catcher: Atlanta’s Brian McCann has the best AVG, OPS, SLG, and most doubles of any NL catcher; 3rd in HR, 2nd in RBI.
Alternate: the Giants’ Bengie Molina. AVG is slightly off from brother Yadier, and Yadier’s defense is better, but Bengie has more HR, doubles, higher SLG, and lots more RBI.
Outfield: Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun is 4th among NL outfielders in HR and AVG, and 2nd in RBI. Brad Hawpe from Colorado has an AVG .003 better than Braun and has 1 fewer RBI than Braun; more doubles but fewer HRs. Raul Ibanez of the Phillies is leading NL outfielders with 22 HR and 59 RBI; he’s 4th in AVG excluding Manny (more on Manny later). My alternates are
the Mets’ Carlos Beltran, Houston’s Hunter Pence, and Arizon’s Justin Upton. Beltran is on the DL now but he should be back for the all-star game; his HR number is off this year but AVG is best among NL outfielders excluding Manny. Gold Glover, speedy in the OF and on the bases with 11 steals. There are several NL outfielders who are hitting over .300 with power and speed – Pence and Upton are my picks. I can’t bring myself to vote for Manny Ramirez because he’s been gone for 50 games, putting himself out of the running of being a real contributor.
Rounding it out:
Washington Nationals: Ryan Zimmerman is just a nose away from getting the Alternate spot at 3rd base, with much better power numbers than even David Wright.
It’s hard to believe that the Cubbies just don’t have a starting- or second-string all-star position player this year… so Ted Lilly should pitch a couple innings.
Cincinnati Reds: closer Francisco Cordero, with 21 saves and a 1.75 ERA will be a good addition.
San Diego Padres: Adrian Gonzalez would almost get in with all his homers, but his batting average is way off – I’ll go with reliever Heath Bell, who has a 3:1 Strikeout-walk ratio, and a better ERA and more saves than Cordero.
So there you have it – my MLB All-Star picks among position players for 2009.