So I’ve put up my NL All Star ballot, and wanted to continue with my AL Ballot. You can click here to read my NL ballot, which includes a rundown of my feelings on the All Star game as well as a breakdown on the way I chose my players. The short story is that I look at WAR (wins above replacement) and then use the stats after that to make a decision. Interestingly, when I look at the overall WAR rankings in all of baseball, NL players hold the top 5 spots and 6 of the top 10 spots. I’m not sure why that is. Maybe the teams in the AL are better overall (the interleague record supports that) so each player’s individual importance to the team is lessened. Or maybe I’m completely wrong. But let’s get back to my ballot. I’ll pick one player for each position as well as 5 bench spots. In addition, I’ll go with 3 starters (including the one I think should start the game) and 2 relievers. So let’s jump right into my picks for the junior circuit.
C: A.J. Pierzynski CHW- So this one was tough. The top 3 WAR players in the catching position are all in the NL. Pierzynski only has the third best WAR among AL catchers, behind Joe Mauer and Matt Wieters. And it’s fairly average at 2.0. Mauer has a better batting AVG (322). But Pierzynski’s is the second best in the AL this season at 284. In addition, he’s first in the AL with 12 HR, first with 41 RBI, and second with 33 R. The current vote leader is Mike Napoli, who is tied with Pierzynski for the AL catcher HR lead. He’s also tied with Joe Mauer, the average leader, with 34 R. But Napoli has fewer RBI and is not nearly as good defensively as Pierzynski. If Mauer and Napoli combined to have Napoli’s power and Mauer’s average and defense then maybe they would overtake Pierzynski in my opinion. But as it is, he’s either first or second in every offensive category. I’m picking him, over Mauer, Napoli, and the other guy with a higher WAR, Matt Wieters. Pierzynski is having a great season. Maybe he’s trying to make people notice something about him other than being one of the least liked players in baseball. Either way, I think he’s my starter.
1B: Paul Konerko CHW- I promise I’m not a White Sox fan. But Pauly K (no one calls him that) is having a great season this year. He continues to ignore the summons of father time and is putting up great numbers at 36 years old. His 2.2 WAR is tied for the second best WAR among all first basemen, first in the AL. (He’s tied with Edwin Encarnacion, who is mainly a DH). But he’s hitting 333 with 13 HR, 39 RBI and 37 R. The AVG is the best among AL first basemen. The HR, RBI and R numbers are in the top 10 in the AL. And he is hitting cleanup in a surprisingly good White Sox lineup that is currently in first in the AL Central. Konerko is currently second in the AL vote totals behind Prince Fielder. And while Fielder is playing well at 306, that’s 27 points behind Konerko. He also has one fewer HR and only one more RBI and R. Fielder is known for his power, and Konerko has more HR. Konerko is also a superior defender. I like Fielder, but I think Konerko should start this game.
2B: Robinson Cano NYY- This one was tough. I was looking at three guys, Cano, Ian Kinsler and Jason Kipnis. A closer look showed that Kipnis was slightly ahead of Kinsler with a higher AVG (273 to 270) as well as a few more HR, RBI and steals. Those numbers gave him the nod over Kinsler, despite his higher numbers in the Hit and R categories. So that narrowed it down to Cano and Kipnis. And in the end it’s got to be Cano. His 3.6 WAR is the best out of all MLB second basemen. His 301 AVG is better and he leads AL second basemen with 17 HR. He has fewer RBI and SBs than Kipnis, but the power is very impressive and he’s a better defender. There has been a lot made about his struggles with runners in scoring position, but all the Yankees are struggling there. For the purposes of comparing AL second basemen, he’s got the most HR and R, a good number of RBI, the best AVG and is very good with the leather. He leads Ian Kinsler in the voting, but it’s very close. Both of them will likely make the team, but I think Cano should certainly get the nod to start.
SS: Elvis Andrus TEX- Andrus has to be the winner here. His 2.9 WAR is the best among all MLB shortstops. He’s got the third best AVG for AL shortstops and leads them all in R and SBs. For me it was really between Andrus and Asdrubal Cabrera of the Indians. Cabrera’s got the second best WAR for AL shortstops. He’s hitting 291 with 9 HR, 33 RBI and 36 R. They are very different types of hitters, as Andrus hits near the top of the order and scores R, while Cabrera helps drive them in. But calling them equal at the plate, which I’m not sure about, we look to the glove-work, where Andrus is superior. Right now Derek Jeter is running away with the voting, which is a prime example of why the fan vote shouldn’t count for much. He’s hitting a few points better than Andrus, but trails in every other category other than HR. Both are leadoff hitters, but Andrus has more R, SB and a better wRC (weighted Runs Created) score. In addition, defensive metrics rate Jeter as one of the worst defenders at the shortstop position way behind Andrus. I don’t buy into the defensive metrics a lot, as they are flawed, but clearly he doesn’t nearly have the range of Andrus. And since both hit leadoff, we can see that Andrus’ numbers are superior to Jeter’s in all the areas that leadoff men are supposed to excel in. Andrus has fallen to third in the voting, but doesn’t play in nearly as big of a market or have the name recognition of the great Jeter or the very good Cabrera. Perhaps all three belong in the game (I’d pick other the other two before Jeter) but Andrus certainly deserves to start. As it is, it’s starting to look like he’ll be watching from home.
3B: Miguel Cabrera DET- Another instance where WAR has failed us. According to Fangraphs’ WAR rankings, Cabrera is 4th in the AL with a 2.1 WAR. He’s .4 behind Adrian Beltre in third and .6 behind Brett Lawrie and Mike Moustakas, the leaders of the category in the AL. However it’s Cabrera who leads all MLB third basemen in HR and RBI. He’s in a tie for third in R in the AL. The only thing not to like about Cabrera is his defense, where metrics have him rated as the worst. But once again defensive metrics are not great, and while he’s certainly not going to be winning any Gold Gloves at the hot corner, he’s not as bad as people make him out to be. Adrian Beltre currently leads in the fan vote, and he’s a good choice. He’s got a higher AVG and WAR than Cabrera and plays a much better defense. But I just love watching Cabrera hit. He’s got the second most RBI in baseball, and he can still play first and DH for a Detroit club that is struggling. Both will make the team. Beltre deserves to be there, and if you think he deserves to start I’d understand. But I’m going with Cabrera.
OF: Josh Hamilton TEX- This one was also pretty easy. Josh Hamilton has been the best player in baseball this season, hands down. His WAR is second among AL outfielders, 4th among all outfielders and 8th in all of baseball. And that’s after a slight slump. Hamilton is hitting 317 with 24 HR, 67 RBI, 48 R and 6 SB. He’s on pace to hit 50 HR, 140 RBI, 100 R and 15 SB. Those are video game numbers. He’s also on pace to set the record of fan votes in one season. The former MVP is healthy and playing as well as we knew he could. His HR and RBI numbers lead all AL outfielders and his AVG is very good. He’s even able to steal bases, though they limit him because they are afraid he’ll get hurt. But he can play center and left, and is a monster at the plate this season. Hamilton will be a starter in the All Star game. And no one could be more deserving.
OF: Mike Trout LAA- The only outfielder in the AL with a higher WAR than Hamilton is the rookie Trout. In addition, he leads all AL players in WAR and has only played in 52 games this season after starting the year in the minors. But he is being credited with turning the Angels season around after joining the big league club. He leads all AL outfielders with a 335 AVG. In only 52 games, he already has a league leading 21 SB, one behind Dee Gordon for the MLB lead. He’s got 7 HR, 29 RBI and 44 R. Once again, that’s 44 R in 52 games. He should absolutely be in the All Star game this year. I’ve heard some people complaining that he hasn’t had a full season yet. But that only makes his numbers all the more impressive in my opinion. Unfortunately Trout is not on the ballot this year. The only chance he has to make the team would be as the result of the players’ ballot. I hope he makes it, because after Josh Hamilton I can think of no one who deserves to be in the Mid-Summer classic more than Mike Trout.
OF: Adam Jones BAL- For my third pick I once again just moved down the list of WAR for AL outfielders. Adam Jones is having a great season, hitting 298 with 19 HR, 40 RBI, 49 R and 10 SB. He’s playing solid defense for a team in Baltimore that has stayed in the thick of the AL East race the entire first half of the season. Jones has had good seasons before, but has also been known to be fairly streaky. But this season he’s been consistently good, hitting in the middle of that Oriole order. He can play center and right field, has good speed, good power and is improving his contact. There are other good outfielders out there to consider including the number 2 and 3 vote getters Jose Bautista and Curtis Granderson (Josh Hamilton is, of course, number 1) or even Mark Trumbo who has played all over the diamond. But despite Bautista and Granderson’s great power, I’m going with Jones who has a ton of homers himself, in addition to a superior AVG and better speed.
DH: Adam Dunn CHW- Dunn said he was eying the comeback player of the year award. I think being an AL All Star would be even better, and keep him right on track to get that first award he covets. There are other DHs with higher WARs than Dunn (David Ortiz, Edwin Encarnacion). Both also have higher AVGs. But Dunn leads all true DHs (some guys like Joe Mauer and Alex Rodriguez are listed as DHs in addition to their actual position) in HR and RBI. You either like Dunn as a player, or you don’t. He’s a king of the three true outcomes (HR, BB, and Ks). He’s on pace to set the single season K record this season. But he’s got a good 357 OBP and crushes the ball, driving in runs for the White Sox who are in the thick of the AL Central race. I’m a big fan of what he does. And when you look at how bad he was last season, that just makes his performance this year all the more impressive. If you don’t like his AVG and think he Ks too much I’d understand. If you think Encarnacion or Ortiz is more deserving, I couldn’t argue with you. But I think Dunn is a pure power hitter, and is having a great year.
Bench: So here are my bench players for the AL squad.
1. Jose Bautista TOR- The Home Run King of the past few years certainly deserves to make it to Kansas City this year. He had a slow start, and is still only hitting 237, but has returned to his perch atop the major league leader board in HR with 25. He’s also got strong RBI and R numbers. He plays a solid right field, and is another true slugger. It looks like he’s going to make the team due to the fan vote, and I’m okay with that.
2. Mark Trumbo LAA- Lost to all the excitement of Mike Trout is the great year Trumbo is having. After being asked to move to third to make room for Pujols and then asked to play third and outfield, Trumbo has continued to hit. They do all they can to keep his bat in the lineup, whether he’s at third, in left or DHing. But at 313 with 18 HR, 50 RBI, 35 R and 4 SB, I don’t think there are many more deserving than him.
3. Jason Kipnis CLE- This young man has played his heart out this season. If only he didn’t play the same position as Cano, one of the best hitters in baseball who has the voting well in hand even in a season where he struggles to hit with men in scoring position. But I still think he should be a part of the Mid Summer festivities, even if he doesn’t start. He’s hitting 276 with 11 HR, 43 RBI, 47 R and 18 SB. He gets on base and scores for the Indians who are right behind the White Sox in the AL Central race. He’s a good young player who should be at his first all star game this year. Unfortuantely it looks like he’ll be the odd man out behind Cano (deserving) and Kinsler (I like him…but I think Kipnis deserves to be there more).
4. Adrian Beltre TEX- I like this pick a lot. I was really close between Beltre and Cabrera for my third base starter, so it only made sense to put him on my All Star bench. In fact, I originally chose Beltre, but went back and adjusted it. But the fact is, Beltre has a better AVG than Cabrera, has a superior WAR, plays Gold Glove defense and has the same number of R. I feel good about getting both of them in on my ballot.
5. Edwin Encarnacion TOR- I looked at a lot of guys here. Austin Jackson, Josh Willingham, Josh Reddick, David Ortiz, Curtis Granderson. But I went with Encarnacion because he is really playing well. He’s hitting 286 with 22 HR, 54 RBI, 45 R and 6 SB. He’s mainly a DH for the Blue Jays, but can also play first, third and left field. I love his power and think his AVG is setting him up for the best year of his career. Ortiz has great power and a better AVG, but Encarnacion is outslugging him. He’s hit for more power than Granderson, Reddick and Willingham. And Jackson is hitting over 300 and scoring runs. But he’s only got a handful of steals and still strikes out too much. The AL is loaded with good hitters, like the NL is loaded with pitching. A lot of these guys will get to join the team. But these are my five that I have to add to the starting group.
SP: Justin Verlander DET- The season after winning both the MVP and Cy Young, Verlander is having another strong year for a struggling Tigers team. He’s got the best ERA of all AL pitchers and is also leading in IP. His 8-4 record isn’t as good as his 2.52 ERA. He’s the best pitcher in baseball, and he’s still striking out a ton of guys while throwing gas and keeping his ERA down. He deserves the start, if for no other reason than the great starts he puts out should be turned into wins by some team, even if it’s a team of All Stars.
SP: Jered Weaver LAA- Once again he’s the best pitcher in the AL not named Verlander. If it weren’t for that master in Detroit, we’d be talking about Weaver looking at another Cy Young. He’s got great stuff, strikes out a ton of guys and has a miniscule ERA. Only one pitcher does it better. But this season, Weaver looks like the stronger of the two, going 8-1 with a 2.31 ERA. Even when the Angels were struggling, he was not. And now that they are winning, he’s at the forefront. Weaver is a fantastic pitcher, often overlooked due to the talent around him. But he’s a star and if Verlander doesn’t start, Weaver should.
SP: David Price TB- The best of the trio of pitchers with 10 Wins. The number is the top in the AL. He shares it with Matt Harrison and Yu Darvish. But Price has the best ERA (2.95) of all of them and great K numbers. He also has more IP. This lefty is going to win some Cy Young’s soon, especially if Verlander gets traded to an NL team (unlikely). Price can strike you out and keep you from touching the ball. He’s got great stuff and great command and plays in the tough AL East. I like the two Rangers guys, but they have similar numbers and arguably less competition. All should be on this team, and I bet they will be. So will C.J. Wilson and Jake Peavy. But if I only get three starters, this lefty is my third guy.
RP: Jim Johnson BAL- When it comes to great players we didn’t know about last season, this guy has to be near the top. I didn’t know who he was a few months ago. But with 22 Saves for an upstart Oriole team, Jim Johnson sits in second in the AL Saves department. He’s got a stunning 1.10 ERA. There’s nothing not to like about him. He may not be a big name, but he’s earned a spot on this team with his great control and miniscule BAA. He’s my number one reliever.
RP: Fernando Rodney TB- Another Ray who should make this team. Fernando Rodney is third in the AL with 21 Saves. He and Johnson trail Chris Perez who is the league leader with 23 Saves. But Rodney’s ERA is even better than Johnson’s 1.07. He strikes out more guys and walks fewer. But hitters are hitting better against him. That’s the difference to me. I bet Chris Perez and possibly Joe Nathan will make the team too, but I think Rodney has to be my second reliever if I only get two. We should see him at the game this season.
Okay so that’s my AL Ballot. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Or your picks. And I can’t wait to see the game and see which of my picks will be a part of it. After the voting gets announced, I’ll put together my team of All Star snubs.