As I did last year, I've selected my personal rosters for the MLB All-Star game. Like last year, the stipulations for rosters are what I would like to see for the All-Star game, and not what they currently are. Here's a recap of the changes:
-Rosters of 25 players
-9 starters, including a DH
-11 or 12 pitchers, with 3 or 4 being relievers, and 4 or 5 bench players
-Game does not determine World Series home-field advantage
-Each team is not required to have a representative
-Re-entry for any player in the event of an injury
-Pitchers are not replaced if they pitch the Sunday before the game, but are only allowed to pitch if the game goes into extra innings
And one minor change for this year: outfielders must actually play the position they start at. No centerfielders starting in left, no left fielders starting in right. I'm pretty flexible with it, so if a player has played basically at all at one position, he's eligible to start there, but not if he hasn't played a single game at that position.
Since I haven't been posting much (or at all), I'll break this up into two posts to increase my post count. Today will be the American League.
Note: all league ranks include all players with at least 200 plate appearances. Stats current through 7/7.
Catcher: Alex Avila - Detroit, Victor Martinez - Detroit
Oddly enough, both catchers hail from the same team. Avila is having a fantastic year, leading catchers in OBP, SLG, and wOBA. His average is a very solid .287 and his power stats really distance him from the other AL catchers, as he leads in slugging by almost 50 points and has the best IsoP among catchers. The back-up spot was a tight race between Carlos Santana and Martinez. If Martinez was playing catcher regularly, it would have been an easier decision, but he's only appeared in 23 games as a catcher this season. His slash line is much better than Santana's, but Santana is walking in 16.8% of his plate appearances and has 7 more homers. Matt Wieters would have warranted consideration, but most of his value comes from his very high fielding rating, which I just don't trust for a catcher over one half of a season.
First Base: Adrian Gonzalez - Boston, Paul Konerko - Chicago
Gonzalez has not disappointed Boston fans in his first season with the team. He leads the league in batting average, hits, and RBIs, places second behind Jose Bautista in slugging and wOBA, and ranks third in on-base percent. His defense has even received a very good score from UZR (6.3), but that's secondary to his offensive contributions. Miguel Cabrera, Konerko, and Mark Teixeira were the others considered. Cabrera got the start at DH, while Konerko nabbed a reserve spot. Cabrera's hitting stats as a whole rank just a tad behind Gonzalez's but his defense, as usual, rates poorly, making him an obvious choice for designated hitter. Konerko and Teixeira were close, as they were similar in the counting and rate stats, save for Konerko's 70-point edge in batting average. In the end, I deemed that more important than Teixeira's advantage on defense.
Second Base: Ian Kinsler - Texas, Ben Zobrist - Tampa Bay, Dustin Pedroia - Boston (replacement)
Kinsler, Zobrist, and Dustin Pedroia were all tightly packed. Unfortunately, with the way the roster shook out, there was only room for two of them. Robinson Cano and Howie Kendrick were also considered, but dismissed before Pedroia. Cano's offensive stats are great, as he leads AL second basemen in hits, homers, RBIs, slugging percent, and wOBA, but his weak OBP and defense hold him back. Zobrist, Kinsler, Pedroia, and Kendrick all have wOBAs between .367 and .372 and are very good fielders according to UZR. Because Kendrick had a little less playing time, he was eliminated. That left the aforementioned trio, from which I selected Kinsler and Zobrist basically on a coin flip.
Third Base: Alex Rodriguez - New York (injured), Kevin Youkilis - Boston
While Rodriguez is not putting up the numbers he used to, he's still a very good player. This year he's also helped out by a great defensive rating from UZR. I couldn't give him too much credit for that half-season statistic since he hasn't rated above average at third base since 2004, but it was still enough to make up the small difference in offensive performance between him and Youkilis. That left either Youkilis and Adrian Beltre for a reserve spot, and a decision between Youkilis's superior on-base percentage and Beltre's glove. Obviously I opted for Youkilis.
Shortstop: Asdrubal Cabrera - Cleveland
Shortstop was a three-way race between Cabrera, Jhonny Peralta, and J.J. Hardy. Peralta rates a little better than Cabrera defensively, but over their careers they are both below average defenders. Peralta's offensive stats are a little better in a couple fewer games, but Cabrera's playing time and success on the base paths (12-for-13 versus Peralta's 0-for-2) gives him the edge. Hardy missed time with injury, and thus does not have nearly as many plate appearances. Still, his offensive contributions are on par with Cabrera's and Peralta's. His defense has always been very good, meaning I'm largely ignoring his negative rating for this year. It's not quite enough to get him in over Cabrera, though.
Left Field: Brennan Boesch - Detroit
Left field was a relatively weak position, at least compared to the other outfield spots. Boesch, Alex Gordon, Brett Gardner, and Matt Joyce were considered. Joyce just didn't have anything to offer to make up for his fewer plate appearances, and Gordon's advantage in WAR was largely tied to a great baserunning score. I don't lend any credence whatsoever to that statistic, and it seems largely negated by the fact that Gordon is 5-for-10 on steal attempts. Brett Gardner's candidacy is buoyed by his insanely good defensive rating, which is fairly reliable given its year-to-year consistency. In the end I took the offensive contributions from Boesch, who's also a decent defender.
Center Field: Curtis Granderson - New York, Jacoby Ellsbury - Boston
Granderson and Ellsbury are heads and tails above the rest of the centerfield crop. Both of them are very deserving of starting, but only one can. They're both contributing across the board in counting categories, and they have wOBAs of .405 and .382, respectively. Granderson is playing above average defense and Ellsbury is playing superb defense. Neither of them really have any significant flaws. Granderson's power numbers earned him the starting spot.
Right Field: Jose Bautista - Toronto
Now this is a no-brainer. Bautista has been worth 1.4 more wins than the next-best American League position player. He leads the league in home runs, RBIs, walks, OBP, SLG, OPS, wOBA, is second in runs, and is third in average. With numbers like those he could play defense like Delmon Young and still be deserving of this spot.
Designated Hitter: Miguel Cabrera - Detroit
Description above, under first base.
1. Curtis Granderson - CF
2. Ian Kinsler - 2B
3. Jose Bautista - RF
4. Adrian Gonzalez - 1B
5. Miguel Cabrera - DH
6. Kevin Youkilis - 3B
7. Alex Avila - C
8. Asdrubal Cabrera - SS
9. Brennan Boesch - LF
Starting Pitcher: Justin Verlander - Detroit, Josh Beckett - Boston, Dan Haren - Los Angeles, Felix Hernandez - Seattle (replacement), Michael Pineda - Seattle, David Price - Tampa Bay (injured), C.C. Sabathia - New York, James Shields - Tampa Bay, Jered Weaver - Los Angeles
Verlander gets the start, but the rest are just in alphabetical order. Verlander leads the league in WHIP and strikeouts, is third in ERA and xFIP, ranks fourth in K/BB, and is sixth in FIP. His strength across the board gives him the start. Beckett is second in ERA and WHIP. Haren is third in FIP, has a WHIP of 0.96, and leads the league by striking out almost 6 batters for every walk. Pineda gets the nod because of his second-place strikeout rate and his sterling ERA and WHIP (2.58 and 1.01), which make up for his comparably worse 3.01 FIP and 3.51 xFIP. Price grabbed the last spot over Felix Hernandez because of a lower WHIP (1.05 to 1.15) and his first-place ranking in K/9 and second-place ranking in K/BB, even though he has the highest ERA of the bunch (3.56). Sabathia's 2.57 FIP and 2.90 ERA are enough to overcome his relatively high 1.20 WHIP. Shield's numbers across the board are very good, but his ERA (2.47), WHIP (1.00), and strikeout rate (8.82/9) are his best aspects. Weaver joins his teammate Haren because of his league-leading ERA (1.96) and FIP (2.39). Hernandez, Gio Gonzalez, Scott Baker, and Jon Lester just missed the cut, not necessarily in that order.
Relief Pitcher: Daniel Bard - Boston (replacement), Glen Perkins - Minnesota, Mariano Rivera - New York (injured), Koji Uehara - Baltimore
Mariano Rivera has been outstanding, as he is every year, ranking third in FIP at 2.10. Yet again he is being very stingy with walks, ranking third among relievers with at least 30 innings with 1.36 BB/9 and 5.60 K/BB. Uehara is first among that same group in WHIP (0.77) and second in K/BB, along with a healthy strikeout rate of 11.84/9. You might be surprised to see Perkins on the list, but he really has been that good. He's fourth in ERA (1.72) and second in FIP (1.83). His WHIP is a little high at 1.21, but he makes up for it by striking out more than one batter per inning. David Robertson has an immaculate league-leading ERA, FIP, and strikeout rate, but his WHIP is quite high (1.31) and he walks almost 6 batters per nine innings. Sergio Santos and Daniel Bard were also considered.