If you read this excellent All-Star piece by Tom Verducci, you will pretty much understand my feelings on the All-Star game. It’s a glorified exhibition that, in most ways, is very well put together, providing exciting defense, and the best pitching the league has to offer. My one biggest issue with the game is the disgusting bloating of the rosters with replacement players. I understand that people get injured, but the fact still stands that there are 74 All-Stars!!! this year. Do we really need 36 American League players and 38 National League players? I say no, so I’m going to cut the rosters down to 25 man teams with 3 injury replacements for a total of 28 players per league. Here’s the American League’s best, based on 1st half performance and of course, the first player listed is the starter:
Catchers – Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins and Matt Wieters, Baltimore Orioles
I’m giving the American League leader in on-base percentage, Joe Mauer at .416, the starting spot at catcher, and backing him up with Matt Wieters, who gets the nod because of his powerful bat and excellent defense.
1st Basemen – Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox and Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers
Konerko has been one of the most effective hitters in the American League (.329/.404/.528, 14 HR, 42 RBI, 148 OPS+) which is why he is starting. Prince, the Home-Run Derby champ, would make a nice backup and pinch hit option.
2nd Basemen – Robinson Cano, New York Yankees, and Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians
Cano is the premier offensive and defensive 2nd baseman in baseball, hitting .313/.374/.578 with 20 homers and 51 RBI, all tops in the American League. Kipnis is also deserving and would each provide some great speed off of the bench due to his lofty steal total thus far.
3rd Basemen – Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers and Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers
Cabrera has far and away been the best hitter at 3rd base in the American League posting a .938 OPS thus far. Beltre isn’t far behind at .881 and he plays much better defense and would be a nice replacement off of the bench.
Shortstop – Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland Indians and Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers
Completing my Cabrera-heavy left side of the infield is Asdrubal, who has a 12 homer 42 RBI and a 132 OPS+, the best among AL shortstops. Andrus gives me Gold Glove caliber defense in back-up as well as a great speed option, due to his 16 steals and 51 runs scored.
Outfielders – Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels, Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers, Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays, Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles, Josh Willingham, Minnesota Twins, and Curtis Granderson, New York Yankees
This was a very tough field of candidates to choose from. Hamilton and Trout have stood out as two of the 5 best players in the American League, so they were easy picks. Bautista just beats out the other 4 players, due to his 27 homers, 55 walks, and 65 RBI. The other 3 players will all provide excellent bats off of the bench, and each player has 19+ homers already.
Designated Hitter – Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels
I decided to place one of the strongest hitters in the league at DH. Trumbo is excellent offensively (.306/.358/.608, 167 OPS+) but leaves a lot to be desired defensively and has been hustled around field most of the season due to LA’s acquisition of Albert Pujols.
Starting Pitcher – Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
Verlander deserves the start that he’s going to get tonight, because he’s been the best pitcher in the American League. He leads all of baseball in innings pitched (132) and strikeouts (128) while posting a 2.58 ERA.
Starters – Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels, Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox, David Price, Tampa Bay Rays, Jake Peavy, Chicago White Sox, and Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
This is an excellent group of strikeout pitchers. Each pitcher outside of King Felix has an ERA’s south of 3.00 and Felix is tied with Verlander at 128 strikeouts. Weaver has the lowest ERA in baseball right now at 1.96 and has thrown a no-hitter this season. Price has faced the toughest schedule of any pitcher in baseball, and should be commended for his 11-4 record. Sale and Peavy have been the two biggest reasons the White Sox are in 1st in the AL Central at the break, and both have K/9 rates that range from elite to near elite.
Relievers – Jim Johnson, Baltimore Orioles, Fernando Rodney, Tampa Bay Rays, Ernesto Frieri, Los Angeles Angels, Rafael Soriano, New York Yankees, Joe Nathan, Texas Rangers
This bullpen has 3 pitchers (Soriano, Frieri, and Nathan) with strikeout rates that are better than 9. The other 2 pitchers, Johnson and Rodney, aren’t too shabby either. They’re the top-2 in saves in the AL and have anchored very strong bullpens by posting sub-1.50 ERAs. I don’t think the National League would score too many runs off of this bullpen.
The toughest omissions from the team were David Ortiz, CC Sabathia, Ian Kinsler, CJ Wilson, and Adam Dunn. Those 5 players all have performed well enough to qualify, but when you cut the rosters down by 8-10 players these kind of things are bound to happen.