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Checking on the American League MLB All-Star ballots 

 

By Adam Hoff

 

Every year the All-Star game comes along and causes nothing but trouble.  Fans vote like morons, entire countries stuff the online ballot box, the "every team must have a representative" rule rears its ugly head, and the managers inevitably make dumb choices when rounding out their rosters.  In short, it's almost never done right.  You could probably go back through the last 25 All-Star games and find horrible selections and omissions alike.  Based on the initial results of fan voting that were released on Tuesday, it's going to be the same old story for the 2004 game.

 

What can be done about?  Probably nothing.  However, in this column space, we're going to do our best to follow along through the process and offer up the Insider All-Star ballot; one that will be released each time the voting tally is announced.  Feel free to write in and argue my selections maybe we can turn this thing into a monthly debate or something.  

 

Last year I announced my All-Star picks based purely on WIS numbers.  I picked the guys with the best OBP, WHIP, RC/27, and a variety of other WIS-centric statistics.  This year, I will be attempting to blend some of the WIS/Moneyball stats with fantasy production and common sense.  We'll use 19 position players and 11 pitchers and even follow the ridiculous representation rule.  Today it's the AL, tomorrow's the NL.  Let's go!

 

American League "Insider" All-Star Ballot.

 

The American League is known as the power league, but over the past few seasons, the best offensive seasons have belonged to players in the Senior Circuit.  Last year five National Leaguers had better OPS marks than the AL leader in that category.  Nevertheless, there are certainly plenty of All-Star performers in the land of the DH, particularly now that Vladimir Guerrero plays for the Angels instead of the Expos! 

 

Catcher

Leading vote getter: Ivan Rodriguez. 

My starter: Rodriguez.

Reserves: Victor Martinez and Jorge Posada.

Apologies to: Jason Varitek and Javy Lopez.

Comments: It's hard to argue with the fan vote here.  Pudge is hitting .333, has driven in 40 runs, and completely changed the attitude of the Detroit Tigers.  He's had a profound affect on the young pitching staff (just look at Nate Robertson) and is driving in clutch runs just as he did for the Marlins last year.  Indians rookie Victor Martinez is on the team for his incredible 42 RBI while Posada makes the cut despite a recent slump and time missed with a broken nose.  After all, he does lead the Yanks with 9 home runs and is third in the American league with a 1.052 OPS.  Varitek and Lopez have also been outstanding, as the position arguably has more depth that at any time in the last three decades. 

 

First Base

Leading vote getter: Jason Giambi. 

My starter: David Ortiz.

Reserves: Frank Thomas.

Apologies to: Travis Hafner.

Comments: Let's be honest; the position is having an awful year.  There really isn't a single AL first baseman having a monster season.  Ortiz comes the closest and gets the nod for his 44 RBI and tangible effect in the Red Sox clubhouse.  The Big Hurt has quietly had another good year with 11 home runs and a 1.038 OPS, so there's a spot for him as well.  Hafner, another rising star with the Indians, is really the only other guy worthy of consideration thanks to his .304 average and 38 runs driven in.  As for the fans pick on this one?  Giambi's numbers (.270/.946) aren't terrible, but he's currently on the DL and trails Ortiz by 20 in the RBI column.  Again, he hasn't been awful, but he's certainly not playing at an All-Star level.

 

Second Base

Leading vote getter: Alfonso Soriano. 

My starter: Soriano (barely).

Reserves: Juan Uribe.

Apologies to: Nobody.

Comments: This is positively grisly.  Bret Boone has been dinged up and ineffective, Soriano's numbers are down across the board, Mark Bellhorn has the OBP and runs scored but leads the league in strikeouts and is hitting only .247, and Brian Roberts was on fire for a while and has 18 stolen bases, but is sporting an OPS of only .713 and hadn't scored a run in 11 games until finally crossing the plate on Memorial Day.  Yikes.  Basically it comes down to Soriano and Uribe with the edge going to Alfonso for three reasons: 1) He's an everyday second basemen, whereas Uribe moves around a lot.  2) He has 29 RBI to Uribe's 17.  3) Since Soriano has arrived in Texas, the Rangers have been a winning baseball team.  Make no mistake though, Uribe has been better statistically.  He has more runs, home runs, and stolen bases, and his batting average (.330) is 51 points higher and his OPS (.922) is 178 points higher.  I'd better move on before I change my mind.

 

Third Base

Leading vote getter: Alex Rodriguez. 

My starter: Melvin Mora.

Reserves: A-Rod, Hank Blalock.

Apologies to: Eric Chavez and Troy Glaus (injuries).

Comments: If not for the injuries to Glaus (possibly season-ending) and Chavez (broken wrist suffered last night), this position would be stocked with All-Stars.  As it stands, there are still three easy choices.  Blalock has tailed off lately but is still hitting close to .300 with an OPS over .900 and playing an integral role on an exciting young Texas team.  A-Rod got off to a tough start but has rounded into shape.  His current numbers (.294/.918/12 home runs/9 stolen bases) are outstanding and you can bet that he's about to go nuts.  Both players are outstanding defensively and certainly worthy of being named All-Stars, were the game to be played today.  However, my starting nod has to go to Melvin Mora.  Have you seen the numbers this guy is throwing up?  He's leading the AL in hitting at .385, ranks second in the majors with 48 runs scored, has hit 10 home runs, stolen 7 bases, compiled the second best OPS in the AL at 1.075, and has driven in 37 runs from the #2 spot in the batting order.  Wow.  It's no wonder he's currently the #1 rated offensive player in fantasy baseball. 

 

Shortstop

Leading vote getter: Nomar Garciaparra. 

My starter: Michael Young.

Reserves: Miguel Tejada.

Apologies to: Carlos Guillen.

Comments: Come on, people!  Nomar?  He hasn't even played a game yet!  Regardless, the AL shortstop spot is wide open in my mind.  Nomar's out of the running and Jeter had been abysmal until very recently, so basically it's a three horse race.  I'm going with Michael Young over Tejada and Guillen based once again on Texas' record and Young's solid all-around play.  But this one is almost too close to call.  Of the three, Guillen has the most runs scored with 38 and the highest OPS at .918.  Young has the most stolen bases and the highest average (.338).  Tejada has the most RBI at 42 and is tied with Young for the most round trippers with 8.  Each one could stake a claim to the starting spot.  In the end, Young and Tejada get spots on the team and Guillen is the last guy left off the roster.  We'll keep a close eye on the AL shortstop position though, because this one is a long way from settled.

 

Outfield

Leading vote getters: Manny Ramirez, Vladimir Guerrero, and Johnny Damon. 

My starters: Guerrero, Ramirez, and Carlos Beltran.

Reserves: Matt Lawton, Jose Guillen, Carl Crawford, and Ichiro Suzuki.

Apologies to: Hideki Matsui, Magglio Ordonez, Rondell White, and Alex Sanchez.

Comments: Wow, that's a lot of names.  We'll go in reverse order.  White and Matsui have been surprisingly good, but not great, so they just miss the cut.  Sanchez is hitting .359 at the top of an improved Detroit lineup, but he's been thrown out every other time he's attempted to steal.  Ordonez's recent calf injury keeps him out of the mix.  You'll note that Johnny Damon isn't even mentioned.

 

Of the seven AL outfielders that do make my team, Crawford and Suzuki have the least convincing cases.  Ichiro got off to a slow start and his team has been dreadful, but when you consider his .338 batting average and 12 stolen bases in conjunction with the fact that Seattle's got to have at least one All-Star, well, Ichiro's in.  Crawford is in a similar situation.  He too has displayed little power on a losing team and doesn't even have the defensive skill of Ichiro.  However, he's hitting .301 with 24 stolen bases and is certainly Tampa Bay's most worthy representative.  Guillen and Lawton are easy choices as reserves.  Guillen has improved his plate discipline and is hitting .301 with 10 home runs and 39 RBI while helping to keep the Angels afloat despite numerous injuries.  Meanwhile, Lawton has been sensational for the Indians.  He's hitting .326 with 8 home runs, 11 stolen bases, and 40 runs scored, and he's driven in 31 runs primarily from the leadoff spot. 

 

As for the starters, the fans are doing a pretty good job here, choosing Manny and Guerrero, the two best players in the American League so far.  Ramirez is hitting .356 with 39 RBI and AL-best totals of 14 home runs and a 1.105 OPS.  Guerrero has been just as good, hitting .345 with 12 home runs and standing as the only outfielder in all of baseball to have more than 40 RBI and 40 runs scored.  Carlos Beltran is my third starter on the strength of his all-around numbers and stellar play in centerfield.  His batting average has slipped down to .267, but he does have 11 home runs and 11 stolen bases. 

 

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Should I do the pitching staff?  After all, the fans don't vote for pitchers oh well, let's just do it.

 

Starting Pitchers (7)

Gets the starting nod: Curt Schilling.

Other starters: Mark Mulder, Kevin Brown, Kenny Rogers, Pedro Martinez, Javy Vazquez, and Roy Halladay.

Apologies to: Mark Buehrle, Cliff Lee, Esteban Loaiza, Freddie Garcia, and Tim Hudson.

Comments: Schilling has been the only dominant starter in the AL so far this year.  His numbers are outstanding across the board (78 IP, 3.00 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 6-3, with 70 K's against only 11 BB) and he's become the identity of this Red Sox team overnight.  He's an easy choice.  The next four spots in the rotation are also pretty easy to assign at this point.  Mulder flirted with a perfect game recently and his base numbers (72 IP, 3.00 ERA, 1.11, 6-2) are almost identical to Schilling's.  It's only Mulder's lack of pinpoint control and far fewer strikeouts (48 in 72 innings) that separates the two aces.  Then again, that could just be a fantasy baseball perspective talking.  Kevin Brown (6-1 with a 1.18 WHIP) and Pedro (5-3, 1.17 WHIP, 72 K's in 70 IP) are boring but deserving selections.  Kenny Rogers is a surprise, but also a fairly easy pick.  He's 8-2 with a 3.10 ERA and has anchored a young Texas staff. 

 

The next two selections were tougher.  All of the remaining names, from Vazquez to Hudson could stake a claim to one of the starting pitcher spots and we'll definitely need the next month to separate them.  For the purpose of this column, I went with Vazquez because of his outstanding 1.05 WHIP (to go with 5 wins and a sub-4.00 ERA) and Halladay because he's on the Blue Jays and I had yet to pick a player from Toronto.  I wanted to select Cliff Lee on the strength of his AL-leading 2.87 ERA and 5-0 record, but those are the breaks.  The other four guys are right there as well and a couple of strong starts could push them into the mix. 

 

Relief Pitchers

My picks: Mariano Rivera, Keith Foulke, Joe Nathan, and Francisco Rodriguez.

Apologies to: Francisco Cordero and Eddie Guardado.

Comments:  This is a pretty easy group to pick.  Rivera's ratios (K/BB and WHIP) aren't as good as they've been in the past, but he still sports a 1.26 ERA with 19 saves.  Foulke has been nearly as good with a 1.01 ERA and .79 WHIP to go with 10 saves.  Nathan is the third closer on the list thanks to his identical 1.14 ERA and WHIP, plus 14 saves and 29 strikeouts in 23 innings.  It's hard to believe his job was in jeopardy during the first few weeks of the season.  To round things out, I went with Francisco Rodriguez.  I've always been fond of rewarding middle relievers for their efforts and he's been the best setup guy in the game this year.  A .64 ERA to go with a  .93 WHIP and 45 K's in 28 innings wow.  The eighth inning has been lights out in Anaheim this year.  Unfortunately, when you add someone like K-Rod to the mix, somebody has to go.  That somebody in this case is another Francisco Francisco Cordero.  His 17 saves are fourth in the majors and his 2.16 ERA and 10.2 K/9 are great, but a 1.26 WHIP is just enough to keep him off this list.  Maybe with a few more flawless ninth innings, the Texas closer will claw his way on.  As for Guardado, his numbers (1.04 ERA, .69 WHIP, 9 saves) are great, but missing the first couple of weeks has reduced his opportunities.  Chalk his omission up as an injury casualty. 

 

So there you have it; the 30 guys that I'd put on the All-Star team if the rosters were due today.  Every team is represented and there were only a few painful omissions.  See, it doesn't have to be that hard.  Of course, many of you may disagree.  Be sure to write in and let your voice be heard!  In the interim, I'll get cracking on the National League and attempt to find a member of the Expos worth putting on the squad. 

 

Adam Hoff is a columnist for WhatifSports.com and can be reached at adam.hoff@pepperdine.edu or by sitemail at adamo112.

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