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Checking on the National League MLB All-Star ballots 

  

By Adam Hoff

 

Earlier this week we took on the task of putting together an American League All-Star team the right way.  There hasn't been too much outrage, so it must have been a decent roster.  I still feel bad for Carlos Guillen, Cliff Lee, and Francisco Cordero, but oh well.  What's done is done.  Now we're moving on to the National League, so let's get on with it.

 

National League "Insider" All-Star Ballot.

 

Catcher

Leading vote getter: Mike Piazza. 

My starter: Johnny Estrada.

Reserves: Michael Barrett.

Apologies to: Charles Johnson, Mike Piazza, and Jason Kendall.

Comments: The fan pick here isn't too bad, but when you consider that Piazza only has 22 RBI and has spent the majority of his time at first base, it doesn't seem like the best choice.  In my mind, Johnny Estrada is most deserving of the starting nod.  He's hitting .349 with 33 RBI and has posted an incredible .538 batting average with runners in scoring position.  I guess the Braves made out okay in that Kevin Millwood trade after all.  Michael Barrett also find his way onto the roster thanks to a .319 average and .935 OPS to go with 8 home runs and 28 RBI despite losing at bats to Picky Maddux's personal caddy.  Charles Johnson and Piazza are both close to Barrett's numbers and Kendall is having an outstanding year in Pittsburgh, but ultimately we're only going with two catchers in the NL.

 

First Base

Leading vote getter: Albert Pujols. 

My starter: Pujols.

Reserves: Jim Thome and Sean Casey.

Apologies to: Lyle Overbay and Jeff Bagwell.

Comments: It's amazing that Sean Casey can be hitting .390 with 9 home runs, 42 RBI, 40 runs scored, and a 1.063 OPS ... and still not be the most deserving first basemen.  That's because he's playing the same position in the same league as Albert Pujols.  The best young hitter in the game is well above .300 with 17 home runs, 41 RBI, and a major league leading 49 runs scored.  Plus, he's sporting a fantastic 1.075 OPS.  What a machine.  Casey does land one of the reserve spots, as does Thome, courtesy of his .312 batting average, 1.044 OPS, and 12 home runs; all while playing with a broken thumb.  Up and coming Brewers' star Overbay and mainstay Jeff Bagwell come up a bit short. 

 

Second Base

Leading vote getter: Jeff Kent. 

My starter: Kent.

Reserves: Rob Mackowiak.

Apologies to: Nobody.

Comments: There is only one NL second basemen deserving of an All-Star spot and that person is Jeff Kent.  Luckily, he's the guy that the fans are currently voting for.  Kent has teamed with Lance Berkman and Bagwell to form the driving force of the Houston offense, posting a .306 average to go with 41 RBI.  Rob Mackowiak gets the reserve spot here, even though he's played more third base and should be listed there.  However, with the logjam of talent at the hot corner, it makes more sense to slip him in here.  Plus, you can bet that the emerging Pirates star will get some time on the right side of the diamond during the game because with Marcus Giles' injury and Luis Castillo's struggles, there's virtually no depth at this position.

 

Third Base

Leading vote getter: Scott Rolen. 

My starter: Rolen.

Reserves: Mike Lowell, Vinny Castilla, and Aramis Ramirez.

Apologies to: Adrian Beltre.

Comments: Where to begin.  First of all, the fans are on a roll with the infield.  Three straight outstanding selections.  Rolen is one of the front runners for NL MVP right now.  He's giving Pujols protection in the lineup and hitting .348 with a 1.035 OPS, 13 home runs, and a MLB-leading 53 RBI.  Not to mention the fact that he's far and away the best fielding third basemen since Mike Schmidt.  What a monster.  If you were scratching your head over the addition of three more third sackers on the roster, just know that there was no avoiding it.  Lowell is hitting .349 with a 1.102 OPS and 14 home runs, Castilla has found the fountain of youth and has mashed 14 home runs and driven in 43 runs, and Ramirez has become the anchor of the Cubs' offense with a .305 average and 41 RBI.  Poor Adrian Beltre is on the outside looking in despite his scorching start. 

 

Shortstop

Leading vote getter: Adam Everett. 

My starter: Jack Wilson.

Reserves: Kaz Matsui.

Apologies to: Nobody.

Comments: Yuck.  I like Everett as much as the next guy, but my man has a .697 OPS ... that's not going to get it done.  Then there are the normally reliable guys like Edgar Renteria and Rafael Furcal who have had miserable seasons thus far.  That pretty much leaves Wilson and Matsui.  Kaz has been coming on strong as of late and, well, he's on the Mets, so we'll give him a reserve spot.  Meanwhile, Wilson is hitting .357 at the top of the Pittsburgh order.  Whatever.

 

Outfield

Leading vote getters: Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Ken Griffey Jr. 

My starters: Bonds, Steve Finley, and Lance Berkman.

Reserves: Miguel Cabrera, Craig Wilson, Bobby Abreu, and Jeremy Burnitz.

Apologies to: Pat Burrell, Scott Podsednik, Moises Alou and J.D. Drew.

Comments: This group has been impressive.  When you consider that Griffey, Adam Dunn, and Luis Gonzalez all have at least 13 home runs and don't even get an "apologies to" reference, that makes for a deep outfield corps.  Bonds and Berkman are easy choices as starting outfielders.  Despite going 0-24 at one point, missing a dozen games with injuries, and going almost an entire month without a home run, Bonds still has 14 home runs, 37 intentional walks, a .361 average, and an other-worldly 1.427 OPS.  Meanwhile, Berkman has been a house of fire in recent weeks.  With six home runs in his last nine games he's now sitting at .351 with 14 home runs, 43 RBI, and the major's second best OPS mark of 1.192.  For the third starting spot I went with Steve Finley on the strength of his 16 home runs and 7 stolen bases. 

 

The reserve slots are filled with deserving players.  Jeremy Burnitz has benefited from the thin air in Colorado and has 14 home runs to go with 42 RBI and a .996 OPS.  Miguel Cabrera continues to perform like a poor man's Albert Pujols and boasts 13 home runs, 38 RBI, and 37 runs scored.  Abreu got off to a slow start but now has 11 home runs and 10 stolen bases to go with a .285 average; numbers that are comparable to Carlos Beltran's.  Rounding things out is Craig "Thor" Wilson.  He's emerged as an everyday player and one of the NL's best pure hitters in 2004, boasting a .356 batting average, 1.075 OPS, 12 home runs, and 34 RBI. 

 

Scott Podsednik and his 24 stolen bases just miss the cut due to a .268 batting average and sub-.800 OPS.  J.D. Drew (1.011 OPS) and Pat Burrell (42 RBI) are two redemption stories that currently come up just short of a roster spot.  And finally, Moises "Urine Hands" Alou just misses the squad despite 14 home runs and a .320 average.  Sorry, guys.

 

Now for the pitchers ...

 

Starting Pitchers (7)

Gets the starting nod: Randy Johnson.

Other starters: Jason Schmidt, Ben Sheets, Roger Clemens, Carlos Zambrano, Tom Glavine, and Livan Hernandez.

Apologies to: Matt Clement, Brad Penny, Chris Carpenter, and Paul Wilson.

Comments:  The top four starting pitchers in the NL are all having better seasons than any of their American League counterparts.  The Big Unit gets the starting nod on the strength of his perfect game and ridiculous numbers.  He's "only" 7-4 with a 2.88 ERA, but he has a miniscule .85 WHIP and a league-leading 94 strikeouts in 81 innings pitched.  Jason Schmidt has bounced back from arm surgery and is right on Randy's heels with a 6-2 record, 2.57 ERA, and .95 WHIP.  Roger Clemens has been better than ever with an 8-0 record to go with a 2.27 ERA and 81 strikeouts.  Rounding out the "Big Four" is Ben Sheets, who sports a 2.71 ERA, .95 WHIP, and a K/9 ratio of 9.7. 

 

The next three spots were much more difficult to determine.  Tom Glavine had to be on this roster given his 6-3 record, 2.31 ERA, and sparkling .93 WHIP (good for second in the majors among starting pitchers).  However, putting Glavine and his paltry strikeout numbers on the roster meant bumping the likes of Matt Clement and Chris Carpenter; no easy task. The next battle was between Brad Penny and Carlos Zambrano.  I'll be honest, you could flip a coin on this one.  Penny has thrown seven more innings (74), has one more victory (6), and his WHIP (1.08) is .02 lower.  Zambrano has three more strikeouts (63) and an ERA (2.41) that is .02 lower than Penny's.  I went with Zambrano for two reasons.  1) He's stepped up to assume the role of ace on a injury-riddled pitching staff.  2) He seems like a nicer guy.  So there you have it.  As for Livan, he makes the team over more deserving players simply because Le Expos need a representative.  And honestly, he's not a horrible pick.  He's been a workhorse, leading the big leagues in innings pitched with 86 2/3 and still has solid numbers (3.43 ERA, 1.20 WHIP). 

 

Relief Pitchers

My picks: Armando Benitez, Danny Graves, Trevor Hoffman, and Eric Gagne.

Apologies to: Danny Kolb, Jose Mesa, and Billy Wagner .

Comments:  Wow, there have been some very good closers in the NL.  Wagner is currently working on an unfathomable .47 WHIP, but his trip to the DL knocks him out of consideration.  Kolb and Mesa have been surprisingly awesome and you could have flipped a coin between those two guys and Hoffman for one of the spots, but since San Diego needed an All-Star (you wouldn't have thought it would be a problem since they are in first place) and Hoffman is a nice comeback story, he gets the nod with his 14 saves, 1.89 ERA, and 1.00 WHIP.  The other three picks were pretty easy.  Gagne hasn't had very many save opportunities so far this season, but he continues to dominate opposing hitters as the most feared closer in the game.  He has 32 strikeouts in 23 innings and a .86 WHIP to go with his 13 saves and two wins.  Graves leads the league with an amazing 26 saves and Benitez has been an absolute machine with 20 saves, a .88 WHIP, and an astounding  .30 ERA.  The man hasn't allowed an earned run since the first game of the season.  So yeah, he's an All-Star.

 

There they are, my National League All-Stars.  Now let's hear yours!

 

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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