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June 28, 2012

On the Beat

Picking the All-Stars

by John Perrotto

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The rosters for this year's All-Star Game will be announced Sunday, once all the fan and player ballots have been tabulated and the managers of both teams have made their selections. Who can wait until Sunday, though? Why not let the inevitable debates start a few days early?

Here are my All-Star teams for both leagues. For the most part, I follow the major-league guidelines with 34-man rosters and each team having a representative. My only departure is that I pick the outfielders by position. Why MLB continues the archaic practice of not splitting the outfielders up by position for All-Star voting is something I don't understand.

As usual, I rely quite a bit on sabermetrics to help me with the picks, so that's why some players—Yu Darvish, for instance—aren't among my picks. After all, this is a sabermetric-based website, so you can't expect wins and RBI to be determining factors.

Statistics are through Tuesday.

National League
Starting Lineup
1B-Joey Votto, Reds (.353/.478/.643/3.8 WARP)
: The Reds don't look foolish so far for dropping $225 million on him.

2B-Aaron Hill, Diamondbacks (.294/.359/.496, 1.8): Sometimes he's good and sometimes he's bad, but he's played well so far this season.

3B-David Wright, Mets (.354/.448/.554, 4.0): He’s back to elite player status now that he's healthy.

SS-Jed Lowrie, Astros (.270/.359/.506, 2.6): Injury-free at last, he's proven to be a great pickup for first-year GM Jeff Luhnow.

C-Carlos Ruiz, Phillies (.361/.427/.579, 3.4): Long his team's unsung hero, "Chooch" gets to step into the spotlight.

LF-Ryan Braun, Brewers (.311/.392/.596, 3.1): Whether you believe his story or not, he's put the steroids controversy behind him.

CF-Andrew McCutchen, Pirates (.341/.397/.579, 3.1): He has taken a big step closer to superstardom this season.

RF-Carlos Beltran, Cardinals (.312/.402/.585, 2.7): His resurgence has helped lessen the loss of Albert Pujols.

P-Zack Greinke, Brewers (2.81 ERA, 2.12 FIP, 2.8 WARP): No one outside Milwaukee thinks he should get this honor, but his advanced metrics are better than the competition.

Pitchers
P-Matt Cain, Giants
: Mr. Perfect.

P-Johnny Cueto, Reds: He’s getting better all the time.

P-R.A. Dickey, Mets: He has done the impossible in learning how to control the knuckler.

P-Gio Gonzalez, Nationals: He’s even better following the switch to the NL.

P-Lance Lynn, Cardinals: He has allowed St. Louis to overcome the loss of Chris Carpenter.

P-Wade Miley, Diamondbacks: He’s a strong Rookie of the Year candidate.

P-James McDonald, Pirates: He’s emerging as a top-flight pitcher.

P-Stephen Strasburg, Nationals: He should figure on the All-Star Game being a regular part of his calendar.

P-Matt Belisle, Rockies: He’s durable and reliable.

P-Aroldis Chapman, Reds: Maybe he’ll do a handstand if he gets the save.

P-Tyler Clippard, Nationals: He has filled in nicely for injured closer Drew Storen.

P-Craig Kimbrel, Braves: There has been no sophomore slump for last year's NL Rookie of the Year.

P-Craig Stammen, Nationals: The move to the bullpen has suited him well.

Reserves
1B-Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks
: He’s developing into a fine all-around hitter.

2B-Jose Altuve, Astros: How many Altuves is it from Houston to Kansas City?

3B-Chase Hundley, Padres: He’s a bright light on a bad team.

SS-Starlin Castro, Cubs: Someone for Theo Epstein to build around.

IF-Martin Prado, Braves: He’s a pure hitter with defensive versatility.

C-A.J. Ellis, Dodgers: Sometimes the answer is sitting right on your own bench.

C-Yadier Molina, Cardinals: He’s playing better than ever.

LF-Melky Cabrera, Giants: The Melkman has delivered many hits by the bay.

CF-Michael Bourn, Braves: He's Bourn again in Atlanta.

RF-Jason Heyward, Braves: Heyward is back to his outstanding rookie form of 2010.

OF-Matt Kemp, Dodgers: He's hurt but deserves to take a bow just based on his torrid first six weeks.

OF-Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins: The superstar in waiting gets a showcase.

American League
Starters

1B-Paul Konerko, White Sox (.333/.412/.549, 1.7 WARP): He just gets better with age.

2B-Robinson Cano, Yankees (.301/.367/.567, 2.7): Well, don't you know?

3B-Brett Lawrie, Blue Jays (.290/.341/.427, 2.6): A hero for an entire nation.

SS-Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians (.291/.376/.474, 1.8): He’s vastly underrated beyond the shores of Lake Erie.

C-A.J. Pierzynski, White Sox (.284/.335/.493, 1.4): Just when everyone wants to write him off…

LF-Josh Willingham, Twins (.275/.388/.542, 2.6): Imagine how bad Minnesota would be without him.

CF-Mike Trout, Angels (.335/.395/.528/3.2): Cooperstown might want to start working on his plaque.

RF-Mark Trumbo, Angles (.320/.373/.622, 2.7): He has added better plate discipline to his raw power.

DH-Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays (.286/.361/.572, 2.2): He finally found a home north of the border.

P-Justin Verlander, Tigers (2.52 ERA, 2.60 FIP, 3.0 WARP): The best in the business.

PITCHERS

P-Jason Hammel, Orioles: Sea level agrees with him.

P-Felix Hernandez, Mariners: He’s not having his best year but is still awfully good.

P-Jon Lester, Red Sox: Not having his greatest year, but neither are many Red Sox.

P-Colby Lewis, Rangers: Texas will feel his loss if his disabled list stint lasts long.

P-Jake Peavy, White Sox: A solid Comeback Player of the Year candidate.

P-CC Sabathia, Yankees: Slipping a little bit and dinged up, but still one of the best.

P-Chris Sale, White Sox: He did the right thing by arguing to stay in the rotation.

P-C.J. Wilson, Angels: He’s showing he's worth all that money.

P-Joaquin Benoit, Tigers: One of the most consistently good relievers in the game.

P-Tim Collins, Royals: This 5-foot-7 lefty—not Lincecum—is the real Tiny Tim.

P-Joe Nathan, Rangers: He has plenty left in the tank.

P-Chris Perez, Indians: Controversial, but also very good.

P-Fernando Rodney, Rays: Having an amazing turnaround season.

Reserves
1B-Albert Pujols, Angels
: Hard to remember his early-season struggles now.

2B-Jason Kipnis, Indians: We are all Kipnises.

3B-Mike Moustakas, Royals: Very deserving of taking a bow in his home ballpark.

SS-Elvis Andrus, Rangers: Has grown into being one of the best at his position.

C-Joe Mauer, Twins: Not back to MVP form, but he's close.

C-Mike Napoli, Rangers: Year of the Napoli II?

IF-Howie Kendrick, Angels: Even though he is a full-time second baseman, his ability to play other positions is a plus in this game.

LF-Josh Hamilton, Rangers: June swoon doesn't mask dominant April and May.

CF-Adam Jones, Orioles: Leading the Birds' resurgence.

RF-Jose Bautista, Blue Jays: Has a chance of three-peating as MLB home-run leader.

OF-Josh Reddick, Athletics: Given the chance to play every day with new team, he's running with it.

---

A few minutes with Tigers manager Jim Leyland

On his team being 36-39 in a season that started with the Tigers being considered heavy favorites to repeat as American League Central champions: "For one thing, I don't how anybody knows before spring training even starts who is going to win a division title. It's impossible. If everybody knew ahead of time, there would be no reason to play the game. You just never know what's going to happen. That's what makes baseball great, what makes sports great."

On not being worried about his team being under .500 this late in the season: "There are still a lot of games left to go, and I know we haven't played our best yet. I know we're capable of playing a lot better, and we will. We haven't played up to our capabilities at times and it's frustrating, but we've had our share injuries like a lot of teams and it seems like we're finally starting to get our team together. I think we've weathered the worst of the storm and we're starting to play. I really believe we're heading in the right direction now. Don't get me wrong, we can't play the way have so far and expect to win anything, but I know we're capable of playing better."

On if he is surprised the White Sox are leading the AL Central in a season in which they were expected to finish near the bottom of the standings: "Not at all. It seems like everyone counts them out every year and they usually wind up having a good team. They've got the big guy hitting now in (Adam) Dunn, and that's make a big difference in their lineup, and (Paul) Konerko is better than ever. It's a tough lineup to pitch against, and they've got good pitching, too. They aren't a fluke. They're going to be in the race right until the end."

On Miguel Cabrera making the transition back to third base after playing first base the past four seasons:  "I'll tell you this much: Nobody asks about that anymore. He's done well there. He's not going to win the Gold Glove, but he's been fine. He really dedicated himself to doing it and worked hard all spring, and he's made it work. That's part of what makes him one of the best players in the game today. Not only is he a great hitter, but he's the type of person who is willing to do whatever is needed to make the team better."

---

Scouts' views

Rays right-hander Alex Cobb: "This kid has a chance to be really good. His fastball command is much better this season, and he's working both sides of the plate with it. His changeup and curveball are better, too, but what I really like is it seems like he can get a ground ball anytime he needs one."

Giants right-hander George Kontos: "He goes right after hitters, and he eats up right-handers with that nasty slider. I can see him becoming an important piece of that bullpen as the season goes on."

Pirates right-hander James McDonald: "He's really coming into his own this year. He used to pick around the corners of the strike zone, and it looked like he was afraid of the bat. Now he's on the attack. He's going after the hitters and pumping strikes. He throws 95 mph and his curveball is usually unhittable; now he's added a little slider to the mix, and that's made him even better."

Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez: "When you think back to when he was a kid coming up with the Pirates in the late 1990s until now, he's made quite a transformation. He was out of shape when he came up to the big leagues and lackadaisical, like he thought he was too cool for school. He takes the game so much more seriously now. He plays hard, and he never gives away an at-bat."

White Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis: "He definitely needed a change of scenery, but I don't know if that's going to be enough. He played so hard for so many years that his body is worn down. He'll bust his butt, but I just don't know if he's got much left in the tank."

---

Five observations

  • Tuesday was one of my most heartening days of the year. In the morning, USA Today reported MLB attendance was up eight percent this season. In the afternoon, I saw a dozen kids playing a pickup baseball game. The grand old game can't be killed.
  • I hate to make observations based on one game, but if Chase Utley is as good as he looked in his season debut on Wednesday night, then the Phillies still have a chance to win a sixth straight NL East title.
  • Same thing goes for the Giants' chances of winning the NL West if Lincecum truly is back on track.
  • You wonder with how much pain Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte was in after getting his ankle broken by a line drive on Wednesday, or if he still thinks it was worth making a comeback.
  • I can't help but think karma is at work with the Marlins this season, perhaps the baseball gods remembering what owner Jeffrey Loria did to the Montreal Expos.

---

In this week's Must Read, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times wonders if Cubs ownership is more interested in selling Wrigley Field as a multipurpose facility than its on-field product.

John Perrotto is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see John's other articles. You can contact John by clicking here

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