The American League evaluation is complete so it is time to move over to the National League. The air is crisp here, the stench of the Designated Hitter a distant memory. The National League is on the cusp of a trend this season, after years of frustration at the hands of the AL they have finally put back to back wins on the board. A win this year, and we have a trend. While I mentioned the poor choices made by voters and players in the American League (You know who you are!) The Senior Circuit did not rest on the experience and wisdom that comes with age. They botched it too. As you will see, the recent home stand in San Francisco afforded their fans a wonderful opportunity to stuff the ballot box and elect more players who may not be the best representative the league had to offer.
Before we begin breaking down each individual position I wanted to discuss a bit of well timed news. MLB announced this afternoon that Chipper Jones had already been added to the roster of the NL squad due to the injury suffered by Matt Kemp. This is welcome news as Chipper should not be forced to face the indignity of playing half of the season yet being added to the final vote as a means of celebrating his Hall of Fame career. Fans would be faced with voting for a statistically deserving candidate or one whose legacy is amazing. Not the choice I wanted to make.
We will again start behind the plate.
As with the American League, the National League catcher selections are just not right. The difference here is that the three NL Catchers selected in one form or another were the three best choices.
Carlos Ruiz is playing for a team that shockingly is terrible. He stands out for his excellence on a team that has under-performed nearly everywhere else. It pains me to say Yadier Molina has also been all star caliber. Both of these individuals are better in every category than the representative voted onto the team, San Francisco Giant Buster Posey. Posey seems to have benefited along with a number of his teammates from a long home stand right before the voting deadline. He is a good player, but in 2012 he shouldn’t have been an All Star. At least he is better than the next best catcher Miguel Montero.
With Fielder and Pujols gone this was not a competitive position. There is only one competitor and a couple of pretenders. The only controversy rears its head with the players selection.
And here it is. The focal point of the selection process. I am sure you expect me to rant and rave at this point. I will say this, the selections made at second were not right. Dan Uggla should not have been elected to start in the All Star Game. In my opinion, neither should the Reds Brandon Phillips.
First off, Uggla breaks my rule of hitting a quarter of the time. His OPS is mediocre, he commits a lot of errors, but he scores a few runs. Jose Altuve is a solid ballplayer. Few RBI but you have to take into account he is on one of the worst teams in history. Phillips has great production numbers though his OPS is slightly low, but his defense is without peer. Finally there is Aaron Hill, this is the same Aaron Hill who has hit for the cycle TWICE in one month. Amazing. He is in this final vote and if I bother, he would be mine. In all, Altuve should have won the starting job and Brandon and Hill the extra positions. Uggla should be at home enjoying the show.
This is one of the least controversial positions and all three earned a place on the squad. Here are the numbers.
Lowrie has good power numbers but Furcal’s defense puts him over the top and really does deserve his election. I voted for Starlin Castro but can make a real argument for each of these ballplayers to win out.
To my mind this is the biggest mistake the fans made regarding the National League squad. I list stats for 5 players and I feel confident when I say of these five players the last one I would have selected won the starting job. Pablo Sandoval is a decent player but I see no excuse that should have granted him the start. None. Here are the numbers.
I already mentioned that Chipper Jones is going to replace Matt Kemp on the NL roster. I am happy for the future Hall of Famer and happy that MLB had the good sense to keep him out of the final vote. David Freese is in that vote but as I mentioned earlier Aaron Hill is a better choice for that honor. Sandoval has exactly half of the runs and RBI that David Wright has. This creates a strong argument against allowing fans to ever touch a ballot. Ever. Wright dominates this category statistically the way Votto does at first yet he is on the outside looking in.
The starting three are not bad choices. From there things get interesting.
My thoughts here in random order. I have been a Beltran fan since his days in Kansas City but he should not have been selected over Carlos Gonzalez in my opinion. Andrew McCutchen has been scintilatting of late and in light of Matt Kemp’s injury he should be the starter. Bryce Harper is a phenom, a nice story, etc. He is not of All Star caliber like Mike Trout. The numbers just aren’t there. His addition to the final vote is a joke to me. And I hate to say this, but I think Matt Holliday should have been picked over Jay Bruce, my favorite current Reds player. I gotta call it like I see it so there it is.
And now I stand on the precipice of anger. The National League Starting Pitchers. Johnny Cueto should be a part of this group. Period. Look at the numbers and you be the judge.
For me the automatic pitchers in the game are Cain, Dickey, Strasburg, Cueto and Bumgarner. Hamels, Kershaw, Gonzalez, and Capuano also have solid arguments. I would leave Lynn, Miley, Grienke and Burnett at home. ERA matters and I am giving Hamels a slight pass just because he is winning for a terrible team.
Concerning the comments Tony LaRussa has made regarding Johnny Cueto‘s ommision I will leave you with this rule from the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement:
(ii) Sunday Pitcher Rule. Any starting pitcher elected or selected to the All-Star team who makes a start on the Sunday immediately preceding the All-Star Game (“Sunday Pitcher”) shall have the option to participate or not participate in the All-Star Game. If such starting pitcher elects to participate in the All-Star Game, he will not be permitted to pitch for more than one inning, and he may also inform his manager that he should be removed from the game if he reaches a certain pitch count (irrespective of whether he has completed one inning), provided such pitch count is reasonable. If a Sunday Pitcher who was originally named to the team elects not to participate in the All-Star Game, he will be replaced on the roster but treated in the same manner as other All-Stars who are excused from participation, and he will be encouraged to attend and be announced at the All-Star Game.
I hate this breaking down into a legal discussion but TLR’s remarks caused it to become one. 5 pitchers were selected last year who had pitched on Sunday and were unavailable but they still were honored for their body of work. LaRussa is a petty, vindictive man and my opinion is that when a manager retires, he should forfeit his right to manage in the All Star Game regardless of the post season. Let Mike Metheny do it. And let Johnny take a bow.
After the fireworks between the Starters the relievers a bit anticlimactic. Let’s look at stats:
The Cuban Missile is no longer the lock he was but he is quite good. Huston Street has the best numbers after Chapman’s mini meltdown. Hanrahan and Kimbrel are solid. The only mistake I see is LaRussa picking Papelbon over Tyler Clippard. That is the only change here I would suggest.
In closing, the teams are set. I would change a few things but ultimately the game I look forward to is not the All Star Game itself, it is the All Star Futures Game that excites me. I want to see Billy Hamilton tested by the best arms in the game.
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Topics: 2012 All Star Game, A.J. Burnett, Aaron Hill, Andrew McCutchen, Aramis Ramirez, Aroldis Chapman, Billy Hamilton, Brandon Phillips, Bryan LaHair, Bryce Harper, Buster Posey, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Gonzalez, Carlos Ruiz, Chipper Jones, Chris Capuano, Clayton Kershaw, Cole Hamels, Craig Kimbrel, Dan Uggla, David Freese, David Wright, Giancarlo Stanton, Gio Gonzalez, Huston Street, Ian Desmond, Jay Bruce, Jed Lowrie, Joel Hanrahan, Joey Votto, Johnny Cueto, Jonathan Papelbon, Jose Altuve, Lance Lynn, Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Matt Holliday, Matt Kemp, Melky Cabrera, Michael Bourn, Miguel Montero, Pablo Sandoval, Paul Goldschmidt, R.A. Dickey, Rafael Furcal, Ryan Braun, Sergio Casilla, Starlin Castro, Stephen Strasburg, Tyler Clippard, Wade Miley, Yadier Molina, Zack Greinke