Chris Sale delivers a pitch against the Milwaukee Brewers ( photo: Dennis Wierzbicki-US PRESSWIRE)

A.L. Central All-Stars (Maybe)

 

Rosters for the 2012 All-Star Game will be announced next week. MLB keeps adding more and more players to each team, there are 34 spots now (including the final “fan vote”) and when you factor in injury replacements, there will likely be at least 40 All-Stars in each league. In anticipation of the announcement, I thought it would be fun to look at the White Sox and other American League Central teams and discuss who is deserving of selection and/or might actually be named to the team.

 

White Sox:

Chris Sale (SP) – 9-2 record (I think wins are nonsense, but they certainly factor into who is named an All-Star), 95.1 innings, a league leading 2.27 ERA and 188 ERA+ (which adjusts ERA for league and park factors, boosting pitchers like Sale who pitch primarily in hitters’ parks, 100 is league average, 188 is 88% above average), 0.97 WHIP, 94 strikeouts. Sale is a lock, and one of two candidates to start the game.

Jake Peavy (SP) – 6-4 record, 104.2 innings, 2.84 ERA, 150 ERA+, 0.99 WHIP, 90 strikeouts. This is what the White Sox were looking for when they acquired Peavy. He is close to a lock to make the team and is entirely deserving of it.

Paul Konerko (1B) – .333/.412/.549, .961 OPS, 37 runs, 39 RBI, 14 2B, 13 HR. Konerko has been one of the best hitters in baseball this season and is a lock to make the team. He might deserve to be starting at 1B, though he won’t be.

Adam Dunn (DH) – .216/.357/.527, .883 OPS, 43 runs, 57 RBI, 24 HR. Dunn is among the top five in HR and RBI and could be named to the team. I do not think he will though, as that .216 batting average will jump out at many. I also don’t quite think he deserves to go, though he’s having a good season and is a leading candidate for comeback player of the year.

SHOULD:              Sale, Peavy, Konerko

WILL:                     Sale, Peavy, Konerko

 

Indians:

Chris Perez (RP) – 23 saves, 28.1 innings, 2.54 ERA, 152 ERA+, 0.99 WHIP, 28 strikeouts, 0 home runs allowed. I had written Perez off for dead even before he blew a 3-run lead on Opening Day, but he’s been very strong since then. He’s leading the league in saves which gives him a good shot at being named to the team. A 2.54 ERA is nothing special for a closer though; I consider him a borderline candidate.

Jason Kipnis (2B) – .276/.330/.433, .764 OPS, 81 hits, 47 runs, 43 RBI, 7 2B, 3 3B, 11 HR, 18 SB. After Robinson Cano, Kipnis has been absolutely the best 2B in baseball and ought to be going to Kansas City in two weeks. He lacks the name recognition of Dustin Pedroia and Ian Kinsler though, and might not get an invite.

Asdrubal Cabrera (SS) – .289/.373/.469, .842 OPS, 36 runs, 34 RBI, 17 2B, 9 HR. Cabrera has shown 2011 was no fluke and there’s a case to be made that’s he’s been the best SS in the A.L. this year. He’s certainly been the best one on offense and deserves a spot on the team. Derek Jeter winning the fan voting means Cabrera may get squeezed out though.

Shin-Soo Choo (OF) – .275/.364/.442, .806 OPS, 44 runs, 24 RBI, a league leading 24 2B, 6 HR, 9 SB. Choo is also playing good defense in rightfield and  has bounced back nicely from a rough 2011. There are simply too many good players in the OF for his play to quite deserve or gain him All-Star recognition.

SHOULD:              Kipnis, Cabrera

WILL:                     Perez, Cabrera

 

Tigers:

Justin Verlander (SP) – 8-4, a league leading 117.2 innings, 2.52 ERA, 161 ERA+, 0.97 WHIP, a league leading 113 strikeouts. For my money, Verlander is the best pitcher in baseball and if it were my decision, he’d get the starting nod in the American League (though Sale would be a deserving choice too).

Prince Fielder (1B) – .301/.377/.500, an .877 OPS, 40 runs, 50 RBI, 18 2B, 12 HR. Fielder is going to start at 1B, whether he or Konerko deserves to is debatable (I’d side with Konerko), but certainly Fielder has earned his spot on the team.

Miguel Cabrera (3B) – .304/.363/.525, .888 OPS, 92 hits, 44 runs, 60 RBI, 22 2B, 15 HR. There are few hitters for whom an .888 OPS might seem like a down year, but that seems to be the case for Cabrera, who seems overlooked this year. He’s transitioned back to 3B without being a disaster and is the best hitter at his position. He will deservedly be named to the team.

Austin Jackson (OF) – .314/.403/.515, .917 OPS, 42 runs, 31 RBI, 16 2B, 2 3B, 7 HR, 7 SB. Who leads the Tigers in OPS? Not Prince, not Miguel, but Austin Jackson. He’s also playing great defense in centerfield. I don’t think he’s a lock to make the team, because OF is crowded and there may not be four players from a team that’s below .500, but I think Jackson’s play merits a spot on the All-Star team.

SHOULD:              Verlander, Fielder, Cabrera, Jackson

WILL:                     Verlander, Fielder, Cabrera

 

Royals:

Jonathan Broxton (RP) – 19 saves, 29.2 innings, 1.51 ERA, 271 ERA+, 1.28 WHIP 23 strikeouts. I don’t favor many relief pitchers being added to the team, but Broxton has been very good in 2012. Because Kansas City is the host this year, there is a good chance more than one Royal will be named to the team, which aids Broxton’s chances.

Billy Butler (DH) – .296/.357/.511, 868 OPS, 28 runs, 46 RBI, 13 2B, 15 HR. Butler has been good this season, but those aren’t fantastic numbers for a DH, which is mostly where Butler plays. Like Broxton, Butler has the Kansas City factor working in his favor, but he would be a pretty questionable choice, in my opinion.

Mike Moustakas (3B) -.277/.340/.496, .842 OPS, 37 runs, 38 RBI, 17 2B, 13 HR. Moustakas had a rough rookie campaign in 2011, but has found his stride this year.  By all accounts, he has also been strong with his glove and I see him as very deserving of being named to the team.

SHOULD:              Moustakas

WILL:                     Broxton, Moustakas

 

Twins:

Joe Mauer (C) – .321/.414/.433, .848 OPS, 34 runs, 34 RBI, 16 2B. Mauer has reclaimed his place as the best cather in the American League. His on-base percentage leads the league and his batting average ranks 4th. Mauer will certainly be named to the team, an honor he is very deserving of.

Josh Willingham (OF) – .272/.384/.535, .920 OPS, 40 runs, 49 RBI, 20 2B, 15 HR. Willingham has been a fantastic signing for Minnesota so far (they inked him to a 3-year, $21M contract over the winter) and one of the best hitters in the A.L. this season. There is some risk he will be squeezed out by bigger names, but he deserves the trip to Kansas City.

Trevor Plouffe (OF) – .243/.322/.530, .852 OPS, 30 runs, 27 RBI, 15 HR. Plouffe has been absolutely on fire in June (.333/.427/.736, 10 HR, one of the top five A.L. hitters), but that’s not nearly enough to overcome his poor April and May, or the massive lack of name recognition. A tip of the hat for how well he’s playing right now, but he’s not an All-Star.

SHOULD:              Mauer, Willingham

WILL:                     Mauer

 

 

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