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2017 MLB American League All-Stars

Yup, the All-Star Game was this past Tuesday.  But…close enough.  And a nice topic to get back in the swing of things.  So here is my team.  Only 32 players this year, down from 34 in recent years.  21 position players, 11 pitchers, with each team represented (Again, I don’t necessarily love this rule…but…it is the rule).  (S) for starter.  Comments below each position.

C:  Salvador Perez, KC (S), Gary Sanchez, NYY

Three catchers are usually selected for the actual game.  This year thankfully there were only two…for both leagues.  Not sure why this changed, but it’s absolutely for the better.  Two is about the max that deserve to be there.  Last year I took only one on my team (Perez).  If I took a third this year, it would’ve been either Brian McCann or Alex Avila.  No thanks.  Anyway, I’ve said pretty much enough on catchers.  Sanchez may be the future, but not giving him the starting gig over Big Sal…this year.

1B:  Justin Smoak, Tor (S), Logan Morrison, TB, Jose Abreu, CWS, Yonder Alonso, Oak

Just…yuck.  Just feels really strange with no Miguel Cabrera anywhere to be found here.  These guys are simply having better years though.  And thanks to the “every team has to be represented” rule, here are each of these 4 teams’ representatives!  Smoak started the real game and, sadly enough, he was the right choice.  Morrison had a similar OPS (.931 to Smoaks’ .936), so if you wanted him to start, you won’t get an argument from me.  Not sure how he didn’t even make the real team.  I’m all set with Corey Dickerson.  Actually, I’m all set with Morrison too, but his numbers are there this year.  Avisail Garcia was the real life ChiSox rep, but I prefer Abreu.  Probably doesn’t matter either way.  It was either Alonso, Khris Davis or Ryon Healy for the A’s.  Alonso’s .934 OPS was also right with Morrison and Smoak.  The other A’s were in the .800’s.  Plus Davis and Healy DH a fair amount.  But still…these 4 guys are All-Stars?

2B:  Jose Altuve, Hou (S), Jonathan Schoop, Bal, Robinson Cano, Sea, Starlin Castro, NYY

It’s Altuve and then everyone else once again.  Not enough superlatives out there for that guy.  Schoop is shockingly enough the Orioles rep.  If you wanted to put Manny Machado on the team because he’s Manny Machado, I’d probably be ok with it though.  I’m not putting Robby Cano here because he was the MVP of the real game.  No, seriously.  He is kind of quietly having a pretty good year.  As is Castro.

3B:  Jose Ramirez, Cle (S), Miguel Sano, Min, Mike Moustakas, KC

Jose Ramirez is 3rd in the AL in OPS, .005 behind 2nd place.  Jose Ramirez!  Let that one sink in for a while.  Sure he had a pretty good year last year.  But was abysmal two years ago.  Of course he was only 22 then, so…but still.  Pretty impressive.  Sano is another guy breaking out this year.  His 120 K’s already are pretty unsightly though.  Having second thoughts about “Moose” as I write this…but I guess 25 bombs and good defense should count for something.

SS:  Carlos Correa, Hou (S), Elvis Andrus, Tex

You may be able to pencil in Correa’s name here for years to come.  Francisco Lindor may have something to say about it eventually, but not this year.  Correa has been filthy this season.  I will also say Lindor was on the edge of my team and if you wanted to find space for him, it wouldn’t upset me.  Andrus was going to be my sole Rangers player, though that did change.  Still deserving of a place on my squad however.  And please Red Sox fans…admittedly, I am a total homer.  But the fact that Xander Bogaerts was in the Final Five voting was an absolute joke, I’m sorry.  Disappointing year for X, to put it mildly.

OF:  Mike Trout, LAA (S), Aaron Judge, NYY (S), George Springer, Hou (S), Mookie Betts, Bos

This is what I wrote last year: “Just copy and paste Trout here for at least the next decade…unless he switches leagues at some point.”  His injury this year changes nothing.  There really is not much to say about Judge and Springer.  Monster years from the both of them.  Now here is where I become a little of that Boston homer I just referred to.  In my opinion, Betts hasn’t necessarily been “All-Star-ish” this year.  Just hasn’t seemed it.  Comparatively speaking to last year anyway.  But maybe we were spoiled last year.  However, when you review the numbers as a whole, you can justify a spot for him.  And I did.

DH: Nelson Cruz, Sea (S)

1 DH is enough.  One of the jamokes selected at 1B can handle DH in my game if they need to.  I would nominate Abreu.

UT:  Marwin Gonzalez, Hou

How can a guy who doesn’t even start for his own team be an All-Star?  Well, let me introduce you to this year’s Brock Holt!!  Except…way better.  .967 OPS.  He actually has been playing every day for a while now.  I mean, Norichika Aoki?  Please.  But Marwin plays all over the place too.  If you play fantasy baseball, and I do, he is pretty much eligible at every position no matter what type of league you are in.  That’s worth something if you can create offense along with the defensive flexibility.  Oh, and the Astros are 10 games better than everyone else in the American League.  Take as many guys as you want from that team and put them here.  Although, I will draw the line at Josh Reddick.

P:  Chris Sale, CWS (S), Jason Vargas, KC, Dallas Keuchel, Hou, Corey Kluber, Cle, Carlos Carrasco, Cle, Michael Fulmer, Det, Ervin Santana, Min, Yu Darvish, Tex, Luis Severino, NYY, Andrew Miller, Cle, Craig Kimbrel, Bos

I will probably cut and paste this preamble every year, in case there are any new readers that may give a crap.  I know, fat chance.  Anyway, here it is:  As I’ve explained in the past, my inclination is to take way more starting pitchers than closers and certainly middle relievers.  Great starters are infinitely more important to their team and that is why they get the big bucks, as they say.  Closers historically get hot for a year or three, but unless they are Mariano Rivera or Trevor Hoffman, they inevitably fail and fall back into middle relief or the minors or out of baseball.  Very few of the elite ones that can do it for 10 years plus.  Middle relievers are usually failed starters AND closers.  So even though they can be dominant, it usually doesn’t last.  And if it does, they will go back to another key role.

Last year, I picked 3 closers and 2 part middle relievers, part closers and only 8 starters.  Kind of made me sick to my stomach.  This year we get back to normal…9 starters, 1 middle man, 1 closer.  Sale is the relatively easy choice to start, though if Kuechel or even Kluber didn’t miss time in the first half, they would have certainly made it closer.  Specifically Kluber, with his playoff performance last year, as well as the fact that his own Indian coaching staff were the coaches for this years’ All-Star Game.  Journeyman 34-year-old Vargas leads the league in wins and ERA, as well as WAR, if that’s a statistic that floats your boat.  Good for him for making his first All-Star team.

I’m surprised that Carrasco wasn’t on the real squad.  He got hammered in one start in late June that jacked up his ERA a bit.  But even so, 3.44 ain’t bad.  Combined with his other numbers, he seemed like an easy pick to me.  Fulmer was my Detroit pick…as he was in reality (until they added Justin Upton to the squad as well).  Can’t ignore Ervin’s contributions to the surprising Twins this year (as surprising as 2 games over .500 is…but they are only 2.5 games out…and I’m not sure anyone saw that coming).  Darvish and Severino have high-ish ERA’s, but they are still in the top 10 and have good numbers otherwise.  Maybe Lance McCullers Jr. and Marcus Stroman deserve some consideration as well.  But they get squeezed out on my team.

Kimbrel is a no-brainer…the guy has been virtually untouchable this year.  As has been Miller.  Even though Miller doesn’t close, it’s hard to ignore his dominance.  As for relievers that missed the cut, maybe a case for Roberto Osuna could have been made.  But Alex Colome, Brandon Kintzler, Kelvin Herrera, Kenny Giles?  Nah.  Justin Wilson & Dellin Betances?  Perhaps.  But I’m comfortable with just Miller and Kimbrel.

So there you go…NL to follow..at some point…first I have to celebrate the fact that the Fat Panda is finally out of Boston…good riddance…

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2016 MLB American League All-Stars

In honor of the Major League Baseball All-Star game selections being announced Tuesday, I present my American League All-Star picks.  21 position players, 13 pitchers, with each team represented (I don’t necessarily love this rule…but…it is the rule).  (S) for starter.  Comments below each position.

C:  Salvador Perez, KC (S)

There will be three catchers selected for the actual game.  How they are going to pick the other two is beyond me.  Have you seen the list of all the AL catchers?  There is no one else even remotely qualified.  So I am not picking more than one here.  There are two other guys that I pick later for my team that have catching experience.  They can be my backups if necessary.  You know, if this game was played on more than this “paper” I “write” on.  Perez likes to catch every inning of every game anyway.  Done.

1B:  Miguel Cabrera, Det (S), Chris Davis, Bal, Eric Hosmer, KC

Cabrera’s year seems to be flying a little under the radar.  Maybe because it’s not as insane as usual.  But he’s putting up some numbers again, in case you didn’t know.  Davis isn’t hitting below .200 this year.  .242 isn’t that exciting, but it’s enough with the power numbers he puts up.  Hosmer can close out the game with his elite glove.  But his offense is improved over the past season and a half and he has some good production in the first half of this year.  Plus, well, KC did win the World Series last year, no?

2B:  Jose Altuve, Hou (S), Robinson Cano, Sea, Ian Kinsler, Det

Altuve is having a monster year.  So even though it’s a nice comeback year for Cano, Jose has to be the choice here.  1 shy of his career high already with his 14 bombs.  Leads the league in average and hits.  1 shy of the league lead in steals.  Nice work.  Glad to see Cano is back, as noted.  Kinsler seems to be the 2nd best Ian in the league this year, but it works out for him that he is the best one at his position.

3B:  Josh Donaldson, Tor (S)

Looks like I am taking only one third basemen here too.  But plenty of other guys on my team can (and do) play third.  They are just listed elsewhere since they’ve played more at other positions.  You’ll see.  Oh wait, Cabrera can also play 3b of course.  As can Davis!  Anyway, two guys I left off here are Evan Longoria and Kyle Seager though.  Close, but decided someone else would represent Tampa in Longoria’s case.  And Seager was a little behind Evan.  Oh, and Donaldson is one of the backup catchers on this roster too.  Good thing like 8 other guys have 3b experience!

SS:  Manny Machado, Bal (S), Xander Bogaerts, Bos, Eduardo Nunez, Min

This year’s shortstop crop is a lot stronger than the past couple of years.  Machado and Nunez are listed here because they have both played a handful more games at short than at third.  So, you see they can back up 3b on my team also.  Hell, even X can, with his experience there as the immortal Stephen Drew slid into that position in Boston in 2014…for whatever reason that was.  I would’ve loved to find room here also for Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor.  Maybe I should have anyway.  But they will have plenty more chances.  Nunez had to be here unfortunately because who else could you possibly take from the Twins this season?  But at least his numbers are pretty good, so he was a strong consideration at some position either way.  Nice utility guy…follows up very nicely on Brock Holt’s selection to the game last year.

OF:  Mike Trout, LAA (S), Ian Desmond, Tex (S), Jackie Bradley Jr., Bos (S), Mark Trumbo, Bal, Mookie Betts, Bos, Carlos Beltran, NYY

Just copy and paste Trout here for at least the next decade…unless he switches leagues at some point.  Desmond had a rough start, but has come on huge.  His transition to the outfield from being an error machine at short has been smooth.  So smooth that he is playing mostly center field now.  I actually tried to find a way to NOT add JBJ to the team at all.  When I was putting this together, my initial sense was that yeah, he had that 29 game hitting streak and put up sick numbers in the midst of that.  But what else has he done?  Well, since the streak, he has been pretty good too.  He remains sixth in the league in OPS.  And when you factor in the glove, that gave him the last starting spot over Trumbo…since Trumbo has served as DH for almost half his games.  Mookie is actually only 20th in the league in OPS, but you can’t argue with the overall numbers.  At first glance I was like, Carlos Beltran?  Really?  But he belongs.  And not because he will be the Yankee rep either.  What, you wanted Michael Saunders here??  7th in the league in OPS, Saunders is.  Surprising.  But I can’t see it.

DH:  David Ortiz, Bos (S), Edwin Encarnacion, Tor, Victor Martinez, Det, Nelson Cruz, Sea

4 DH’s?  Yup!!  But in name only…kind of.  Big Papi starts because it is allegedly his final year and I said so.  Not to mention he leads the AL in OPS by .118.  That’s kind of a pretty good lead.  Edwin has played about a third of his games this year at first.  He’s another guy that can play 3rd in a pinch.  Cruz has played over 40% of his games in the outfield.  So he can trot out there if needed.  And Victor serves as my teams’ primary backup catcher too.  We will take the bats any way we can get them!

P:  Chris Sale, CWS (S), Danny Salazar, Cle, Cole Hamels, Tex, Rich Hill, Oak, Michael Fulmer, Det, Steven Wright, Bos, Aaron Sanchez, Tor, Marco Estrada, Tor, Andrew Miller, NYY, Zach Britton, Bal, Wade Davis, KC, Alex Colome, TB, Will Harris, Hou

As I’ve explained in the past, my inclination is to take way more starting pitchers than closers and certainly middle relievers.  Great starters are infinitely more important to their team and that is why they get the big bucks, as they say.  Closers historically get hot for a year or three, but unless they are Mariano Rivera or Trevor Hoffman, they inevitably fail and fall back into middle relief or the minors or out of baseball.  Very few of the elite ones that can do it for 10 years plus.  Middle relievers are usually failed starters AND closers.  So even though they can be dominant, it usually doesn’t last.  And if it does, they will go back to another key role.

Unfortunately, this year it seemed I HAD to take 3 full-time closers (Britton, Davis, Colome) and 2 others that have closed for at least part of the year (Miller, Harris).  For the 8 starters chosen, it’s basically Sale and everyone else.  Ok, Salazar and Hamels have been pretty good too.  But although Hill has been pretty dominant when on the mound, he has missed some time due to injury.  Really had to be Oakland’s rep though.  I couldn’t possibly feel good about taking Khris Davis or Danny Valencia.  But with Hill, we are talking about a guy pitching in the independent leagues less than a year ago.  Fulmer has also been pretty dominant, but came up from the minors after 6 weeks in the season had passed or so.  Wright has been a revelation in Boston, since the rest of the rotation has been putrid, to be kind.  But he’s a knuckleballer on a nice run.  And also has a ton of unearned runs, which, well…he still did give up the runs, didn’t he?  Estrada is somewhat uninspiring, though Sanchez has been way more than I think even Toronto expected.  Maybe Jose Quintana has an argument, but it’s like 6 of one, half-dozen of the other I would say.

But because guys like King Felix, David Price, Dallas Keuchel, Corey Kluber, Chris Archer, Sonny Gray, etc. have been mediocre, injured, downright atrocious or some combination of the three…these are your 8 starters in the All-Star Game folks!!

As for the ‘pen, Miller has been lights out since joining the Yanks last year.  Almost 2 K’s per inning.  Can’t argue his spot.  Britton and Davis are elite closers.  Colome is Tampa’s rep, for better or for worse.  But he was real good before getting hurt.  Harris has been an elite setup man for a couple of years in Houston now.  He recently has grabbed the closer role and let’s wait and see if he has what it takes for that.  But an 0.76 ERA currently would be hard to leave off the team.  Sadly, I also actually gave strong consideration to another couple of middle relievers.  Brad Brach of the O’s (1.01 ERA in 44 2/3 innings) and Kelvin Herrera of the Royals (1.40 ERA in 38 2/3 innings).  Just couldn’t pull those triggers though.

So there you go…NL to follow soon.  As I still try to process the Kevin Durant news into some coherent thoughts…

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