It now less than a month until the All Star teams are announced, something I realized this weekend when I received a ballot at my baseball game of the season. I looked at the ballot and realized that I really did not have a clue who to vote for (even though I get to vote 25 times according to the MLB website). My attention has been waning as my favorite team has been busy dashing all my delusional spring training hopes. The only stats I really know are those for the players on my fantasy team, so I took about an hour and looked at the list of names and decided who actually deserves to make an appearance at the game and contemplated who many players will get voted on just because of rabid fans and name recognition.
Mark Teixeira of the New York Yankees is leading the voting with Kevin Youkilis of the Boston Red Sox not too far behind. Teixeira has definitely been earning his $20 million contract with numbers like a .284 batting average, 20 home runs (tied for first in the AL), and 54 RBI (third in the AL). Youkilis, when healthy, has been a different kind of phenomenal. He is hitting .331 (third in the AL), with good power (11 home runs in 49 games), and a .461 on base percentage (leading the majors).
Though it is not surprising that these two players, from two very popular baseball markets are leading the way, I cannot be too upset with their leading the way so far. Still, I think that the best first baseman so far may actually play in Minnesota for the Twins. Justin Morneau has an excellence balance of contact and power, hitting .329, 16 home runs, driving in 54 RBI, and having a very respectable on base percentage of .401(7th in the AL). Though none of his numbers are league leading numbers, many are in the top ten if not the top five, making the best all around offensive player at his position.
This position has two clear favorites, Ian Kinsler from the Texas Rangers and Dustin Pedroia from the Red Sox. Neither is a defensive stud, but nor are they defensive liabilities. Both players have good speed along the base paths as well, with both players in double figures for stolen bases. Kinsler is leading the voting right now thanks to his 15 home runs and 44 RBI. His average (.260) and his on base percentage (.339) are lacking to say the least though. Pedroia is riding waves of support from a strong Red Sox fan base and name recognition (he won the AL MVP last season), but can be justified since he flourishes where Kinsler struggles. He has the best on base percentage among AL second basemen (.387) and decent average (.293). His power numbers are typical of a second baseman, with a mere two home runs.
I think that fans are forgetting a player north of the border though. Aaron Hill is the 27-year-old coming back from an injury with a .313 average, 14 home runs, 44 RBI, and a .351 on base percentage. He does not have the speed of Kinsler and Pedroia, and is a tad worse of a fielder, but his all around numbers make him the best dark horse with the Kansas City Royal’s Alberto Callaspo and the Cleveland Indians Asdrubal Cabrera getting honorable mentions for penchant for making contact.
I was worried that fans would get this one wrong and thrust Alex Rodriguez into first place despite the fact that he missed 28 games with an injury (and becoming the latest star to taint the game). He is in second though, but about a million votes short of catching up to the Tampa Bay Rays Evan Longoria. Longoria is hitting .305, has 14 home runs, 58 RBI, 42 runs, a respectable on base percentage of .387, and a very good slugging percentage of .584. He is an average fielder too, so he is not going to embarrass anyone at third base.
I think he is the right choice as a starter. I hope that Chone Figgins of the Los Angeles Angels gets the respect he deserves and gets a bench spot since he is fifth in the AL in hitting with a .326 average and fourth in the AL in stolen bases with 22 steals.
Beloved Yankee Derek Jeter is by far the leader in votes for his position. He should be too. Jeter is the best qualified hitting player at shortstop with a .310 average, he leads his position in home runs with nine, he is tied for the lead in RBI with 30, he has good speed numbers with 13 steals, and he is still a phenomenal fielder.
The Rays Jason Bartlett is in second place and makes a very compelling case for himself. He is hitting .373 (but lacks the number of at bats to qualify for the league leader board since he only has 161 at bats thanks to an ankle injury), has seven home runs, 30 RBI, 32 runs, and 14 steals. He is not a terrible fielder either. If he had not been injured and he kept up his performance he should have been leading the votes, but he was and still deserves to be mentioned.
For the catcher position there are only two players to even consider, Victor Martinez from the Cleveland Indians and Joe Maurer from the Minnesota Twins. Martinez would be listed under DH, but this year the All Star game is in a National League ballpark, the St Louis Cardinals’ Busch Stadium, so he and his abysmal .100 caught stealing percentage is listed as a catcher. He is in fifth place probably because he plays in Cleveland, but should be higher on the list because of his .335 batting average and 45 RBI.
Joe Maurer is right where he should be on the list, in first place in the All Star voting for catchers. He has only had 152 at bats because he was injured for the first month of the season, but he still has 13 home runs, 40 RBI, 35 runs, a .486 on base percentage, a .743 slugging percentage, and a .414 batting average in just 41 games. He also has a decent arm behind the plate, catching 36.8 percent of those who try and run on him. He is having a monster season and could be in the running for the MVP if the Twins can catch the Tigers for first place in the Central division.
The leading all star vote getters are Jason Bay from the Red Sox, Ichiro Suzuki from the Mariners, and Josh Hamilton from the Rangers. Bay is All Star worthy with 17 home runs (3rd in the AL), 61 RBI (1st in the majors), a good on base percentage (.401), and a good batting average (.286). Ichiro is leading the AL with a .360 average despite being on a team with no offensive support. That alone makes him All Star worthy. Hamilton is the dreaded undeserving player. He has been injured on and off throughout the season and his performance has suffered with only six home runs, 24 RBI, and a .240 batting average. Despite his poor numbers he is second among outfielders and, thus, set to start. I think a much better player would be Carl Crawford. He is hitting .316, has an on base percentage of .380, and is leading the majors with 36 stolen bases. If fans want more power, then they should vote for Torii Hunter who has 16 home runs to go along with a .319 batting average, 51 RBI, 44 runs, and 11 stolen bases. Personally I think Crawford deserves thee starting All Star nod, not Hunter and definitely not Hamilton, who is being lifted by a strong Rangers vote campaign.