Like last week’s NL team, our AL All-Star squad is populated by guys who should make the team, not the guys who will thanks to fan voting and popularity biases. That means big names like Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols and Adran Beltre didn’t make the cut. Instead, it’s just the players who are the most deserving based on their first-half performance. (Starters in bold.)
David Ortiz and Adam Lind snap up the two DH spots. Ortiz and his .317/.404/.604 line would be getting some serious MVP buzz if it weren’t for the incredible seasons in progress from Chris Davis, Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout. This year’s MVP race is shaping up to be the best since… Cabrera narrowly edged Trout last year.
Speaking of Davis, he gets the easy nod to start at first. Edwin Encarnacion is third in the AL with 23 home runs but he still feels underrated; in the last 365 days, he’s hit .270/.375/.537 with 43 homers. Loney makes the team on the strength of his .313/.365/.475 renaissance year and a somewhat down year from Fielder.
Robinson Cano, Jason Kipnis and Dustin Pedroia are all worthy candidates at second, but Kipnis gets the starter spot thanks to his edge in nERD: 3.25 compared to Pedroia’s 2.63 and Cano’s 1.97.
At shortstop, presumptive real-life starter J.J. Hardy and his gaudy home run total don’t make this team. Hardy rarely walks, and his .304 OBP is 70 points lower than Jhonny Peralta’s and 77 points lower than Jed Lowrie’s. Peralta starts over Lowrie thanks to a slight edge in power and defensively.
Third base is probably the deepest position in either league this year. I took four third basemen for this squad, and I still had to leave off Beltre, who is having a very solid season. Cabrera gets the start for his absolutely absurd season. It was hard to imagine he would actually get better following last season’s Triple Crown, MVP year, but he has, hitting an unthinkable .373/.461/.680 and posting a majors-best 6.82 nERD score. The relative unknown in this group is Josh Donaldson, who has a better average (.316) and OBP (.384) than Longoria, a better slugging percentage (.525) than Machado, and a higher wOBA (.390) than either of them.
At catcher, Joe Mauer is the easy starter. Jason Castro and Carlos Santana are having similar offensive years (.268/.326/.479 and 11 homers for Castro versus .269/.378/.458 and 10 homers for Santana) but Castro gets the edge since the Astros need a representative.
Trout is having yet another outstanding season and is a lock as a starter. Joey Bats offsets his .254 average with a 12.9 percent walk rate and a .502 slugging percentage. Crisp, who isn’t known to be the offensive threat the rest of this group is, actually has a higher wRC+ than Jones or Cruz.
That’s right, the Tigers have four starting pitchers on my All-Star team. Of the bunch, Anibal Sanchez has actually been the best, but he’s hurt and not expected back until next week. Clay Buchholz also was having a fantastic year before he went down with an injury; he won’t be healthy enough to pitch in the All-Star Game.
Derek Holland is having an amazing season, tied for the AL lead in WAR after posting a 4.67 ERA/4.75 FIP last year. He’s striking out more hitters, walking fewer, and allowing dramatically fewer home runs.
The decision as to who starts came down to Scherzer and Hernandez. (Sanchez and Buccholz would’ve been in the mix if healthy.) Despite the small gap in their ERAs, their FIPs are incredibly similar, but Scherzer strikes out 1.50 more batters per nine innings than Hernandez, so he gets the edge.
Rivera and Nathan are All-Star Game mainstays having great seasons once again. Crain has posted a 0.74 ERA while striking out 11.29 batters per nine innings. He also has a .330 BABIP, which suggests that he actually has been a little unlucky, and could see fewer hits drop in during the second half. Greg Holland is striking out a mind-boggling 15.00 batters per nine innings, which is more than Randy Johnson ever did in his career.