Every year, the All-Star team features players that are there simply by reputation. Other times, players are left off because they are having a break-out year and this is their first year on the national scene. In this article, I will attempt to name my American League All-Star starting lineup for next Tuesday’s game in Anaheim, free of any New York-loving, Bawhston-hating bias I may have. Please remember that most of what I am writing is based off of statistics and not name value. Again, special thanks to my personal encyclopedia Baseball Reference. Also, be sure to check back Friday morning for Kenny’s version of the NL Lineup!
Catcher: John Buck, Toronto Blue Jays .274/.309/.511, 13 HR, 40 RBI, 1.6 WAR
If you asked me preseason which AL East catcher was leading the division’s catchers in home runs, I would have said any catcher not named John Buck. Buck has recorded an OPS of .821 thus far in the season for the Jays. He did make the roster due to an injury to Victor Martinez, but Buck has out-produced Martinez in almost 30 less plate appearances.
Why he isn’t starting: Joe Mauer is riding the popularity that comes from being 1. The 2009 AL MVP 2. The face of the state of Minnesota 3. Being in over-played, corny commercials and 4. being a damn-good hitter. Mauer has only a slightly better WAR (2.2 to 1.6), but the rest of the stats are similar, or biased to Buck.
First Base: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers .339/.417/.631, 20 HR, 71 RBI, 3.3 WAR
Let me start out by saying that comparing Miggy Cabrera to Justin Morneau is like comparing a Corvette to a Mercedes: either will do just fine. Both have 1.000+ OPS, but Cabrera has come up HUGE in high leverage situations, with an OPS of 1.339 compared to Morneau’s .981. The three more home runs and sixteen more RBIs don’t hurt, either.
Why he isn’t starting: He’s not exactly the most popular player in the world, what with his alcohol-abuse problem last year. Also, he has to deal with not just Minnesotans, but Canadians voting for their native son.
Second Base: Robinson Cano, New York Yankees .342/.394/.565, 16 HR, 55 RBI, 4.5 WAR
An easy choice here. If Cano keeps up this ridiculous pace, he almost has to be given the AL MVP, considering that Dustin Pedroia won the 2008 MVP hitting .320 with only 17 HRs on the year. Good luck to Robby in the Home Run Derby!
Shortstop: Derek Jeter, New York Yankees .281/.347/.404, 8 HR, 39 RBI, 1.3 WAR
In what has been Derek Jeter’s worst statistical season to date, he is still the only American League shortstop to have it all put together: hitting, hitting for power, defense, and the immeasurable intangibles. He will continue to make the AL roster due to the respect fans and players have for him no matter how much his skills decline.
Third Base: Adrian Beltre, Boston Red Sox .340/.377/.542, 12 HR, 54 RBI, 3.0 WAR
As easy as it is for me to put Robby Cano or DJ on this list, it’s equally as hard to admit a member of the Red Sox is better than Evan Longoria or Alex Rodriguez. However, Beltre has been the catalyst for the Boston offense, which leads the league in runs scored.
Why he isn’t starting: Evan Longoria is the face of the Tampa Bay Rays. Although their fans are more fair-weather, I am still surprised that Red Sox Nation was too busy listening to “Shipping up to Boston” on YouTube to vote for Beltre.
Left Field: Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers .340/.385/.613, 20 HR, 61 RBI, 2.5 WAR
Josh Hamilton was in the lead to be a starter for the third straight year when voting first started, then something happened: he earned it. He had an OPS in June of 1.297 with 49 hits. As much as I’d love to see Brett Gardner in there, he can’t yet take the spot of the deserving Hamilton.
Center Field: Torii Hunter, Los Angeles Angels .296/.381/.522, 14 HR, 60 RBI, 2.3 WAR
When will this guy not be good anymore? Seriously. Every year, he gets a little bit older, but still produces the same. I have him on this list because he is a true centerfielder, not just a great hitter. Think defense doesn’t matter in the All-Star game? Ask Barry Bonds what happened in the 2002 contest.
Why he isn’t starting: A rule, which I loathe, is that the three starting outfielders are the top three overall, not the best by position. As a result, the American League has two leftfielders (Josh Hamilton and Carl Crawford) and a right fielder (Ichiro).
Right Field: Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners .326/.380/.415, 3 HR, 24 RBI, 2.1 WAR
Although this is a down year by Ichiro’s standards, he is still the greatest leadoff hitter since Rickey Henderson. This is his tenth consecutive year being an All-Star, and the American League hasn’t lost with him on the team. Ichiro also has batted .333 in those previous All-Star games, and provides a spark in the top of the lineup (22 steals this in 2010).
Starting Pitcher: Cliff Lee, Seattle Mariners 8-3, 2.34 ERA, .95 WHIP, 89 K, 6 BB, .231 BAA
Anyone who has had the unfortunate task of batting against Cliff Lee this year will tell you: the man is pitching like a man possessed. He sports an insane K/BB ratio of 14.83, and will only get better as the year goes on. Luckily, he’s pitching for a non-contender in the Seattle Mariners, so hopefully he will pitch a solid three or four innings for the American League in my lineup.
With these guys as my starters, I’ll take the following order. Ichiro, Jeter, Hamilton, Cabrera, the unmentioned Vlad Guerrero, Cano, Beltre, Buck, and Hunter. The number of right-handed hitters do bother me considering the National League only named one left-handed pitcher to the initial staff, but if they were to hit in the game like they have all season, what would be to worry about?