All-Star Game Thoughts #2 - Catchers
First, a look at who the fans have favored with their votes to this point in the process, information courtesy of MLB.com:
1.) Jason Varitek (BOS) - 831,154
2.) Ivan Rodriguez (DET) - 803,964
3.) Jorge Posada (NYY) - 608,670
4.) A.J. Pierzynski (CHW) - 493,385
5.) Joe Mauer (MIN) - 464,161
At this point, it sure doesn't look like anybody besides Varitek and Rodriguez are in this race. I am hoping that the surging Tigers will find a way to get Rodriguez into that game as a starter, because between him and Varitek there is no question who SHOULD be the starter. In fact, Varitek, who is hitting just above .250, doesn't belong anywhere near the game. Nevertheless, I'm predicting that the starter will be Jason Varitek.
But who SHOULD be the starter? I may be biased, but I don't care. Joe Mauer has an On-Base Percentage of .446, second in the entire American League, and much, much better than just about any other Catcher in the league. In fact, Jorge Posada is the second best catcher in this category, and his OBP is nearly 30 points lower. Mauer also has the best batting average in the league, has played very well defensively, and calls a good game. So the answer to this one is quite simple: the starter for the AL in the 2006 All-Star Game should be Joe Mauer.
The fans actually did a reasonably good job of voting in the AL, except for the bizarre situation with Varitek on the top of the list. The other 4 catchers in the top 5 have all been very good, and deserve consideration. Varitek should be off of the list in favor of Cleveland's Victor Martinez, who has had an excellent season.
If I were selecting reserves, I would take Ivan Rodriguez and Jorge Posada, but a good case can be made for either Pierzynski or Martinez. Ultimately, I make the call to go with Posada because, like Mauer, he's been very good at getting on base this season. Rodriguez has been very solid and is playing for the best, most surprising team in the American League.
If Rodriguez pulls off the come from behind victory over Varitek, then I think he will be joined by Mauer and probably Posada. If Varitek wins, then one of the I-Rod, Mauer, and Posada trio will have to be left home. Mauer is a shoe-in, but it's a tough call on Rodriguez and Posada. I would go with Rodriguez because of his higher number of fan votes and as a nod to the part he has played in helping the Tigers become competitive again.
I started out with the current fan vote totals for the American League, and that's what I'm going to do on this side as well:
1.) Paul Lo Duca (NYM) - 960,111
2.) Mike Piazza (SDP) - 680,773
3.) Yadier Molina (STL) - 559,305
4.) Brad Ausmus (HOU) - 535,338
5.) Michael Barrett (CHC) - 403,985
There's clearly no race left here. Paul Lo Duca will be the starting catcher for the National League, and it's hard to argue with the choice. He's been very good this year, and is playing for one of the best teams in the National League, so this makes a good deal of sense. For that reason, I'm going to say that the fans got this one right, and Lo Duca also SHOULD be the NL starter.
The fans are dead wrong in having Piazza and Molina anywhere near the top 5. Unlike many years, there are a multitude of solid catching performances in the National League this year, and many other catchers more deserving of being in the top 5 than these two. In fact, Brian McCann, who was just replaced in the top 5 by Barrett, Johnny Estrada, and Ronny Paulino are all doing very well this season, and any two of those three would be much more deserving than Piazza or Molina, especially the weak-hitting Molina.
So who do I think should join Lo Duca in Pittsburgh? It's a tough call. I'm going to eliminate Paulino because he's young, hasn't played a whole lot of games, and plays for a very, very bad team that is going to be well represented by Jason Bay. Even if they are the host club, they don't deserve more than 1 All-Star this year. McCann doesn't have as many at-bats as most of the rest of these guys, but he's been stellar this season. In fact, he's been so much better than just about anybody else in the National League this year that I have to include him on the team. That leaves one spot open to give to either Ausmus, Barrett, or Estrada. While this could go just about any way, I personally think that Estrada is playing for a very bad team that will be represented by Brandon Webb, and that Barrett loses a tiebreaker against Ausmus because of his ridiculous punch-out of A.J. Pierzynski earlier this season.
Result: Brian McCann and Brad Ausmus should be joining Lo Duca in Pittsburgh.