Taylor's Twins Talk

Focusing on the Twins, with a few ramblings on other things that catch my attention

Saturday, July 01, 2006

All-Star Game Thoughts #8 - AL Roster

UPDATE - See above for what I've done with the update; following is AL Roster 2.0

I promised that today I would post my thoughts on the All-Star Rosters for both leagues. After doing my best to pretend I was Ozzie Guillen, I berated a few journalists, ordered a few beanballs, and came up with the following roster. The NL version will be posted sometime later today.

A few caveats: first, there are 32 roster slots available for each league. One of those spots is left open for the "Last-Man" voting that begins on Sunday night after the rosters are announced. That leaves 31 positions. Of those, 8 go to the starters elected by the fans. Then, 8 more are reserved for pitchers (5 starters and 3 relievers, generally). That leaves 15 spots for backup position players. Remember also that every team in each league must have a representative, which seriously complicates efforts.

As a result of these rules, the 32 players who end up as All-Stars are not necessarily the 32 players who most belong in the game based on performance. In compiling the roster that I would go with if someone named me the AL Manager, I came face-to-face with the difficult decisions that Ozzie had to make, and I appreciate the difficulty that he will go through (or, I guess, went through, since he says he already has finalized the roster).

Finally, I don't post all of the statistics here, because that would get messy and statistics are only part of the equation, as I mentioned above. If you want more of a statistical analysis, look at the position-by-position breakdowns that I've posted previously.

C - Jason Varitek (BOS)
1B - David Ortiz (BOS)
2B - Robinson Cano (NYY)
3B - Alex Rodriguez (NYY)
SS - Derek Jeter (NYY)
OF - Manny Ramirez (BOS)
OF - Ichiro Suzuki (SEA)
OF - Vladimir Guerrero (LAA)

Not much to say about this that I haven't said already in the positional breakdowns. Nice to see that at least 2 non-Yanks/Red Sox made the starting lineup. This is, by the way, reason number one to eliminate fan voting for the starters.

Backup Catchers
1.) Joe Mauer (MIN)
2.) Ivan Rodriguez (DET)

I agonized about whether to include a third catcher on the roster, and then I agonized some more about who that third catcher should be. In the end, I decided that there were enough solid catchers out and about this year to justify adding one to the roster. If Joe Mauer isn't selected, it would be an outright travesty. ESPN even voted him the unanimous choice as the most deserving in the AL. Ozzie would face a storm of controversy if he left Mauer off the roster, simply because a catcher hitting near .390 halfway through the season just can't be left off.

Ivan Rodriguez got the call for me over Jorge Posada and Victor Martinez for two reasons: One, there are already plenty of Yankees going, and 2.) the Tigers have the best record in baseball and deserve some bonus represtantion. While I wouldn't normally consider that, in a situation like this where there are several deserving players, it has to come into consideration. Incidentally, Rodriguez has a good chance of getting on based on the player's voting because of the respect he is afforded by his colleagues.

Backup Infielders
1B - Paul Konerko (CHW)
1B - Travis Hafner (CLE)
2B - Mark Loretta (BOS)
2B - Mark Grudzielanek (KCR)
SS - Michael Young (TEX)
SS - Miguel Tejada (BAL)
3B - Joe Crede (CHW)

Two backups for every position other than 3B, and some tough calls here for sure. First-base is a loaded position, and there are probably six or seven guys who could justifiably be on the roster. However, Paul Konerko just has to be on the team; he's having a monster season and should be starting. Travis Hafner gets the nod over Jason Giambi, Justin Morneau, and Jim Thome amongst others. Hafner is the most deserving Indian, and makes the club for that reason. Why add another Yankee infielder to the list, when 3/4 of the infield is already going to the game? Giambi is having a very nice season, but it makes sense to leave him off the team. I have Thome making the ballot for "Last Player In," but it could just as easily go to Giambi.

Second base is tough. In a perfect world, there would be no reason to add Mark Grudzielanek to the roster, because he's hitting only .284 and there are better players. However, thanks to the "every team" rule, a Royal has to go. There really were only three possibilities: Grudzielanek, Emil Brown (OF), and Jimmy Gobble (RP). There are far too many good closers to justify adding Gobble to the team, and the same goes for outfielders. Grudzielanek just makes the most sense here, and so he gets the nod. This leaves Jose Lopez of the Mariners out in the cold, but that's how it goes. He can justifiably scream bloody murder if he's actually left off, but with Ichiro already in the game there is no imperative to have him on the team. I won't be complaining if he makes it on instead of Loretta, however. I have Lopez on the ballot for "Last Player In," so he may get a chance to play anyway.

Shortstop wasn't as tough for me as Second Base. There just weren't as many qualified candidates, and it seemed clear that both Michael Young and Miguel Tejada deserved the invites. Additionally, they are the only players I have representing their respective teams, so they fulfill a quota as well. Orlando Cabrera is having a nice little season in Anaheim, but he doesn't compare with these two and will justifiably be left off.

Third Base got caught in a numbers crunch. Joe Crede is an easy decision for Guillen, and the opportunity to let him play the last half of the game probably will make the decision to carry only two 3B a little more palatable for Guillen. That said, Hank Blalock is having a solid season, and would make an acceptable choice if Guillen decided to carry another infielder. If not, I have Blalock on the "Last Player In" ballot along with Thome and Lopez.

Backup Outfielders
1.) Jermaine Dye (CHW)
2.) Magglio Ordonez (DET)
3.) Vernon Wells (TOR)
4.) Carl Crawford (TBD)

REMOVED: Trot Nixon (BOS)
REMOVED: Grady Sizemore (CLE)

There wasn't really a reason to put these guys on the team in the first place, other than I was rounding out the team with more position players than I should have. They've had OK seasons, but would be gratuitous additions to the team. Following is the original commentary on the backup outfielders.

The first three choices are easy for me, and I've suggested that I would have started Dye and Wells over Manny and Vlad this year in any case. After that it gets a bit tougher...

Crawford is the best of a bad-lot in Tampa, although it's possible that Scott Kazmir (SP) could make the roster instead. With all of the great starters available, however, I think it's more justifiable for Ozzie to take Crawford, who is as good a choice as you'll get for the D-Rays anyway.

Gary Matthews, Jr. (TEX) and Alex Rios (TOR) have both played well, but Sizemore and Nixon are the more recognizable players. The Indians don't really merit a second player the way they've played, and Boston certainly doesn't need any more, but they are the best choices. That said, either one could be left off in favor of Blalock or Lopez.

Starting Pitchers
1.) Mark Buehrle (CHW)
2.) Barry Zito (OAK)
3.) Kenny Rogers (DET)
4.) Roy Halladay (TOR)
5.) Johan Santana (MIN)
6.) Justin Verlander (DET)

ADDED: Justin Verlander (DET)
Verlander belongs on the team, and might make it in place of Rogers anyway. However, it makes perfect sense for a 10-win rookie who is in the top echelons of the ERA race to be there. It would be a push to get Rogers, Verlander, AND Robertson on the team, but a strong case can be made for all of them. I just think Verlander is the better choice, and so he gets the nod. The original post on Starting Pitchers follows.

You want to talk about a tough position to pick? Look no farther than the "starters" category. It's brutal. I went through about 5 versions of the 5 best starters before coming up with the present list. Noticeably absent are Curt Schilling, Justin Verlander, Francisco Liriano, Scott Kazmir, Jose Contreras, and Nate Robertson, any of whom would be fine choices. How then did I arrive at my list? Lots of playing around with names, and a healthy does of "gut feeling."

First, Buehrle. He has an ERA in the low 3.00's, has won 9 games, and is the best starter on the manager's team. I don't see how he DOESN'T get the nod to start the All-Star game. Barry Zito has to make the team, because he's the best choice to be Oakland's representative and he's put together a decent season. Kenny Rogers gets the nod as the representative of the Tigers amazing rotation, but Justin Verlander and Nate Robertson both deserve consideration, and Jeremy Bonderman hasn't exactly been bad. I just can't see a justification for taking more than 1 starter from any team with this many excellent starters out there, and my sentiment is to take the gritty veteran over the youngsters. They have time to get into more All-Star games later.

That left me with two slots. One has to go to Roy Halladay, who is 10-2 and putting up Cy Young caliber numbers. Finally, that left a bunch of names for consideration. The way the Twins have played recently, they deserve at least 2 All-Stars, and Johan Santana as the Ace is the logical choice for the same reason that Rogers beat out Verlander. I think the player voting is going to factor in here, and everyone has faced Santana. Not everyone has faced Liriano just yet, and I think reputation is going to play a big role in getting Santana on the team.

This is a tough, tough category. I have no idea how it will shake out, and I think it's by far the most volatile category.

Relief Pitchers
1.) B.J. Ryan (TOR)
2.) Jonathan Papelbon (BOS)
3.) Bobby Jenks (CHW)
4.) Mariano Rivera (NYY)

ADDED: Mariano Rivera (NYY)
I said that Rivera belongs on the team over Jenks, and now I find out there isn't really reason for Guillen to make a decision; just take them both. Not much else to say on this one. Following is the original post on Relief Pitchers.

Ryan has been fantastic in his first year for the Blue Jays, with a miniscule, laughable ERA of 0.47; that's right, he's allowed a total of 2 Earned Runs ALL YEAR. He has to be going to Pittsburgh.

Of course, that feat is matched by Papelbon, who has been equally amazing, also allowing just 2 Earned Runs all year and slightly bettering Ryan's ERA (0.45). Wow.

The last choice is tougher, and comes down essentially to Jenks or Mariano Rivera. Rivera wins the ERA battle by about 1 full run, but the Earned Runs allowed stands at 10-9, so it's close to equal on that front. Perhaps I'm being cynical, but I think Guillen is once again going to take the player that he's more familiar with. Rivera is more deserving, but I think Jenks is in.

"Last Player In" Ballot
We'll also find out on Sunday night which five players make the ballot for the 32nd roster spot. Here are the five I think the fans should have a chance to vote in:

1.) A.J. Pierzynski (CHW) - Catcher
2.) Jim Thome (CHW) - First Base
3.) Curt Schilling (BOS) - Starting Pitcher
4.) Hank Blalock (TEX) - Third Base
5.) Jose Lopez (SEA) - Second Base

ADDED: A.J. Pierzynski (CHW)
ADDED: Curt Schilling (BOS)

Schilling should get the nod and make the team. He's played well for a first place team, and is one of the Cy Young contenders this year.

Once again, my NL Roster will be coming out later today. Then, over the course of the next week I'll probably have some more thoughts on the All-Star game to post.


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