With just a couple days left for fans to vote for the starters of the 2009 MLB All Star Game, it’s time to look at which players deserve that honor. First up, the American League:
Catcher: Joe Mauer
This one is easy. Mauer leads all American League catchers in Batting Average, Home Runs, RBI, Runs, Hits, On-Base-Percentage, and Slugging Percentage. He’s made just one error on the season and has thrown out 9 of 26 batters who have tried to steal against him. The one negative for Mauer is that he missed the first month of the season with an injury. That just makes Mauer’s stats all that more remarkable as he leads all AL catchers in all those categories despite many fewer at-bats.
First Base: Justin Morneau
One of the tougher choices in the AL, First Base has many deserving players. Kevin Youkilis leads the league in OBP, 38 points higher than Russell Branyan who is in second place, but has just 12 home runs and 42 RBI on the year. Carlos Pena leads with 23 home runs, but sports just a .238 avergae. Mark Teixeira has 20 homers and 60 RBI, but just a .276 average. Only Justin Morneau is complete in all the stats with 18 home runs, 63 RBI (most amongst first basemen), and a .309 Batting Average. His .389 OBP is 5th between AL first baseman and his .960 OPS is 4th. He has made just one error this season and has the second highest Zone Rating amongst AL first basemen.
Second Base: Aaron Hill
Another easy choice, Hill leads all AL second basemen in Home Runs and RBI while carrying a .302 average and an .846 OPS (second amongst AL second basemen). His 102 hits are also the most at his position. Hill has made 6 errors on the year and has just an .984 Fielding Percentage, but his offensive statistics overwhelm his poor defense and make him the clear, deserving starter for the American League.
Shortstop: Jason Bartlett
Maybe a surprise to some people, but Bartlett is having a huge season. He has 7 homers with 36 RBI and a .368 average. That average is by far and away the tops amongst AL Shortstop while his 36 RBI are a tight second to Alexei Ramirez. His OBP, Slugging, and OPS are also tops amongst AL shortstops while he has stolen 17 bases and just been caught once. His 5 errors leave him with a .979 Fielding Percentage, not great, but not as bad as others.
Third Base: Evan Longoria
The easy choices continue with Longoria who has 16 home runs and 63 RBI, most amongst AL third basemen while batting .303 on the year. He sports a .383 OBP and a .568 Slugging Percentage, which gives him an OPS 57 points higher than second place Brandon Inge. Like a few others on this list, Longoria has struggled defenisvely, making 8 errors, and has a .960 Fielding Percentage. However, his batting stats are too good and too far ahead of the rest of the AL 3rd Basemen to pass over.
Left Field: Jason Bay
Bay’s 19 home runs and 69 RBIs are most amongst AL Left Fielders and though his .272 average isn’t great, he leads in OBP as well. Bay’s .935 OPS is 46 points higher than second place Johnny Damon and he has yet to make an error this season, while throwing out 6 guys on the bases.
Center Field: Torii Hunter
Hunter’s 17 home runs are second amongst AL Centerfields and his 56 RBI’s are tops at his position while he is tied for the lead in batting average at .306. His OBP is the highest and his OPS of .961 is massively ahead of Adam Jones (.871), who is second. Hunter has stolen 12 bases while being thrown out just three times and hasn’t made an error on the season
Right Field: Ichiro Suzuki
This one is actually tough, because though Ichiro has the highest average in the entire American League at .372, he has just 6 home runs and 18 RBI. Even with his huge lead in average, Ichiro is third in OBP due to him having just 13 walks on the year. Ichiro has made just two errors on the season and has stolen 13 bases.
Starting Pitcher: Zach Greinke
Greinke has had a monster first half of the season, going 10-3 with a 1.95 ERA. He has struck out 114 batters in 115 1/3 innings pitched and walked just 18. Greinke’s Wins, ERA, Quality Starts, and WHIP are all the best between AL Pitchers and has thrown five complete games on the year. He is the only AL starter with more than one shutout on the season as well.
There you have it, the deserving AL Starters. Most of these picks were actually pretty clear to me with First Base being by far the most difficult position. Besides that though, most of the choices lead their position in multiple categories and clearly distinguished themselves from the rest of the field. Check back soon for the deserving NL Starters.