With the All-Star Selection Show scheduled to release the teams to the fans across the world in less than 10 hours, I thought I should chime in with my All-Star starting lineup picks.
C: Mauer – Severe power outage at home (0 HR at Target Field) is insignificant when compared to Mauer’s unparalellled ability to reach base and move runners along.
1B: Cabrera – Would love to give spot to Canadian Morneau, but 11 more RBI in five FEWER PAs for Cabrera hard to ignore.
2B: Cano – AL batting leader gets spot. Closest challenger (Pedroia) is now injured and Cano was already head and shoulders above the competition. Might as well add hips now too. 30/100 not unreasonable at this pace. OPS just under 1.000 (.977) doesn’t hurt either, especially from a notoriously thin position.
SS: Gonzalez – Leads shortstops in SLG, OPS, HR and RBI all with a BABIP that is average to slightly unlucky. Jeter would be closest competition but Jeter can’t hold a candle to Gonzalez with the glove.
3B: Beltre – Fenway has revived the ailing slugger. Leads 3B in OPS and is one point behind Cano for the batting lead. Defense is solid as ever too.
OF: Hamilton – .340/19/59. More than one RBI per game in June. That is all.
OF: Crawford – Low K-rate and .378 OBP led to 28 swipes
OF: Rios – Crawford with a bit less speed, more power. Cannon arm too.
SP: Jered Weaver – Leads AL in Ks while showing no peripherals to indicate major correction looming. Should start on his own mound.
SU: Valverde – SMALL ERA for the BIG Potato (under 1.00).
CP: Rivera – Sandman has been awoken at 40 and removed any doubt as to who the best closer in the AL is.
C: Olivo – .926 OPS stellar from catching position
1B: Votto – Most valuable of 1B in terms of team offense, Leads in WAR/wOBA. Won’t make the team though, because Pujols is the popular pick in arguably his worst year. That makes perfect sense.
2B: Prado – NL batting and hits leader deserves to start. This one should be easy since Chase Utley just had surgery.
SS: Ramirez – Leads NL SS in HR, RBI, SB, OBP, SLG, OPS, ISO and WAR. Closest competition (Tulowitzki) hurt, too.
3B: Rolen – Better OPS than Wright, K rate of 17% (Wright 30%). Still the best defensive 3B in the NL if not the game. Wright aided by absurd .402 BABIP while Rolen is at the average (.300). I sense a correction coming.
OF: Holliday – Most valuable OF in NL by WAR. 11 HR, 39 RBI not typical Holliday, but strong considering the funk that Pujols has been in. A hidden defensive gem, he has also nearly won the Cardinals a game with his defense alone.
OF: Ethier – .940 OPS tops among AL OFs as is .402 wOBA. His only knock is horrendous defense, as he ranks near the bottom of the NL in UZR.
OF: Hart – 18 HR, 60 RBI both near the top among NL OFs. BABIP about average (.308) although 17.8 % HR/FB will correct. Although he has not run much this year (4/7 SB) he has stolen 20+ in the past and his speed is surprising for his size.
SP: Johnson J. – Most valuable starter in NL (3.9 WAR tied with Roy Halladay) while 1.82 ERA is also the best mark. 0.96 WHIP is stellar for a SP, while 9.08 K/9 and 2.13 BB/9 build a ratio befitting of a true ace. Despite a 3.10 xFIP which would predict correction from one of the lowest HR/FB rates in the NL, All-Stars are picked based on past and present, not projections. In short, this is your guy.
SU: Broxton – 12.98 K/9 is nasty and 2.08 ERA shows bad luck, considering 1.32 FIP and 2.01 xFIP. .386 BABIP is unsustainably high, so Broxton should get better. Scary.
CP: Wagner – 14.04 K/9 even better than Broxton. At 39, he has resurrected himself as the most dominant closer in the NL after some injury-plagued time with the Mets. 50.3% FB rate is a concern, but xFIP shows a 2.50 mark, still very respectable. Of course, if the .168 opponents’ average (8th among NL RPs) holds up, the fly balls really won’t matter.
One of the few pleasant surprises for the Jays in 2009 was the emergence of their young pitching. Injuries and departures opened up spots for many young arms in the system and they delivered admirably – only great performances from our kids saved us from being a last place team. While efforts from Scott Richmond, Marc Rzepczynski, and Brett Cecil were certainly commendable, perhaps no other rookie pitcher performed as well for us as a certain Ricky Romero.
Ricky Romero was drafted in 2005 in the first round by former Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi. He was taken prior to Troy Tulowitzki, who has developed into star with the Colorado Rockies. Tulowitzki’s stardom caused controversy when it was suggested that Ricciardi made a poor draft choice, especially because Russ Adams – the apparent shortstop of the future – was a failure defensively and lost his ability to hit well, forcing him back to the minor leagues. In 2007, while Tulowitzki was having a 24 home run season in Colorado, Romero was toiling away in the minor leagues and looking more like a bust every single day.
Then 2009 came. Romero struggled with his command early in Spring Training and appeared to be on a direct road to AAA Las Vegas. However after some training sessions with former pitching coach Brad Arnsberg, he righted the ship and made the big club after only one AAA start. He started with a flourish, winning two of his first three starts to the tune of a 1.71 ERA. Unfortunately, he was placed on the disabled list shortly after that start with an oblique strain he suffered sneezing while he was dancing to rap music. He lost his first two starts back, in late May, but proceeded to post seven straight quality starts (5-1) through the middle of July.
On July 17, Ricky Romero hit a wall.
He got hammered for five earned runs in Boston in under five innings, and was never as effective after that. At times he pitched serviceably over the remaineder of the season, but the Ricky Romero who looked like a legitimate #2 starter was gone. He went a pedestrian 6-5 the rest of the way with an ERA of 5.40 over 86.2 innings. Yuck. He made a few good starts, but otherwise looked exhauseted as hius velocity dropped and his command deserted him entirely. Up until the wall he was a fron runner for Rookie of the Year. In the balloting at the end of the season, he did not receive a single vote. He pitched about 30 more innings than any other season in his professional career and the fact that they were major league innings made them that much more stressful. Romero simply ran out of gas. Which brings us to a very important question. Which Romero is the real deal? The #2 starter or the Quad-A swingman?
This question becomes even more critical when one considers that Roy Halladay may well be leaving the Jays giving Romero the role of de facto ace of the staff. If Romero can keep his strong form throughout the yaer, the Jays won’t be spectacular in 2010, but okay. If not, the Jays are about to have a problem. A major problem.