Major league baseball is the only sport that doesn’t name an official All-Star team at season’s end. I’ve always felt that was a huge omission and it’s now a tradition here at TheSportsNotebook to fill that void every October before the playoffs start. Below are my picks for the best at each position.
I require at least one outfield selection to be a true centerfielder. That doesn’t mean only person who plays center can be chosen, but it’s not realistic to compile a team of three corner outfielders and put them out there, any more than you would field a team without a shortstop. As you’ll see and can probably already guess, it wasn’t a problem—the centerfield picks would have made it under any selection format.
The pitching is picked with five starters, two setup men and one closer to make it look more like a real team and honor the important role setup men play.
Are we ready? Here we go…
C: Stephen Vogt (Oakland)—Vogt slumped at the end and turned an easy choice into a close call with Toronto’s Russell Martin. Vogt finished with a stat line of .341 on-base percentage and .443 slugging percentage, 18 home runs and 71 RBI. Martin’s numbers are actually slightly better across the board, but Vogt hits in a park that’s very pitcher-oriented and in a lineup without nearly the support.
1B: Chris Davis (Baltimore)—Davis won the AL home run title with 47, and was second in RBI with 117, to go with a stat line of .361/.562. When Miguel Cabrera was on the field, the Detroit first baseman was the best and by a lot. But Davis gave his team 573 at-bats and Miggy only had 429 due to injuries. You’ve got to be on the field to be able to help.
2B: Jose Altuve (Houston)—For most of the season, I had Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis in this spot. Altuve finished with a .353/.459 stat line, comparable to Kipnis’ .372/.451. If we left it at that, I’d have stayed with Kipnis. But Altuve played in 13 more games (154-141) and with him being a key part of the Astros making it to the playoffs by one game, that has to count.
3B: Josh Donaldson (Toronto)—It’s a testament to the year Donaldson had–.371/.568, 41 home runs and 123 RBI that he’s an easy choice at a position stacked with good young talent.
SS: Xander Bogaerts (Boston)—The class of AL shortstops has been weak for some time and this year was no exception. Bogaerts separated himself with an OBP of .355, keyed by 196 hits. If someone else doesn’t step up quickly, this 22-year-old is going to make himself an All-Star game fixture.
CF: Mike Trout (LA Angels)—Another vintage season for Trout, at .402/590, 41 home runs and 90 RBI and keeping a substandard lineup in contention to the last day of the season.
OF: Jose Bautista (Toronto)—With 40 home runs, 114 RBI, a stat line of .377/.536, Bautista finally got enough help around him to take his talents into October.
OF: J.D. Martinez (Detroit)—At .344/.535, the stat line—mainly the on-base percentage, doesn’t look All-Star worthy. But consider that Comerica Park is another really tough park to put up numbers and Martinez hit 38 home runs and finished with 102 RBI. It’s why I give him the nod over Kansas City’s Lorenzo Cain for this final spot.
DH: Nelson Cruz (Seattle)—I’m glad Cruz split time between DH and the outfield, because he would have squeezed out Martinez otherwise. Playing in another pitchers’ park, Cruz drilled 44 home runs, drove in 93 more and posted a .369 OBP. He was a bright spot in an otherwise dreary season in Seattle. His numbers are better than Boston’s David Ortiz and Cruz was more consistent, whereas Big Papi sizzled after the Red Sox season was lost.
SP: David Price (Toronto/Detroit)—18-5, 220 IP, 2.45 ERA
SP: Dallas Keuchel (Houston)—20-8, 216 IP, 2.48 ERA
SP: Sonny Gray (Oakland)—14-7, 208 IP, 2.73 ERA
SP: Felix Hernandez (Seattle)—18-9, 201 IP, 3.53 ERA
SP: Chris Archer (Tampa Bay)—12-13, 212 IP, 3.23 ERA
Price, Keuchel and Gray were the easy choices, with solid records, over 200 IP and ERAs under 2.75. The last two involved splitting more hairs. I loved the workhorse ability of Cleveland’s Cory Kluber, last year’s Cy Young winner, with his 222 IP, but the 9-16 record was too much to swallow. Archer’s 12-13 at least got close to .500 and Archer’s 34 starts where the most in the league.
Scott Kazmir and Marco Estrada had the low ERAs, but the innings were well shy of 200. Collin McHugh had the innings and 19 wins, but the 3.89 ERA just a bit too stiff. I chose King Felix even though the 3.53 ERA was high for my taste, especially given pitching in Seattle. But he was a horse and to win 18 games on that team takes something special.
RP: Dellin Betances (NY Yanks): 1.50 ERA, 84 IP
RP: Wade Davis (Kansas City): 0.94 ERA, 67 IP, 17 saves
CL: Andrew Miller (NY Yanks): 36/38 on save chances, 2.04 ERA
Betances might have been the easiest choice of this entire exercise. Miller wasn’t much more difficult. There were others with better save numbers, but Miller only blowing two gave him the nod. Zach Britton had a shot at this spot, but some blown chances for the Oriole closer cost him. Wade Davis has now moved to the closer’s job in KC, but spent most of the year in the setup role.