I’ve never understood why baseball is alone among major sports in not having an All-Star team named when the season was over. It’s a tradition at TheSportsNotebook to choose a complete team for each league at the conclusion of the regular season. Below are the selections for the 2014 National League All-Star team.
This is a true team, with a regular five-man starting rotation, and two setup relievers. Furthermore, it’s a rule that one of the outfielders chosen must be a centerfielder, preventing an All-Star team from being three corner outfielders, something obviously unworkable in defensive practice.
C: Buster Posey (San Francisco): It was a two-man race between Posey and Jonathan Lucroy, but the latter tailed off as his team collapsed. Posey was a little behind in on-base percentage, but a 22-13 edge in home runs underscored a more decisive power edge. San Francisco is also a tougher park to hit in than Milwaukee.
1B: Lucas Duda (New York): Based strictly on the numbers, Anthony Rizzo has the edge for the Cubs. But there’s a world of difference between hitting in the Mets’ Citi Park, a vast pitchers haven, and hitter-friendly Wrigley Field. Duda still hit 30 home runs and finished with a .349 OBP.
2B: Chase Utley (Philadelphia): Utley’s production wasn’t as good as Neil Walker’s, but the Phillie veteran played some great defense this year, and the offensive numbers were close enough, at a position where defense has to count for a little more.
3B: Anthony Rendon (Washington): Rendon had a stat line of .351 on-base percentage/.473 slugging percentage. He’s a little bit behind Pittsburgh’s Josh Harrison in that regard, but Rendon had a lot more playing time—613 at-bats to 520, and being on the field counts for something too.
SS: Jhonny Peralta (St. Louis): It as a tough landscape to pick from—the best offensive players graded out terribly on the defensive metrics, while the best defenders were putrid at the plate. I really like to make defense a priority, but can’t get past the reality that a position player’s first job is still to hit. Peralta gets the edge over Hanley Ramirez, because the Cardinal shortstop had more than 100 additional at-bats over and above his Dodger counterpart.
CF: Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh): With his .410/.542 stat line and again carrying the Pirates into the playoffs, McCutchen is a serious candidate for his second straight MVP award.
OF: Giancarlo Stanton (Miami): 37 home runs and 105 RBIs are just the best part of a complete offensive resume and another performance that will be prominent in the MVP debate.
OF: Yasiel Puig (Los Angeles): The stat line is .382/.480, the arm strength is brilliant, he plays both centerfield and the corner spots and does it in a pitchers’ park. That’s enough to overlook a few baserunning gaffes.
SP: Johnny Cueto (Cincinnati)
SP: Adam Wainwright (St. Louis)
SP: Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles)
SP: Madison Bumgarner (San Francisco)
SP: Jordan Zimmerman (Washington)
The first three picks are set in stone, with Cueto, Wainwright and Kershaw being the viable candidates for the Cy Young Award. Bumgarner won 18 games with a 2.71 ERA and worked 217 innings to carry a rotation that lost Matt Cain. And Zimmerman’s ERA was a solid 2.66, he won 14 games and just missed 200 innings by a hair. Washington’s park is a little tougher to pitch in than Los Angeles, which is why Zimmerman nips Zack Greinke for the final spot.
Setup: Tyler Clippard (Washington)
Setup: Tony Watson (Pittsburgh)
Closer: Craig Kimbrel (Atlanta)
Kimbrel is still one of the best and most consistent in the business, closing 47/51 of save chances with a 1.61 ERA. Clippard is one of the steadiest setup men in baseball and Watson was a big part of a solid Pirate bullpen.