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: Buster Posey (San Francisco)—Another strong year for Posey, with a stat line of .379 on-base percentage/.470 slugging percentage makes him a runaway choice in a year with Yadier Molina slumped with the bat in St. Louis and the formerly rising star that was Jonathan Lucroy in Milwaukee fell off the edge of the earth.
1B: Joey Votto (Cincinnati)—The choice between Votto and Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt is as close as it gets. Votto’s stat line is .459/.541, Goldschmidt’s at .435/.570. Both are in pure hitters’ parks. The reason I choose Votto—I value OBP slightly more than I value the fact Goldschmidt’s team was at least tolerable (79-83) while Votto’s was a 98-loss train wreck. Cincy had no one else in their lineup who could get on base. Imagine if pitchers ever had to come into Votto.
2B: Dee Gordon (Miami)—The one-time prospect in the Dodgers organization really found himself in South Beach. Gordon’s stat line was .359/.418, he stole 58 bases and his .333 batting average won him the batting title. Oh, and his calling card was always defense to begin with. A runaway choice here.
3B: Matt Carpenter (St. Louis)—I know that Nolan Arenado is the stat-sheet stuffer in Colorado, tied for the NL home run crown and leading the league in RBI. But it’s just so hard to take stats piled up at Coors Field seriously and Carpenter’s .365 on-base percentage is over thirty points better. Carpenter still slugged .505 and is just a better pure baseball player.
SS: Brandon Crawford (San Francisco)—He beats out St. Louis counterpart Jhonny Peralta in spite of trailing Peralta in OBP .321-.334. Crawford slugged 51 points higher and the San Francisco shortstop is a better all-around defender at an important spot.
CF: Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh)—“Cutch” is becoming a perennial on this list as the National League’s answer to Mike Trout. This year was another ho-hum .401/.488 stat line, good defense and leading the Pirates to a third straight hosting of the NL wild-card game.
OF: Bryce Harper (Washington)—His monster year, a breathtaking stat line of .460/.649, 42 home runs and 99 RBI finally answered the question of what all the fuss was about with this kid.
OF: Curtis Granderson (NY Mets)—The stat line is solid, at .364/.457, but the context matters the most here. Granderson is in a terrible park to try and hit in, unlike David Peralta or A.J. Pollock in Arizona, or Carlos Gonzalez in Colorado. And Granderson’s value to his team was enormous—the Mets’ lineup was the weak point all year and Granderson kept them afloat to the trade deadline, then help came with Yoenis Cespedes and the team won the NL East. That’s true value.
SP: Zack Greinke (LA Dodgers) 19-3, 222 IP, 1.66 ERA
SP: Jake Arrieta (Chicago Cubs) 22-6, 229 IP, 1.77 ERA
SP: Clayton Kershaw (LA Dodgers) 16-7, 232 IP, 2.13 ERA
SP: Gerrit Cole (Pittsburgh) 19-8, 208 IP, 2.60 ERA
SP: Madison Bumgarner (San Francisco) 18-9, 218 IP, 2.93 ERA
The first three choices speak for themselves and after that, Cole was a pretty easy pick for the fourth spot. I debated between Bumgarner and John Lackey. The latter had a lower ERA (2.77) and you might be surprised to learn the St. Louis offense was significantly worse than San Francisco’s (the Giants were sixth in the NL in runs scored, the Cards’ eleventh). But the spread between Bumgarner’s 18-9 record and Lackey’s 13-10 was just too much to look past.
RP: Tony Watson (Pittsburgh) 1.91 ERA, 75 IP
RP: Kevin Siegrest (St. Louis) 2.17 ERA, 74 IP
CL: Mark Melancon (Pittsburgh) 51/53 on save chances, 2.33 ERA
If you wonder why the Cardinals and Pirates are the two best teams in baseball, this is the area to look. The only real challenger to Melancon was St. Louis closer Trevor Rosenthal. And the only challenger to Siegrest was Pittsburgh reliever Jared Hughes.