Tuesday, July 12, 2011

MLB All Star Game 2.0 part 2

If you missed Part-1 of my version of the 2011 MLB All-star game, click here. Here is Part 2.

ATLANTA BRAVES
Player: Jair Jurrjens
Age/Position: 25/Starting Pitcher
2011 Stats: ERA 1.87, SO 65, WHIP 1.07

Pronounced j-I-air jur-jins, I like to call him Triple J or TJ for short. At the end of the first half of the season, TJ is leading the National League with wins (12) and ERA. It is intriguing that TJ has the most wins because, on paper, he does not dominate hitters. Sixty-five strikeouts are good for 91st in league. He is not the type of pitcher that goes out there and dominates you with a 98 MPH fastball. Jurrjens 2-seam and 4-seam fastball, at a maximum, hit 89-90 MPH. With Jair, he does not need to have an overpowering fastball, because he is so effective with how he uses his pitches overall; getting hitters to fly out or hit in double plays. He also does not walk very many batters. With pitchers that have thrown at least 100 innings, Jurrjens in 12th best in league, only giving out 25 free passes to the hitters.

FLORIDA MARLINS
Player: Gaby Sanchez
Age/Position: 27/First Base
2011 Stats: BA .293, HR 13, RBI 50

Who is Gaby Sanchez? No one is quite sure, but I can certainly tell you he is not Hanley Ramirez, who is batting .242 and with only 8 HRs. The state of the Marlins is in shambles; nobody knows what is happening down there.

Gaby Sanchez is the only one I see keeping it together. He makes this All Stat selection with almost identical numbers, that Hanley Ramirez had last season. Technically, Gaby has been in the league since 2008, but he only played 5 games that season. In 2009 he appeared 21 times. Last year was the first full season for Sanchez. Posting a modest .273, tallying 165 hits, and showing OK power and production with 19 homeruns and 85 RBIs, Gaby could be developing in to a gamer. It is not out of reach for this Marlins first baseman to cap the season off with a .295/25/95 year. For the Marlins sake, I he does.

NEW YORK METS
Player: Jose Reyes
Age/Position: 29/Short Stop
2011 Stats: BA .354, HR 3, RBI 32

Whoa whoa whoa… Ms. Lippy. The part of the story, that I didn’t like, was when the little boy tried to put Jose Reyes in a fake All Star game when he cannot even play due to a hamstring injury.

Can I bend the made up rules a little…? Should I bend the rules? Could one, not argue, that by allowing a player who is hurt to play, that it opens the door to ‘wouldas’ and ‘couldas’ if ‘this’ and ‘thats’ had or had not happened?

Sure, but I do not really care because A) Four people read this column and B) I do not have the patience or the brainpower to convince my four readers that Carlos Beltran is the Mets best player, when Jose Reyes is playing out of his mind in a contract year.

Jose “mama says, ‘shut yo mouth’” Reyes is so very anomalous. In July of last year, I wrote:

“If you had asked me who the best player on the Mets was, my knee-jerk reaction would have been Jose Reyes. “Jose Reyes, that guy is SO good.” But in reality… not so much.”

David Wright was the Mets representative last year. I would like to amend my statement and proclaim that Jose Reyes is pretty good, but he scares me the same way Vince Carter used to. You know? They sting together these amazing and sexy statistical athletic performances and production, but then two weeks later, as you manage your fantasy team, you talk to your computer screen and say things like, “Why are you always getting hurt?” and “Really? Again?”. You want this person on your team and you draft them somewhat high, but they always eat up allowable-games-played, by missing too often with injury.

I acknowledge what you are doing Jose Reyes, but would I want the Red Sox to throw tons of cash at you in the offseason? I mean, I know I hate Marco Suck-a-ro, but how would you fit in our lineup? You are a leadoff guy and we already have Carl Crawford—who hopefully bounces back—and Jacoby Ellsbury who is already do a fantastic job. There is nowhere to put you. The Mariners are out. They will never pay the undetermined-but-certainly-super-high asking price Peter Greenberg and Co. will be asking come November. The most the M’s ever doled out, was a 6-year $90 million dollar contract extension for Ichiro… and that is for Irchiro—one of the greatest hitters of all-time.

I do not know what to make of you Reyes, other than the fact that you will be representing the Mets—injury free—in my made up All Star game.

PHILIDELPHIA PHILLIES
Player: Cole Hamels
Age/Position: 27/Starting Pitcher
2011 Stats: ERA 2.32, SO 121, WHIP 0.93

I finally get to stick to my guns and go pitcher with the Phillies rep. Ryan Howard edged Roy Halladay a year ago on his gangsterness. And, even though Howard is putting the power 18 homeruns and 71 RBIs whilst hitting a Ryan-Howard-like .257 like he did last year, the batting average is just low enough for me to take a pitcher. Ryan was batting .295 at the break.

Now let me explain why I did not choose Roy Halladay.

First and foremost, their numbers are almost mirrors of one another. Both have eleven wins. Halladay has more strikeouts (137) but his ERA is also a bit higher—by a teensy 0.13 difference to be precise. They basically wash one another out in my opinion. So my choice came down to the age difference between the two. Cole Hamels is playing like Roy Halladay, but is also 7 years his junior. That spells longevity for me, and thereby makes him more valuable. Do not feel bad for Halladay. He starts the real All Star game tonight.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Player: Michael Morse
Age/Position: 29/First Base
2011 Stats: BA .306, HR 15, RBI 49

Michael Morse is guy who seems like he is coming in to his own. He spent his first four seasons with the Seattle Mariners, playing as a back up. In his four year stint there he only saw 107 games of action before he was acquired by the Nationals in 2009.

Morse’s 2010 season produced 77 hits, 15 home runs and 41 runs batted in a 98 game time span. Through just the 81 games he has played up to the All Star break, Morse has surpassed his career best. Like Gaby Sanchez in Florida, perhaps Michael Morse could become one of their better, more reliable players. Unlike a certain right fielder the Nationals signed in December of 2010.

Did you know the Washington Nationals have paid Jayson Werth $2,982,857 dollars and fourteen cents, for the 87 times he has struck out this year? That is a half a million dollars MORE they have paid him for his 70 hits.

That is right folks, Jayson Werth is making $34,285 dollars per at bat… and the guy is batting .214 on the year. Gulp. Did I mention they are going to paying him this amount for the next six and half seasons? Oh, I never mentioned that? Well, yeah… they are.

CHICAGO CUBS
Player: Starlin Castro
Age/Position: 21/Short Stop
2011 Stats: BA .307, HR 2, RBI 39

He is the real deal. I have been able to watch a handful of the Cubs games, and their watching Starlin hit in the two hole for the Cubbies, kind of reminds me of Hanley Ramirez first two seasons with the Marlins. You can just see that this guy has it. So much raw talent and all at the young age of 21. He played 125 games for the Cubs in 2010 and batted .300 so you can see the consistency. He does not hit for the power like Ramirez, but is still solid. An easy decision to make.

CINCINATTI REDS
Player: Joey Votto
Age/Position: 27/First Base
2011 Stats: BA .324, HR 13, RBI 55

Going two for two, in fake All Star selections, Joey Votto again will represent the Reds. His power has dropped off with just the 13 home runs this time around. At the end of last years break Votto had pounded 22 yaks for 60 RBI, but with the drop in home runs, Votto has show a rise in batting average and on base percentage. I am glad Joey is performing well again, because in last year’s column I said to watch him over the next couple of seasons. Thank you Mr. Ro-Votto for making me, in nothing but appearance, look smart.

HOUSTON ASTROS
Player: Hunter Pence
Age/Position: 28/Right Field
2011 Stats: BA .323, HR 11, RBI 60

Last year’s paragraph leading in to the Roy Oswalt selection:

“The Astros only have a better record than the Indians, Pirates and Orioles if that tells you anything. Nobody on that team is good. Their best hitter is batting .273, has one home run, and has 25 RBIs.”

Fast forward 365 days and the Astros have a better record than… nobody. They are the league’s worst baseball team. However, one person on the team is good. In case you are wondering if Hunter Pence was the guy who was batting .273 last year—he was not. Hunter took a .263 batting average in the All Star break. It is worth noting hunter finished that season with a nice .282 batting average—the same average he finished with in 2009—and 25 home runs and 91 runs batted.

2011 seems to be a breakout year for him and I will paying extra close attention to pence, to see if he can keep his .300+ average and eclipse the 100 RBI mark, for the worst team in baseball. We shall see.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
Player: Prince Fielder
Age/Position: 27/First Base
2011 Stats: BA .297, HR 22, RBI 72

A quick non-Prince-Fielder-prior-to-looking-at-the-stats-rant:

How the freak is Rickie Weeks a real life All Star selection? The last Brewers game I watched, they played the Cubs and Rickey Weeks tried to stretch, not one, not two, but three averagely driven base hits—all hit in front of Cubs right fielder Kosuke Fukudome—in to doubles. Guess what? Homeboy was thrown out easily all three times! The first time it happened, I was like, “OK, maybe he is trying to make a play.” Second time I thought, “Are freaking kidding me?” The third time it transpired, “Oh… my… gosh. What at dumb ----.” If I am Brewers manager, Ron Roenicke, I am pulling Weeks’ slow ass out of the game, and then benching him another game just to make my point that much more. And what was even worse, nobody on the team seemed pissed about it. No shots of the dugout with the team holding their arms in the air because what Rickie Weeks did was indefensible or shaking their heads in disgust. They went about as if it had not happened. THREE TIMES IN ROW! You suck Rickie Weeks. You are batting .273 and are magically the starting the real life All Star game, in the leadoff role!! WHAT THE *#%^*# %(#* ^ !&#@ IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW?!!?!??

A second quick non-Prince-Fielder-post-looking-at-the-stats-rant:

The people playing second base in the National League, are so terrible, some how Rickie Weeks is the best player at the position. It is uncanny how bad NL second basemen are. Logic dictates that Rickie Weeks must be the starting first baseman. If you have dreams of playing in The Show someday, I firmly—repeat FIRMLY—suggests you abandon whatever position you are trying to perfect now, if you have not already, for second base. You are pretty much guaranteed to make it. Apparently, any ordinary, sub par player can make the All Star game. I am not kidding. Some random person in the street can now say the following sentence because of the deplorable state of second base in the NL:

“Aw, daaaaamnnnnnnnn. There goes All Star second baseman Rickie Weeks!!! Doo dat is sick!!”

I am so pissed right now.

(deep breath, count to 10)

In a battle of sabermetrics, Prince Fielder bested Ryan Bruan in 2010 with following

Fielder: BA is .262, but his SECA (secondary average) is .396
Braun: BA is .287, but his SECA only .308

A discrepancy of 0.63 going in the favor of Prince Fielder. In 2011, mind you, the margins have dwindled.

Fielder: BA of .297 and SECA of .463
Braun: BA of .320 and SECA of .416

Both players have improved in both categories, but the margin is now at 0.22 between the two. Also a year ago, Fielders’ RC27 (runs created per 27 innings) proved to better than Braun’s. This year the two are tied with 8.56 a piece.
Prince has 6 more home runs and 10 more RBIs than Braun, and is trailing Ryan only three total hits and four runs. For a second time again, Prince retains his crown.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
Player: Andrew McCutchen
Age/Position: 24/Center Field
2011 Stats: BA .291, HR 14, RBI 54

Congratulations are in order for Andrew McCutchen going back to back in fake All Star selections, showing that he was not a fluke in 2010. McCutchen doing the same things he did last year with his bat and speed. Fifteen stolen bases and .892 OPS. Way to go Andrew.

Also, how about big pirate-hats off to Pittsburgh for being one game out of first place, right behind two very good Cardinals and Brewers teams? How crazy would it be if the Pirates were representing the NL Central in October?

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
Player: Lance Berkman
Age/Position: 35/Left Field
2011 Stats: BA .290, HR 24, RBI 63

What-the-what-the-what-the-what-the what the what? As far as I am concerned, Albert Puljos walks on baseball water, but Albert, at .280 batting average? Come on. Do not scare me like this. I need to you to get it back together so you can crush Barry Bonds gigantically asterisk’d home run record. Stop scaring me.

Now, Lance Berkman… I thought you retired like three seasons ago. How are you hitting better than Albert Puljos at 35-years of age? You and Paul Konerko are blowing my mind. Go on with your bad self, and enjoy sneaking the Cardinals All Star pick out of the hands of AP.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
Player: Justin Upton
Age/Position 22/Right Field
2010 Stats: BA .293, HR 15, RBI 46

Peter Gammons made me put Justin Upton against Mariner hero, Ken Griffey Junior, a year ago and I must admit the numbers were closer than I thought. If you want to the recap then you can read last year's column. Basically, if Justin got the go ahead last time with .260/14/40, then he is certainly getting it again with better numbers. If you want to talk Diamondbacks ball, then hit up my boy Joey on Twitter: @joeytnelson.

COLORADO ROCKIES
Player: Todd Helton
Age/Position: 37/First Base
2011 Stats: BA .321, HR 10, RBI 41

How about Todd Helton, at age 37, still gaming in Colorado like he has for the last 14 straight seasons. Check it:

1998 – BA .315
1999 – BA .320
2000 – BA .372
2001 – BA .336
2002 – BA .329
2003 – BA .358
2004 – BA .347
2005 – BA .320
2006 – BA .302
2007 – BA .320
2008 – BA .264 (injured, only play 83 games)
2009 – BA .325
2010 – BA. 256 (his first official bad year)

And now he is right back up to his .320 batting average in 2011. It is incredible. Say what you will about the size of the ball park and altitude—that discussion only is applicable when talking home runs. Hits are hits, and batting average reflects that. Todd Helton gets the award for being my favorite selection this year.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Player: Matt Kemp
Age/Position: 26/Center Field
2011 Stats: BA .313, HR 22, RBI 67

Kemp is third in home runs for the National League, third is runs batted in and has the sixth best batting average. I recently got back from a two week vacation in California and was able to catch the first of a three game series between the Angels and Dodgers. Watching the fan interaction was way better than the actual game. Dodgers won 5-0, and Kemp was 1-for-4 with and RBI. Watching him at the plate you can see the confidence, mind set, and rhythm he is in. This was an easy selection to make.

SAN DIEGO PADRES
Player: Tim Stauffer
Age/Position: 29/Starting Pitcher
2011 Stats: ERA 2.97, SO 90, WHIP 1.21

There are only nine pitchers in the National League who have an ERA lower than 3.00 and Tim Stauffer is the last of them. It sucks for Stauffer that the Padres are not good on the offensive side of things, second to last actually and only one spot better than my beloved Seattle Mariners. In 19 starts Tim Stauffer has put for 14 quality starts for a .74 win percentage, not bad for a person who is in his third season as a starting pitcher. With Adrian Gonzalez playing for the Red Sox now, the San Diego Padres seriously downgrade their All Star contribution this year.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
Player: Tim Lincecum
Age/Position 26/Starting Pitcher
2011 Stats: ERA 3.06, SO 132, WHIP 1.20

I am fine with putting Lincecum back for the second time, but if I am honest with myself, and revert back to the Jose Reyes selection rule bending, Buster Posey would likely have been the selection here. I just feel it for some reason. But with Buster’s injury being a season ending one, and Reyes only being put on the 15-day DL, I cannot in good conscience make a case for him.

Besides, Tim Lincecum is The Freak. Even though he did not three-peat on the Cy Young award last year, he still is playing like a Cy Young award winner this season. He is 7th in strikeouts and has shutout under his belt.

It is strange to think, that with a mediocre offensive output, the Giants are currently in 1st place with a three game lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks. If they were a little bit better, or maybe had Buster there, I am curious to how well they would be doing and if Tim’s record would be better than the 7-7 it is. The sabermetics adjust Lincecum’s record from 7-7 to a nice 10-4 with three TLOSS’s (tough loss) so far.

ROSTER NATURALLY FILLED

C
1B Prince Fielder
2B
3B
SS Jose Reyes
RF Hunter Pence
CF Matt Kemp
LF Lance Berkman
DH
P Jair Jurrjens
MR
MR
MR
CL

Remaining players: SP Cole Hamels, SP Tim Lincecum, SP Tim Stauffer, 1B Todd Helton, 1B Joey Votto, 1B Michael Morse, 1B Gaby Sanchez, SS Starlin Castro, CF Andrew McCutchen, RF Justin Upton

ROSTER WITH ADJUSTMENTS

C Joey Votto
1B Prince Fielder
2B Starlin Castro
3B Michael Morse
SS Jose Reyes
RF Hunter Pence
CF Matt Kemp
LF Lance Berkman
DH Todd Helton
P Jair Jurrjens
MR Cole Hamels
MR Tim Stauffer
MR Gaby Sanchez
CL Tim Lincecum

Reserves: CF Andrew McCutchen and Justin Upton

This is the second year in a row the National League has failed to produce a catcher, and since Joey Votto filled in last season—based solely on the sound of his name—there is nobody else with any catching experience. Moving Starlin Castro to second base from his natural short stop should not be a problem. Michael Morse could show so problems at third, but in baseball third basemen and first basemen seem to go hand in hand. The only person, besides Votto, playing in a random spot is Marlins’ first basemen Gaby Sanchez. But given his mental capacity to even function well at first, in such a tumultuous Florida organization shows me that he, more so than anybody, could fake it in a middle relieving role.

My 2010 version featured a best of five game series between the American League and National League, but doing that again calls for more pomp than circumstance can allow this year. Plus, I am already 8000 words deep in to this column, and I lost my four readers 6000 words ago. Here are your two teams:

AL REPS
C Joe Mauer
1B Adrian Gonzalez
2B Gio Gonzalez
3B Travis Hafner
SS Nick Markakis
RF Jose Bautista
CF Alex Gordon
LF Josh Hamilton
DH Paul Konerko
P Justin Verlander
MR Jered Weaver
MR CC Sabathia
MR James Shields
CL Felix Hernandez

vs

NL REPS
C Joey Votto
1B Prince Fielder
2B Starlin Castro
3B Michael Morse
SS Jose Reyes
RF Hunter Pence
CF Matt Kemp
LF Lance Berkman
DH Todd Helton
P Jair Jurrjens
MR Cole Hamels
MR Tim Stauffer
MR Gaby Sanchez
CL Tim Lincecum

Having these made up All Star teams going for five games or just one, it all boils down to one thing: and that thing is pitching. This year the American League has more of it than the National League, and shuts them down. AL wins again.

Score that two years in a row with the AL besting the NL.

Prediction for the real All Star Game tonight however? I will take the American League again. With Rickie Weeks as the National League selection at second base, look for either Curtis Granderson, Jose Bautista or Josh Hamilton to throw him out when he tries to turn a single in to a double time and time again.

Monday, July 11, 2011

MLB All Star Game 2.0

When I first started this website, one of my earlier columns was a mega three part scenario, of a made up MLB All Star team. When the NBA All Star rolled around, I did the same thing again. After abandoning the traditional selecting methods of forming a team, I made up my own criteria for how my Major League All Star teams would be created.

Instead of selecting the best players in baseball, I formed my All Star teams by having the one best player from each team and then proceeded to make up the roster. Each team’s roster would have to fill the following posistion:

Catcher
First Base
Second Base
Third Base
Shortstop
Right Field
Center Field
Left Field
Designated Hitter
Starting Pitcher
Middle Reliever
Middle Reliever
Middle Reliever
Closer

Since selections where not done by position, I stated that any position that had excess would fill in the gaps of the ones that did not have any. For example, if I had 6 right fielders, I could place one in right field and with the other five in any position that did not already have a player that naturally played there.

The American League All Star representatives are as follows:

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
Player: Nick Markakis
Age/Position: 27/Right Field
2011 Stats: BA .292, HR 7, RBI 36

For the second year in row, Markakis is the team representative for the Orioles. Last year I was really eager to get my version of the All Star game out before the real one by two weeks. This year I thought I would put it out right before the actual All Star game, so the stats and numbers would be cut right at the half of the season. OK, that is lie. I was just super lazy.

Last year Markakis got the nod with a batting average of .300, three home runs and 23 runs batted in. This year his numbers are a bit better, even with the dip in average and the adjustment for two additional weeks that stats could be accounted for. He is just the dependable, freak athlete that he was a year ago. Nothing has changed.

It is also interesting to note that the teams leader in HRs, RBIs, runs, and OPS is not Nick Markakis, but the new guy acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks: Mark Reynolds. So why not Reynolds over Markakis? Because Reynolds batting average is .227, he only has 65 hits compared to Nick’s 106 and has struck out 96 times against Markakis’ 36. I would much rather have Nick’s consistency over Reynolds power.

BOSTON RED SOX
Player: Adrian Gonzalez
Age/Position: 29/First Base
2011 Stats: BA .354, HR 17, RBI 77

If you had asked me to write a pre-season version, of my version—of the All Star game—with out a doubt in my mind I would have put Carl Crawford here. It would not have even been a competition. I saw Crawford getting 50+ stolen bases this season. Crawford, so far, has eight swipes this season and has been on the disabled list on June 18th with a hobbled hamstring. Getting those 50+ stolen bags is pretty much out of the question unless he some how channels the 1982 stealing prowess of Rickey Hendersen. Since the Sox will not be getting those stolen bases, the only other thing Crawford brings to us, is his stable .295 to .300 batting average. That is what you get you expect when you sign a guy who was a 2010 Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award winner to a 7-year $142 million dollar contract. However, Carl Crawford is batting an awful .243 to date. I did not expect this kind of fall off or dip.

The person who I expected dip in their number production was Gonzo. My goodness. A major league leading batting average and major league leading seventy-seven runs batted in! We are talking about a pace for 150+ RBIs. The last guy to hit like that was Alex Rodriquez in 2007 when he hit batted in 156 runs. Some might call foul and say A-Rod was juicing in 2007, so if you want to go back to an honest figure try a name on like Babe Ruth. In 1921 ‘The Great Bambino’ threw up 171 RBIs, in 1927 Ruth tallied 164 RBIs, drove in 154 in 1929, and was responsible for 163 in the 1931 baseball season.

This 2011 season, Adrian Gonzalez is putting up Ruthian numbers.

NEW YORK YANKEES
Player: CC Sabathia
Age/Position: 30/Starting Pitcher
2011 Stats: ERA 2.72, SO 126, WHIP 1.16

First off, I must give credit where credit is due, and give a hearty standing ovation to Derek Jeter joining the 3000 hits club. Big accomplishment.

To the Yankees All Star rep. I wanted to go Teixeira because of his 25 home runs and 65 RBIs, but the .244 batting average is nothing to write home about. I want to see someone that is more impressive. OK, if not him how about Curtis Granderson? The man is playing out of his element, but is not pulling a Donnie, by actually being out of his element. Roll with me, I can expand on this.

2010 Curtis Granderson vs. 2011 Curtis Granderson

In 2010 Curtis Granderson batted .247, with 24 home runs, 67 RBIs, 12 stolen bases and 76 runs. He did all of this through 136 games.

So far in 2011, Granderson has a batting average of .269, has hit 25 home runs, has drove in 63 runs, has 15 stolen bases and has scored 79 runs… and has done all of this through 87 games.

Hmmm…


I do not want to put you as the Yankees rep, Granderson, because I just do not trust you to either sustain this production, or ever duplicate it again. I acknowledge that it is happening, but do not credit you that it is happening, it that makes any sense. Like Teixeira, I want to put someone else here. Should I go Bartolo Colon? No, his season is just as baffling as Granderson’s.

Sabathia works. Major league leading 13 wins and a very respectable 126 strikeouts, and Sabathia has had seasons like this before. There is nothing that has me scratching my head by giving him the nod. My only complaint (besides the wearing of Yankee uniform) is his quality start percentage. Holding company with the likes of Bruce Chen, Alex Cobb and Erik Bedard with a .60 quality start percentage is not good… 77th in the league actually. Would those low percentage types of starts, get him 13 wins on another team? Probably not, but 13 wins is 13 wins.

TAMPA BAY RAYS
Player: James Shields
Age/Position: 29/Starting Pitcher
2011 Stats: ERA 2.33, SO 137, WHIP 0.98

How far you have fallen Evan Longoria, I thought for sure I would see you making your consecutive trip to my All Star game. Makes me a little bit sad. With the Rays offense hovering right in the middle of the MLB pack, 15th to be exact, there is not a player that screams All Star this season, at least not one that screams louder that James Shields.

Shields is having the best season of his career, and is playing like the sporting community thought he would this year. His ERA is 6th best in the bigs, 6th best in strikeouts, and has .86 percent quality start average. He also has seven complete games along with three shutouts.

There is also a nice sabermetric stat known as “tough losses”. Guess what that stands for. Shields has five on the year… and his record is 8-7. You can do the math.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Player: Jose Bautista
Age/Position: 30/Right Field
2011 Stats: BA .334, HR 31, RBI 65

I should have put Bautista as the starter last year. Going in to the break he had 5 more HRs and and 7 more RBIs than Vernon Wells (who I chose). Maybe it was his .237 batting average that turned me off, and turned me towards Wells with the .287 BA. And maybe he was giving me the same kind of fits Curtis Granderson is giving me this year. Up until that point the best season Bautista had ever had, in terms of power, was in 2006 when he his 16 home runs in 117 games with the Pittsburg Pirates.

This year I know the power is legit. When you are batting .334 and lead the lead with 31 jacks at the break; you are coming to my All Star game.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Player: Paul Konerko
Age/Position 35/First Base
2011 Stats: BA .319, HR 22, RBI 67

Holy 35-year old power (I’ll get to you later Lance Berkman), what is getting in to you Paul Konerko?! I mean I saw you doing this same type of thing last year, but at age 34 I told myself there was no way you were going to keep this up, let alone do it even better the next season. I was wrong. I ask for apology. You have been hitting for a consitent power, with an above average BA for seven straight years now. Paul Konerko ladies and gentleman! Just 13 home runs shy of 400. I tip my hat to you old man.

CLEAVLAND INDIANS
Player: Travis Hafner
Age/Position: 34/Designated Hitter
2011 Stats: BA .325, HR 8, RBI 35

You bug me Cleveland Indians. It is always so hard for me to nail down some one that deserves to be selected, hands down. Last season, like usual, the Indians were terrible. This year, they are a bona fide playoff contender. They are a good team. No real super stars. Last year I explained how I held a small baseball flame for Travis Hafner, but he never quite made it happen. Finally, this year he makes some noise from the get go and then goes and gets placed on the disable list for over a month. Even though these numbers are missing over a months worth of games, I am putting him in. I do not care what you say. Sure:

- Asdrubal Carbrera may be 26-years old, and leading the team in BA, HRs, RBIs, runs and OPS, but he gets minus points for biting on Ichiro’s pre-swing plate appearance ritual.
- Sure, 26-year old MLB sophomore starting pitcher, Josh Tomlin, may have 10 wins (4th best in the AL) and a WHIP of 1.06. I am holding firm to my Hafner selection. And even though this Josh Tomlin is 12-2 in his first 15 MLB home starts—something that only one other player has done since 1961—I am still standing by my Hafner selection.

Hafner is the key I tell you, THE KEY!!!

DETROIT TIGERS
Player: Justin Verlander
Age/Position: 28/Starting Pitcher
2011 Stats: ERA 2.15, SO 147, WHIP 0.87

Currently holds a 12-4 win/loss record, which is one short of CC’s league leading 13 wins. This is the only place where CC bests JV.

****WARNING: FAST AND FURIOUS MOVIE-TO-SPORTS ANALOGY ALERT****

In the original The Fast and the Furious, Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, and Vin Diesel’s crew assemble a tricked out Toyota Supra to take the Race Wars that are held at some secret location in the middle of the desert. Right after the finish putting the last decal on the Supra, Paul Walker and Vin Diesel take the Supra out for a test run. The two pull up next to a condescending white guy in a Ferrari at a stoplight.

So far, the Toyota Supra is Justin Verlander and Paul Walker is the Detroit Tigers owner, Mike Ilitch. The Ferrari is CC Sabathia and the condescending white guy is Hank Steinbrenner and Yankee fans everywhere. Vin Diesel is Vin Diesel.

Looking over to the Ferrari, Paul Walker says, “Nice car. What’s the retail on one of those?”

Douche bag Ferrari guy, “More than you can afford, pal,” While revving the throaty engine “Ferrari.”

Paul Walker and The Diesel stare at this asshat, un-impressed.

Vin Diesel turns to Walker and utters two words, “Smoke him.”

Which is what happens, and which has also happened this season. Earlier in the column I showed CC’s terrible quality start percentage. Verlander has a MLB best .95 percent. Out of his 20 total starts, Justin Verlander has put out nineteen. CC has started 20 as well, but only shown up for 12 of them. Verlander edges him in strikeouts, ERA, WHIP, walks allowed, complete games, shutouts, etc. You name it, and Verlander has done it better.

You can watch the Tigers vs. Yankees scene, by clicking here.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Player: Alex Gordon
Age/Position 27/Left Field
2011 Stats: BA .299, HR 11, RBI 50

Since Greinke is done rotting in KC, the door is wide open for anyone to make the All Star cut this year. I am going to make a reach for the guy with only 4 years of MLB experience, Alex Gordon. Why? Why not?

MINNESOTA TWINS
Player: Joe Mauer
Age/Position: 28/Catcher
2011 Stats: BA .243, HR 0, RBI 9

Joe Mauer gets an injury pass on his numbers. The guy was out for two months and did not fare well for the month of June; the month in which he returned. But so far, for the month of July, Mauer is batting .306 and is showing us the player that he is and will be. Talk to me in a month and if Mauer is still batting .240 then I will begin to question his playing ability.

All in all, the guy is the anchor of that team. This is why you see Mauer here and note Michael Cuddyer who leads the team in hits and batting average.

LOS ANGELES ANGELS
Player: Jered Weaver
Age/Position: 27/Starting Pitcher
2011 Stats: ERA 1.81, SO 120, WHIP 0.91

When you make the All Star team last year with a 7-3 record and 3.01 ERA, then you are definitely making it the second time around when you lead the bigs with the lowest ERA and hold a 11-4 record. Everything that was working well last season, is working even better this year.

Last Thursday, I got to see in person at Angel’s Stadium, Jered Weaver throw a complete game against my Seattle Mariners. Angels won 5-1 and Bobby Abreu hit his 1300th RBI. In other post game news, the Mariners continue to have the worst offense in major league baseball.

Before the game I Tweeted my pre-game feeling was positive. My buddy Mike asked me if I had seen the Mariners lately and afterwards he Tweeted at me: “I hate to say I told you so.”

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
Player: Gio Gonzalez
Age/Position: 25/Starting Pitcher
2011 Stats: ERA 2.47, SO 111, WHIP 1.27

Ryan Sweeney was the man a year ago. I threw a dart and it landed on his name, that was the only qualification you needed to rep the A’s—be on the roster. Luckily, Gio is having himself a nice little season and my selection to place him in the game is quite easy. He has the 9th best ERA in The Show, right behind Roy Halladay. His strikeouts per nine innings is healthy at 8.84. That number is better either Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, Roy Halladay, and Jon Lester.

SEATTLE MARINERS
Player: Felix Hernandez
Age/Position: 25/Starting Pitcher
2011 Stats: ERA 3.19, SO 140, WHIP 1.15

Oh how you vex Seattle. Do I put King Felix because he is the reigning American League Cy Young winner? Do I put my boy Ichiro who has 3,600 hits over his baseball career? Or do I put the 22-year old new comer Michael Pineda who is like Felix Hernandez 2.0?

When Pineda won his 5th game I joked that Craftsman was going to release a 'Michael Pineda' lawnmower because their product testing showed it could mow thru test lineups with uncanny ability.

In the end, Ichiro is batting .270, which for any normal player is like batting .137. Seriously, it is. Michael Pineda is young and has shown great promise, but he still needs experience. That leaves me with King Felix. It’s weird because I feel myself reluctantly choosing him, even though Felix Hernandez is a top tier pitcher. I probably feel this way because I wanted to choose Ichiro, and for the second year in a row I just could not do it in faith.

TEXAS RANGERS
Player: Josh Hamilton
Age/Position 30/Left Field
2011 Stats: BA .301, HR 11, RBI 49

Did you know you can spell the word ‘bitter’ two ways. A-D-R-I-A-N B-E-L-T-R-E. Sorry Adrian Beltre. I know you have 71 RBIs, but you also ruined baseball in Seattle by making us pay you so much for crappy results, only to start playing better after being released. First in Boston and now in Texas. Josh Hamilton is still the Rangers best player.

Had Josh Hamilton not have broken his arm sliding in to home, I feel like he would likely be in contention for the Triple Crown at the break. He missed more than a month and look at his numbers. He is the life blood of this Ranger’s team.

ROSTER NATURALLY FILLED

C Joe Mauer
1B Adrian Gonzalez
2B
3B
SS
RF Nick Markakis
CF
LF Josh Hamilton
DH Travis Hafner
P Justin Verlander
MR
MR
MR
CL

Remaining players: SP CC Sabathia, SP James Shields, SP Jered Weaver, SP Gio Gonzalez, SP Felix Hernandez, RF Jose Bautista, LF Alex Gordon and 1B Paul Konerko

ROSTER WITH ADJUSTMENTS

C Joe Mauer
1B Adrian Gonzalez
2B Gio Gonzalez
3B Travis Hafner
SS Nick Markakis
RF Jose Bautista
CF Alex Gordon
LF Josh Hamilton
DH Paul Konerko
P Justin Verlander
MR Jered Weaver
MR CC Sabathia
MR James Shields
CL Felix Hernandez

The only player here getting thrown to the wolves would be pitcher Gio Gonzalez. I have no idea if he has ever played any other position. Markakis is such a natural athlete that I know he could make the transition to short stop with the least amount of hiccups. Hafner can step out of the DH and play third, as he has done before in his career. The pitching choices, obviously, make no difference.

Look for Part-2 of my version of the 2011 MLB All Star Game tomorrow.