Monday, June 18, 2007

Tigers might have eight All-Stars

As a reward for guiding his team to the World Series, Jim Leyland has the honor of managing the AL All-Star team. With that honor comes the opportunity to reward many of his players with All-Star selections if Leyland isn’t bogged down by using his manager selections on undeserving players just to abide by the “one representative for each team” rule. In recent years, Joe Torre selected eight of his New York Yankees players and Ozzie Guillen selected seven of his Chicago White Sox players. Both received modest criticism but not enough to discourage Leyland from doing the same if given the chance.

The Tigers are in a unique position this year. Most good teams have two or three very good players combined with a lot of solid role players. While that was the case for the Tigers last season, this season the Tigers have a bunch of players that deserve All-Star consideration. Another reason that this season is unique is that the Tigers have so many players that are the best at their positions numbers-wise. Magglio Ordonez is the best outfielder in baseball let alone in the AL. Curtis Granderson is the best centerfielder in the AL based on the numbers. The same goes for Carlos Guillen and Placido Polanco at shortstop and second-base.

In most cases, All-Star managers try to find reasons to take their own players. For Leyland, I think he is going to have a difficult time finding reasons not to take some of his players. This isn’t going to be an easy task for him. As I see it, the Tigers could have eight All-Stars. Unfortunately—or fortunately depending on how many open spots he has—for Leyland, all eight have very strong cases for being All-Stars. With the rule that every team must have a representative combined with the reduced role that All-Star managers now play in selecting the reserves, Leyland might have a difficult task trying to fit all eight of his guys on the team.

Here is a breakdown of each of the eight deserving Tigers in order of most likely to least likely to make the All-Star team:

Magglio Ordonez:

There really isn’t much to say here. Mags is a lock.

Compare American League Outfielders.

Justin Verlander:

The no-hitter sealed the deal for Verlander. He is 8-2 with a 2.90 ERA. He is, by far, Detroit’s most high profile pitcher at least in terms of reputation. That should easily get him voted in by AL managers and players.

Compare American League pitchers.

Ivan Rodriguez:

Pudge has a nice cushion over Jorge Posada in the All-Star voting. Posada and Victor Martinez both have every reason in the world to expect an invitation to the All-Star game but it’s unlikely that both will make it. With Joe Mauer missing so much time, Kenji Johjima and John Buck are really the only other catchers with a gripe for making the team. Since All-Star teams usually only have two catchers, Martinez or Posada will likely have to get in on the fan’s final player vote. In fact, if John Buck is Kansas City’s lone representative, then both Martinez and Posada might be left off the team.

Compare American League catchers.

Placido Polanco:

Hopefully Polanco holds on to his slim lead over Robinson Cano in the All-Star balloting. If not, I don’t see how Leyland leaves Polanco off the roster. Polanco leads AL second basemen in Runs, Hits, Total Bases, Strike Outs (the least amount), and Batting Average. Leyland knows how valuable Polanco is to the Tigers so he will want to reward him with a trip to the All-Star game. Aaron Hill, B.J. Upton, Cano, and Brian Roberts all have hopes of making the team as well.

Compare American League second basemen.

Gary Sheffield:

Leyland loves Sheffield. Since Sheffield is having a monster ’07 season, I can’t see Leyland not taking Sheff to the All-Star game. Sheffield’s numbers are every bit as good as Granderson’s and, in many cases, they are better. Sheffield has Granderson beat in OPS, Walks, Strikeouts (he has half as many), OBP, Home Runs, RBIs and Runs. Sheffield’s competition is the same as Granderson’s except they are their own competition as well.

Compare American League Outfielders.

Curtis Granderson:

I don’t see how Granderson can be left off the team. Everyone knows the kind of season that Magglio Ordonez is having right now. What everyone doesn’t know is that Granderson has 43 extra-base hits to Ordonez’s 46. Granderson is third in the AL in Total Bases (behind A-Rod and Ordonez). He is on pace to set the modern day single-season triples record. He if fifth in the AL in Slug % and third among AL outfielders in OPS.

Vladimir Guerrero, Manny Ramirez, and Ichiro will likely be the starters in the OF for the AL. Alex Rios, Torii Hunter, Carl Crawford, Grady Sizemore, and Gary Sheffield all have good cases for making the team. The AL had seven outfielders last season. That would mean four of; Granderson, Sheffield, Ordonez, Rios, Hunter, Crawford, and Sizemore would make the team. Ordonez is a lock. Granderson has a better case than the other five. Leyland may feel some pressure to not take three of his own outfielders which is the only way I see Granderson not making the team.

Compare American League Outfielders.

Carlos Guillen:

Guillen has missed nine games but still leads all American League shortstops in RBI, Slug %, and OPS. He is also second among AL shortstops in home runs and triples. With Jim Leyland having carte blanche over position players—as long as each team has one representative—Guillen should be a lock for the All-Star game. Guillen does have some tough company. Michael Young, Orlando Cabrera, Jhonny Peralta, and Miguel Tejada all have legitimate claims. Young and Tejada could be the lone representatives for their teams which would hurt Guillen’s chances. I’m not sure how Cabrera can be left out with a .342 batting average. There just might not be enough room for Guillen.

Compare American League shortstops.

Jeremy Bonderman:

Bonderman is at a disadvantage because Leyland doesn’t have as much control over the pitching situation. He gets to name injury replacements which is where Bondo has his best shot of making the team. If he can take advantage of his three remaining pitching matchups—all of which are favorable—he could get to eleven wins with an outstanding winning percentage. I’m not so sure that Bonderman has the same respect around the league as Justin Verlander does so it wouldn’t surprise me if Bondo was voted into the game by AL managers and players. In 2005, Terry Francona stated that he would take his own pitcher, Matt Clement, if there were any injuries to the pitching staff. Clement made the team and I think Bondo might in 2007.

Compare American League pitchers.

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