My AL All-Star Ballot

Fan voting for the All-Star starters ends at midnight tonight, so here's a quick look at who the most deserving American League candidates are and how the Yankees' starting nine stacks up.

First Base

Mark Teixeira leads the majors in home runs, but he has been at best just the fourth most productive first baseman in the AL. Dig:

AVG OBP SLG HR RBI
Adrian Gonzalez .356 .410 .601 16 71
Miguel Cabrera .336 .455 .595 17 56
Paul Konerko .322 .393 .579 21 61
Adam Lind .318 .367 .579 16 49
Mark Teixeira .243 .352 .535 24 61


Due to a stay on the disabled list, Lind has made roughly 100 fewer plate appearances than the others, but Baseball Prospectus's VORP (Value Over Replacement Player, a cumulative stat) still gives Lind the edge over Teixeira. The cold hard fact is that bad luck on balls in play has sapped Teixeira's batting average this year, and that has undermined his overall production. There are 34 men on each league's All-Star roster, but even with that much room, going four deep at first base is excessive. An AL All-Star roster without Teixeira would not be unjust.

As for the deserving starter, you can' t go wrong with Gonzalez or Cabrera. Cabrera, by virtue of his significant advantage in on-base percentage and less welcoming home ballpark, has been the more productive hitter, but he gives up a lot in the field. BP's WARP (Wins Above Replacement Player, which combines offense and defense) suggests that defensive difference is enough to give Gonzalez the edge. Given Cabrera's off-field issues, I'd rather see Gonzalez get the honor, and he'll get my vote.

Second Base

One can make an argument for Robinson Cano here, though, despite leading AL second-sackers in homers and RBIs, his is not a slam-dunk case. Again, there are five men in play here:

AVG OBP SLG HR RBI SB CS
Robinson Cano .290 .335 .503 14 49 6 1
Ben Zobrist .266 .349 .472 9 40 7 1
Ian Kinsler .244 .361 .436 11 30 15 2
Howie Kendrick .305 .362 .477 8 26 8 2
Dustin Pedroia .273 .388 .394 6 34 15 2

VORP and WARP both like Zobrist, who plays in a pitchers park. Kinsler and Pedroia get big boosts from their basestealing and defense. Kendrick spent some time on the DL, which hurts him, as does the fact that he's never been this productive before, where as the other four are all established stars at the position. Still, Kendrick has only had about 35 fewer plate appearances than Cano. Meanwhile, Cano's inconsistency afield this season and low on-base percentage undermine his advantage in power. I don't think there's really a bad choice here, so go ahead and vote for Cano, who had a huge lead over Pedroia and Kinsler at last count anyway, but the two or three men from the above list who don't make the team will be justified in feeling snubbed.


Shortstop

Derek Jeter is obviously the biggest star to play shortstop in the AL, but based on performance, he's not even in the conversation here. To me, the Indians' Asdrubal Cabrera is the clear choice. The Tigers' Jhonny Peralta should back him up. The Blue Jays' Yunel Escobar and the Angels' Erick Aybar would be the alternates, and honorable mention goes to Alexei Ramirez of the White Sox. Here are those five plus Jeter:

AVG OBP SLG HR RBI SB CS
Asdrubal Cabrera .292 .342 .495 13 46 12 0
Jhonny Peralta .310 .358 .527 12 46 0 2
Yunel Escobar .278 .352 .419 8 27 3 1
Erick Aybar .287 .324 .437 5 33 16 2
Alexei Ramirez .282 .339 .419 7 36 3 2
Derek Jeter .260 .324 .324 2 20 7 2

Third Base

Alex Rodriguez is a pretty clear choice here. He doesn't have a huge advantage over Kevin Youkilis, VORP actually gives Youkilis the edge, but once you factor in the fact that Youkilis has struggled with the adjustment to full-time work at the hot corner, Rodriguez, who has been above average in the field, is the obvious choice.

AVG OBP SLG HR RBI
Alex Rodriguez .299 .377 .507 13 51
Kevin Youkilis .269 .392 .485 11 55

Catcher

The Tigers' Alex Avila in a landslide, though if the AL takes three catchers, which it should (not necessarily will, but should), Russell Martin could well be a deserving third-stringer, particularly with Mike Napoli on the DL, unless, of course, you want to give Joe Mauer a courtesy nod after a first half largely lost to injury.

AVG OBP SLG HR RBI SB CS
Alex Avila .303 .373 .541 10 45 3 0
Carlos Santana .226 .356 .409 11 36 3 2
Russell Martin .230 .333 .407 10 34 7 1
Joe Mauer .213 .259 .267 0 7 0 0

Outfield

Jose Bautista, Curtis Granderson, and the Rays' Matt Joyce are the obvious top three, though VORP punishes Joyce for his reduced playing time as a platoon player and, curiously, Granderson for his defense, putting Jacoby Ellsbury and Royals left fielder Alex Gordon above both. Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner, both of whom have come on strong after poor starts, both rank among the dozen most valuable outfielders in the AL, which is the top 29 percent, but neither is a particularly strong candidate for the roster, never mind a start.

AVG OBP SLG HR RBI SB CS
Jose Bautista .329 .473 .667 24 52 5 3
Curtis Granderson .276 .367 .575 21 56 14 7
Matt Joyce .308 .369 .529 10 38 4 0
Jacoby Ellsbury .296 .334 .481 9 39 25 10
Alex Gordon .293 .363 .479 9 44 5 5
Nick Swisher .250 .372 .429 10 43 1 2
Brett Gardner .277 .359 .416 4 18 17 10

Designated Hitter

The AL should only take one pure DH, and that man should be David Ortiz:

AVG OBP SLG HR RBI
David Ortiz .311 .391 .581 17 48
Jorge Posada .240 .329 .425 9 27

So the votes I'll be entering 25 times into MLB.com today:

1B - Adrian Gonzalez
2B - I'll mix it up here, but Robinson Cano will get his share
SS - Asdrubal Cabrera
3B - Alex Rodriguez
C - Alex Avila
OF - Jose Bautista, Curtis Granderson, Matt Joyce
DH - David Ortiz

And the Yankee batters who deserve an All-Star invite of one sort or another: Cano, Rodriguez, Granderson, and maybe Russell Martin.

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