Major League Baseball’s All Star selection show is on Sunday evening at 7 PM Eastern time, and the Detroit Tigers have their share of candidates to make the American League’s All Star team.
Fans will vote for the starting players at each position; nine for the American League and eight for the National League, and each side will have a total of 34 players on their All Star roster. Pitchers and reserves for both squads -- totaling 25 for the NL and 24 for the AL -- will be determined mostly by player ballots, with selections made by All-Star managers for the last few spots. Each team must have at least one representative. If a player finishes first on the player ballot and is also selected as a starter by fans, then the second player on the player ballot becomes the automatic reserve selection.
Mike Matheny of the Cardinals and John Farrell of the Red Sox are the managers for the 2014 All Star game. The two managers fill out the rest of the rosters after that, except for the last man in, who is also voted on by fans.
Some Tiger players who deserve consideration for All Star selection include:
Miguel Cabrera, First Base. At last count, the two time reigning MVP was the only Tiger player to be leading the balloting at his position, leading Jose Abreu, the rookie sensation of the Chicago White Sox by 3.3 million to 1.8 million votes as of the last count on July 1st. Cabrera is the league's leading first baseman in fWAR, but slightly trails the Jays’ Edwin Encarnacion and Abreu in wOBA. Miggy will be on the team, for sure.
Victor Martinez, Designated Hitter. While leading the Tigers in batting average and home runs this season, Martinez certainly has put up All Star caliber numbers, but he trails Baltimore’s Nelson Cruz and Boston’s David Ortiz in the voting, although not by a wide margin. It’s difficult to imagine that Farrell would leave Papi off the team, so Martinez is far from certain to make the squad. If Martinez is first, or second to Cruz on the player ballots, he'll be selected. Whether he's healthy enough to play is another matter.
With the Orioles’ Matt Weiters, who is out for the season, leading the voting among catchers, and other options at the position not very appealing, the fact that Martinez can still catch might help his chances. There is depth in the league at first base behind Cabrera, but there could be half a dozen first base/ DH selections.
Ian Kinsler, second base: The Tigers’ leader in fWAR, and the league leader at second base quite easily half way through the season, Kinsler led the early voting at the keystone position before being over taken by Seattle’s Robinson Cano. There is also growing sentiment for the Astros’ Jose Altuve, who leads the league in batting and by a wide margin in stolen bases, and edges out Kinsler among second basemen in wOBA. Boston’s Dustin Pedroia was running third in the voting behind Kinsler, and the home town Minnesota Twins’ Brian Dozier is also having a fine season.
Some of the decisions come down to how many pitchers will be selected, and which positions will have three players on the roster and which will have just two. Kinsler is deserving, but again is not a lock to make the team.
Max Scherzer, Pitcher: The reigning Cy Young winner is having another fine season, ranking among the top ten starters in fWAR, FIP, and K/9 ratio. His ten victories so far trail only Masahiro Tanaka and Rick Porcello. Working against Scherzer is a 19th ranked ERA of 3.47. If the second half of 2013 counts for anything, that would help Scherzer quite a bit.
Rick Porcello, Pitcher: As of the time of writing, Porcello leads Tigers’ qualified starters in wins, and is second to Sanchez in ERA. Only Tanaka has more wins, but using advanced metrics, Porcello ranks 20th in the league in FIP and 18th in fWAR, among qualified starting pitchers. If wins are what matter to the selectors, then Porcello should be in. Otherwise, he’ll rest up for the second half of the season.
Anibal Sanchez, Pitcher: The 2013 American League ERA champion is having another fine season for the Tigers, although you wouldn’t know it from his 5- 3 record. Despite missing a couple weeks due to a blister on his throwing hand, Sanchez ranked fifth in the league in ERA before Saturday's performance saw it jump from 2.63 to 3.09, and has the best home ratio in the league at just 0.31 HR per 9 innings. Whatever chance he had of being an All Star probably went down the drain on Saturday.
Justin Verlander, Pitcher: Recently considered the consensus best pitcher in the game, Verlander’s status has declined recently, to the point where he might be the fourth best starting pitcher on his own team. With a 7- 7 record and a 4.71 ERA, Verlander’s numbers don’t justify a selection this season. Since he is scheduled to pitch on July 13th, he wouldn’t be eligible to play on the 15th, so it’s looking like his run of five consecutive All Star appearances could be over.
There are no members of the Tiger bullpen or the outfield that are remotely deserving of all star consideration this season.
If you were to select an All Star team at the end of the 2013 season, arguably four starting pitchers, including Doug Fister, had a strong case to be included. As it stands at the mid point of the 2014 season, three starting pitchers, including Porcello, are borderline All Stars. It’s hard to imagine that the American League pitching staff won’t have any Tigers on the team.
Eleven starting pitchers were on the American League roster in 2013, along with eight relief pitchers, two first basemen, four second basemen, two shortstops, two third basemen, six outfielders, three catchers and two designated hitters.