Anyone can vote for the All-Star team. It’s a pretty easy process. Most fans stuff the ballot boxes at their home ballparks and online with votes only for players on their favorite team. Others, like me, vote for who we feel are the most deserving, despite our fanhood. Before going further, here are my picks for this year’s AL All-Star team:
2B: Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians (sorry, Ian)
SS: J.J. Hardy, Baltimore Orioles (sorry, Elvis)
C: Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
LF: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
CF: Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles
RF: Nelson Cruz, Texas Rangers (FINALLY!)
See? That was pretty easy. And most of the picks would get little argument, except from die-hard fans of other teams.
What I love to do here every year is pick a different kind of All-Star team. This is a team picked strictly on the basis of how they’ve done this year against the Texas Rangers. No Rangers allowed on this team. This year, no Baltimore Orioles player stands a chance either, as the Rangers have yet to play the Birds in 2013. The fun part of this exercise is at times seeing the most unexpected names that just happened to have had inordinate success against the Rangers. Against everyone else, they settle back down to the mediocrity we’ve come to expect from them.
Herewith is the AL All-Star team, based only on their 2013 results against the Rangers:
1B: Adam Lind, Toronto Blue Jays
Lind’s been injured this season and many have labelled him as one of those players who’s never going to consistently play up to his potential. You could have fooled Texas with that assessment. Lind has blistered the Rangers to the tune of a.433 BA with 3 HR and 10 RBI , 1.188 OPS.
2B: Howie Kendrick, Los Angeles Angels
Kipnis has done well in limited AB’s vs. Texas, but Kendrick, who has been a pest against Texas for a few years now, in more AB’s has 2 HR, 6 RBI and a 1.052 OPS.
SS: Marwin Gonzalez, Houston Astros
This position was pretty equal top to bottom. The now minor-leaguer Gonzalez gets extra points for the 9th inning single that broke up Yu Darvish‘s perfect game bid. Over a .400 hitter vs. Texas in 10 AB’s.
3B: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
No doubt about this one matching up with reality. Cabrera has torched Texas pitching for a .563 BA with 3 HR, 6 RBI and an astronomical 1.861 OPS.
C: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Boston Red Sox
Former Ranger Salty is hitting .294 against his former team with a home run. The likely true AL All-Star, Joe Mauer, is 0-15 this year against Texas.
LF: Seth Smith, Oakland A’s
Smith has been a thorn in the Rangers’ side in 2013, blistering Texas pitching for a .368 BA with four doubles, a home run and 5 RBI.
CF: Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox
Nope, not Mike Trout, who has mostly played CF against the Rangers. He’s hitting a meager .130 against Texas in 2013. Ellsbury, on the other hand, is at .421 with a couple of doubles and a stolen base.
RF: Ichiro Suzuki, New York Yankees
Believe it or not, Josh Hamilton had this one locked down with a .360 mark against Texas (albeit with 0 HR and 0 RBI) until the Rangers visited New York this week. Ichiro looked like the All-Star of old, going .462 with two home runs and 3 RBI in 3 games against Texas.
DH: David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox
Travis Hafner had the better batting average at .375, but Ortiz gets the nod at just .250 because it came with power: 2 doubles, a triple and 2 home runs, along with 8 RBI. Ortiz made every hit count against Texas: 5 of his 6 hits were for extra bases.
There you have it. Only two of nine positions are players that are likely to represent the AL this year in the All-Star game. Of the other seven, probably only two of them will even make the All-Star team as a substitute. That’s two at best. Thanks to ESPN for providing the splits to compile these stats.
- A.L. All Star Game VotingThe latest voting numbers (thesportsscript.com)
- Vote For Your Texas Rangers In MLB All-Star Voting (dfw.cbslocal.com)
The pitching match-up of the year didn’t materialize as the pitcher’s duel of the year. It was actually Justin Verlander‘s worst regular season start. EVER. You can thank the Texas Rangers offense for that, particularly Mitch Moreland and, in the biggest surprise of the season, Geovany Soto, whose 3-run blast to left spelled the end of Verlander’s night.
Scintillating as the offense was, last night’s win cemented yet another incredible aspect in the game of Yu Darvish. If it had only happened once, I would shake it off as one of those things that happens. This, however, was not the first time it has happened and I have a feeling it will be integral in understanding the current and future success of the Rangers’ new ace.
Darvish did not have his best stuff last night. His fastball command was almost non-existent. Most of his other pitches were having a hard time finding the zone as well. Through the early innings, about the only pitch Darvish had working for him was his slider. Thus, it wasn’t surprising when he finally ran into trouble in the 3rd inning. Facing the bottom of the order, Darvish gave up his first hit, a home run that tied the game at 1. It was followed by a single. Then another single. A wild pitch. A sacrifice fly put the Tigers up 2-1. Miguel Cabrera doubled and Darvish intentionally walked Prince Fielder. Bases loaded. One out. A Victor Martinez sac fly on the 10th pitch of the at bat put Detroit up 3-1. Darvish was on the ropes, already at 31 pitches on the inning. It would take another five pitches before the inning ended. Darvish was already at 63 pitches in only three innings of work. It was looking like a bullpen kind of night.
Despite the Rangers heroics in the bottom of the frame, chasing Verlander with a 7-spot to take an 8-4 lead, Darvish came out in the 4th and immediately gave up his second home run of the night, this one to Jhonny Peralta, making it 8-4. That’s when it kicked in.
From that point on, Darvish retired 15 of the next 16 batters, including the last 10 Tigers in a row. Yu ended up going a career high 130 pitches over 8 innings in picking up his 7th win of the season.
Most pitchers, even quality ones, have games in which they struggle. Most of the time, it will be a struggle from beginning to end. On a rare occasion, they’ll recover and pitch effectively after their bad inning(s). This is the third similar occurrence in Darvish’s young career. On June 20, 2012 he was quickly down 2-0 in the second, expending 41 pitches to get through the two innings. From that point on, Darvish retired 18 of the last 21 Padres he faced including the last ten in a row.
On April 12th this year, the Mariners touched Darvish for 3 runs in the first inning. After the first? Fifteen of 17 Mariners were retired, including the last 12 in a row.
Less than two weeks ago, the Red Sox plated three runs in the first two innings. After a second inning home run, Darvish retired 17 of the last 20 Boston batters he faced, only one of them getting a hit.
Even when he doesn’t have his best stuff, Darvish seems to have an innate ability to figure out within a game how to proceed based on how his pitches are working or not working. In this case he switched from setting everything up through his fastball to setting it up through his slider. There are few pitchers out there who can achieve such dramatic results on in-game adjustments. I’m just glad one who can pitches for the Texas Rangers.
Before delving into dissecting the 2012 season for the Texas Rangers and looking ahead to potential off-season moves by Jon Daniels and Company, it’s time to cast my votes for the Baseball Bloggers Association post-season honors. Seeing as this blog concerns itself for the most part with the American League, my votes will be cast strictly for the American League honorees.
CONNIE MACK AWARD (Best Manager)
Four weeks ago, I was totally prepared to waste my vote. I had a litany of reasons why Ron Washington of the Texas Rangers should finally get his due. After the last four weeks and even more specifically the last four games, there’s no way my rationale applied anymore. There are three other candidates: Buck Showalter of the Orioles, Bob Melvin of the A’s and Robin Ventura of the White Sox. At season’s start, I had all three of those teams pegged to finish at or near the bottom of their divisions. The White Sox faded at the end, which is about the only reason I eliminated Ventura from the discussion. From a Rangers perspective, I have reasons to vote for both Melvin and Showalter. What swung my vote in the end was how one pitching staff kept going, no matter the obstacles thrown in their way. Starter suspended? Plug someone else in. Ace gets cracked in the skull by a line drive? Here’s another guy. The guy coming back from the DL goes back to the list after five starts? No problem! My vote goes to Bob Melvin.
WILLIE MAYS AWARD (Ouststanding Rookie)
You know, if I really wanted to drive up traffic on my site, this would be the easiest way to do it: Come up with a heartfelt, at least sane-sounding argument why Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels WASN’T worthy of this award because of the accomplishments of (Insert A Rookie Player’s Name Here). Then watch the sparks fly as reader after reader blasts that choice, then tweets all his or her friends to send their vitriol my way as well. Yep, sure-fire way to increase traffic to the site.
Not gonna do it. No doubt. Mike Trout. But feel free to tweet all your friends and tell them to visit my site anyway.
GOOSE GOSSAGE AWARD (Outstanding Reliever)
You know what? My man Joe Nathan had himself a pretty darn good year in 2012. He only blew three saves all year. It sure didn’t help that the last one he blew turned out to be at the worst possible time, in the last week of the season. So I have to go with Fernando Rodney of the Tampa Bay Rays. Yet another guy that comes out of the blue in Tampa and regains his past glory. Outstanding season.
WALTER JOHNSON AWARD (Top Pitcher)
Lots of choices here. Justin Verlander of the Tigers. Jered Weaver of the Angels. David Price of the Rays. Earlier this season, I sang the praises of Matt Harrison and bemoaned the fact he wouldn’t get much serious consideration for the award because he’s not a strikeout pitcher and argued those type of pitchers should get MORE consideration because it makes it even harder to make that upper echelon. Well, you know what? Weaver doesn’t have that blistering fastball either and his K rate isn’t where Verlander’s and Price’s are and he did just fine too. My friends Kristen and ICE will be happy with my second vote towards an Angel this year. Jered Weaver is my vote here.
STAN MUSIAL AWARD (Top Player)
There are constant arguments here on an annual basis and 2012 is no exception. The main question is this: How do you define this award? I always ask this because I do find a distinction between calling someone the Player of the Year and the Most Valuable Player. The year he won 27 games, Steve Carlton was easily a Player of the Year. Some would say since his team finished in dead last place that didn’t qualify him to considered the Most Valuable Player (let alone because he was a pitcher). So it is with this award. There are tribes in two camps. There’s the Mike Trout camp and the Miguel Cabrera camp.
Trout had a rookie season for the ages in 2012 and accomplished things in combination that no rookie had ever done before. Cabrera was Cabrera, which means the best player in baseball over the past five years. Trout has a higher WAR. Cabrera plays for a team in the post-season. Trout accomplished what he did despite starting the season in the minor leagues. Cabrera was hotter in September when the playoff push came. Trout was a better defensive player. Cabrera had more power. I could go back and forth all day. In the end, putting your team over the hump for the playoffs when they were all but dead just three weeks from the finish line won out. Miguel Cabrera gets my vote. If Anaheim had made the post-season, my vote would have been different.
Last but not least in the BBA Post-Season Awards is the Stan Musial Award for Player of the Year.
Last month, while returning to the Rio Grande Valley from Arlington, where I saw my beloved Rangers top the Mariners in the next to last home game of the season, I tuned as usual into MLB Radio on XM. At the time, they were having a grand debate: Did Justin Verlander deserve to be in the discussion for AL MVP? I don’t remember who the two hosts of the program were, but one was adamant that Verlander, as a pitcher, should not be considered. He was a pitcher, he only starts every fifth game and there’s no way someone who starts every fifth day should be considered right alongside everyday players.
Here’s the kicker, though. This same co-host was asked several questions concerning the upcoming playoffs. Every time he was asked a question about the Tigers chances in the playoffs, he would answer by talking about the Tigers advantage because of Justin Verlander and, conversely, how the Tigers wouldn’t have a chance without Verlander. So apparently, he was saying if he starts every fifth game, he should not be considered for MVP, but it all changes when he’s in a situation to pitch every fourth game. I couldn’t help but laugh.
Seriously, what is the big deal about this? As far as I’m concerned, if a pitcher has a season in which he has so outperformed every other pitcher in the league, why shouldn’t he be considered for an MVP Award? It only happens once every decade or so, maybe even less than that. In all my time of following major league baseball, the only AL pitchers I can think of that would have to be part of the discussion for any one year would have included Denny McLain for his 30 win season of 1968, maybe Ron Guidry for the year he went 25-3 for the Yankees and Verlander this year. That’s three pitchers in 43 years. You’re going to get bent out of shape over something that happens so seldom? In the National League, I would probably have considered Bob Gibson the year he had a 1.12 ERA. Despite being on a last place team, Steve Carlton’s 27 win season for the Phillies has to be one of the singularly best accomplishments of all time. He literally won almost half of his team’s games. But he shouldn’t be considered because he wasn’t an everyday player? Hogwash!
I’m not voting Verlander as #1 on my BBA ballot, but he does have a place there. I don’t care if he only played in 20% of his team’s games. His production in those games and the final result are what earns him the right to be considered.
Herewith is my official ballot for the Stan Musial Award:
1) Curtis Granderson, New York Yankees: Yes, he only hit .262, but on a team of stars, it was his increased production in 2011 (41 HR, 119 RBI) that helped pace the Yankees to the best record in the American League.
2) Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers: If I based the award on post-season play in addition to the regular season, Cabrera would probably be #1. We’re just looking at regular season play, though, so despite another MVP-caliber campaign (.344 BA, 30 HR’s, 105 RBI), Cabrera finishes second once again.
3) Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox: It didn’t take long for Gonzalez to become one of the most feared hitters in the AL (.328 BA, 27 HR, 117 RBI). If not for the Bosox collapse at the end of the season, A-Gon might have rated a little higher as well.
4) Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays: Bautista had another great year, leading the league in home runs and adding an over .300 batting average with a ton of walks thrown in for good measure. In my mind, what kept Bautista from finishing higher was his RBI total (103 RBI with 43 HR). They looked kind of low for someone with as many home runs as Bautista had.
5) Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers: Yes, he deserves to be here. Easily the best pitcher in the AL in 2011, leading the league in wins, innings pitched and strikeouts.
6) Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox: A perfect combination of power and speed, Ellsbury was an incredible threat in the Red Sox line-up, hitting .321 with 32 HR’s, 105 RBI and 39 steals.
7) Michael Young, Texas Rangers: Young had personal bests in batting average (.338) and RBI’s (106), while seeing time as DH and playing all four infield positions. Don’t scoff at his low power numbers. You won’t find very many players in either league over the last ten years to get over 100 RBI’s with less than 15 home runs. Young has now done it twice, this time with only 11 long balls. He also topped 200 hits for the sixth time.
8) Robinson Cano, New York Yankees: He could’ve been a Texas Ranger, but Texas took Alfonso Soriano instead in the A-Rod deal, only because they believed Ian Kinsler was going to be a pretty good player. They were right about Kinsler, but boy, can you imagine a Rangers line-up with Cano (.302 BA, 28 HR, 118 RBI)? Scary, right?
9) Asdrubel Cabrera, Cleveland Indians: .273 with 25 HR’s and 92 RBI. From a shortstop. Cabrera was a big reason the Indians stayed in the AL Central race up to mid-September. He played pretty good defense too.
10) Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers: After a monster September, Beltre ended 2011 at .296 with 32 HR’s and 105 RBI while playing stellar defense at third base. Beltre might have been given strong consideration for MVP had he not missed almost a month with a hamstring injury.
There’s the top ten. Interestingly enough, you’ll find no mention of Josh Hamilton, last year’s MVP. He still was right around .300, he still was right around 100 RBI. Yet even Rangers fans would probably list him no better than third for team MVP. Just goes to show how potent that Rangers line-up is.
Tiger fans, I know you’re disappointed. I would be too. But whether my team was down 3-1 or up 3-1 right now, I think we can all agree on one thing:This may be one of the most incredible ALCS’s ever. Yes, EVER!
Every game has been tense. Two have gone to extra innings. Both teams have had their chances. There have been clutch hits. Clutch defensive plays. Clutch pitching. This series has had it all and it’s only because my team is up 3-1 that you’re not hearing about me going to the ER suffering from hypertension.
My goodness, what a Game 4. From the two-hour plus rain delay before getting the darn thing started to the masterful early performance of Rick Porcello to Michael Young breaking out of a prolonged slump to knock in the first go-ahead run of the game for the Rangers and every nail-biting moment in between.
There was Alexi Ogando, a killer throughout the playoffs, one out away from two more strong shutout innings of work when Brandon Inge took an 0-2 pitch and deposited it in the left field seats to tie the game at 3. There was Miguel Cabrera, on third base in the bottom of the 8th, taking off for home on a fly to medium depth right, only to see Nelson Cruz throw a perfect one-bounce strike to the plate, allowing Mike Napoli to deny Cabrera the go-ahead run.
Napoli wasn’t done, either. In the 9th, he faced off against former Ranger Joaquin Benoit in a memorable at bat. For nine pitches, both pitcher and batter took turns staring each other down, calling time outs to try to mess with the other’s head. Good pitches were fouled off. Benoit finally won the battle, but what an AB.
In the bottom of the 9th, one of the Tigers returned the favor and even made it better. This time it was Ramon Santiago, battling Darren Oliver through a 13-pitch at bat, before Oliver finally coaxed a fly ball to center field for the out.
There was Napoli again in the tenth, throwing a perfect strike to Ian Kinsler, who swiped the tag down on Austin Jackson for a caught stealing, snuffing out a potential Tigers rally.
And, for a fourth time, it was Napoli again, with Josh Hamilton on second and Adrian Beltre at first, flaring a single to center off Jose Valverde that scored Hamilton with what proved to be the winning run. Nelson Cruz will get all the print for the three-run boomstick Cruz missile that followed Napoli’s hit, putting the game out of reach, but die-hard baseball fans know what the key hit was.
This was such an important win for the Rangers. Had they lost tonight and allowed the Tigers to tie the series at two, Texas would be feeling the massive pressure of having to face Justin Verlander tomorrow with the chance of being down 3-2. Now they have three games to win just one, two of which are scheduled for Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and Verlander will only pitch one of those games.
Less than 18 hours away from Game 5. I can’t even imagine what these two teams have in store as an encore to tonight’s classic.
Quite frankly, I didn’t realize that Doug Fister had something against Adrian Beltre.
It sure looked that way in Game 3 of the ALCS. Beltre, known as Belt Three for his three home run performance against the Rays in the clinching game of the ALDS, this time belted three again- this time they were all against his body, leaving the All-Star 3rd baseman battered and bruised by the end of the game.
In his first at bat, Beltre fouled off one Fister pitch into his left shin. One at bat later came a shot off the left leg again, this time right above the knee. At this point he was obviously in pain, but he still took his position at third. In his final at bat of the night, this time against Jose Valverde, Beltre managed to hit yet another foul ball, this time glancing off the back of his right foot. A day earlier, his sharp grounder to first would have been beaten out for an infield hit. Instead he hobbled to the bag, easily beaten by Miguel Cabrera for the game’s penultimate out.
At one point during the game, a 1-1 tie at the time, I tweeted that the Rangers had six hits, the Tigers three, but Doug Fister was looking like the better pitcher. Words that turned out being prophetic. Once the Tigers went up 2-1, it just felt like the Rangers had to pray to tie things up and let the bullpens take over because otherwise Fister wasn’t showing any signs of letting them do a thing off him offensively.
Texas was the first to score, but it only illustrates how special a no-hitter is for a pitcher. Ian Kinsler hit a sharp single on the first pitch of the game. For the first six innings it turned out to be the hardest hit the Rangers would have. Two more hits followed by Elvis Andrus and Josh Hamilton. Andrus’ was an infield chopper in just the right place and Hamilton’s was a soft line drive that barely eluded a leaping Jhonny Peralta’s glove to plate Kinsler.
They weren’t terribly good hits because Fister was masterful in getting his pitches in on the Rangers hitters, sawing them off and inducing weak grounders and pops. Fister was brutal against Beltre as described earlier.
Back in July, with the trade deadline approaching, I opined on another website that maybe the Rangers’ first trade deadline deal would be for Fister. It never materialized but it turned out to be the best deal the Tigers made. Fister was 3-12 for the offensively inept Seattle Mariners, but his overall stat line was much better than his record indicated. Once he got to Detroit, he became an 8-1 pitcher down the stretch. And he’s under Detroit’s control for at least the next three years. Great pick-up for them.
The best that can be said for Texas is they didn’t have to use most of their main bullpen pieces. Koji Uehara relieved Lewis, gave up another home run and pretty much ensured he won’t be trusted with a World Series roster spot if the club gets that far. Uehara has been awful since coming over from Baltimore and I foresee an off-season trade in his future. Darren Oliver was solid again and Yoshinori Tateyama got his first post-season taste. But Mike Adams and Neftali Feliz weren’t needed, giving them valuable rest for today’s day game. The Tigers, on the other hand, used both Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde for a second straight game, putting their availability in jeopardy for today’s Game 4.
Fister shut the Rangers down. More power to him. My feeling is Rick Porcello can’t duplicate the feat today.
For the Rangers, Matt Harrison needs to do what no Rangers starter has been able to do thus far this series- pitch six innings. The Tigers are as beat up right now as Beltre was last night, with Victor Martinez now joining the walking wounded for the Motor City crew. Harry needs to take advantage of it.
The road to the World Series is officially different in 2011.
With the ouster of the Yankees Thursday night, the Rangers will not be facing their second rematch in as many post-season series. Instead, they draw the dangerous Tigers for the ALCS.
On the good news side, the Tigers offense, while good, is not as formidable as the Yankees, giving Rangers pitching a better shot at excellence. On the other side of the ledger, the Tigers starting pitching is a step above the Yankees, so the offense will be a little more handcuffed.
In other words, scores should be lower and closer with Rangers-Tigers, where as Rangers-Yankees may have had a better shot at having one team or the other hitting double digits in scoring in a game.
The Tigers are a worrisome team. While they don’t have the starting staff 1-4 that the Giants had, they remind me a little bit of last year’s World Champions: strong starting pitching (if not a little inconsistent outside of Justin Verlander). Not the strongest of offenses (no disrespect intended), a great back end of the bullpen.
Detroit’s offense, while not as strong as the Rangers, isn’t as weak as the Giants attack of a year ago. Miguel Cabrera is a beast, Alex Avila had a great year and Magglio Ordonez showed in the LDS he still has something left in the tank.
Justin Verlander is quite simply the American League’s best pitcher and CJ Wilson is going to have to match him pitch for pitch to give the Rangers a shot. Doug Fister was always a hard luck pitcher when he was with Seattle. Now that he has a better offense to work with, he’s taken off (8-1 with Detroit). Thanks to his pitching Game 5 of the ALDS last night, Texas won’t face him until Game 3. It’s doubtful Max Scherzer will start Game 2, as he was also pressed into service in the deciding game against the Yankees. It’ll probably by Rick Porcello in Game 2.
The Rangers have their best chances against Porcello and Scherzer, both of whom are capable of great games but both have been more inconsistent throughout the year.
For Texas, the biggest decision might be whether or not to put Alexi Ogando back in the starting rotation for the ALCS. Texas was only 3-6 against Detroit in the regular season, but all three wins were by Ogando. Despite the sterling record, I think Texas will keep Ogando in the pen, if only because he has experience there and Colby Lewis doesn’t. The ALCS is no place to gamble on an unknown quantity.
In a nutshell: If the Rangers offense performs at about the same level they performed in the Tampa Bay series, they have a good shot at repeating as AL Champions. If not, then the Texas starters are going to have to improve on their ALDS performance.
Texas has their hands full for this one. One thing I know for sure, though: Detroit has their hands full too.