03 July 2011
Justin Verlander was seemingly a lock to make his 4th All-Star Game this year in Phoenix. But he wasn’t content being the only Detroit representative. He logged onto his seldom-used twitter account, and campaigned for his battery mate Alex Avila to make his 1st game. And the fans responded. Avila had a huge surge in the balloting, narrowly beating out Yankees catcher Russell Martin. Also included in the game will be closer and 3 time All-Star Jose Valverde and perennial MVP candidate and 6 time representative (3rd with Detroit) 1B Miguel Cabrera. Noticeably missing from this game are DH Victor Martinez and SS Jhonny Peralta, though Martinez is a candidate to be voted in via the final vote. The case for each is below.
Would it not be for the fact that Verlander is slated to pitch Sunday (and subsequently disqualifying him from playing in the ASG), the Tigers would have the starting pitcher and catcher in the Midsummer Classic. Verlander was not really a surprise to make the team, as he may very well be the best pitcher in baseball (I will actually determine out of him and Roy Halladay is better after they each make their final start of the first half). He has been completely dominant all year, going 11-3 with a 2.32 ERA and 130 SO in 135.2 IP. Everyone knows Verlander was going to make it, so I'll fast forward to the more interesting storylines.
Might as well get this one out of the way too- hold the presses, Miguel Cabrera is an All-Star! Miguel has been nothing short of outstanding in his 4th season in the Big D, hitting .328/.446/.572 with 17 HR and 56 RBIs. Cabrera lost out on the starting vote to Adrian Gonzalez (Gonzo deserved it more), but is still one of the premier players not only in the AL but in all of baseball. Again- a case not worth arguing as he was obviously going to make it.
The best story of the Tigers All-Stars is catcher Alex Avila. He received help online from his pitchers Verlander and Penny, but he undoubtedly deserves to be the starter. Among qualifying American League catchers, he leads in average (.299), OBP (.369), SLG (.531), 2B (16), RBI (46), and even 3B (3) and SB (3). He also ranks 2nd in hits (67), BB (28), and 3rd in home runs (10). Bottom line: Avila is the best AL catcher this year, and as Verlander put it on Twitter- “Thanks to all the non Tigers fans who chose the best player” and “To all the Tigers fans, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
While I’m definitely happy he made the team, and he has a track record of superiority over AL relievers, is Jose Valverde All-Star worthy this year? He ranks 3rd in saves (19) and has zero blown saves, but past that, he has mediocre numbers. 3.09 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 3 losses as a closer just aren’t quite up to par for a typical Valverde year. I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve it- Valverde is a terrific closer and I have no problems handing him the ball in the 9th inning. But Rays, Indians, and Mariners fans will argue (and they’d have a case) that Kyle Farnsworth, Rafael Perez, David Pauley, or Michael Pineda are being snubbed in favor of Valverde. But just think- how fun would it be to watch him net a save in his former home city?
While he didn’t make the All-Star roster, ESPN.com came out with a list of top 5 biggest snubs, and unsurprisingly, Peralta made this list. Although few will debate that Asdrubal Cabrera is the starting SS, Peralta certainly deserved a reserve nod. Unfortunately, Derek Jeter was voted in, Cabrera became a reserve, and Peralta was left out. Among AL SS, Peralta ranks 1st in AVG (.311), SLG (.538), OPS (.898), HR (14), and trails Cabrera by 1 for the RBI lead (Peralta has 48). For comparison, both Cabrera and Peralta lead Jeter in nearly every offensive category.
Now for the fun part. Victor Martinez is having a terrific year in his first season as a full time designated hitter. His slash line is .335/.349/.462, and that includes being the backup catcher to Avila. His .335 batting average in 2nd in the AL behind only Adrian Gonzalez. Martinez was not selected, in my opinion, because of Matt Wieters. Since every team has to be represented, the Orioles sent Wieters (a catcher) as their player. If Wieters does not go, it is very easy to justify sending V-Mart as the backup catcher. But luckily, Martinez still has a chance. He was selected as a candidate to be voted in as the 34th man, but he'll need your help. Make sure you vote for Victor Martinez (and being an Arizona native, if you need an NL choice, might I suggest Ian Kennedy).