July 10, 2006
The Derby starts tonight at 8:00, so I'll do that first.
AL: Jermaine Dye, Troy Glaus, David Ortiz, Miguel Tejada
NL: Lance Berkman, Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Howard, David Wright
In the past three HR Derbys (Derbies?), there has been a common theme among the champions: They were all wildly underrated at the time of the competition. Garret Anderson in '03, Tejada in '04, and Bobby Abreu last year each were among the most underrated players in baseball entering their respective derbies. Since then, Anderson has continued to be underrated while the latter two have gotten their due from the media, but that doesn't really matter. The question is, who is the most underrated player here?
There is no clear-cut player this year (like Abreu last year, when I first tested this system). Initially I thought Ryan Howard might be the guy, but the massive bandwagon that jumped on him for the competition makes me think he's due for a major no-show. Troy Glaus and Jermaine Dye might be underrated, but I think that they're just not really all that good. Ortiz and Wright obviously have huge followings, largely due to playing in big markets. Tejada has already won this thing, but I don't think he has the power to do it again. Miguel Cabrera is fairly underrated, but he's already gotten his share of publicity this year - that intentional walk base hit that was subsequently replayed 5,000,000,000,000,000 times on ESPN, ESPN2, and the Ocho.
So who does that leave? Lance Berkman. He is making $14.5 million this year, but very few households outside of Houston know his name. Berkman is a switch hitter, so he can bat from the left side (where he has much more power), and PNC park appears to favor a lefty. Berkman has the most RBI and the second-best OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage) in the National League, as well as 24 homers. Plus, Berkman finished second to Tejada a couple years ago, so he should know how to pace himself and what strategies to use to try to win the Derby.
I'll break things down by position. Because the starters rarely play more than 4-5 innings, I'll look at all the players at the position for each team. The first player listed at each position is the starter.
AL: Pudge Rodriguez, Joe Mauer, A.J. Pierzynski
NL: Paul LoDuca, Brian McCann
Mauer is having an incredible year - he has a BA in the .380s, and he controls the Minnesota staff well. Plus, he actually can throw people out, which is more than can be said for the Indians' Victor Martinez (they will probably move him to first within the next year or so). It was criminal that Pierzynski got in the game - Liriano, Verlander, and Hafner would have all been much more deserving candidates. Edge: AL
AL: David Ortiz, Paul Konerko, Jim Thome
NL: Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, Nomar Garciaparra, Ryan Howard
Ortiz and Thome are both vying for the AL MVP trophy, but unfortunately neither of them can really play first base. Konerko should not be in ahead of Hafner (although Hafner's a DH as well), but he's having a pretty fine year as well. The NL, however, has an insane amount of talent at first. Howard is having a monster year, Berkman is one of the most underrated players in baseball (see above), and Nomar is playing very well in LA. And, of course, Albert Pujols is Albert Pujols. Edge: NL
AL: Mark Loretta, Jose Lopez, Robbie Cano (out with injury)
NL: Chase Utley, Dan Uggla
Utley is the best second baseman in baseball now that Alfonso Soriano is in the outfield, though this is a very weak position. Uggla is probably the NL ROY right now, although Lopez is having a decent year as well. Edge: NL
AL: A-Rod, Troy Glaus
NL: David Wright, Miguel Cabrera, Scott Rolen, Freddy Sanchez
Third base is arguably the deepest and most talented position in baseball, at least among the elite players. I don't really know how Sanchez got on the team, but all the others are very well-deserving All-Stars. A-Rod and Glaus have been very good, but the NL clearly gets the better of this matchup. Edge: NL
AL: Derek Jeter, Michael Young, Miguel Tejada
NL: Jose Reyes (out with injury), Edgar Renteria
I'm not sure if it has been determined yet who will fill in for Reyes, or if Renteria will get the start for the NL. I'm not sure it really matters - the AL's new Big Three shortstops are very talented and are much better than the NL's shortstops. Edge: AL
AL: Manny Ramirez (withdrew), Vlad Guerrero, Ichiro Suzuki, Jermaine Dye, Gary Matthews Jr., Magglio Ordonez, Alex Rios (out with injury), Grady Sizemore, Vernon Wells
NL: Jason Bay, Carlos Beltran, Alfonso Soriano, Andrew Jones, Matt Holliday, Carlos Lee
Magglio Ordonez's selection is one of the most interesting storylines here - there were more deserving players, and Ordonez and AL Manager Ozzie Guillen were involved in a very heated and very public feud last offseason. And I have no idea how Matthews Jr got on the team. Still, the AL's crop of young outfielders such as Sizemore and Wells should dominate this game for years to come. Edge: AL
AL Starter: Kenny Rogers
Other AL SPs: Mark Buerhle, Jose Contreras, Roy Halladay, Scott Kazmir, Mark Redman, Johan Santana, Barry Zito
AL RPs: Bobby Jenks, Jon Paplebon, Mariano Rivera, B.J. Ryan
NL Starter: Brad Penny
Other NL SPs: Bronson Arroyo, Chris Capuano, Chris Carpenter, Tom Glavine (withdrew), Pedro Martinez (withdrew), Roy Oswalt, Jason Schmidt, Brandon Webb, Carlos Zambrano
NL RPs: Brian Fuentes, Tom Gordon, Trevor Hoffman, Derrick Turnbow
Pitching is difficult to predict in an All-Star game - pitchers who normally go six or seven will only pitch one inning, and they're facing the best hitters in the world. But right now, I think the AL has much better pitching. It's a shame that Fransisco Liriano and Justin Verlander couldn't have made the team - both rookies are having outstanding seasons. But I still think the AL is better - Halladay and Santana are probably the best pitchers (along w/Liriano) in the game right now, and Paplebon and Ryan are having tremendous years. Edge: AL
Ultimately, the AL has completely dominated interleague play, they've won seven of the last eight all-star games (and tied the other), and I think they'll win this one. AL wins, 9-6. I'll take Ortiz as the game's MVP.
Coming tomorrow: Part I of the MLB Midseason Report!
Update (2:45 pm): Liriano was added to the AL team for Contreras (who pitched yesterday), and David Eckstein was added to the NL roster for the injured Reyes. Renteria will be the starting SS for the NL.