You've probably heard by now. The Texas Rangers are sending seven representatives to the 2012 All-Star Game in Kansas City next week.
Three Rangers will be starting the All-Star Game as well: Josh Hamilton, who happened to break the all-time vote record, Mike Napoli and Adrian Beltre will all be on the field when the first pitch is thrown by whoever Ron Washington selects to start -- and let's face it, it'll probably be Justin Verlander.
Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison, Joe Nathan and Ian Kinsler will all also make the trip to Kansas City as well. There could be room for another Ranger, as Yu Darvish is in the Final Vote competition, and could very well be the eighth Ranger to make the All-Star team.
It's certainly a nice honor, and the question this time of year always is the same: which players were deserving of the All-Star nod? Well, let's break it down and see if Texas' crop should be present.
In a word, yes. In two words, [expletive redacted] yes. Entering Sunday night's game, Hamilton has hit to the tune of .319/.385/.652, belted 25 home runs, driven in 73 runs and is second in OF WAR in the American League only to Mike Trout -- who wasn't even on the fan ballot, anyway. There is no more deserving Ranger to be on the All-Star team than Hamilton, and he is rightfully starting.
Another easy choice here. Beltre is tied for the American League lead among 3B in WAR with Brett Lawrie. Lawrie, however, has skewed defensive metrics which inflate his value, because of the way the Blue Jays utilize the shift in Toronto, and there is no doubt that Beltre has been the superior player.
Beltre has hit, belting 14 home runs along with a .328/.360/.534 line. As always, he's been an asset in the field, flashing Gold Glove caliber defense at third.
Miguel Cabrera, who can also hit (.315/.376/.541), cannot field his new-old position well -- and his offense hasn't been that much better than Beltre's to compensate the difference.
The fans, once again, made the right choice with Beltre.
Here's where the fans screwed up. Mike Napoli should not be starting the All-Star Game...
...unless you're voting based off of the second half of last season, and last year's postseason. Then by all means, Napoli should be the starting catcher.
If we're judging selections based on 2012 results, there were better choices at catcher. Joe Mauer is probably the most deserving of all American League catchers. Mauer is hitting .325/.416/.448 on the year, and is walking at a 13.3% clip.
A.J. Pierznyski has also clearly been better than Napoli in 2012 as well, as he's batting .285/.332/.517 on the season, with 14 HR and a wOBA and wRC+ superior to Napoli's.
If defense is your thing from catchers, then Matt Wieters is also deserving -- and he's hit quite comparably to Napoli too.
Is it absolutely egregious that Napoli is starting? No, not really. Napoli should probably be an All-Star, but he shouldn't be starting. It's whatever. It's not even a fraction as bad as Derek Jeter starting yet again, but the fact remains that there were better choices than Napoli to start this year.
Remember what I just wrote about Derek Jeter starting the game? Yeah, not only is Andrus deserving of an All-Star selection, he should be the starting shortstop.
Andrus has hit just as well as any American League shortstop this year, save for Asdrubal Cabrera. No, Andrus' defense hasn't been at its best this year, with a -4 DRS and just a 1.2 UZR, but that will come around. There's little doubt that Andrus is an elite defender at short, and it's too small of a defensive sample size to get outraged or concerned over, especially with Andrus' track record.
Among American League short stops, Andrus has the second highest batting average, the most steals, the highest on base average, and he's slugging .411. Oh yeah, he's leading AL shortstops in WAR by nearly a full win.
As usual, the fans screwed up at shortstop in the American League. Bad, fans, bad!
Hey, something the fans and players got right.
Yes, Kinsler is a deserving All-Star. No, he should not be the starting second baseman. Robinson Cano is currently in the MVP discussion, and absolutely should be the starting second baseman for the American League next week.
Could Indians or Rays fans be slightly irritated that Kinsler was selected over Jason Kipnis or Ben Zobrist? Sure, a little bit. The only statistics that currently really distinguishes the three are OBP and ISO, where Zobrist has a sizable advantage to go along with a low BABIP. Zobrist's low average, a consequence of his low BABIP, is likely what put Kinsler ahead of him.
Low strikeout numbers aside, Harrison is deserving of his selection. Harrison trails just Verlander, Chris Sale, Jake Peavy, C.C. Sabathia and Felix Hernandez in WAR among American League pitchers in 2012. That's some pretty elite company for Harrison. Though they're meaningless, Harrison is tied atop the American League leaderboard in wins with 11, which certainly plays a role in the mind of players and managers -- even though it shouldn't.
Regardless, wins aside, Harrison is a worthy All-Star selection.
Who knew that the Rangers would replace Neftali Feliz with Joe Nathan at closer this year and actually improve? I don't know if even Jon Daniels thought that's what was going to happen, but that's the way it's worked out for the Rangers so far.
Nathan has been incredible, and leads American League relievers in WAR to date. Sure, he has two losses, and sure, he's saved 18 games -- both meaningless. Nathan is striking out 11.23 batters per nine innings. Nathan has walked just four batters in 33 and 2/3 innings, and he's given up just two home runs on the year.
Nathan is not only deserving to go, but he should be Washington's closer, provided the American League has a lead headed into the ninth inning.
All in all, fans and players alike did a pretty good job with the Rangers. No, Napoli shouldn't be starting, and yes, Andrus should be starting, but they're both All-Stars, and they're both deserving of the honor. It's a testament to how strong this Rangers team is, and has been the past two seasons, that 28 percent of Texas' roster is headed to Kansas City next week, and if Darvish receives the final spot, it'll be a staggering 32 percent.