2014 American League All-Star Team

I’ve never understood why baseball is alone among major sports in not having an All-Star team named when the season was over. It’s a tradition at TheSportsNotebook to choose a complete team for each league at the conclusion of the regular season. Below are the selections for the 2014 American League All-Star team.

This is a true team, with a regular five-man starting rotation, and two setup relievers. Furthermore, it’s a rule that one of the outfielders chosen must be a centerfielder. That wasn’t exactly a problem in this year’s American League, but it does prevent an All-Star team from being three corner outfielders, something obviously unworkable in defensive practice.

C: Yan Gomes (Cleveland): It wasn’t a great class of American League catchers, something not all that surprising. Gomes still had a nice year, slugging .472 and hitting 21 home runs, and his coming through meant the Indians could move Carlos Santana to the infield.

1B: Jose Abreu (Chicago): Abreu had a stat line of .383 on-base percentage/.581 slugging percentage, and edged Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in most key offensive categories. The only exceptions were runs scored, and RBIs, and the latter was close (109-107).

2B: Jose Altuve (Houston): The AL batting champ gets a slight edge over Robinson Cano in Seattle. I would have liked to have taken Minnesota’s Brian Dozier, a significantly better defender. But the gap in offensive performance was too much to ignore.

3B: Josh Donaldson (Oakland): Donaldson slumped along with his team at the end of the season, but he still finished with a .342/.456 stat line and 29 home runs in a park that’s awfully tough to hit in.

BaseballSS: Alexei Ramirez (Chicago): What an awful class of shortstops. No one was a steady contributor offensively. I’ll take Ramirez because he grades out strongest on the defensive metrics and played every day.

CF: Mike Trout (Los Angeles): A stat line of .377/.561, 36 home runs, and the best player on a turnaround team that had the best record in baseball. We’ll save any real discussion of Trout until the MVP portion of the discussion.

OF: Jose Bautista (Toronto): Bautista hit 35 home runs and finished with 103 RBI, and carried the Blue Jay offense during the chunk of the season Edwin Encarcion missed with injury.

OF: Michael Brantley (Cleveland): Brantley helped keep the Indians afloat in the early part of the season and to make a push in August and September. He finished with an OBP of .385, aided by a batting average of .327, and popped 20 home runs, to fuel a .506 slugging percentage.

DH: Victor Martinez (Detroit): Nelson Cruz hit 40 home runs for Baltimore. David Ortiz had a good, if not vintage year, in Boston. But no one was better than Martinez, with his .409/.565 stat line in the pitching environment of Comerica Park.

SP: Felix Hernandez (Seattle)
SP: Corey Kluber (Cleveland)
SP: Jon Lester (Oakland)
SP: Max Scherzer (Detroit)
SP: Jered Weaver (Los Angeles)

There’s a three-part caste system in this rotation. Hernandez and Kluber have separation as the Cy Young candidates. Lester is on a tier all his own as an easy All-Star pick, but outside the Cy Young window. The latter two picks are about preference.

Scherzer and Weaver each won 18 games and each worked over 200 innings. You can make a very good argument for Chris Sale and his 2.17 ERA (Scherzer and Weaver are at 3.15 and 3.59 respectively), but Sale only worked 174 innings. Garrett Richards had a good year for Weaver’s Angels, but only made 26 starts.

And that underscores the reason why Weaver makes it in with such a high ERA. The Los Angeles pitching rotation was anything but stable all year, but Weaver anchored it and did a full load of 34 starts. In a similar vein, Scherzer helped stabilize a rotation where Justin Verlander struggled and Anibal Sanchez got hurt.

Setup: Wade Davis (Kansas City)
Setup: Darren O’Day (Baltimore)
Closer: Greg Holland (Kansas City)

It’s not hard to see why the Royals made the playoffs, with both Davis and Holland having dominating seasons. O’Day has been one of the American League’s best for several years now, and owns the eighth inning for the Orioles.