MLB: All Star Game Preview, Winner, and MVP
Who ya got? In my opinion, the rosters are close in overall talent, so I’ll break it down a bit further. Do I have this right? Tweet me your scores and MVP: I’ll give social media props to anyone who nails either pick.
Infield Advantage: National League
The American League holds the greatest edge if you’re breaking it down by position (second base), but the National League is the infield I would prefer as a whole. Generally speaking, I prefer young talent in All Star games, as those are the players that seem to always make a big play as they tend to live in the moment during this event, while the veterans are less likely to make that extra effort. Not only does the NL hold the advantage in quantity of young players, it’s hard to argue with their quality (Paul Goldschmidt, Anthony Rizzo, Nolan Arenado, and Kris Bryant). The American League is the home of the only elite speed infielder, but the sneaky athleticism sprinkled throughout the NL infield has me believing that they are the more likely team to push the envelope a bit and take the extra base at a critical time.
C Salvador Perez (Royals), Russell Martin (Blue Jays), Stephen Vogt (Athletics)
1B Albert Pujols (Angels), Prince Fielder (Rangers), Mark Teixeira (Yankees)
2B Jose Altuve (Astros), Jason Kipnis (Indians), Brian Dozier (Twins)
SS Alcides Escobar (Royals), SS Jose Iglesias (Tigers)
Outfield Advantage: American League
The AL lost Alex Gordon to injury and the NL lost Giancarlo Stanton/Matt Holliday. Assuming that there is parity in the league, a difference in talent lost due to injury like that is simply too much to overcome. Bryce Harper has the most Pete Rose in him when it comes to a player who will want to make a statement in this game, but his talent is (at least) neutralized by that of Mike Trout. The NL again has the decided edge in youth, the reason why I am picking them to win this game, but I prefer the proven power of a guy like Cruz over the upside of Pederson in this one. The American League crew feels like they will battle through at-bats a bit more, and while that may not always be sexy, it is a good win to win baseball games (see St. Louis Cardinals).
Starting Pitcher Advantage: American League
This is an interesting one, as the NL has 50 percent more starting pitchers rostered than the AL. Now, that could be seen as a plus, as it would allow them to get the very best out of their star pitchers for one inning and no more, but that’s not how these games work. Yes, it is nice to have depth, but the American League holds the talent edge and the fact that they have fewer arms to choose from, I believe that could result in more 4-6 out performances, something that magnifies the talent edge they have. If you’re arguing for the NL having the advantage here because they are better equipped to play the matchup game, that’s only half true. Yes, they have the number of arms to do so, but with only two southpaws, they really can’t exploit handedness trends as much as you’d guess with such an advantage in quantity of SPs. Obviously, both staffs are great, but I do think the NL has the two worst pitchers of the bunch (Shelby Miller and A.J. Burnett), also nullifying the numbers game that they are clearly trying to play.
RHP Carlos Martinez, Cardinals
LHP Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
Relief Pitcher Advantage: National League
I prefer dominance in my relief pitchers and I believe the NL has a little more. Rosenthal, Papelbon, Rodriguez, and Chapman are combining to strike out 11.32 batters per nine innings (for the record, Chris Sale and Clayton Kershaw are the only starting pitchers with a higher strikeout rate). Melancon, while not capable of making hitters take pathetic looking hacks, has been among the best in baseball when it comes to dictating contact. No relief pitcher has thrown more innings and has a higher ground ball rate this season than the Bucco’s game-finisher. Tell any lefty over the last 3.5 seasons (.179 batting average against) or any handed batter that has stepped to the dish with RISP (.148 batting average against) this season that MM isn’t as intimidating as it gets and you’re going to get an argument. Betances, Davis, and Britton are all pitchers I love in this format, but I want one shut down inning from each reliever and I think a lead is safer in the late innings with the crew that the NL will employ should they hold a late lead.
MVP: Anthony Rizzo (after a disappointing HR Derby showing)
I’m not sure we see a lead change in this game and I think the corner infielders of the NL can net them an early lead that will be held onto by their strong pitching. Do Miller and Burnett scare me a bit? Of course, but maybe, with an early lead, they are used in spots as opposed to 30-50 pitches, thus closing the window for this potential weakness to impact the final result. It is possible that the NL got an UPGRADE as the result of Dee Gordon/Matt Holliday injuries (Troy Tulowitzki and Ryan Braun) and I’ll say that bump in offense will make a difference. The home crowd goes home happy, even if it means winning home field advantage in the World Series for one of their NL Central rivals.
Photo via Getty
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