PHOENIX, AZ - JULY 11: American League All-Stars Robinson Cano #24 of the New York Yankees and David Ortiz #34 of the Boston Red Sox talk on the field during the Gatorade All-Star Workout Day at Chase Field on July 11, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Ladies and gents, we have a World Series match-up. This post has nothing to do with that, but I'll assume that somebody else is covering those games somewhere. Somebody usually does.
I'm continuing to fashion post-2011 divisional all star teams today, and we're nearing the end of the road. I've already made teams for the NL Central, NL West, NL East and AL Central, and I plan on getting to the AL West tomorrow. I may not be able to finish my offseason previews until next week, though, as I have a few midterms at the end of this week that should garner most of my attention. The rest of it will likely be used up on some post-exam rabble-rousing.
Catcher: Matt Wieters, Baltimore (4.3 fWAR)
Yeah, he's still not "Matt Wieters: God of the Gods" but he's developing into an exceptional all-around player. He'll likely never be the MVP-quality hitter that many projected him to become, but he's a better defender than people expected and continues to make strides as a hitter. You could argue that he's still the best young catcher in the AL.
First Base: Adrian Gonzalez, Boston (6.6 fWAR)
A really great year for Gonzalez, even if it's partially supported by an unsustainable .380 BABIP. I expect him to be the division's best at this position for the next few years, as he's clearly a step ahead of Mark Teixeira these days.
Second Base: Dustin Pedroia, Boston (8.0 fWAR)
A fairly boring MVP-level season given that none of his numbers truly stand out other than his elite UZR, but he was very good in practically every area. He hit homers (21), he stole bases (26), he got on base (.387) and he played the aforementioned plus defense. Robbie Cano is a very good player, but Pedroia is still superior.
Third Base: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay (6.1 fWAR)
Most people classify 2011 as an "off-year" for Longoria, but he still posted the highest WAR of any third basemen in the game. Much of that can be attributed to a low BABIP, as he continues to smack homers, get on base and play elite defense at the hot corner.
Shortstop: J.J. Hardy, Baltimore (4.8 fWAR)
Never a great OBP guy, he posted the worst walk rate of his career in 2011, but otherwise it's easily the best performance of his career. His double-digit UZR makes him one of the best defenders in the game at the position, and his 30 homers were easily the most by a shortstop this season. Only two shortstops were within 14 homers of that figure.
Left Field: Brett Gardner, New York (5.1 fWAR)
Yes, he hit just .259 with 7 homers and 36 RBI in 159 games. He's also a plus-plus runner and the best defensive left fielder in the game. Toss some walks in there, and Gardner is actually one of the best outfielders in the game.
Center Field: Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston (9.4 fWAR)
As good as Curtis Granderson was this season, Ellsbury was even better. We all knew that Ellsbury could develop into a top-notch defender and base-runner with strong OBP skills, but I don't think that anybody projected 30+ homers. A stunningly good season from the AL Comeback Player of the Year and MVP candidate.
Right Field: Jose Bautista, Toronto (8.3 fWAR)
Probably Ellsbury's strongest competition for the MVP award among position players, Bautista was the AL's best hitter this season and he managed to play solid defense even while being shuffled between right field and third base for most of the season.
Designated Hitter: David Ortiz, Boston (4.2 fWAR)
The AL's best designated hitter (again), Ortiz had another exceptional year at the plate this season. Even if he wasn't at his best, he'd probably still be slotted here anyways. The division's other DH options- Jorge Posada, Edwin Encarnacion, Johnny Damon, Vladimir Guerrero- were all fairly underwhelming this season.
No. 1: CC Sabathia, New York (7.1 fWAR)
No. 2: James Shields, Tampa Bay (4.9 fWAR)
No. 3: David Price, Tampa Bay (4.7 fWAR)
No. 4: Josh Beckett, Boston (4.3 fWAR)
No. 5: Jon Lester, Boston (3.7 fWAR)
Rarely do pitchers come through on their big-money deals, but we have to admit that CC Sabathia has given the Yankees everything they possibly could have asked for. Nobody else in the division matched his Cy Young-caliber performance, although both the Rays and Red Sox continue to employ solid 1-2 punches atop their rotations. People probably aren't in the mood to heap praise on the likes of Beckett and Lester these days, though.
Reliever: Jonathan Papelbon, Boston (3.0 fWAR)
Reliever: David Robertson, New York (2.8 fWAR)
Reliever: Mariano Rivera, New York (2.4 fWAR)
The three best relievers in the AL this season all happen to reside in the AL East. None of these picks should be particularly surprising, although people probably don't realize that Papelbon posted the best metric figures of his career this season. After a couple of down-years, Papelbon really has stepped things up and re-established his stock as an elite closer before he delves into free agency this winter.