Okay, so earlier this week I mentioned that I was going to work on some post-2011 All Star teams to reflect on the best players of the year. I'm finally getting to that now, and to be clear these are merely based on my opinion, which is obviously greatly influenced by statistical analysis and such. Here's the NL Central team, and I'll do my best to get through these over the next couple weeks, along with my positional previews for the offseason.
Catcher: Yadier Molina, St. Louis (4.1 fWAR)
An easy pick given Geovany Soto's disappointing season. Ramon Hernandez played well for the Reds this year, but didn't get on the field nearly as much as Yadier.
First Base: Joey Votto, Cincinnati (6.9 fWAR)
Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols are obviously some sturdy competition, but Votto is the top dog given his defensive advantages over Fielder and El Hombre's down year.
Second Base: Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati (6.0 fWAR)
Pretty easy pick here. Easily the best second baseman in the NL according to fWAR, partially given how much more he played than injury-prone peers like Rickie Weeks. And although people given Darwin Barney a hard time, it's worth noting that his 2.2 WAR number really isn't too bad.
Third Base: Aramis Ramirez, Chicago (3.6 fWAR)
Not a great year for third basemen, but Ramirez had another strong year at the plate for the Cubs. He's a poor defender at this point, but a .306 average and 26 homers are enough to make him a well above average player.
Shortstop: Starlin Castro, Chicago (3.4 fWAR)
Like his teammate Ramirez, Castro is a below-average defender these days, but he was quite durable and posted above-average hitting numbers. Clint Barmes had a nice year, but Castro smacked 207 hits to lead the National League.
Left Field: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee (7.8 fWAR)
An MVP candidate, Braun has been the second-best player in the National League this year by fWAR. He'll surely get some pub after hitting .332/.397/.597 with 33 homers and 33 steals for one of the best teams in the league. Obviously apologies to Matt Holliday, who had another strong year at the plate in St. Louis.
Center Field: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh (5.7 fWAR)
McCutchen looked like a possible MVP candidate at midseason when the Pirates were in first place. Really, the Pirates went as their star player went this season. Through July 19, the Pirates were 50-43 and McCutchen was hitting .280/.381/.488. Since then, he's hit just .226/.338/.407, and the Bucs have gone 20-45.
Right Field: Lance Berkman, St. Louis (5.0 fWAR)
Berkman killed the ball for St. Louis this season, making up for some pretty bad defense in right field along the way. Only Braun, Fielder and Matt Kemp posted better offensive numbers than the Big Puma this season, easily outpacing Milwaukee's Corey Hart.
No. 1: Chris Carpenter, St. Louis (5.0 fWAR)
No. 2: Matt Garza, Chicago (5.0 fWAR)
No. 3: Zach Greinke, Milwaukee (3.9 fWAR)
No. 4: Yovani Gallardo, Milwaukee (3.1 fWAR)
No. 5: Jaime Garcia, St. Louis (3.6 fWAR)
This says one thing to me, and it's that the NL Central didn't have much great pitching this season. Carpenter turned into another strong year for St. Louis, Garza was a pleasant surprise in Chicago, Greinke pitched quite well but began the season late and has battled a high ERA, Gallardo struggled to begin the season, and Garcia had a stark home/road split in terms of ERA for the second consecutive season. They're all very good pitchers, but at least the five best pitchers in the NL all pitch elsewhere.
Reliever: Sean Marshall, Chicago (2.8 fWAR)
Reliever: Joel Hanrahan, Pittsburgh (2.0 fWAR)
Reliever: John Axford, Milwaukee (1.9 fWAR)
There was some good relief pitching in this division, on the other hand. Sean Marshall is one of the underrated relief weapons in the game; he's been one of the best relievers in the NL for the past three seasons. Hanrahan has finally emerged as a quality closer in Pittsburgh, and Axford turned in another strong campaign with the Brewers after last season's breakout.