By Bill Shaikin, On Baseball
The Dodgers have the best record in baseball at the All-Star break. The Giants lead the NL wild-card derby. Never have both teams qualified for the playoffs in the same season.
That intriguing thought led us to another one, and so here we present an All-Star team for players on the five California clubs. At the break, here’s our All-Cal team:
Catcher: Oakland’s Kurt Suzuki leads the California catchers in OPS, he has one error and he has nicely shepherded the next generation of A’s arms. We tip our cap to him as well for the generous fundraising he has done for fellow Cal State Fullerton catcher Jon Wilhite, the lone survivor of the crash that killed Angels’ pitcher Nick Adenhart and two friends.
First base: San Diego’s Adrian Gonzalez is a one-man show at Petco Park, a superstar obscured by the wreckage around him. Gonzalez has 24 home runs, twice as many as any of his teammates. He has as many walks as strikeouts, and it’s a wonder any team ever pitches to him.
Second base: The Dodgers’ Orlando Hudson has cooled lately, but he has enlivened the clubhouse all season and kept the lineup flowing from the No. 3 spot while Ramirez was suspended. He has 33 extra-base hits, and he leads second basemen in the state in runs scored and runs batted in.
Shortstop: The Angels’ Erick Aybar is the best of an uninspiring lot. Aybar has made the fewest errors of any regular shortstop in the state, and his OPS is the best. Cabrera isn’t even the best shortstop by that name — he has 13 errors to Aybar’s five — with San Diego’s Everth Cabrera, a Rule 5 pick, showing promise before his injury.
Third base: San Francisco’s Pablo Sandoval leads all major league third basemen in batting average (.337) and OPS (.973), and he supplies much of the Giants’ limited power. The only National Leaguers with a higher slugging percentage: Albert Pujols, Raul Ibanez and Prince Fielder.
Left field: Which Juan? We’ll take the Angels’ Juan Rivera over the Dodgers’ Juan Pierre. Rivera’s 16 home runs are twice as many as any other left fielder in the state, and he’s batting .312 overall, .349 with runners in scoring position. Pierre took advantage of Ramirez’s suspension to show he can still play his game — singles and steals, mostly, and he’s batting .355 with runners in scoring position — and Pierre has a better OPS than Holliday.
Center field: The mentor for now, the prodigy soon. The Angels’ Torii Hunter offers a vision of what Kemp could become. Hunter is batting .305 with 17 home runs, he leads all major league center fielders with 65 runs batted in and he puts the polish in the Gold Glove. Kemp’s highlight-reel defense will get smoother as he masters better routes to the ball. Hunter, Kemp and Atlanta’s Nate McLouth are the only major league center fielders in double figures in home runs, doubles and stolen bases.
Right field: The Angels’ Bobby Abreu spotted the Dodgers’ Andre Ethier quite a start, when Ethier led the NL in RBIs in April and Abreu did not hit a home run. Neither has been impressive on defense. Ethier has the advantage in home runs, 18-6, but we’ll take Abreu for his 19 stolen bases, 50 walks, .849 OPS and .311 average, including .380 with runners in scoring position.
Starters: San Francisco’s Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain — second and third in the NL in ERA, respectively, along with the Dodgers’ Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw and the Angels’ Jered Weaver.
Relievers: Every closer in the state is having a terrific year, so we’ll take ‘em all: San Diego’s Heath Bell, the Dodgers’ Jonathan Broxton, the Angels’ Brian Fuentes, San Francisco’s Brian Wilson and Oakland’s Andrew Bailey.
Rookies: The five arms in Oakland. Bailey, the closer, has a 1.92 ERA, with more innings than hits and walks combined. The four starters who could lead the A’s back to contention in a year or two: right-handers Vin Mazzaro (2-5, 3.59), Trevor Cahill (5-8, 4.67) and Brett Anderson (5-7, 4.64) and left-hander Josh Outman (4-1, 3.48), although Outman had elbow reconstruction surgery last month.
Executive: The Dodgers’ Ned Colletti went short-term shopping to bring back Casey Blake, who emerged as a cleanup hitter, and Randy Wolf, a seven-inning lifesaver in a rotation prone to five-inning starts. Colletti also fortified the bench with Brad Ausmus, the first legitimate backup catcher in years, and infielders Juan Castro and Mark Loretta.
Manager: The Angels’ Mike Scioscia displayed poise and grace in deflecting every question about the impact of Adenhart’s death into a gentle reminder that the issue was not about a team losing a pitcher but about a family losing a son. Scioscia also steered the Angels to first place despite losing Guerrero and virtually an entire starting rotation to injuries.
MVP: Adenhart. Can’t beat that 0.00 ERA.
Courtesy LA Times.