Both the AL and NL All-Star lineups were announced earlier today along with the starting pitchers, information that has been announced the day before the Midsummer Classic for a while now. Chris Sale will take the mound for the AL for the 3rd year in a row while Max Scherzer starts for the National League for the 2nd year in a row.
Additionally, the lineup orders for both leagues which consist of J.D. Martinez and Freddie Freeman as cleanup hitters were also made public, prompting me to do something I haven't done in a while. With the exact orders announced, the timing is perfect to do a lineup vs lineup comparison of the AL and NL starting All-Stars, beginning with the DH position.
Since the NL has no DH, the manager must've decided who would play that position. Anyway, Paul Goldschmidt was selected to play DH for the NL and even though he's been superb, rebounding very well from a dismal first few weeks, his former teammate J.D. Martinez is having an AL MVP caliber season and is arguably the best player in baseball right now. Goldy's .281 average with 21 homers would typically be enough, but not against a guy like J.D.
DH Position; Advantage American League
The lack of stellar AL catchers combined with Wilson Ramos being replaced in the lineup due to an injury makes it almost too easy for Cubs catcher Wilson Contreras to have the advantage at his position. Ramos was replaced with Royals catcher Salvador Perez who is currently hitting a dismal .221, yet will be an All-Star starter tomorrow. Contreras is hitting roughly .280 and although he only has 35 RBI, there's enough power in the rest of the NL lineup that he should be just fine.
Catcher Position; Advantage National League
Although Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu has done a lot to deserve the starting job at 1st, he has certainly had his fair share of struggles as of late. His .253 average is way down from what it was just a month ago (around .300) and is likely due to Abreu hitting .174 in the last 30 games, truly a significant slump. It's really a shame given how much better he was a month ago. Freddie Freeman is hitting .315 with 60+ RBI and is a candidate for NL MVP. This gives him the advantage over Jose Abreu in a matchup that was supposed to be way closer than it actually was.
1B Position; Advantage National League
Out of all 9 matchups that I had to decide between, the 2nd base matchup between Jose Altuve and Javier Baez would have to be one of, if not the closest of the comparisons. The 2 2nd baseman are both very different from one another. Altuve is more of a contact hitter while Baez does hit for contact as well, but relies more on his power. Nevertheless, they both are incredible defensive players and each has solid batting averages, though Altuve's is 2nd in baseball only to Mookie Betts. Although Altuve hasn't really found his home run swing this year, he doesn't really need to in such a stacked AL lineup. What he brings to the table is extremely beneficial and gives him the slight advantage at 2nd.
2B Position; Advantage American League
The players such as Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa that Manny Machado had to beat out for the AL starting shortstop position is a perfect example as to why the AL has the advantage at the shortstop position this season. The race for starting NL shortstop was not very plentiful and culminated with Brandon Crawford (.292 10 HR 39 RBI) being named the starter. Don't get me wrong, Crawford is having quite a great year so far, but when you're up against someone hitting .325 with 24 homers and 65 RBI who stands out even more because he's on the Orioles, it's hard to come out on top.
SS Position; Advantage American League
Okay, I change my mind. The 3rd baseman matchup of Jose Ramirez against Nolan Arenado is the closest and most highly-contested out of all 9 of the starting lineup positions. Ramirez is hitting .302 while Arenado has an average of .312 which ended up being the deciding factor. They each have a stellar home run total (29 for Ramirez which is tied for the league lead and 23 for Arenado), and they each are some of baseball's best in RBI (Ramirez has 70 and Arenado has 68). In the end, it was Nolan's ability to hit just a bit better than Ramirez that gave him ever so slight of an advantage over the Indians 3rd baseman.
3B Position; Advantage National League
Call me crazy, but I see slightly more value in a guy like Matt Kemp being an All-Star starter than I see with Aaron Judge who's starting in left field for the AL this year. When you look at what Judge mainly brings to the table which is home runs, nearly every guy in the AL and NL lineups respectively can hit homers. However, not every guy can hit .310 like Matt Kemp while managing the same number of RBI as Judge. Additionally, Kemp was able to do all of this with over 50 fewer at-bats than Judge. I'm certain that at first mention, most fans would pick Judge over Kemp, but if you take a closer look, you should be able to see what I'm talking about and why Kemp is a better option.
Left Field Position; Advantage National League
Although this was by far the easiest decision for me, it's still weird to see that Bryce Harper and Mike Trout have nearly identical home run and RBI totals, yet Trout is hitting .310 and Harper is hitting .214. If I had my way, Harper wouldn't even be an All-Star with such a terrible batting average. Yes, it is impressive that he's still managed 23 dingers with a .214 average, but he should not be allowed to be an All-Star, let alone start, if he's only getting hits off of 21.4% of the pitches he sees. Not the kinda batting average you want in the year you're expecting to become a free agent and receive the largest contract in baseball history.
Centerfied Position; Advantage American League
It's all tied up at 4-4. It all comes down to the right field matchup of Mookie Betts vs Nick Markakis to see which lineup will edge out the other.
Although Markakis has been perhaps the biggest surprise of the 2018 season, it's gonna take some truly exceptional numbers to beat Mookie Betts and his .359 batting average. Markakis is hitting .323 with 10 homers and 61 RBI this year. Even though those numbers are incredible, especially given Markakis was never expected to reach such incredible totals, Mookie has been killing it all year. In 70 fewer at-bats than Markakis, Betts has 23 homers and 51 RBI. The fewer at-bats are due to an injury which has not stopped Mookie Betts from producing incredible numbers all season. I give Markakis the world of credit, but I give Mookie Betts the advantage as well as the win for the American League.