Only three days left until the All-Star voting closes...you can still vote on MLB.com. But don't do that just yet - take a minute to read through the following analysis of who you should vote for. I already covered the AL in an earlier post; here's the NL:
Catcher: This one's rather easy. Russell Martin's OPS is almost 100 points higher than anyone else's, and his is just .822. He leads all NL catchers in just about every offensive category (especially steals, where he has about as many as everybody else combined), and he's at least decent defensively. Brian McCann is having kind of a down year, hitting just .256, and there just aren't any other great catchers in the league.
How the voters are doing: Martin is leading the voting, but Paul Lo Duca is within striking distance. Lo Duca, by the way, has a .680 OPS - that's even worse than Brad Ausmus. He has 3 homers and 20 RBI in almost 250 at-bats. The only way he should be a part of the All-Star game is maybe as a catcher in the HR derby.
Who I'm voting for: Russel Martin.
Acceptable to vote for: Nobody else. There's just no argument to vote for anybody else here.
First Base: Prince Fielder's 1.003 OPS is third-best in the NL, and tops among first basemen. He's got 27 HR - 11 more than anybody else at the position - and his 62 RBI lead that category by an equally comfortable margin. This is a loaded position, though; six players have an OPS at or above .900. Derrek Lee is quietly putting up great numbers, last year's MVP candidates Ryan Howard and Albert Pujols are stellar again, and Todd Helton and Dimitri Young are doing very well also. Padres 1B Adrian Gonzalez seems to be in the middle of a breakout season, too; he's not getting on base quite as much as you'd like, but he's slugging .512 and has 51 RBI.
How the voters are doing: Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols, and Derrek Lee are #1, 2, and 4 respectively - all are solid choices. Carlos Delgado (batting just .225) at #5 is not such a good choice. And Nomar at #3 may be the worst choice at any position in either league, given the depth of this position. He's slugging just .332, and his .648 OPS is last - that's right, last - among all starting first basemen (in either league). The Dodgers are planning to move him to third to make room for James Loney, which is a great move, and one that should have been made three months ago (if not last year).
Who I'm voting for: Prince Fielder.
Acceptable to vote for: You can't really go wrong voting for D-Lee or Howard, and you can never go wrong voting for Pujols. After that, it gets harder to justify voting for anybody else.
Second Base: Just as easy as catcher was. Orlando Hudson's having a good year, but Chase Utley is at another level. Utley's .320 BA, .399 OBP and .553 SLG all lead the position, as well as his 58 RBI. Dan Uggla and Kelley Johnson are all playing well, too, but you've gotta go with Utley.
How the voters are doing: Utley leads the way, with 1.3 million votes. Jeff Kent is in second place; he's doing pretty well, but nowhere near Utley. Craig Biggio (.279 OBP - just get to 3,000 hits already!) is third, somehow.
Who I'm voting for: Utley.
Acceptable to vote for: Nobody else. In an alternate universe, where Rickie Weeks is healthy and hitting well, maybe he at least challenges Utley, but right now there's nobody close.
Third Base: A really tight race between Miguel Cabrera and Chipper Jones. Jones has a slight edge in OPS (1.014 to .998), but Cabrera's done it over 75 more at-bats, so his counting stats are much higher. Milwaukee rookie Ryan Braun has done really well since his callup, but he hasn't played nearly as much as the first two guys. Aramis Ramirez and David Wright are both having pretty good years, but there just isn't really a case to be made for either of them over Cabrera or Chipper. (I honestly haven't looked at the totals yet, but I guarantee you that Wright's leading the voting, though.)
How the voters are doing: Hey, I was right! Not surprisingly, Wright leads the voting, with about 300,000 more votes than Cabrera. Chipper is third.
Who I'm voting for: Miguel Cabrera. He's hit extremely well over more at-bats than Chipper, which gives him the edge in my opinion.
Acceptable to vote for: I can't really argue much with Chipper, either. I guess one could make a case for Ramirez and Wright, but it would be hard to convince me.
Shortstop: Talk about a loaded position. Edgar Renteria, Jimmy Rollins, Hanley Ramirez, J.J. Hardy, and Jose Reyes are all great hitters at the toughest defensive position (plus Rafael Furcal, who's having a down year). And Troy Tulowitzki and Stephen Drew will probably jump into that group within the next year or two, if they continue to develop well. Christian Guzman is having a good year for the Nationals, though there's no way you can vote for him at a position this loaded. Hardy was easily the right choice through the first month and a half, but he's fallen off some since then; his OBP is a rather average .340, and his batting average isn't helping his cause (.285). Rollins is actually slugging exceptionally well this year (.514), but he also isn't getting on base much. It gets really hard to separate Renteria, Ramirez, and Reyes; Renteria's rate numbers are slightly better, but we're talking about very, very small differences here. Reyes has the most speed, followed by Renteria, and I think Reyes is the best fielder as well.
How the voters are doing: Reyes leads the voting, of course, although Hardy is pretty close behind him. Furcal is third, despite having a down year (lots of Dodgers seem to be doing well in the voting), and Rollins is fourth. Fifth? Oh my god, don't make me say it...it's none other than David Eckstein. That's right - 571,000 people think that David Eckstein is the most qualified shortstop to start the All-Star game. I can't even think of anything to say here. That's more votes than Ramirez or Renteria. Let's just move on.
Who I'm voting for: Reyes, just barely ahead of Ramirez and Renteria.
Acceptable to vote for: Ramirez and Renteria definitely, and Rollins and Hardy are also fine choices.
Outfield: Outfield in the NL is kinda tough. Matt Holliday has to be in - his .993 OPS is impressive anywhere, even at Coors. He's really underrated, but he is probably the best corner outfielder in the NL right now. Barry Bonds has 75 walks and a .498 OBP - he gets on base literally half the time he comes to bat. I don't care if he's likeable or not, that's extremely valuable. Picking a third OF is tricky. Ken Griffey Jr. actually has a .964 OPS, which surprised me; the Great American Ballpark is a hitter's park, but that's still good. Hunter Pence has OPSed .984 this year, but he was called up during the season, so he doesn't have as many plate appearances as the others. Alfonso Soriano started off really cold, but he's heated up lately. Adam Dunn is having a really good year amidst the trade rumors. Eric Byrnes is having a really good year; he's not an ASG candidate but I felt like pointing that out.
How the voters are doing: Beltran, Griffey, and Soriano are the starters as of today; Beltran's OPS is below .800, but the other two are fine choices. Bonds is fourth, but he's within 120,000 votes of Soriano. Andrew Jones is fifth despite having an absolutely atrocious year (.197 BA), and Holliday is sixth.
Who I'm voting for: Holliday definitely, Bonds definitely, and...crap, this is hard. I'll go with Griffey.
Acceptable to vote for: Hunter Pence, Dunn, Soriano, and probably a few others.
And, just for the hell of it, here are my ASG starting pitchers: Dan Haren in the AL, Jake Peavy in the NL. Now go vote!