Rangers Eight Look to Dominate

**ORIGINAL POSTED DATE 7/10/12**
As the Rangers blow past the halfway point in their 2012 season, they remain at the top of the American League West standings and share the Major League lead in wins.  Today marks the All Star Break, but the word “break” doesn’t really apply to the two-time defending AL Champs.  The Rangers send 8 players and the coaching staff headed by Manager Ron Washington to Kansas City for the Mid-Summer Classic this season.  A team record for the number of representatives, in what could one of the most important games of the season for the Rangers.  Wash wants his guys to have more of a say in home field advantage in the World Series this year.  This post will identify each all-star and what makes them deserving of the honor. 
First, the following players were selected by the fans, and will start the game in Kansas City on Tuesday, July 10th.  Josh Hamilton received over 11 million votes for the all-star game, 2 million more than any other player.  We all remember the game in Baltimore where Josh hit four home runs and an RBI double, but his first half stats have him in the top 10 of almost every relevant offensive category.  Hamilton was also named the AL Player of the Month for April and May, no other Ranger had received that honor in back to back months.  June brought a terrible slide for Josh but he still leads the AL in the following categories: Home Runs (tied), Slugging Pct., On-Base Plus Slugging, Runs Batted In, Runs Created, and At Bats per Home Run.  Josh is second in the AL in Total Bases, Offensive Win %, and Adjusted OPS.  Also, he’s in the top 10 in WAR, Batting Average, On Base %, Runs Scored, Extra Base Hits, Sacrifice Flies, and Intentional Walks.  Josh would be an almost certain AL MVP for the first half of 2012.  We may be in the midst of watching the greatest offensive season ever by a Ranger, or anyone for that matter.

Adrian Beltre will start at third base and bat sixth for the AL this year.  He does not owe Alex Rodriguez an apology.  Beltre has been a terrific clean up hitter and defensive player so far this season.  Congrats to the fans for getting this one right.  For the first half of the season Beltre is in the top five for Hits, Batting Average, Singles, and Sacrifice Flies.  He is also in the top 10 in the American League for Total Bases, Runs Batted In, and At Bats per Strike Out.  As last season’s gold glove winner for 3B, Beltre continues to lead the AL in Fielding Percentage as a third Baseman committing only 5 errors in 149 chances.  He is also in the top five for Defensive Games at 3b and Putouts at 3B.

Mike Napoli won the fan vote to start behind the plate for the AL team in Kansas City this year and will bat eighth.  His first half of 2012 statistics do not reflect that honor, but that doesn’t mean he will just give up his spot and let someone else go.  We all remember the tremendous second half of the season Napoli had in 2011, and I saw him first hand in the World Series Game 5 come up with one of the biggest clutch hits in team history.  This season the offensive numbers are mediocre at best.  Batting .228 with 12 HRs and 30 RBIs is not what we expected from Nap this season.  Defensively, he deserves a little more credit.  He holds a .995 fielding percentage as a Catcher, and although he’s in the top five for Passed Balls, the Rangers Pitching staff is 5th in the AL in team ERA and 6th in Hits Allowed.  If you have one of the best pitching staffs in the league, then a lot of that credit should go to the Catcher.  Napoli does split time with Torrealba behind the plate on occasion, but he normally remains in the lineup at First Base on those days giving Washington and the Rangers more lineup flexibility.  This luxury I’m sure Wash would tell you, is priceless.  Even though the numbers do not suggest Nap should be an All Star, he does have some intangible qualities that can be used to justify the fans’ vote, and if he has a second half close to last year, no one will question it.

The above Rangers will start Tuesday night’s affair, and the following players will also be in uniform ready to contribute.

Ian Kinsler was voted into the All Star game by his fellow MLB players.  He will back up NYY 2B Robinson Cano.  Kinsler’s first half at the plate went beyond the call of a stereotypical leadoff hitter.  He showed good speed and on base potential, but he also has outstanding power numbers.  At the break, Kinsler leads the AL in At Bats, Plate Appearances, and Runs Scored.  He’s also third in Doubles, and fifth in the league in Hits.  Ian also holds top 10 rankings in Triples, Stolen Bases, Times on Base, Extra Base Hits, and Power/Speed Number.  Defensively, Kinsler has a rough .963 fielding percentage, but is 10th in the AL with 44 Double Plays Turned.  

Elvis Andrus is a managerial selection to the All-Star team for 2012.  Elvis earned his way to KC with his speed and tremendous offense during the first half.  Elvis is tied for the league lead in Triples, third in Plate Appearances, third in Singles, and fifth in Stolen Bases.  He also leads the AL in Sacrifice Hits.  Andrus also has top ten numbers in Hits and Times on Base.  Defensively, Elvis has been better, but his consistency has improved from last year.  He has a .975 fielding percentage and currently ranks fifth in the AL in Putouts at SS and eighth in the league in Double Plays.  This year could be the time Elvis makes a clutch contribution in the All Star game.

The following pitchers also have been chosen by Ron Washington to participate in the All Star game for the AL.  All three are very deserving and look to get an inning each during the game.

Matt Harrison will be appearing in his first ever All Star game.  He comes into the break tied for the league lead in Wins and in the top 5 for Shutouts.  He has the sixth best win/loss percentage among pitchers in the AL and is seventh in Earned Run Average.  Matt is in the top 10 of at least a handful of other pitching categories including Complete Games and Innings Pitched.  2012 has been a wonderful breakthrough season for Harrison and he arguably could have easily received the starting nod for the All Star game over Justin Verlander (although Weaver has a strong argument for the start as well).  This reward for Harrison should serve as a reminder for the things he can accomplish when he has his head straight and good things will continue to happen for him and the Rangers.

Yu Darvish may not have believed that he was worthy of All Star recognition, but Ron Washington and most everyone else disagreed.  Yes, his Walks are too high, but so are his Wins (tied for third), and Strikeouts per 9 IP (second).  He’s also 4th overall in Strikeouts in the AL.  No doubt a rookie sensation with all kinds hype and outside pressure to succeed, Yu Darvish has demonstrated that he can pitch at this level.  He has impressed from his first start where he got in an early hole only to tough it out and earn the win.  If it weren’t for the emergence of Mike Trout, Darvish would be the clear favorite for AL Rookie of the Year.

Joe Nathan underwent Tommy John surgery two seasons ago and appeared to be in the twilight of his sensational career.  His free agency signing with the Rangers has been a rebirth through the first half of the season.  We were all a little anxious at first as he seemed to struggle in his first couple of appearances, but he has put that to bed, just like he does to his opponents in the 9th innings.  He’s only seventh in the AL in Saves but it’s not his fault the Rangers win by more than three runs, or that he pitches in non save situations, ie. he’s third in the league in Games Finished.  Congratulations to Joe Nathan, definitely my favorite story of the first half of the Rangers season.

Ron Washington and Staff are making their second straight trip to the All Star game.  They had no one to blame but themselves (and C.J. Wilson) for not having home field advantage in the World Series in 2011, so this year they’re determined to not let that happen again.  Wash has more pitching than he had last year so the AL should benefit from that as well the NL dealing with an injury to Matt Kemp, Pujols not in the lineup or last year’s All Star MVP, Prince Fielder.  You have to like the AL’s chances to put a win together in one of their ballparks, with eight players from the best team in baseball.

Will Mitchell is a Staff Writer for ShutDownInning. He can be reached at Will.Mitchell@ShutDownInning.com or on Twitter @WillMirtchellesq.
Will Mitchell

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