Welcome to the first annual All- AL Central team. As is the case with any series I start, please note that there are no guarantees that this series will continue beyond this year. With that in mind, some ground-rules: Every team in the division must be represented on the all-division team. To be eligible, a player must have played within the division for at least 1/3 of the season, and must end the year with a team in the division. That’s pretty much it. Honors bestowed after the jump.
Catcher- Joe Mauer (Min)- This one was easy. Coming off an MVP season in 2009, Mauer saw his home run totals drop dramatically this year. Still, he posted a .327 average and an OPS+ of 137 while playing in 137 games. Considering the other catchers in the Central, it was no contest.
First Base- Miguel Cabrera (Det)- Another pick that was fairly easy. Cabrera put up MVP numbers all season long and did so without much help in the lineup, especially over the final two months. He ended the season on the shelf, but before he was done he clubbed 38 homers and lead the league with 126 RBI to go with his .328 average and 179 OPS+. Dude can rake.
Second Base- Orlando Hudson (Min)- Hudson wins this spot on consistency alone, really. His defense was good and he provided a solid hitter at the two-spot for the Twins. His offensive numbers aren’t great (.268 average, .328 OBP), but given that every other team in the Central used multiple players at second base much more often, I’ll go with Hudson here.
Shortstop– Alexei Ramirez (CWS)- Ramirez made a strong surge down the stretch and narrowly passed Yuniesky Betancourt for this honor. Ramirez provided 18 homers and 70 RBI to go along with a respectable .282 average and 97 OPS+. It was those numbers that pushed him ahead.
Third Base- Wilson Betemit (KC)- Our first Royal makes the team in a close contest over two others. Betemit may have finally had his breakthrough after years of wasted potential, but when he got his shot in Kansas City, he ran with hit. Betemit had only 84 games this year, but he produced 13 home runs, 20 doubles, and a slash line of .297/.378/.511 for an OPS+ of 141.
Left Field- Delmon Young (Min)- Young will garner some MVP votes after his own breakout campaign this year. He stepped up in a big way and helped carry the Twins offense with a .298 average, 46 doubles, 21 homers, and a team-leading 112 RBI. Young’s career year also produced an OPS+ of 121.
Center Field- Austin Jackson (Det)- Okay, this might be a homer pick, but it’s my blog and I’m a Tigers fan. AJax was better than anyone could have hoped for in his first big league action. The man that should win the Rookie of the Year award lead the Tigers in hits, triples, and stolen bases while providing highlight reel type defensive work. His average finally dipped below .300 at the end of the year, but his .293 average and .345 OBP helped to offset his league leading strikeout total.
Right Field- Shin-Soo Choo (Cle)- Choo isn’t here because someone from the Indians had to be, he’s here because he earned it. Choo posted an OPS+ of 148 and belted 22 homers to go with 22 steals and 90 RBI. No other Indian had more than 50 driven in this year. He lead the Tribe in almost every offensive category, most by a wide margin, and he has a bazooka of an arm as well.
Designated Hitter- Jim Thome (Min)- I hadn’t planned to reserve this spot for a full-time DH, but Thome’s 178 OPS+ was too much to ignore. He lead the Twins with 25 home runs and a .627 slugging average. All he does is mash taters.
Francisco Liriano (Min)- The Twins ace southpaw was named the Comeback Player of the Year for his 14-10 record and 3.62 ERA. He fanned over 200 hitters in just 191 innings and allowed only nine home runs all year.
Justin Verlander (Det)- Verlander lead the division with 219 strikeouts and posted an 18-9 record and 3.37 ERA. This year marked the fourth time in his five seasons that he recorded at least 17 wins.
Max Scherzer (Det)- Scherzer struggled so mightily early in the year that he was optioned to AAA for two weeks. After his recall, Scherzer simply dominated the American League. His 12-11 record and 3.50 ERA may not impress you, but from May 30 through the end of the season, he went 11-7 with an ERA of 2.46 and fanned 158 batters in 153 innings pitched.
Edwin Jackson (CWS)- Acquired at the trade deadline, Jackson’s return to the Central was quite a success. He made just 11 starts for the White Sox, but in those 75 innings, he posted a strikeout-to-walk ratio of better than 4-to-1. Jackson had a 4-2 record and 3.44 ERA with Chicago this year.
Carl Pavano (Min)- Pavano started off with a tremendous first half, but faded a bit down the stretch. He still wound up leading the Twins with a 17-10 record and his 3.75 ERA was quite nice as well.
Joakim Soria (KC)- The Mexicutioner blew only two saves all year and posted a 1.78 ERA in 66 games. Soria saved 43 games for a Royals team that won only 67 times. Did you know the Dodgers released this guy?
Chris Perez (Cle)- See? Choo wasn’t there just to represent the Indians. Perez took over as the closer after Kerry Wood was terrible (and injured) in that role. Pure Rage offered up 23 saves and fanned nearly a batter per inning while posting a 1.71 ERA for the Tribe.
Jose Valverde (Det)- Papa Grande was an all-star for the Tigers after leading the AL in saves at the break. His suffered through some injuries (and severe overuse) in the second half, but his overall numbers are still good enough to make the list. 3.00 ERA, 26 saves and 63 strikeouts in 63 innings of work.
Jesse Crain (Min)- Crain worked in 71 games for the Twins, posting 62 strikeouts in 68 innings of work. Crain allowed just nine of the 39 base runners he inherited to score.
Matt Thornton (CWS)- The White Sox had one of the best bullpens in the league and Thornton was a huge reason why. He lead the club in appearances and fanned 81 batters in 60 innings, posting a 4-to-1 K:BB ratio. Opposing batters hit just .191 against him overall, but lefties batted only .175.
Chris Sale (CWS)- Sale was the White Sox first round pick this year and made a huge impact on their bullpen right away. He appeared in only 21 games, but he fanned 32 batters in just 23 innings of work. Opponents hit just .185 against him, but it was the right handed hitters who had no chance against this southpaw, posting an average of just .120.
C- Carlos Santana (Cle)- Seriously, have you seen how bad the catchers were in this division? Santana got just 150 at bats in before his knee was destroyed, but I’d still take him over anyone not named Mauer.
IF- Paul Konerko (CWS)- Just keeps hitting bombs. 39 homers and 111 RBI, but he’s still no Cabrera.
IF- Omar Vizquel (CWS)- Omar is like 83 years old, but he showed again that he can still play. He became an everyday player for the Sox mid-way through the year and posted some very nice offensive numbers. His defense, as always, was outstanding as well.
OF- Alexis Rios (CWS)- Rios maybe could have been the starting CF on this team, but his versatility will play well as a reserve. 21 homers, 34 steals and a .282 average, plus he can play great defense.
UT- Ryan Raburn (Det)- Again, versatility is the key here. Raburn can play OF plus 3B and 2B and 1B in a pinch. His bat really took off after a terrible start and when he began to see more playing time. Raburn finished up with a .280 average with 16 home runs and 62 RBI, posting a 119 OPS+.