Hey now, you're an (Red Sox) All-Star...now how'd you do it?
AN A.L.-HIGH FIVE RED SOX ALL-STARS
With a league-best five All-Stars, it's no wonder how the Red Sox have the best record in MLB. From Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez's offensive prowess to Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel's unhittable arsenals of fire and finesse, Boston will be the most-represented at this year's Midsummer Classic on Tuesday night in Washington. Lest we forget about Mitch Moreland either, who went from fighting for playing time to earning his first All-Star nod. All five have shown they're among baseball's best in the first half. but let's dive a little deeper into how they stack up...
MOOKIE BETTS, OF
2018 stats (AL positional ranks through 7/11):
fWAR: 5.7 (2nd)
wRC+: 197 (1st)
AVG/OBP/SLG: .350/.439/.675 (1st/2nd/1st)
Betts has bounced back from a somewhat disappointing 2017 season to stake a claim as a consensus top-five player. With impeccable pitch recognition and bat-to-ball skills, Betts strikes out in just 12.2 percent of his plate appearances - the 12th best rate in MLB. Combining exceptional power (Betts is tied for seventh in the AL with 22 home runs, despite missing 13 games with an abdominal strain) with elite baserunning and defense, he's a front-runner for the A.L. MVP award and has solidified himself as the best leadoff hitter in the league. This marks his third consecutive All-Star appearance and second start. At just 25, something tells us it won't be his last.
J.D. MARTINEZ, DH
fWAR: 3.6 (1st)
wRC+: 178 (1st)
AVG/OBP/SLG: .330/.393/.649 (1st/2nd/1st)
Boston's biggest offseason prize, Martinez has been everything the Sox hoped for and more thus far. Building off a breakout 2017 campaign which saw him hit 45 home runs and lead the league in slugging, Martinez has helped Boston transform from a team that was last in the AL in home runs last season to a 2018 squad that has hit the second-most in baseball. Martinez combines enormous raw power - J.D. leads MLB with 28 homers and 79 RBI - with elite contact skills as evident by his 49.4-percent hard-hit rate, good for fifth in MLB, and a 94.2-mph average exit velocity, tied for 12th best among those with at least 100 batted balls. A Triple Crown threat, Martinez is as feared as any hitter in baseball and ran away with the AL's starting DH spot in this year's All-Star voting, earning his second All-Star appearance and first starting nod.
MITCH MORELAND, 1B
fWAR: 1.4 (2nd)
wRC+: 131 (1st)
AVG/OBP/SLG: .282/.354/.510 (2nd/3rd/1st)
Moreland has been one of the biggest surprises, not just on the Red Sox, but in all of baseball this season. Known primarily as a good, but not great, player with above-average defensive skills, Moreland will be making his first All-Star appearance in his ninth season in the bigs. What's perhaps even more surprising, however, is how unlikely Moreland's selection seemed at the beginning of this season, when the first baseman was battling for playing time with Hanley Ramirez. Moreland made the most of his opportunities, though, and when Ramirez was designated for assignment on May 25, he stepped into the starting role. Re-signed in the offseason on a two-year deal, Moreland has gone from a fringe-starter to ranking among the A.L.'s best first basemen.
CHRIS SALE, SP
W-L: 10-4 (T-7th)
ERA: 2.23 (4th)
SO: 188 (1st)
WHIP: 0.90 (3rd)
IP: 129.0 (3rd)
K/BB: 6.06 (3rd)
K/9: 13.12 (1st)
At this point, it will be bigger news when Sale doesn't make the All-Star team. From the moment he fired his first pitch of the season, it seemed like a given that Sale would be pitching in Nationals Park Tuesday night. His case to start the game is as impressive as any other candidate and the competition between Sale, Luis Severino, Justin Verlander, and Corey Kluber is the definition of a toss-up. Sale has continued to show why he's one of the game's top pitchers, and with Clayton Kershaw's injuries, arguably its top southpaw. Sale's combination of velocity (96-mph average four-seam fastball mph), deception (his 66.7-percent contact rate is tops among A.L. starters), and movement (36.6-percent chase rate) makes for a lethal combination of pitches and the A.L.'s highest K percentage among starters (37.2 percent). Whether Sale starts the game or not, one thing we know for sure is that whenever he pitches, the hitters won't enjoy their time at the plate.
CRAIG KIMBREL, RP
ERA: 1.91 (8th)
Saves: 28 (2nd)
WHIP: 0.90 (5th)
K%: 40.0% (4th)
K/9: 13.86 (4th)
While Kimbrel hasn't been quite as dominant as he was in the 2017 season (remember that 49.6-percent K rate?!), he remains one of the game's elite closers. Another clear selection in the A.L., Kimbrel's presence has helped steady Boston's shaky bullpen. Kimbrel has featured his curveball a bit more than he did in 2017 (34.4 percent to 31.4 percent) and is down about 1.5 mph on his fastball, but he remains as effective as ever. If you're looking for a flaw in the closer's performance, he has been slightly wilder this season than years past. However, while the jump in walk rate (10.3 percent in 2018, 5.5 percent in 2017) may seem alarming, it is not too far from his career average (9.5 percent). Kimbrel is as good as anyone at closing the door on a victory.