SAN DIEGO -- You want a position-by-position analysis of the All-Star Game presented by MasterCard? Well, here goes:
Both teams are stacked. At every position.
Ah, but we can do better than that, can't we? In advance of tonight's Midsummer Classic, which takes place at 7:30 p.m. ET/4:30 p.m. PT on FOX, here's an in-depth look at how the American League and National League rosters stack up against each other, with home-field advantage in the World Series on the line.
Because the starters will only play a handful of innings, at most, we're going to consider the complete roster at each position.
Catcher: The fans voted in the Salvador Perez (overwhelmingly) on the AL side and Buster Posey in the NL. Perez is backed up by Stephen Vogt and Matt Wieters, and Jonathan Lucroy and Wilson Ramos are behind Posey in the NL pecking order. Perez's offensive numbers have cooled in recent weeks, while Posey's have gone in the opposite direction. Furthermore, Lucroy (2.3) and Ramos (1.7) entered the week third and tied for fourth among all MLB catchers in Wins Above Replacement (we'll be using the Baseball Reference model in this piece), trailing only Perez (3.0) and Posey (2.8), so there's a good argument that the NL group has, in fact, had the more dynamic year, to date. Plus, none of the NL guys have the difficult task of catching Steven Wright's knuckleball, so there's that. Advantage: NL
First base: It's Eric Hosmer starting in the AL, backed by Miguel Cabrera. In the NL, Anthony Rizzo gets the starting nod, with Paul Goldschmidt, Wil Myers and Final Vote winner Brandon Belt in reserve. Hosmer's on pace for his first 20-homer season, and Miggy's a living legend. But Rizzo, Goldschmidt, Belt and Myers owned four of the top six OPS marks among qualified first basemen (Cabrera's fifth and Hosmer's ninth), and also posted each of the top four WAR marks among those qualified at the position. Myers will, of course, have the home crowd behind him, which can't hurt. Advantage: NL
Second base:Jose Altuve and Ben Zobrist get the start, and Robinson Cano and Daniel Murphy back them up. Murphy (.985) leads all second basemen in OPS, and if he were playing this game specifically against the Mets, we'd probably side with the NL for that reason alone. But Altuve and Cano are also both over .900 in the OPS count and have the two highest WAR marks (4.7 and 4.6, respectively by a long shot. Altuve, in fact, might be your first-half MVP in the AL. Advantage: AL
Shortstop:Xander Bogaerts starts for the AL, with Francisco Lindor and Eduardo Nunez available off the bench. Addison Russell represents the NL, with Aledmys Diaz and Corey Seager in reserve. Russell was the beneficiary of some serious Cubs love at the ballot box, though it's no secret his offensive stats don't stack up to those of the others in this group (which, of course, can only mean he'll come through with a huge hit). Bogaerts has vastly superior numbers, even if he has admitted to some in-season fatigue of late. Lindor will make defensive plays that make your head spin, and, though Nunez is here because somebody from the Twins had to be here, he's having a career year at the plate. Diaz (.316/.379/.540) and Seager (.298/.358/.524) are rookie sensations. Really tough call here, but, ultimately, Bogaerts has been worth a full win more than Russell this season. Advantage: AL
Third base:Manny Machado and Kris Bryant start, while Josh Donaldson and Nolan Arenado are the backups. Yowzers. We talk about this being a golden age for third basemen, and this All-Star cast shows you why. You can make a legitimate early MVP case for every single one of these guys. Donaldson, of course, is the reigning AL MVP, and his stats (.301/.416/.590) are even better this year. He's got a 5.5 WAR, with Machado, who has spent a lot of time at short this season, weighing in at 4.4. Bryant, who has split his time between third and the outfield and still managed to make great offensive strides. He's already just one shy of his 2015 homer total and has been worth 4.5 WAR. He's already just one shy of his 2015 homer total and has been worth 4.4 WAR, too. Arenado is one of the great two-way players in the game, getting legit defensive comps to Brooks Robinson and posting a 3.9 WAR. We could call this a push, but what's the fun in that? We'll call Donaldson's hardware a convenient tiebreaker. Advantage: AL
Designated hitter: Look, we could analyze the wealth of options NL manager Terry Collins can turn to for this spot, especially with a deep bench at first base. But we all know this is the Big Papi show. It's his All-Star swan song, and he's bound to be feted with a standing O and, perhaps, a grooved fastball, a la Adam Wainwright's "pipe shot" to Derek Jeter two years ago. For what it's worth, Ortiz is 5-for-16 with a homer in eight previous All-Star Games. Advantage: AL
Relievers: The AL has Dellin Betances, Brad Brach, Zach Britton, Alex Colome, Kelvin Herrera, Andrew Miller and Will Harris. The NL counters with Jeurys Familia, Kenley Jansen, Fernando Rodney, Mark Melancon and A.J. Ramos. As was the case last year, AL manager Ned Yost took an interesting approach with his selections to round out his 'pen, going not just with established closers, but sterling setup men. Collins has a more "traditional" mix, in that every guy is, or was, a closer this year (Rodney's role changed when he went from San Diego to Miami in a trade). Rather than get into the statistical minutiae here, having multiple guys more accustomed to fighting fires in non-ninth-inning situations could have tangible value for Yost here. The AL also has more variety with Miller and Britton from the left-hand side. Advantage: AL
Conclusion: That's a whopping 6-3 edge for the AL in this exercise. And maybe that's fitting, considering the junior circuit has claimed 10 of 13 Midsummer Classics since the game began counting for home-field advantage in the World Series, including each of the last three. But you know what they say about playing the games on paper -- especially a one-off such as this.