Pitchers to Watch:
Justin Verlander: The reigning Cy Young and AL MVP award winner will take the mound first for the American League. Naturally, he’s having a very Verlander-esque season. So far in 2012 he’s posted a 9-5 record with a 2.58 ERA and 128 strikeouts in 132.2 innings pitched. He’s a workhorse from a different era. He takes the ball every five days with the expectation that he’s going nine strong innings. It’s a shame that given the nature of the game we’ll only see him for two or three innings tops, but while he’s in there it should be fun to watch. Tribe fans, take advantage of the chance to actually root for him.
- Jered Weaver: A 10-1 record, 1.96 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, and a no-hitter. Those would be the numbers for Jered Weaver in 2012 to date. What’s even more impressive is the fact that he missed a good three weeks thanks to a strained back muscle. What would his record be had he made all of his starts? 14-1? 13-2? He’s the one guy you could make an argument for to be starting over Verlander. Then again, he’s not a bad option to have coming out of the ‘pen for an inning or two. Imagine the mood in the NL dugout knowing you’re done facing Verlander only to look out at the mound and see Weaver warming up.
- Yu Darvish: Thanks to the internet and the nature of fan voting, America will get to see Yu Darvish take the mound in the 2012 All-Star Game. But that’s not to say Darvish didn’t deserve a spot on the team. In his first season stateside, Darvish has an impressive 10-5 record with a 3.59 ERA and 117 strikeouts in 102 innings pitched. He’s been a mostly dominant pitcher and has performed better than most people thought he’d be at this point in his career, especially at home. If he keeps things going at this pace it’s safe to say this won’t be the last time we see Darvish take the mound in the Midsummer Classic.
- Chris Sale: The White Sox lost long time ace Mark Buehrle to Miami via free agency this winter and weren’t sure who was going to step up and fill in. Enter Chris Sale. What he has done so far in 2012 is amazing. In his first full season as a starter, he’s looked like a potential ace: 10-2 with a 2.19 ERA and an 0.96 WHIP in 102 innings. He’s absolutely unhittable and has made the transition from left-handed bullpen guy to front-of-the-rotation starter look easy. It’s even more impressive when you consider the fact the White Sox briefly moved him into the closer role at the end of April. It didn’t affect him one bit. He moved back into the rotation and didn’t miss a beat.
- Ryan Cook: I wanted to talk about Chris Perez here, but we’re all more than familiar with what he brings to the table. So instead I chose to focus on Ryan Cook, mainly because he plays in Oakland and no one knows who he is or what he’s doing this year. He’s been incredible. In 38 appearances out of the A’s bullpen, Cook has posted a 1.41 ERA and an 0.89 WHIP. He didn’t allow his first run of the year until May 28. Since taking over the full-time closer’s role on June 12, Cook has registered eight saves and been the back-end stopper Oakland has been looking for. He looks like the real deal and deserves to be playing in this game. He might be the Athletics’ only representative, but he’s not a token “we had to pick someone from that team” kind of guy.