When it comes to the Midsummer Classic, the St. Louis Cardinals always represent the Gateway City in style. The annual mid-July contest features the best players from every team, and the Cardinals consistently produce some of the best talent in the National League year in and year out.
As the 2014 All-Star Game nears, three Cardinals will—more than likely—fly north to Minnesota, the site for this year’s contest.
Starting pitcher and staff ace Adam Wainwright and catcher Yadier Molina are shoo-ins for the NL. Perhaps the most surprising candidate is reliever Pat Neshek, who, if chosen, would be the third member representing the Cardinals at Target Field on July 15.
Assuming Neshek is chosen, here’s how the Cardinals’ best All-Star Game candidates rank based on season statistics and overall performance in the NL.
This is a given, and it should be.
Yadier Molina is the best catcher in the game. Period.
(Let the cries for Jonathan Lucroy continue.)
Molina ranks as the Cardinals’ best All-Star Game candidate for many reasons. Not only is he the best at his position, but the hours he puts in studying video, his ability to develop young pitchers, and his overall knowledge and instincts are second to none.
Yadi is hitting .280 this season with seven home runs and 28 RBI. He has yet to find his groove at the plate, but most fans won’t bother worrying about his average until the season is over.
Molina has thrown out 17 of 34 would-be baserunners for a caught-stealing percentage of .500, tops in baseball.
Moreover, Molina’s accomplishments speak for themselves: five-time All-Star, six-time Gold Glove Award winner and two-time Platinum Glove Award winner.
He’s the leader of this team, which is another reason why he’s the No. 1 All-Star Game candidate for the Cardinals.
I’ve watched Adam Wainwright drop in a devastating curveball to hitters over his entire big league career, and I can’t help but feel bad for the guys at the plate. They’re helpless as their knees buckle. (See: Carlos Beltran circa 2006 NLCS.)
Wainwright, 32, is the ace of the pitching staff. His ability to turn in quality starts, steal a win for his team and take pressure off the bullpen by working deep into games is vital.
He leads the team in wins (10), ERA as a starter (2.01), innings pitched (116.1), strikeouts (105) and opponent average as a starter (.199).
The two-time Gold Glove Award winner leads the NL in wins above replacement (3.6) and is tied for the league lead in wins.
Wainwright's durability has been crucial to his team’s success over his career. He pitched the most innings in the NL in 2013 (241.2).
If Wainwright received more run support, he could potentially lead the league in wins.
Still, three years removed from elbow reconstruction surgery, Wainwright is having a dominant year for the Cardinals, which is why he comes in as the team's No. 2 All-Star Game candidate.
There couldn’t be a better story for a relief pitcher this season than that of Pat Neshek.
The veteran hurler and journeyman is having the best season of his eight-year big league career.
Neshek is 2-0 with a 0.83 ERA in 37 appearances. He has the best ERA of any reliever on the club and is tied for the second-most relief appearances.
Molina and Wainwright have overshadowed him, but his story in 2014 has been nothing shy of stellar.
Neshek ranks as the third All-Star Game candidate for the Cardinals, and if he gets in, his teammates will be the first ones to congratulate him.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.