With a little over half of the season in the books, the best from the NL and AL will descend upon Minnesota’s Target Field for the playing of the 85th annual MLB All Star Game (Tuesday, 7:30pm ET on Fox).
Since 1996, the All-Star game has ended in a shut out just three times. Two of these have come in the past two seasons as the NL and AL have both held the opponent scoreless in their most recent win. Adding to this recent low scoring trend is the fact that the losing team has managed to score just two total runs in the past four All Star games, which sets a record for fewest runs scored by a team in a four game span.
None of this is really surprising though. With the stronger initiative to test and punish steroid users in baseball, the trio of triple crown stats (HR, RBI, AVG) have all seen their numbers tick downward across the board. Corresponding to this has been the rise of the pitcher, especially in the DH-free National League.
Among the candidates for the NL’s starting role are the two pitchers who have the lowest ERAs in baseball this season. The expected starter is LA Dodgers’ lefty, Clayton Kershaw (pictured), who statistically has been almost untouchable this year. His ERA is an MLB best and just downright incredible 1.78 and his WHIP also an MLB best is 0.83. He threw a no-hitter earlier this year and just recently his 41-inning scoreless streak came to an end. He is the favorite to win his third, and second in row, NL Cy Young award.
There is no doubting that Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball this year but perhaps surprisingly is the fact that he isn’t that much better than the second best, another NL pitcher, a guy by the name of Adam Wainwright (STL).
Wainwright is having the season of a lifetime and easily the best of his career. The right-handed ace of the St. Louis Cardinals has an ERA just slightly north of Kershaw’s at 1.83 and has done so in pitching 42 more innings than his NL teammate. Wainwright also has a WHIP under 1.00 (0.91) and he is tied for first with an MLB-high 12 wins so far this season. Kershaw is tied for second with 11.
And it doesn’t end there because the third name on the list of flamethrowers the NL will throw out Tuesday is Cincinnati Reds ace, Johnny Cueto, who has started an MLB-leading 20 games, has 10 wins, an NL second best 141 strikeouts and an MLB fifth best 2.13 ERA.
What about the American League?
Despite losing New York Yankee phenom Mashahiro Tanaka and MLB strikeout king David Price to injury, the AL squad is still well-represented.
Seattle Mariners star Felix Hernandez will once again represent the AL team and is expected to get the start. He, unsurprisingly, paces all but one pitcher but an MLB second best 154 strikeouts in an MLB-high 144.1 innings pitched. King Felix also has the second best ERA in the AL at 2.12 and second best WHIP at 0.90. He is tied for second in baseball with 11 wins.
Backing up Hernandez is the ace of the MLB-best Oakland Athletics, Scott Kazmir. Kazmir joins Hernandez and All-Star snub Chris Sale as one of just three AL pitchers with an ERA under 2.40 and a WHIP under 1.00. Kazmir has an impressive 11-3 record as well.
Back the NL as pitching favorites: The AL is really going to hurt with the absence of Tanaka and Price, two of the top eight in total strikeouts. Offensively, that league may have the better lineup of power hitters but the dominance of Kershaw, Wainwright and even Cueto is going to be tough to beat. If you are making your bets based on pitching, take the NL to dominate this matchup.
All Stars Game Predictions & Betting Picks
This game is your classic matchup of best pitching vs best hitting and in the past, best pitching has been victorious. As I mentioned, the NL has an incredible riches of pitchers at their disposal and that is only on the starting staff. Collectively, their relief pitchers are also excellent and should hold a slight edge over the relievers from the NL side.
But that’s not to say the offensive juggernaut the AL will put on display will be that easily held down. The AL squad will feature the MLB’s second, third, fourth and fifth best home run hitters. This team would have also included the best power hitter, Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu (29) but he is out due to injury.
However, only Kaufman Stadium in Kansas City, has given up more home runs as an AL park than Target Field. Only 70 balls have gone out of the pitcher’s park in 43 games, an average of just 1.63 home runs a game. This is fourth lowest in the AL.
- Oddly enough, consider the ballpark as the deciding factor in this one. The fact that HR totals are low combined with the microscopic ERA of Kershaw and company favors the NL. So with that in mind, take the National League to win their fourth game in the last five years and take them to do so in what could perhaps again, be shutout fashion. Back the NL on the moneyline at -108 with BetOnline Sportsbook.
- Also take the no-brainer: the run total to again stay under the projected eight for the game @ betting odds of -135 with BetOnline.