Votebook: Catchers showing off with their bats
Backstops populating leaderboards, making All-Star choices tough
Catcher has long been considered a defense-first position, but the backstops have been hitting ... and hitting ... this season.
Entering Tuesday's games, four of the Major Leagues' top 26 hitters for average are catchers, and six catchers with 60 or more at-bats are batting better than .300.
The Giants' Buster Posey leads the way with a .353 average, good for ninth-best in the Majors. Minnesota's Joe Mauer has a .325 clip, while the Mets' Josh Thole is hitting .317 and the Cardinals' Yadier Molina .316.
"I've been happy with the first month," said Posey, who did not have a chance at his first All-Star Game in 2011 because of a collision at the plate that ended his season in late May. "My ankle's responded great. I've been out there as much or maybe more than I hoped for."
The hitting hardly has been limited to those four, making the choice for whom to vote for to start in the July 10 All-Star Game a difficult one.
The Phillies' Carlos Ruiz is batting .313; A.J. Pierzynski of the White Sox carries a .309 average into the month of May. A.J. Ellis, playing regularly for the Dodgers, is at .291.
And there has been power, too. Mike Napoli of the Rangers, who hit 30 home runs last season, leads all catchers with seven this year, followed by the Orioles' Matt Wieters, who has hit six.
And there has been run production: Pierzynski had 17 RBIs. Wieters and Molina each has 15. Napoli and Ramon Hernandez of the Rockies each has driven in 14 runs.
Here's a surprise: Molina, never considered to be fleet of foot by anyone's imagination, is leading all backstops in runs scored with 14.
Still, most any manager will say that defense is the top priority -- calling a good game, holding runners.
"Right now he's doing a tremendous job behind the plate," Mets manager Terry Collins said of Thole. "I like where he's at. ... I don't want to change anything with the way Josh has played, because he's caught very well."
The D-backs' Miguel Montero has held opposing baserunners to a Major League-lowest 45.5-percent stolen-base rate. Pierzynski -- in his 16th season at age 35 -- is second with an even 50 percent. Seattle's Miguel Olivo and San Diego's Nick Hundley are up there as well, though Olivo is headed to the disabled list because of a strained groin.
It's one thing that the catchers are hitting. It's another that most of these backstops are established players.
Among the American Leaguers Mauer is a four-time All-Star. Pierzynski has played in two. Napoli has averaged 33 homers for every 162 games played in his career. Carlos Santana of the Indians and J.P. Arencibia of the Blue Jays continue to rise in the ranks.
Posey would appear to lead the way in the National League but he has plenty of company -- and competition -- on the ballot. There's Molina, a four-time Gold Glove winner and an All-Star each of the past three seasons. Ruiz and Hernandez have long been established starting catchers. Thole and Ellis are up-and-comers.
Lurking in the shadows is Atlanta's Brian McCann, who is off to a slow start with the bat but has been to the past six All-Star Games. Last year he batted fifth in the starting lineup.
Fans can cast their votes for catchers and starters around the diamond up to 25 times at MLB.com and all 30 club sites -- online or via a mobile device -- using the 2012 All-Star Game Ballot until Thursday, June 28, at 11:59 p.m. ET.Fans can also once again participate in the State Farm Home Run Derby Fan Poll. Fans will have the opportunity to select three players in each league who they would most like to see participate in the State Farm Home Run Derby. The 2012 State Farm Home Run Derby -- part of Gatorade All-Star Workout Day -- will be broadcast live on ESPN, ESPN HD, ESPN Deportes and ESPN Radio in the United States beginning at 8 p.m. ET on Monday, July 9. The 2012 American League and National League All-Star teams will be unveiled on Sunday, July 1, on the 2012 MLB All-Star Game Selection Show, televised nationally on TBS. Baseball fans around the world will then be able to select the final player on each team via the 2012 All-Star Game Final Vote on MLB.com. And the voting doesn't end there. The final phase of All-Star Game voting will again have fans participating in the official voting for the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. During the Midsummer Classic, fans will vote exclusively online at MLB.com via the 2012 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote, and their voice will represent 20 percent of the official vote determining the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy. The 83rd All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and Sirius XM also will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com or royals.com/asg.
The 2012 All-Star Game will be played at Kauffman Stadium. MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage of the All-Star Week festivities.
The last time Kansas City hosted an All-Star Game was in 1973, a 7-1 win for the NL in which future Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench homered.