The true stars in MLB? The Freak, The Machine and Doc

If you ever wondered why San Francisco Giant Tim Lincecum is called The Freak, this photo sums it up. (Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

How many stars are there in Major League Baseball? A bunch, you might say.

Let’s rephrase the question: How many studs are there in MLB? The Major Leagues are full of good players. Every team has players who post solid numbers at the plate or on the mound every year.

What I want to know, though, is how many real “stars” are there in MLB? How many guys out there make you stop flipping channels just because you want to see them perform?

If you ask a Boston fan how many stars are on the Red Sox, he or she is liable to rattle off the names of Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, Carl Crawford, Jon Lester and Jonathan Papelbon. While all of those guys are very solid, are they really stars?

If you aren’t a Chowder Head and don’t eat, sleep and breathe the Red Sox, will you really stop flipping channels just to see what one of those guys will do at the plate or on the mound? I don’t think so.

Stars are baseball players who are so sick at what they do that baseball fans of other teams want to see what they will do next. The National Football League has plenty of players like this: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson and Michael Vick all make it on Monday Night Football because of their star appeal.

Major League Baseball has a plethora (that’s a bunch, in case you don’t want to have to Google it) of great players. Guys like A-Rod, Ryan Braun, Jered Weaver, Felix Hernandez, Josh Johnson, Joey Votto and Ichiro Suzuki are very good at what they do. But they aren’t the type of players who will make you stop what you’re doing to check them out on TV unless you’re a fan of their team.

Here is a look at MLB’s stars in 2011. These are players that will make you watch them, even if you may not give a flip about the team for which they play:

Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants — They don’t call him “The Freak” for nothing. How else can a scrawny (170 pounds … with clothes and shoes!) guy blow by the best hitters in the world on a consistent basis? Lincecum has struck out 982 batters in only 881 career innings. Making him even sicker is the fact that Lincecum has one of the best curve balls in the game. If he doesn’t punch you out with the heater, Lincecum will freeze you with a nasty breaking ball.

Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals — Pujols can spank a baseball into the upper deck at any stadium, whether it’s in his eyes or just a few inches off the plate. Pujols has never hit fewer than 32 home runs in a season and he also has a .329 career batting average. Baseball has power hitters like Adam Dunn and Prince Fielder, but try finding another player who is as strong as Pujols that still posts the kind of average he does every season.

Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies — Show me better off-speed stuff in Major League Baseball and I’ll show you some oceanfront property in Des Moines, Iowa. Halladay always goes deep into games and rarely gives up more than two runs. When he loses a game, it’s usually 1-0 or 2-1. While pitching for a bad Toronto team for years, Halladay has still put up amazing career numbers. With three 20-win seasons and seven seasons with an ERA under 3.00, Halladay is the best in the bigs.

Honorable Mention: Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays. He hasn’t done it long enough to make this list, but Bautista is on the cusp of stardom. Bautista bombed 54 home runs in 2010 and is on his way to another monster season this year. It’s still May, and Bautista has hit 19 homers and has an astounding .827 slugging percentage. Given the choice between watching a Canadian hockey game or Bautista about to launch another long one, I’ll definitely take the 30-year-old late bloomer.

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