Today, the MLB announced the All-Star starters and reserves for each league, and of course, there was a vast amount of discussion among fans about which players deserved their berths, which players shouldn't have been there, and which players that were left out in the cold deserve to be heading to Kansas City. First, the starters for both leagues.
C: Mike Napoli
1B: Prince Fielder
2B: Robinson Cano
SS: Derek Jeter
3B: Adrian Beltre
OF: Josh Hamilton
OF: Curtis Granderson
OF: Jose Bautista
DH: David Ortiz
C: Buster Posey
1B: Joey Votto
2B: Dan Uggla
SS: Rafael Furcal
3B: Pablo Sandoval
OF: Matt Kemp
OF: Carlos Beltran
OF: Melky Cabrera
Now, there are many issues with the fans' choices for the starting roles. Yankees, Rangers, and Cardinals fans turned out in full-force for the voting, and sure enough, 11 of the 17 starting slots are from those teams. Some are more egregious than others. I really can't complain about Cano, Beltre, Granderson, or Hamilton being voted in for the American League. Jeter got voted in based on a hot April (and the fact that he's Derek Jeter), but I'm not overly angered at the choice. I do have an issue with Mike Napoli starting for the AL behind the plate, as his monster October for the Rangers likely had a huge effect on his voting this year. Napoli only has a .782 OPS this year, which is fourth among all AL catchers behind Joe Mauer, AJ Pierzynski, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Of those three, only Mauer got selected as a backup for the team, with Matt Wieters of the Orioles taking the other catching position. Prince Fielder is an OK choice at first base, but at least Paul Konerko is on the team as a backup.
In the National League…oy. Carlos Ruiz, Yadier Molina, and maybe even AJ Ellis would be better choices behind the plate in comparison to Buster Posey. Dan Uggla started off strong at second base, but has faltered as of late. Aaron Hill and Brandon Phillips should both be on the team, but neither is, with Jose Altuve as the backup second baseman (and only Astros selection). Rafael Furcal is just kind of there among a weak crop of NL shortstops, and Jed Lowrie was flat-out robbed of a starting role. Choosing Starlin Castro AND Ian Desmond over Lowrie is criminal. Pablo Sandoval as the third baseman is a joke, as he has 140 fewer plate appearances than David Wright, one of the best players in the game this season. Thank god that Wright is on the team. In the outfield, Matt Kemp has been awesome, but has missed more than half the season. C'mon, man. Carlos Beltran is having a fine year, and I can't complain about that. But Melky Cabrera as a starter? God. Maybe it's just the Braves fan in me talking, but I can't deal with that crap.
The reserves for the teams are also quizzical, and I touched on some of them already. But here are the full lists.
C: Joe Mauer, Matt Wieters
1B: Paul Konerko
2B: Ian Kinsler
SS: Elvis Andrus, Asdrubal Cabrera
3B: Miguel Cabrera
OF: Adam Jones, Mike Trout, Mark Trumbo
DH: Adam Dunn, Billy Butler
C: Carlos Ruiz, Yadier Molina
1B: Bryan LaHair
2B: Jose Altuve
SS: Starlin Castro, Ian Desmond
3B: David Wright
OF: Ryan Braun, Jay Bruce, Carlos Gonzalez, Andrew McCutchen, Giancarlo Stanton
I can't complain all that much about the AL reserves. Kinsler is a little questionable at second, but he has the history over guys like Ben Zobrist and Jason Kipnis. The top two fWAR shortstops are both on the team. Cabrera is the best hitting third baseman in the league, but I would have loved to have seen Mike Moustakas of the hometown Royals make the team, because he is having an awesome year. I can't complain about either of the three backup outfielders, because they are all awesome. Josh Reddick, Austin Jackson, and Alex Gordon all deserved to go to the game as well. Two backup DHs seems odd, and Encarnacion would have been a much better choice than Butler.
The National League on the other hand…well then. Either Ruiz or Molina should be starting over Posey, but it's good to see them both on the team at least. LaHair's selection is based off of a hot April, and nothing else. He's currently seventh among all NL first basemen in fWAR. Paul Goldschmidt is essentially a better version of LaHair, but years younger. Altuve is a fine backup choice, but Aaron Hill is actually the best hitting second baseman in the league…though a lot of that thump has come this month. Castro and Desmond are both inferior choices to Lowrie at shortstop. Wright should have been starting at third, and his bump to the bench really screwed over Chase Headley of the Padres, who has had a magnificent year in relative anonymity in San Diego. With the lack of a DH in the NL, five outfielders were chosen. Braun, Gonzalez, and McCutchen were no-brainers, and Stanton get in because someone from the Marlins had to go to the game. Bruce is an…interesting choice, no doubt chosen because of his 17 homers. His 1.4 fWAR is good for 25th among NL OFs…and with a trio of three win Braves (Michael Bourn, Martin Prado, Jason Heyward) all not selected, the pick looks that much worse.
Now, the pitchers. Oh, the pitchers.
SP: Matt Harrison, Felix Hernandez, David Price, CC Sabathia, Chris Sale, Justin Verlander, Jered Weaver, CJ Wilson
RP: Ryan Cook, Jim Johnson, Joe Nathan, Chris Perez, Fernando Rodney
SP: Matt Cain, RA Dickey, Gio Gonzalez, Cole Hamels, Clayton Kershaw, Lance Lynn, Wade Miley, Stephen Strasburg
RP: Aroldis Chapman, Joel Hanrahan, Craig Kimbrel, Jonathan Papelbon, Huston Street.
Six of the top seven AL starters in fWAR are in, with Wilson and Price as the outliers (but still in the top dozen). Jake Peavy is a pretty big snub, but overall the starters were OK. But this closer fetish….it has to stop. Five closers selected out of 14 AL teams….so more than a third of the league's closers are All-Stars. Of course, four of the top five saves leaders in the league are there, with the one outside of that top five being Cook, the token Athletics player who's been closing for the team for maybe a month. Three of the top four relievers in fWAR are there, but Johnson is there, and he isn't in the top 40 in the league for reliever fWAR. There are numerous players I'd select over Johnson, and it would just hurt my brain to list them all.
My beloved National League…what the hell? Zack Greinke leads all NL starters in fWAR at 3.6, and he's not selected. That's completely inexcusable on any level. The next four pitchers in fWAR in the league are in, and Hamels is in the top ten. But there's no sign of other top ten starters Johnny Cueto, Josh Johnson, James McDonald, or Madison Bumgarner. Miley is Arizona's lone selection, the recipient of a fluky first half, and Kershaw is the reigning Cy Young winner, and almost gets elected by default. But Lance Lynn? He's a rookie whose magic ran out in the beginning of June, allowing 17 runs in 15 1/3 innings. I mean, god. It's just nonsensical. As for the relievers, Chapman and Kimbrel are the two best relievers in baseball, and were lead pipe locks. The other three choices were…bizarre. Hanrahan and Papelbon were picked based on their save totals and little else, since they've combined to amass 0.5 fWAR this year and allow homers like they're going out of style. I can't even begin to rationalize the Street selection. He was the token Padre, and was likely the default choice when the fans screwed over Wright and Headley at third, but man….he's thrown 20 innings. That's not a good look.
There's also the totally awesome final vote, which allows fans to vote on the "final" player to make the All-Star squads. Looking at the choices for each league, the selections seem rather obvious to me.
American League: Jonathan Broxton, Yu Darvish, Ernesto Frieri, Jason Hammel, Jake Peavy
National League: Michael Bourn, David Freese, Bryce Harper, Aaron Hill, Chipper Jones
Peavy is the worst snub on a solid AL pitching staff, but I wouldn't punch you in the face if you voted for Hammel either, as a two win pitcher. Darvish has been…OK, but hasn't lived up to expectations. I wouldn't vote for Broxton or Frieri any day of the week over a starter, but Frieri still hasn't allowed a run as an Angel. That's impressive.
The National League choices seem to all have some sort of story behind them. Bourn is the most deserving selection, as the player with the highest fWAR not chosen for the game. Of course, because he gets the least amount of publicity among any of these choices, he's the least likely to win. Freese is having a rather ho-hum year at third for the Cardinals, but people know his name because he's a postseason hero. Harper is an incredibly polarizing figure that even non-baseball fans know. Hill has his name in the news lately for hitting two cycles in the same month, but he's a damn good hitter otherwise too. And then there's Jones, looking for an All-Star bid in his final season despite playing in just 43 games. If you're going based strictly on performance, then you have to go with Bourn. Don't let yourself get caught up in the narrative.
Overall, fault lies with everyone in this voting: with the players, the managers, and the fans. Some really deserving players got hung out to dry, and it's disappointing to see that in a game that actually matter (or so Bud would have you believe), the best players aren't necessarily going to be on the field.