Picking the All-Stars — 34 on each side — always is a revealing exercise. Some positions are absurdly strong (AL second, third base). Some are surprisingly weak (AL shortstop, outfield). And some teams merit greater representation than others. The Pirates, Cardinals and Reds account for 14 of my NL All-Stars, nearly half the club.
To make my selection process as realistic as possible, I follow the rule that every team must be represented — yes, even dregs such as the Astros and Marlins. Truth be told, my most difficult task was identifying a worthy Padre; two of their most deserving players, second baseman Jedd Gyorko and shortstop Everth Cabrera, are injured.
The All-Star selection show will air Saturday on FOX at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT. Howling over the “snubs” will commence shortly thereafter, and as usual, I will dive giddily into the fray. I find the All-Star controversies to be downright quaint compared to the actual issues of the day — which players are getting suspended, which managers are getting fired, etc.
Anyway, here goes. I denoted my starters by asterisks. Direct all complaints to the usual place on Twitter — @Ken_Rosenthal.
Hold your fire: There was just no way to squeeze every deserving pitcher onto this staff. Strasburg and Miller are the worst omissions, but relievers Melancon (0.87 ERA), Brothers (1.02) and Gregg (1.59) also deserve better.
How do I rationalize my choices? Wood is my only Cub and Fernandez my only Marlin. Strasburg spent time on the DL, and Miller would be my sixth Cardinal.
Now about my choice of Harvey as the starter: Yes, Kershaw leads the league with a 1.93 ERA, but Harvey is first in strikeout rate, opponents’ OPS and fielding-independent pitching (FIP).
The game is at the Mets’ home park, Citi Field. Bypassing Harvey would be a needless slap at Mets fans.
I could make the same argument for Ramirez — brilliant performance in a small sample — that I’m using for Puig. But Segura is quite deserving and Desmond is tied for fourth in the NL in extra-base hits. Disappointing as the Nats have been, it wouldn’t be right to shaft both Strasburg and Desmond.
Phillips, after batting .209 with a .548 OPS in June, isn’t that obvious a choice as the backup second baseman, but Gyorko and Utley both missed time with injuries, and Phillips’ defense elevates him above Scutaro.
Finally, Craig deserves a spot. But so does Freeman.
Let’s start with Cuddyer and CarGo — they are not simply creations of Coors Field. Cuddyer ranks fourth in the NL in OPS-plus (OPS adjusted to league and ballpark), CarGo sixth.
Now to the bigger issue — the players I omitted to make room for Puig. Upton wasn’t all that difficult, not when he has batted only .220 with a .641 OPS and three homers since May 1. Bruce is more deserving, but the Reds, with four selections, aren’t exactly under-represented. I’d love to find a place for Parra, just not over Puig. I’d also love to drop Quentin, but he’s my only Padre.
Iwakuma and Hernandez rank 1-2 in the AL in ERA. Royals fans can quibble with Masterson over Santana and Shields, but Masterson ranks higher than both in FIP and boasts the league’s sixth-best strikeout rate. Also, I’m including Holland, the Royals’ closer whose 14.91 strikeouts per nine innings rank a close second in the majors to Chapman’s.
As for my starter, Scherzer’s 13-0 record is partly attributable to his run support, which is the best in the AL. I’m more impressed that he leads the AL in FIP, and that 10.72 strikeouts per nine rank second among starters only to Darvish.
As you can see, I’m resolving the glut of deserving AL players at second and third by not resolving it at all.
Kipnis makes it along with Cano and Pedroia. Machado, the game’s highest-rated defender according to John Dewan’s plus-minus ratings at BillJames.com, makes it along with Cabrera, Longoria and Donaldson — though it would be nice if I could use him at his original position, shortstop.
I’m fully aware that manager Jim Leyland could not play four third basemen, especially when the starter, Cabrera, is the best hitter in the game, not to mention a member of Leyland’s Tigers.
I just don’t see how it’s possible to exclude any of them.
The trick to keeping all of those AL infielders is cutting down on the number of outfielders — not difficult, considering that only three (Trout, Bautista and Cruz) boast on-base/slugging percentages above .800 while playing outfield (15 AL players — 15! — exceeded that figure while playing outfield last season).
The actual AL team will feature a more equitable distribution by position, once the players’ votes are tallied. So, get ready for some serious snubs.
As for Nava, I’m a sucker for his story. The Red Sox designated him for assignment in 2011, but he continues to improve, offensively and defensively. Self-made.