MLB All Star Snubs

MLB on Sling: The 2017 All-Star Starting Lineup Snubs

The announcement of the All-Star starting lineups and reserves brought with it its annual smattering of dunderheaded choices, though, to be fair, past rosters have been far more egregious. But that’s no reason not to examine the awful oversights.

It’s hard to begrudge Salvador Perez his fourth consecutive start at the All-Star Game, as he remains one of MLB’s premier catchers, but Alex Avila of the Detroit Tigers is enjoying a career year after missing most of the two previous seasons with injuries, leading all AL catchers in OPS at 1.032. Yes, Avila has played in 16 fewer games and is second in games caught on his own team, but he’s spent more time at catcher than anywhere else and is 9th among AL catchers in plate appearances — there’s getting around the fact that he’s a catcher, and he’s been ripping the cover off the ball all season.

Voters are to be commended for nailing the infield, as Toronto Blue Jay Justin Smoak, Astros Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa, and Jose Ramirez of the Cleveland Indians are the cream of the crop. You could’ve flipped a coin to choose between Smoak and Logan Morrison, a pair of 8-year veterans separated by .3 WAR, 2 dingers and 14 points of OPS.

The outfield is another matter. Even before he exploded Sunday for 2 homers and 8 RBI to lead the Boston Red Sox to a 15-1 trouncing of the Twins, Mookie Betts was clearly among the three best outfielders in the AL. According to WAR, he’s the best baserunning outfielder in the AL (14 steals in 16 attempts), he’s the second-best fielding OF (after only Byron Buxton), and he can rake, as he’s currently on pace for 50+ doubles, 30+ homers, and 100+ runs and RBI. And it’s not like Betts is sneaking up on people — since 2015, he’s second in WAR among all position players, behind only Mike Trout. This was an atypical failure on the part of a Boston fanbase that has at times been a little too enthusiastic about its candidates. Even having missed a month with a bum thumb, Mike Trout, was a slam dunk, and anyone who didn’t cast a ballot for the New Yankees’ RoY/MVP candidate Aaron Judge should lose their voting rights.

DH Corey Dickerson of the Tampa Bay Rays has been doing what he’s designated to do all season, and in addition to leading the league in hits, he’s also top 10 in WAR, BA, SLG, OPS, AB, R, TB, singles, doubles, triples, and home runs.

While the AL choices were tolerable, the National League electorate didn’t exactly bathe themselves in glory. Catcher Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants is the best catcher of his generation, so that’s all well and good. But what thought process leads you to overlook Arizona Diamondbacks Paul Goldschmidt AND Joey Votto in favor of Ryan Zimmerman? Zimmerman is probably the least qualified selection among All-Star starters. Hats off to him for regaining his form after three seasons of struggle, when he played just 271 games and managed an OPS of only .720. But Goldschmidt is a unicorn — a 1B who can hit, field and run — who’s potentially laying the groundwork for a Hall-of-Fame career. He leads the NL in runs (70) and RBI (66), and is second in OPS (1.029), while Votto, leads the NL in walks, OPS, and OPS+, and has regained his power stroke, having jacked 23 bombs already.  

Zimmerman’s teammate Daniel Murphy isn’t a great choice at 2B, as the Pirates’ Josh Harrison has the advantage in WAR by 2.5 to 1.6, with the difference is based entirely on Harrison’s .4 dWAR vs. Murphy’s -.8 dWAR. But Murphy is the superior hitter in every respect. It’s a defensible pick, if not a good one. The Rockies’ Nolan Arenado, however, is not defensible. Arenado, possibly the best-fielding 3B of his generation (with apologies to Manny Machado), has two gaping holes in his candidacy: 1) a huge percentage of his value is defense, which is tough to quantify, and 2) his offensive numbers are inflated by Coors Field. Yes, WAR is supposed to control for park effects, but Arenado’s home OPS of .959 is 20 points lower than Justin Turner’s road OPS, so even with the Coors bump, Turner far outclasses him on offense, with his league-leading .388 batting average and .473 on-base percentage. And Turner’s no slouch with the glove, with 2.9 dWAR going back to 2014. Also having a betters season is Anthony Rendon of the Nats, who’s playing good D while outclassing Arenado in BA, OBP and SLG. Finally, we’d’ve taken Corey Seager over Zack Cosart, but Cosart’s been at least as good, and possibly better, so we’ll let it slide.

Given that his name didn’t appear on the ballot, voters are to be forgiven for overlooking Dodgers phenom Cody Bellinger, he of the league-leading 24 home runs and .633 slugging percentage — even if he doesn’t know who Seinfeld is. But that doesn’t excuse the neglect visited upon Mets’ slugger Michael Conforto, who, though out since June 25, is 10th in the NL in OPS. But both men were passed over for another Coors Field denizen, Charlie Blackmon. Sure, Blackmon leads the NL in hits, triples and total bases, but those numbers are propped up by a gauding 1.264 OPS at home. On the road, however, his OPS is a very pedestrian .716, which is 16 points lower than the league-wide road OPS. Blackmon’s to be commended for learning to exploit the nuances of Coors, where he’s hit all 10 of his triples, but the fact is that away from Denver, his bat is a liability. Rounding out the outfield are Marcell Ozuna and Bryce Harper, a pair of clear-cut choices.

So here’s a lineup of snubs who somehow weren’t deemed worthy of starting:

C – Alex Avila

1B – Paul Goldschmidt

2B – Josh Harrison

3B – Justin Turner

SS – Corey Seager

OF – Mookie Betts

OF – Cody Bellinger

OF – Michael Conforto

The lesson? It’s one that’s as old as democracy, and it’s been proven time and again: people are terrible at voting. Whether it’s for dog catcher or NL starting shortstop, people too often fail to look beyond their personal rooting interests and consider what’s best or right for all parties involved. Baseball will continue to tweak the voting process, and the wrong people will continue to be chosen, but that’s OK, because the game is too great to be ruined by one ill-punched chad here or there.

 

Monday

Boston Red Sox vs Texas Rangers

8pm ET on ESPN

 

Tuesday

Pittsburgh Pirates vs Philadelphia Phillies

4pm ET on ESPN

 

Boston Red Sox vs Texas Rangers

8pm ET on ESPN

 

Wednesday

New York Mets vs Washington Nationals

7pm ET on ESPN

 

Saturday

Kansas City Royals vs Los Angeles Dodgers, or

Pittsburgh Pirates vs Chicago Cubs, or

Detroit Tigers vs Cleveland Indians

7pm ET on FOX

 

Cincinnati Reds vs Arizona Diamondbacks

10pm ET on FS1

 

Sunday

Pittsburgh Pirates vs Chicago Cubs

1pm ET on TBS

 

Detroit Tigers vs Cleveland Indians

8pm ET on ESPN

 

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All stats courtesy ESPN and Baseball Reference

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