All-Star roster reaction: Who’s going to Kansas City, and who should be
Last week, I went through my picks for which players I felt were most deserving of All-Star starts for the American and National League teams. On Sunday, the results of the fan voting were announced, along with the rest of the rosters as fleshed out by a process that included voting by players, managers and coaches, as well as the choices of AL skipper Ron Washington and NL skipper Tony La Russa. Keeping in mind that my own process includes considering a player’s 2011 accomplishments along with those of 2012, and that advanced metrics certainly contribute to my point of view, what follows are a few thoughts on the rosters.
Biggest roster snubs (hitters): There’s no way that either roster could include all of the worthy players, but one who stands out as having flown under the radar for two straight seasons is first-year Twins leftfielder Josh Willingham, who hasn’t been helped in that time by the quality of his teams or the difficulty of his home parks. Willingham is hitting .268/.381/.532 with 16 homers for Minnesota after batting .246/.332/.477 with 29 homers for Oakland last year; both performances have been good for True Averages (runs per plate appearance, expressed on a batting average scale) well above .300. Josh Reddick, who’s doing similarly good work as Oakland’s rightfielder this year (.260/.342/.517, 18 homers, .304 TA) is worth a mention as well, though his 2011 performance doesn’t come close to that of Willingham. It would have been nice to see the Royals’ Mike Moustakas (.264/.331/.472) get a nod given that the game is being played in Kansas City, but as his 2011 wasn’t all that great, again, there’s less to get worked up about.
As for the NL, Cardinals leftfielder Matt Holliday just continues to rake (.307/.389/.500); his .320 True Average is ninth in the league, marking the fourth year in a row that he’s been above .315. One can make a good case for two players who are among the league’s Final Vote candidates, namely the Braves’ Chipper Jones (.291/.372/.450) and the Nationals’ Bryce Harper (.274/.347/.475). The former is a seven-time All-Star — and a likely future Hall of Famer — who is retiring at year’s end, and while he’s missed time with injuries in each of the past two seasons, he’s been productive when he’s played. The latter is already one of the game’s most electrifying young players at age 19, and while he probably has several All-Star appearances ahead of him, he’s already got a good case for a spot. One of the two may yet be voted in, but if I had to pick one of the aforementioned, I’d still choose Holliday over either.
Biggest roster snubs (pitchers): There are no shortage of worthy NL starting pitchers who were not included, a problem exacerbated by the presence of five closers on the roster. The Mets’ Johan Santana has a no-hitter under his belt, and after missing all of last year due to injury, has reasserted his place among the game’s elite. The Giants’ Ryan Vogelsong has made an astounding comeback after beating the bushes for several years; he’s foruth in the league in ERA at 2.19. Teammate Madison Bumgarner has been no slouch, and the same can be said for the Reds’ Johnny Cueto, the Brewers’ Zack Greinke, the Pirates’ James McDonald and the Dodgers’ Chris Capuano. All of the aforementioned have ERAs of 2.85 or lower. Keeping in mind that high-strikeout pitchers do more of the heavy lifting than lower-strikeout pitchers who rely more on their defense, and that 2011 work should count for something in this discussion, the nod here goes to Greinke, who has put up a 2.82 ERA while striking out 9.0 per nine; he’s third among all pitchers in WARP after ranking 11th last year.
The snubs are less obvious in the AL. The White Sox’ Jake Peavy and the Yankees’ Hiroki Kuroda both rank among the league’s top 10 in ERA, as does the Orioles’ Jason Hammel, whose out-of-nowhere season (3.29 ERA, 8.6 K/9) has earned him a spot among the Final Vote candidates. The Rangers’ Yu Darvish has the strikeouts (10.0 per nine) as well as a more-than-respectable ERA in considering his hitter-friendly environment (3.57); he’s a Final Vote candidate, too. Given a variety of reasons for their minimal 2011 contributions to back up 2012 (Peavy’s injuries, Hammel’s down year in Colorado, Darvish’s stateside rookie status), the nod here goes to Kuroda, whose 3.17 ERA and 7.0 strikeouts per nine represent an impressive transition to the AL East after four pretty good years with the Dodgers.
Biggest lineup snubs: The fans didn’t do a horrible job when it comes to voting in the starters, but the most glaring omission from either lineup has to be that of David Wright. The Mets third baseman is hitting .355/.449/.564, and leading the majors with 4.3 WARP. The Giants’ Pablo Sandoval, who got the fan vote, is swinging the bat well (.307/.366/.482), but not nearly so well as Wright, and due to a wrist injury that required surgery has played in only 44 games compared to Wright’s 75. It’s true that Sandoval had the better 2011, though both players missed significant time to injury. To me, it comes down to this: If you were drawing up a list of NL MVP candidates, Wright would have to be on it, while Sandoval wouldn’t rate a mention due to missed time.
As for the AL, there’s less to get worked up about. I had Mike Trout among my starters — and I’d short-list him among MVP candidates — but as the 20-year-old phenom wasn’t even on the ballot, one can’t knock the fans for not voting him in.
Biggest headscratcher: The roster machinations needed to fulfill the requirement of representing every team can make for strange bedfellows, but the strangest are those concerning A’s closer Ryan Cook. Yes, he has a 1.59 ERA and 9.8 strikeouts per nine, but the 25-year-old rookie has a total of 41 2/3 career innings and just six saves since taking over as closer less than three weeks ago. Reddick, Yoenis Cespedes, Brandon McCarthy or Jarrod Parker would have all been better choices to represent the green and gold, with the latter duo just a handful of innings shy of qualifying for the league ERA leaderboard with marks of 2.54 and 2.57, respectively.