Yasiel Puig, Joaquin Benoit lead candidates for All-Star Game’s Final Vote
The All-Star rosters were announced on Saturday, but they are not yet complete. The 34th spot on each roster remains to be filled via the fans’ Final Vote, with five candidates in each league eligible in the voting, which ends Thursday afternoon at 4 p.m. Eastern. Here, then, is a quick look at the candidates in each league ranked by the strength of their candidacies.
1. Yasiel Puig, RF, Dodgers
Stats: .409/.437/.677, 8 HR, 19 RBI, 2.4 bWAR
Who cares if Puig turns out to be the next Jeff Francoeur? The Dodgers’ rookie sensation is a tremendously exciting, talented and thus far productive major league star, and he belongs in the All-Star game. There is a place in the Midsummer Classic for young, exciting, productive talent. Mike Trout and Bryce Harper both made it last year after just two months in the majors, as well they should have. Mark Fidrych made it in 1976, and though he didn’t go on to have the career that his rookie year suggested, that game would have been incomplete without him, and if Francoeur had done what he did as a rookie in 2005 in time for the All-Star Game (he didn’t debut until July 7), he’d have been worthy of a spot as well.
Puig has made enough of an impact this season that, even if he pancakes from here on out, his first month will be brought up every time a rookie hits the league like a man on fire. His has been a historic performance, and that deserves All-Star recognition.
What’s more, Puig has been so productive in his 32 major league games that he if he does make it to Citi Field, he will do so on his own merits, having posted a wins above replacement total on par or better than his competitors in this vote.
2. Ian Desmond, SS, Nationals
Stats: .281/.327/.502, 15 HR, 49 RBI, 10 SB, 2.5 bWAR
Desmond made the All-Star team last year, so there’s no need to reward him this year for what he did in 2012. What he’s done this year has been impressive enough, particularly compared to the average NL shortstop, who has hit .256/.306/.378 with seven home runs and 33 RBIs. In addition to all of that production at the plate, Desmond has been caught stealing just twice for an 83 percent success rate on his 10 stolen bases. He’s not an exceptional fielder, but he has been the third most productive shortstop in baseball on the other side of the ball. The catch is that the top two are already on the NL All-Star team. Still, direct your protest votes against Puig here.
3. Freddie Freeman, 1B, Braves
Stats: .306/.382/.462, 9 HR, 56 RBI, 2.3 bWAR
4. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Dodgers
Stats: .296/.348/.482, 13 HR, 53 RBI, 1.8 bWAR
I’ll take Freeman’s advantage in getting on-base over Gonzalez’s advantage in slugging, though the fact that Gonzalez plays in a tougher home park makes these two even closer than they appear. Indeed, Gonzalez has a 131 to 129 advantage in OPS+. Still, neither exceeds the standard at first base to the degree that Desmond does at shortstop and there are already three first baseman on the NL roster.
5. Hunter Pence, RF, Giants
Stats: .266/.311/.456, 13 HR, 43 RBI, 13 SB, 2.0 bWAR
The average NL rightfielder this season has hit .271/.333/.445 with 12 home runs and 42 RBIs. Pence plays in a home ballpark that heavily favors pitching, so he has been a bit better than his numbers above, but he’s also a subpar fielder. Outside of being a perfect 13-for-13 in stolen base attempts, he hasn’t really distinguished himself at his position.
1. Joaquin Benoit, RHP, Tigers
Stats: 1.78 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 11. 2 K/9, 4.40 K/BB, 10% IRS, 2-0, 6 SV, 0 BS, 35 1/3 IP
IRS is inherited runner scoring percentage, which means Benoit has allowed just one of every 10 runners he has inherited from the pitcher before him to score (in fact, those are his exact numbers, he has allowed just one inherited runner to score all season). That rate is the stingiest of this quintet of end-game relievers. Benoit is also the only one in this bunch without a loss or a blown save. In fact, a run hasn’t scored on Benoit’s watch in a Detroit loss all season. You can’t ask more than that from an end-game reliever and Benoit’s other stats are competitive enough that he’s the clear leader here, even if his election would make him the seventh Tiger on the AL roster.
2. Koji Uehara, RHP, Red Sox
Stats: 1.93 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 12.8 K/9, 6.63 K/BB, IRS 37%, 2-0, 5 SV, 3 BS, 37 1/3 IP
3. Tanner Scheppers, RHP, Rangers
Stats: 1.88 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 6.1 K/9, 1.71 K/BB, IRS 18%, 5-1, 0 BS, 43 IP
4. David Robertson, RHP, Yankees
Stats: 2.23 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 11.4 K/9, 3.83 K/BB, IRS 29%, 4-1, 1 BS, 36 1/3 IP
Uehara has the best rate stats of these three but the worst rate of stranding runners and the most combined blown saves and losses. Scheppers is the opposite of that, and Robertson, who was an All-Star in 2011, falls in between despite having the highest ERA and the fewest innings pitched. I suppose that puts Robertson third out of the bunch. Take your pick on Uehara and Scheppers, but I’ll favor Uehara, who has been an elite reliever in the American League since moving into that role in 2010, posting a 2.27 ERA, 0.78 WHIP and 9.44 strikeout-to-walk ratio with 11.6 K/9 and just 1.2 BB/9 in 182 1/3 innings over that span.
5. Steve Delabar, RHP, Blue Jays
Stats: 1.58 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 12.8 K/9, 2.59 K/BB, IRS 50%, 5-1, 3 BS, 40 IP
Delabar has the eye-catching ERA, but he’s last in this group in WHIP, inherited runner scoring percentage and combined blown saves and losses (and his one loss did not come in a game in which he blew a save). He’s also second-to-last in K/BB ratio having walked a whopping five men per nine innings (which is also the source of his high WHIP). If “Steve Delabar, All-Star” just sounds wrong to you, you’re not alone.