On Sunday night, in the lead up to the Washington Nationals / St. Louis Cardinals game, the results of the All-Star voting were revealed on ESPN in another of the never-ending events that used to simply be a press release that now warrants an hour-long show. Karl Ravech and Tim Kurkijan opened with the AL and the fans there nailed it. In the second segment, we found out that the NL fans aren’t quite so savvy. Let’s take a moment to see what the fans got right, what they got wrong, and who they should have chosen.
With the ironic possible exception of Mike Trout’s selection, the AL fans got it right at every position on the diamond. Ironic in the fact that Trout has been on the shelf since late May when he tore a ligament in his left thumb. Currently, Trout does not qualify for the batting title and does not appear on the leaderboard at FanGraphs for AL outfielders, a leaderboard that is sorted initially by WAR. But as a testament to how great Trout is – he may already have a HOF resume in just his seventh season in the league – when the qualifying filter is removed, Trout bounces back on to the board with the third most WAR among all AL outfielders.
Think about that for a second. Trout has missed over a month of the season so far and still has more WAR than all but two other outfielders. Expand the sort to ALL AL players and he’s sixth. Expand it again to the entire major leagues and he’s eleventh. Best player in baseball, hands down. If Trout is healthy by next Tuesday, he needs to be in Miami.
Salvador Perez of the Kansas City Royals is the only catcher in the AL qualified for the batting title. He’s slashing .290/.318/.525 with a wRC+ of 117 and a 1.7 WAR. If you prefer counting stats, Perez has hit 15 HR, 51 RBI and scored 35 runs. And while the StatCorner Catcher Report suggests that Perez is slightly below average defensively, losing his team 1.7 strikes per game with his framing, he is one of the most durable catchers in all of baseball, having received the fifth most pitches in MLB so far, this season. The fans got this one right. Salvador Perez – All Star.
The voters selected Justin Smoak of the Toronto Blue Jays to man first in the ASG. While Smoak does trail Logan Morrison of the Tampa Rays in WAR (2.1 to 2.8), he exceeds LoMo in wRC+, wOBA, BA, OBP and SLG. Smoak is hitting .303/.370/.594 with a wRC+ of 151. He’s on pace to hit 40 HR, as he currently has 22 after 80 games, and on pace for100 RBI, as he now sits at 52.
Baseball fans in the Emerald City have to be scratching their heads as neither Smoak nor Morrison performed at this level while playing for the Mariners. None the less, either would have been a good choice to the ASG and given that the game is primarily an offensive showcase, the choice of Smoak is totally fine.
Casual baseball fans are about to learn what fantasy players and hardcore stat geeks have known for some time. Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros is a special player. At 5-8/165, Altuve is blowing out future HOFer Robinson Cano for the lead in WAR at 2B. With a WAR of 3.5, the diminutive Astro, is hitting .326/.398/.519 with 11 HR, 16 SB, and 53 runs scored. Altuve is a run producing machine with a wRC+ of 147, fantastic production for the middle of the diamond. It would have been hard to get this selection wrong. This will be Altuve’s fifth appearance in the All-Star game. Good job AL fans.
Just to Altuve’s right – or left depending on the defensive shift – is the ASG starter at short – Carlos Correa. Almost a full win above replacement ahead of Xandier Bogaerts of the Boston Red Sox, Correa is raking at .319/.394/.554 with 17 HR, 58 RBI, and 56 runs. Fifty-three percent better than the average hitter, his 153 wRC+ places him way above the next closest AL 2B, Elvis Andrus of the Texas Rangers at 116. At just 22 years of age, baseball fans should get used to seeing Carlos Correa at the All-Star games for the next decade or so. The game in Miami will be the first of many for Correa.
Small market sensation Jose Ramirez gets his shot at taking his talents from Cleveland, where he dazzles the fans of the Cleveland Indians, to South Beach and the All-Star Game to display his skills to the nation. Appearing in his first ASG, the 24-year-old Ramirez has picked up right where he left off in his 2016 season and playoff run to the World Series. He is slashing .325/.379/.584 with a wRC+ of 151 and 3.4 WAR. Fifteen HR and 9 SB makes him extremely versatile at the hot corner. In a down year for Manny Machado of the Baltimore Orioles, fans got this selection right by choosing Jose Ramirez.
In the outfield, the American League Fans chose the afore mentioned Mike Trout (who since writing paragraph one of this article has confirmed he will not play in the All-Star Game – internet #sigh), George Springer of the Astros, and phenom bomber rookie, Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees. Trout has been replaced in the starting lineup by Mookie Betts of the Red Sox, the player who “should” have made the team if you were looking only at WAR, a cumulative stat.
The third most famous Mookie – trailing the original William Hayward “Mookie” Wilson of the 1986 New York Nets who helped prolong the Red Sox misery another 18 years after Buckner let the ball go through his legs in game six, and Spike Lee’s character from Do the Right Thing and iconic Brooklyn Dodgers fan – is a worthy substitute for Trout, hitting .280/.361/.500 with 15 HR and 15 SB, on pace to put up a 30/30 season. Second among outfielders in the AL in WAR with 4.1, Mookie’s wRC+ is an OK 122. His real-world value is added with his glove. The Mookster already has 19 DRS (defensive runs saved) this season in right. To put it another way – two wins for the Red Sox because one of the best centerfielders in baseball has to play right because there’s a better defensive centerfielder in center – Jackie Bradly, Jr. The All-Star game really isn’t about defense, but I’ve got no beef with him filling in for Trout.
George Springer will be the third Astro in the American League lineup Tuesday. Among AL outfielders, Springer ranks second in wRC+ at 157 and third in WAR at 3.5. Slashing .295/.371/.557, Springer is on pace to hit 50 HR and has scored 67 times, while driving in 51. Along with Altuve and Correa, Springer should be representing Houston in the All-Star Game for some time to come as the elder statesman for the Astros. He’ll turn 28 in September.
Finally, there’s Aaron Judge. If you’ve ever heard Judge interviewed, you might have asked yourself “who cloned Derek Jeter” with his “aw shucks” humbleness and deference to team. But then you take a look at the guy and the imposing 6-7/275 erases all thoughts of the captain. This dude is big and he can mash.
Take this into consideration. In the storied history of the New York Yankees, Judge is just the FOURTH Yankee rookie to be selected to the All-Star game. There wasn’t an All-Star game when Lou Gehrig was a rookie. Mickey Mantle had to wait until his first full season in 1952 and wouldn’t have been considered a rookie by today’s 140 PA threshold. Even Jeter himself didn’t accomplish the feat. Just Willie Randolph in 1976, Tom Tresh in 1962, and Joe DiMaggio in 1936 made the ASG in their first year. One of those guys is a HOFer. Another probably should be a HOFer. And then there’s… Tom Tresh.
Admittedly, Judge probably can’t keep up his current level of production. After all, he is sporting a ridiculously high .427 BABIP while striking out 29.5% of the time. But so far this season, he’s hit 28 HR with a slash line of .329/.447/.689, numbers that look remarkably like a guy who played right field in the old Yankee stadium back in the 20’s and 30’s. Ruthian heresy aside, Judge is clearly “the story” tis season as fans salivate in anticipation for Monday’s Home Run Derby.
Good job American League Fans.
By past standards, the National League lineup isn’t horrendous. It’s not even particularly bad. It’s just not as spot on as the American League lineup.
Buster Posey. Absolutely a great choice. On a disappointing San Francisco Giants team, Posey is the lone bright light. A catcher hitting .333/.410/.513 with a wRC+ of 148 and a 3.0 WAR is rare indeed. By all accounts, Posey is also excellent at calling a game and managing the emotions of the pitching staff. Too bad he couldn’t keep a certain Cy Young contender off dirt bikes in-season. With almost a complete win against replacement more than the number two catcher in the NL, Los Angeles Dodgers Yamani Grandal, Posey is the clear choice here.
With the voting probably skewed by the larger marked in Washington D.C., the results start to go wrong at 1B. Paul Goldschmidt of the Arizona Diamondbacks is the clear choice here, but fans voted in Ryan Zimmerman of the Washington Nationals instead.
Goldschmidt – .315/.432/.587, 19 HR, 72 R, 66, RBI, 13 SB, wRC+ 158, 4.2 WAR
Zimmerman – .330/.373/.610, 19 HR 50 R, 62 RBI, 1 SB, wRC+ 151, 2.1 WAR
Zimmerman leads in BA, but trails significantly in OBP, leads in SLG and in NOTHING else. You decide. And while you’re at it, go look at the stat lines of Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds, who should also be ahead of Zimmerman – .312/.421/.617, 24 HR, 61, R, 61 RBI, wRC+ 161, 3.5 WAR on a losing team.
At second, I will concede that Nationals fans stuffed the box for the right guy. Daniel Murphy continues his three-year run by hitting .341/.395/.575, with 14 HR, and a wRC+ of 147. His 2.4 WAR is just a smidgen ahead of the 2.3 WAR of Josh Hamilton of the Pittsburgh Pirates, but much of that is based on Murphy’s below average defense and Hamilton’s above average defense. Nat’s fans are 1-2.
Slight improvement by NL fans at SS over the 2B selection. Instead of choosing the number three guy, they chose the number two guy. I like Zach Cozart of the Reds. Mariners fans will remember that Jerry Dipoto tried to pull off a trade for Cozart at the trade deadline last year but ran out of time. That’s a shame. Injuries have hampered Jean Segura this season for the M’s and Cozart’s .313/.394/.541 bat and plus defense would be a nice addition. But the best shortstop in the NL is the bother of Mariner’s 3B Kyle Seager.
Corey Seager is hitting .300/.399/.512 with four more HR (13 to 9) and 17 more runs (57 to 40) than Cozert (I refuse to compare RBI, but Seager is ahead there too). Their wRC+ is almost identical – 143 for Seeger and 142 for Cozart. But, Seager is much more valuable in the field and on the base paths, as is demonstrated by his 3.6 WAR compared to 2.7 by his Ohio counterpart.
However, this pick is much closer than the 1B mistake, so we can let this one slide.
What’s up Nationals fans? You can get an undeserving Zimmerman in the lineup but not a deserving one in Anthony Rendon?
Nolan Arenado of the Colorado Rockies gets the fan’s nod based on a .301/.352/.546 resume. The slash line is very similar to Rendon’s – .297/.398/.549 – but one can’t help but think conventional thinking took over here – .301 v. .297. Rendon gets on base more often and slugs negligibly higher. Rendon has 16 HR. Arenado has 15. But the real separator is wRC+ and WAR. Arenado has a wRC+ of 112 and a WAR of 2.8. Compare that to Rendon at 146 and 3.7 and it becomes clear who the All-Star is.
The fans voted in Bryce Harper of the Nationals, Charlie Blackmon of the Rockies, and Marcell Ozuna of the Miami Marlins. Bingo! Three for three.
Harper is back to his 2015 MVP form, hitting .324/.431/.600, with 20 HR, 66 R, and 64 RBI. Fantasy owners probably wish he’d run more – 2 SB – but that tends to be what happens to power hitters who don’t want to pull hamstrings (think Barry Bonds and, more recently, Alfonzo Soriano). A 3.5 WAR and 163 wRC+, both of which lead NL outfielders, Harper is a no brainer choice.
Blackmon currently leads the league in PA, hits, and triples, not to mention facial hair – and that’s saying a lot these days. The only knock against Blackmon is the same knock Rockies players have been getting since Coors Field opened. At home Blackmon is hitting .381/.439/.796, while on the road he is hitting .261/.309/.409. Eleven HR in 38 home games versus 9 HR in 47 games on the road.
To me, Michael Conforto of the New York Mets is the only viable alternative here (sorry Atlanta Braves Ender Incarte with your 2.3 WAR but .403 SLG), but Mets fans probably have moved on to the eternal “next year,” given all the team’s injuries and just forgot to vote. We’ll just have to agree that Blackmon is probably somewhere in the middle of those two stat lines and enjoy watching him in Miami.
Finally, Miami hometown, crowd favorite, Marcel Ozuna will give Marlins fans something to cheer about on Tuesday and not just Monday in the HR Derby. Ozuna, who is sneaky not as young as you’d think – 29 in November – is bringing a .313/.372/.566 slash line to the game that no longer counts. Twenty-two HR, 66 R, and 64 RBI will satisfy traditionalists. And, the 143 wRC+ and 2.8 WAR place him in the top three for NL outfielders in both categories.
A fun side-note. Voting in Dodgers rookie, Cody Bellinger, would have been fun. Judge v. Bellinger for the “Future of Baseball” title on ESPN. The 21-year-old sensation doesn’t quite have the gaudy BA or OBP due to his 29.8% K rate, but 24 HR, a .620 SLG, and a 143 wRC+ place him solidly on the radar for future HOF game starts.
To be fair. This may be the best selections by fans in recent memory in BOTH leagues. Mercifully, there’s not a Cub at every base in the infield this season. None of the starters are completely undeserving, and, while the AL did a slightly better job than the NL, all the “right” players are on the rosters and will see playing time. With so many young, exciting players, I’m actually looking forward to the All-Star Game.