Wednesday, July 11, 2012

All Star Snub Team

All Star Snub Team

Every year, there is some controversy about who makes the All Star team.  With fans being able to select the starters and final roster spots, there is a tendency to see popular players from larger markets take spots away from more deserving candidates because their names are the ones that fans recognize.  Or you see an organization make a big push for their fans to go out and vote for the hometown players, even if they are less deserving that others.  You can’t blame organizations for doing this, and it’s hard to get angry at fans for making homer picks.  That’s why the issue isn’t necessarily with the fans (they are behaving as we all knew they would) the issue lies in the format of the voting.  Perhaps it should be changed to a player vote.  Or maybe you let managers vote and bar them from selecting anyone on their own teams.  There is a way to fix this.  But until that happens (and likely after it ever happens as well) you will see lists of All Star snubs.  It’s a fun pastime for those who like to write about the game.  Most have come out already.  I like to wait until I hear all the replacement players announced before I compile my list.  The replacements are the players who weren’t originally selected by the fans or coaches, but were added to the roster later, either through the final fan vote, or to replace an injured player who was originally put on the team.  Those players are Yu Darvish (the AL Final Vote winner) and Jake Peavy for the American League and Michael Bourn, Chipper Jones, Bryce Harper and David Freese (the NL Final Vote winner) for the National league.  If a player is on the team then I don’t consider them a snub, even if they are a reserve that I think should be starting.  I consider snubs guys who should be on the team period, and for some reason are not.  Here is my All Star Snubs Team:

AL Roster

C:                        A.J. Pierzynski CHW- This is one of the most egregious snubs.  There are always a number of guys who are arguably more deserving of a backup spot than the other fairly deserving player who has been chosen.  However, when a player deserves to start and is left off the team, that’s when people really take notice.  It generally means that not only was a deserving player left off the roster, it also means that 2 or 3 other players of the same position got selected instead.  That’s tough for anyone to swallow.  And that’s the case we have in the American League at the catcher position.  Mike Napoli was selected as the starter because everyone loves home run hitters.  Joe Mauer is a former batting champ and charismatic young player who plays for the team he grew up rooting for.  And Matt Wieters is the talented young catcher for the upstart Orioles, who are playing better than anyone expected.  They were all selected ahead of Pierzynski, the player voted both least liked and dirtiest amongst his peers.  And that carried over into the fans, where a poll showed Pierzynski among the top 3 most disliked players in the major leagues.  So it’s easy to see why he lost the popularity contest that is the fan vote.  But his numbers clearly show that he’s had the best season so far.  His AVG is third (behind two Minnesota catchers, one of which is on this list {Mauer} and often a DH) however he has the most HR and RBI amongst all catchers and is second in R.  No one has outhit him, especially Mike Napoli, the owner of a 228 AVG.  You may not like it (no one does) but Pierzynski has been the best catcher in the AL this year.

1B:                        Chris Davis BAL- This one wouldn’t have made too many other lists.  The only reason he’s on mine is because I’m trying to build a team of snubs, and first base was pretty well covered.  So I reached on this one.  Fans still got it wrong voting Prince Fielder over Paul Konerko, but Rangers skipper Ron Washington helped set it right selecting Konerko to be a reserve.  He deserves to start, but at least he’s on the team.  After Konerko and Fielder, I might have selected Davis who has played well.  His 271 AVG is better than both Mark Teixeira’s and Albert Pujols’, two of the other players with a lot of votes.  He’s got as many homers as Pujols and one less than Teixeira.  But with both of those guys way ahead of him in RBI and R you could call them pretty even.  He’s not really a snub, but has played better than most people realize. 

2B:                        Jason Kipnis CLE- The fans voted Robinson Cano as the starter, and they got it right.  I highly doubt the stats had a lot to do with it, as Cano is a big name who plays for the Yankees and won the Home Run Derby last year.  But this time circle gets the square.  The only other second baseman on the roster is Ian Kinsler, who was selected by the players.  This pick wasn’t a huge snub, as both other guys are worthy players.  Cano has clearly been the best second baseman in the AL this year.  But if it were up to me, I’d have given the nod to Kipnis over Kinsler.  But just barely.  Kipnis is hitting 277, which is second in the league behind….you guessed it, Cano and Kinsler.  But Kipnis has 2 more HR, 9 more RBI and 5 more SB than Kinsler.  Kinsler has the lead in AVG and R.  By my count, that’s 3 categories to 2.  It’s often not that simple, but in this case I think it’s a pretty good barometer.  I like Kinsler and think he’s having a good season.  But I’m giving the slight edge to Kipnis, which makes him my AL second base snub.   

SS:                        Alcides Escobar KAN- Another stretch.  There are 3 deserving shortstops in the AL and all 3 made it on the team.  The one who looked like a future snub, Elvis Andrus, had the good fortune to play for the manager who was filling out the roster.  He’s a good choice.  So is Asdrubal Cabrera.  I was initially down on the Jeter pick, but he’s picked it up lately and now leads all shortstops in the AL in AVG and hits.  I’d still give Andrus the start, but there was no way the most popular player in baseball wasn’t going to start this game, no matter what his numbers were.  And at the time he was voted in, his numbers were clearly inferior.  But after seeing that all these deserving shortstops were in I had to reach a bit for a snub.  I came up with Escobar seeing as he’s second in hits and SB among Al shortstops.  He trails in the other numbers, but is having a good season, and with the game in his hometown he might have been a good choice.  Still, it’s a reach and the other 3 in front of him are clearly more deserving.

3B:                        Brett Lawrie TOR- Another reach.  Lawrie is clearly the third best third baseman in the league this season.  The fans voted Beltre to start and Ron Washington put Miguel Cabrera in the game as a reserve.  Other than possibly switching the roles of those two, I’m good with this.  And Beltre is a worthy candidate to start.  If I had to pick a third guy to man the hot corner, it’d be Lawrie who’s hitting 291 (third among AL third basemen BTW) with 51 R and 11 SB.  He’s also got 8 HRs.  But those numbers pale in comparison to the guys who got selected ahead of him.

OF:                        Alex Rios CHW- I’m actually fairly pleased with the outfielders chosen to be in this game.  I think Adam Jones and Mike Trout should be starting with Josh Hamilton over Curtis Granderson and Jose Bautista, but I’m good with all of them being on the team.  The 6th outfielder is Mark Trumbo who has also had a great year.  If I had to pick more outfielders, my first choice would be Rios, who is having a great comeback season in Chicago.  He’s struggled in recent seasons, and those struggles are highlighted more since he has a tremendous contract.  But this season he’s playing well and doing a little bit of everything.  He’s hitting 318 with 12 HR and 49 RBI.  He’s also a menace on the bases, scoring 50 R and stealing 13 bags.  I think the 6 outfielders chosen before him are having better season, but Rios is playing very well too. 

OF:                        Alejandro De Aza CHW- Staying on the South Side, we have De Aza.  I don’t like him more than any of the other All Star selections.  But if I had to have some replacements, De Aza would be second on my list.  He’s hitting 283 with 59 R and 15 SB.  He’s tied for second in the league in R.  He’s playing well for a better than expected White Sox team.

OF:                        Austin Jackson DET- Staying in the AL Central, we move from a team playing better than we thought, to a team that has failed to meet expectations.  The Detroit Tigers are not playing well.  But you can’t blame it on Jackson.  The speedy leadoff man is hitting 332 with 54 R.  We generally like to see more stolen bases from a guy like him (only 7 in the first half) but perhaps they don’t want to run into outs with such a dynamic middle of the order waiting in the dugout.  Or perhaps he has great speed, but can’t read pitchers and is ineffective at stealing bases, like another former Tiger centerfielder (Curtis Granderson).  Whatever the reason, his SB numbers aren’t what we were hoping for.  But he’s offset that with surprising power.  He’s got 9 HR and 38 RBI.  He’s doing a little of everything, and that’s always fun to watch.

DH:                        Edwin Encarnacion TOR- I’ve got a legitimate beef with this one.  Encarnacion has the highest WAR out of all true AL DHs.  He’s second in AVG, HR, RBI and R.  He trails David Ortiz in two of those categories and Adam Dunn in the other two.  But he’s second in all of them and first in SBs.  I originally chose Adam Dunn as the DH on my ballot, but I was wrong.  Encarnacion is the best choice to be the starting DH for the AL this season.  While Ortiz has a better AVG and more R, Encarnacion has outslugged him.  And he’s hitting much better than Adam Dunn.  And he’s faster than both of them.  All are having good seasons.  But Encarnacion not only deserves to be on the team, he should be starting.  That would make Big Papi a reserve and knock Billy Butler off the squad.  Not a popular move in KC, but the right one.  This is one of the biggest AL snubs this season.

SP:                        Jason Hammel BAL- This was tough because so many pitchers are on the roster that it’s hard to find snubs.  In fact, I’m reaching on this one, though I think Hammel has had a good season.  All the guys who were chosen before him have higher WARs or lower ERAs.  And most have more Wins and a higher K rate.  But Hammel is playing well with an 8-5 record and 3.47 ERA for the Orioles.  He’s been one of their key pieces, as they’ve stayed relevant in the AL East.  He’s got over 8 Ks per 9 as his season has come out of nowhere.  Getting out of Colorado did him some good.  I like Hammel a lot and if I had to choose another starter it would be him.  But I’m happy with the guys that are on the team.

RP:                        Rafael Soriano NYY- I feel like this is a big snub.  It’s rare that a Yankee gets overlooked, but I think that happened to Soriano this year.  He started the season as a middle reliever, but took over the closer’s role after Mo went down.  And in limited time as a closer, he’s notched 20 Saves, good enough for 5th in the league.  In addition, he’s got a very nice 1.99 ERA and over a K per inning.  If he was a closer from day 1, you have to think he’d be closer to the top of this group in total Save numbers.  But he’s got a better ERA than Chris Perez and more Saves than Joe Nathan.  Soriano is doing a great job in an impossible situation.  No one can replace the mighty Mariano Rivera.  But Soriano has done a great job in the 9th for the Yankees this year, overpowering hitters and converting his Save opportunities.  I’d have him on this team before at least two other relievers who made it.

NL Roster

C:                        A.J. Ellis LAD- This one was a stretch.  At the time of the voting, Ellis was hot and a good choice for NL catcher.  But Ruiz was always having a better season.  Ellis is another player having a surprisingly good season hitting 285 with 7 HR, 28 RBI, 26 R and the third best WAR in the NL.  I’ll note that his WAR is behind two of the catchers in the game, but ahead of the one chosen to start (that would be Buster Posey).  I used to think that Ellis should have been picked ahead of Posey.  But he’s cooled off and Posey has heated up.  They are about even, though it’s close.  The point is, Posey shouldn’t be starting. 

1B:                        Paul Goldschmidt ARI- My rookie of the year pick is having a great season.  They worried about his AVG, but he’s hitting 302.  And he’s still got his power with 12 HR and 42 RBI.  I think he’s a legitimate snub.  I’d have him as the first reserve on the NL squad to back up Votto.  Instead that player is Bryan LaHair of the Cubs.  He’s played well.  And he’s played well enough to take over in right field so the Cubs could follow through with the plan to call up Anthony Rizzo.  LaHair is hitting 286 with 14 HR.  Other than the two extra homers, Goldschmidt is leading in every category between them.  I think he would have been the better choice.

2B:                        Aaron Hill ARI- Possibly the biggest snub of the year.  No, I’m calling it the biggest snub of the year.  Aaron Hill is having a fantastic season for the Diamondbacks.  His 300 AVG is the second best among second basemen (behind Jose Altuve, a reserve on the NL team).  His numbers are now not as great as they were at the time of the voting and when the teams were announced.  He’s still second in HR and in the top 5 in RBI and SB and in the top 10 in R.  When the teams were announced he was second in AVG, tied for first in HR, and in the top 3 in RBI, R and SBs.  I would have selected him as the starter.  I like Uggla, but he’s hitting under 230.  I like Altuve, but he doesn’t do as much on the field as Hill.  He deserves to be on this team. 

SS:                        Jed Lowrie HOU- I am shocked, shocked, that an Astros player wasn’t well represented in the All Star voting.  He’s got the second most HR and third most RBI.  No one saw this coming.  He’s having a great season and deserves to be in the All Star game.  The NL shortstop position is pretty thin.  Fucal got the start and has a better AVG and more R and SB.  Jed Lowrie and Starlin Castro were the backups, but only Castro is going to the game.  I think there’s room on the roster.  He’s a snub, but like many other snubs, has seen his numbers drop since the All Star rosters were announced. 

3B:                        Aramis Ramirez MIL- This was a stretch.  The most deserving third baseman is on the team, but inexplicably is listed as a reserve.  That’s David Wright.  Pablo Sandoval has played well in limited time, but shouldn’t be the starter.  However both have played well enough to be on the team.  After them, David Freese was my next choice, but won the final vote to join the team.  So in the end, all the deserving guys are there.  If I had to add one, I’d go with Ramirez.  He’s hitting 272 with 10 HR and 52 RBI.  He’s played well, but I think he’s at best the 4th best third baseman in the league.

OF:                        Martin Prado ATL- I heard an interesting stat the other day.  There are 9 players in the NL with over 100 hits.  Of those 9, only one isn’t in the All Star Game.  Obviously (since I’ve shared this stat after listing his name) that player is Martin Prado of the Braves.  Prado is tied for 5th in the NL with 104 hits.  He’s got the 4th best WAR among NL outfielders and the 5th best AVG.  In addition, he plays left, third, first, second and has played short in the past.  What a valuable tool to have on the roster.  But he’s not a sexy pick.  He doesn’t have a lot of power (5 HR) or speed, though he’s swiped 11 bags this season.  I don’t think he should have started, but I’d have picked him before Giancarlo Stanton, Jay Bruce and Bryce Harper.

OF:                        Jayson Heyward ATL- Look, I’ve admitted to being a Braves fan, but I promise that’s not what’s going on here.  Heyward has the 5th best WAR, right behind teammate Martin Prado (and also behind his other teammate, All Star Michael Bourn who has the best WAR out of NL outfielders).  Heyward is hitting 272 with 14 HR, 41 RBI, 45 R and 11 SB.  He’s a 5-tool player and is having a great bounce back season now that he’s healthy.  I’m not pushing for him to be a starter.  And I’m not saying he’s a major snub, as I don’t know who I’d drop to add him.  Maybe Bruce.  Maybe Harper.  But all are worthy, and I’m now doing some slight reaching to fill out my snub team.  But that doesn’t take away from how good he’s played this season.

OF:                        Hunter Pence PHI- See, I chose a Phillie.  I’m being objective.  Pence is hitting 285 with 16 HR and 50 R.  He’s been one of the best hitters for the struggling team in Philadelphia.  Once again, at this point I’m reaching a bit to fill out my snub roster, but Pence has certainly played well enough to warrant consideration.  I’m not replacing anyone with him, though I’d consider Harper and Bruce again.  But Pence has played well this season and would have been a good choice as a reserve if needed. 

SP:                        Johnny Cueto CIN- Wow.  Big snub.  Cueto is 10-5 with a fantastic 2.39 ERA.  He’s not the strikeout pitcher we envisioned him becoming, but he’s been fantastic this season.  He’s got the 4th best ERA in the NL and is tied for third with 10 Wins.  Now all three pitchers above him were also left off the list, but one has been hurt, and the other two don’t have the Win/Loss record of Cueto.  But frankly all would be good choices.  The others are Ryan Dempster, Ryan Voggelson and James McDonald (I wish his name was Ryan).  Now the NL has a ton of great pitchers, so I don’t know who I would drop, but surely the top ERA guys could have been given a spot in the game.  Perhaps they are on the team instead of a reliever like Papelbon or Street.  Or maybe they replace Lance Lynn who has cooled some since his hot start.  But Cueto has a very legitimate gripe about being left off the roster.

RP:                        Kenley Jansen LAD- This is a big snub.  Jansen has a sparkling 1.93 ERA and 15 Saves this year.  Those numbers blow away Papelbon’s pedestrian numbers and Street’s injury shortened numbers.  I really don’t understand the reasoning on this one as both the Phillies and Rockies had other representatives on the team.  Jansen has been a great closer for a good LA team that’s in the middle of their division race and has better numbers.  Big snub.  Deserves to be in the game.

Okay so that was my list of All Star snubs.  I’m posting it a little after the All Star game, but better late than never.  I will say, especially after putting up a stink about Giants fans stuffing ballot boxes for what I deemed less than worthy candidates, that the three Giants starters played very well.  And while I only would have had one starting (that would have been Melky.  Dickey should have started the game and Wright should have manned the hot corner) the Giants were well represented.  It was quite a show last night, and despite my issues with the format of the game, it’s still a joy to watch and something I look forward to every year.  Now that that’s done, I’m looking forward to the second half of the season.

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