All-Star rosters announced and the M's get just one
July 4, 2021
The All-Star Game rosters were announced today, a week before the end of the unofficial first half of the 2021 season (the mathematical halfway point was passed during this past week). It's the first year for the new voting procedures for starting lineups and it worked out reasonably well.
Voting for the midsummer classic, to be played in Denver on July 13th, was conducted in stages this year, with every regular position player on the ballot in an initial round and then the top three finishers in each position moving on to a second vote to determine the winner. As in recent years, most reserves and pitchers were selected by player ballots and the last remaining slots for the 32-man rosters were filled by the Commissioner's office to ensure each team is represented and positional balance is reasonable. (The manager no longer has any say as of a 2017 rule change.)
Unsurprisingly, no Mariners made the cut out of the first round of voting. Mitch Haniger was the team's best bet in the early season, but the number of deserving American League outfielders made that a tough hill to climb. Shortstop J.P. Crawford is ending the first half as a deserving choice, but when voting began his numbers weren't so impressive. Ty France was on the ballot as a DH, but his time on the injured list probably cost him any consideration.
So which Seattle players were worthy of making it? Crawford, for sure, but he has the misfortune (for this purpose) of playing in a stacked position. With Boston's Xander Bogaerts the elected starter and Houston's Carlos Correa chosen by the players, it wasn't a sure thing that any other shortstops would go; the Commissioner's office did choose Toronto's Bo Bichette, though, and his numbers are better than J.P.'s. There's no question Crawford is the superior defensive player, but J.P. is understandably, if disappointingly, the odd man out. Haniger would be an iffy but justifiable choice on the basis of his 18 home runs, but his overall line of .252/.304/.479 really doesn't measure up (even though arguably less-deserving outfielders—looking at you, Adolis García—got chosen on similar merit).
Pitching is where the other Mariner options lie, and there are two contenders: starter Yusei Kikuchi and reliever Kendall Graveman. Graveman probably lost his chance when he hit the injured list in mid-May and missed three weeks or so, but Yusei has been terrific since the end of April, pitching to a 2.33 ERA and allowing a puny .173/.242/.325 batting line against him since April 29th (his last 11 starts).
In the end, with no M's elected to start and, irritatingly, no Mariners among the players' choices for the second consecutive year (skipping over the ASG-less 2020), it fell to the Commissioner's office to select at least one Seattle representative and that's how Kikuchi gets his first career All-Star selection in the Majors (he had three All-Star seasons with NPB's Saitama Seibu Lions) as the sole Mariner.
It might feel like the Mariners always get short shrift in the ASG—last time, in 2019, the only M was Daniel Vogelbach—but it's actually just the ninth time since 1991 that Seattle has had just one representative. And there's still a chance Crawford could get named to the squad; two players have already been replaced due to injury (the Angels' Mike Trout and Cleveland's Shane Bieber) and someone else could go down or bow out between now and the 13th.
So, aside from the Mariner representation, how did the selections turn out? Not bad. The system as currently set up is too restrictive for my taste—there must be 20 position players and 12 pitchers per league, for example, and choices from the players' balloting must be one from each position, including designated hitter, and pitcher choices are segregated into starters and relievers; that needs to loosen up as sometimes you just don't have six outfielders that merit going while you do have, say, four shortstops, and the same disparity can crop up with starters and relievers—but given that's what we have, the end results are reasonable. The elected starters are almost all spot on and there are very few nits I'd pick with the full rosters. Still, I'd have made a few changes if it were up to me—in part because I would throw out the restrictive rules, but I do like requiring a representative from every team, so that stays:
|Salvador Pérez||C||KCR||Fan vote|
|Vlad Guerrero Jr.||1B||TOR||Fan vote|
|Marcus Semien||2B||TOR||Fan vote|
|Xander Bogaerts||SS||BOS||Fan vote|
|Rafael Devers||3B||BOS||Fan vote|
|Mike Trout*||OF||LAA||Fan vote|
|Aaron Judge||OF||NYY||Fan vote|
|Teoscar Hernández||OF||TOR||Fan vote|
|Shohei Ohtani||DH||LAA||Fan vote|
|José Altuve||2B||HOU||Player vote|
|Michael Brantley||OF||HOU||Player vote|
|Carlos Correa||SS||HOU||Player vote|
|Adolis García||OF||TEX||Player vote|
|J.D. Martínez||DH||BOS||Player vote|
|Cedric Mullins||OF||BAL||Player vote|
|Matt Olson||1B||OAK||Player vote|
|José Ramírez||3B||CLE||Player vote|
|Mike Zunino||C||TBR||Player vote|
|Matt Barnes||RP||BOS||Player vote|
|Shane Bieber*||SP||CLE||Player vote|
|Aroldis Chapman||RP||NYY||Player vote|
|Gerrit Cole||SP||NYY||Player vote|
|Liam Hendriks||RP||CWS||Player vote|
|Lance Lynn||SP||TEX||Player vote|
|Carlos Rodón||SP||CWS||Player vote|
|Buster Posey||C||SFG||Fan vote|
|Freddie Freeman||1B||ATL||Fan vote|
|Adam Frazier||2B||PIT||Fan vote|
|Fernando Tatis Jr.||SS||SDP||Fan vote|
|Nolan Arenado||3B||STL||Fan vote|
|Ronald Acuña Jr.||OF||ATL||Fan vote|
|Nick Castellanos||OF||CIN||Fan vote|
|Jesse Winker||OF||CIN||Fan vote|
|Mookie Betts||OF||LAD||Player vote|
|Kris Bryant||3B||CHC||Player vote|
|Jake Cronenworth||2B||SDP||Player vote|
|Max Muncy||IF||LAD||Player vote|
|J.T. Realmuto||C||PHI||Player vote|
|Bryan Reynolds||OF||PIT||Player vote|
|Kyle Schwarber*||OF||WAS||Player vote|
|Trea Turner||SS||WAS||Player vote|
|Corbin Burnes||SP||MIL||Player vote|
|Yu Darvish||SP||SDP||Player vote|
|Jacob deGrom||SP||NYM||Player vote|
|Kevin Gausman||SP||SFG||Player vote|
|Josh Hader||RP||MIL||Player vote|
|Craig Kimbrel||RP||CHC||Player vote|
|Mark Melancon||RP||SDP||Player vote|
|Brandon Woodruff||SP||MIL||Player vote|
* Injured or will not play
|Vlad Guerrero Jr.||1B||TOR||Yes|
|Fernando Tatis Jr.||SS||SDP||Yes|
|Ronald Acuña Jr.||OF||ATL||Yes|
|Omar Narváez||DH (C)||MIL||No|
As always, there are too many candidates for too few spots. I differ from the fans, players, and Commissioner's Office here and there, but the only really egregious selection on the official rosters is Mike Zunino. I know a lot of Seattle fans will be glad to see him there, but his numbers are sad for an All-Star. Yes, 18 home runs, but barely a .200 average and a sub-.300 on-base do not an All-Star make in my book. Of course, you do have to have a Ray, and there are no obvious choices there unless you get around the rule by naming injured pitcher Tyler Glasnow, who would be deserving if he hadn't hurt himself. But Kittredge has been their best reliever and has legit All-Star numbers, so in my world he gets it over Mike Z.
|Tampa Bay||1/1||San Diego||4/3|
|* 1 injured & will not play|
Other divergences in the AL are starting Mullins (Trout is injured, thus not in my group) and Brantley, while leaving off Hernández altogether. No shade to Teoscar, but other guys are just having a better year, mostly pitchers. Also, my biases do not gravitate toward one-dimensional power hitters, so bye-bye Joey Gallo and Adolis García (at least Gallo draws walks; García barely cracks .300 in the on-base column). Ditching them gives an opening for J.P. Crawford and White Sox 3B Moncada, who was left out, I have to assume, because he doesn't hit home runs; to me, a .400+ on-base mark is more worthy. And since we didn't take Zunino, we need a catcher, so we turn again to Chicago and nab Grandal, who may have a worse batting average than Mike Z, but similar power and a near-.400 OBP. Pitching-wise, we see some more representation from Oakland, who somehow only got one rep on the real team (Olson). Bassitt and Trivino are better options in my mind than Eovaldi and Gregory Soto, so in they go. Losing Soto means we need a Detroit rep, though, so enter 2B Jonathan Schoop, who is the only semi-viable option there. Chapman is left off because he just isn't in the upper tier of closers this year. Plus, you know, Yankees. The league made a big thing about the Commissioner's Office choosing Ohtani a second time, as a pitcher, but that seems to be a bit of sleight-of-hand to get around the Commissioner's own rule about 12 pitchers/20 position players (they are evidently counting Ohtani as pitcher #12 to open a slot for a non-pitcher). The league is effectively treating him as two separate players because of idiocy surrounding the DH role. He's on the team just like any other player, his defensive position happens to be pitcher. He isn't taking two roster spots, so there's no need to list him twice. (Now, if they allow him to pitch after he's removed from the lineup, or if they start him on the mound but allow a DH position after he leaves, that'll open another can of worms we don't need.)
Over in the senior circuit, the starting eight stay the same except for my choice to put Juan Soto ahead of Winker. Winker deserves to be there, but I left him out in favor of Starling Marte to represent Miami. Marte missed about a month's worth of games early in the year, so you could convince me to go the other way, but I think he's a better Marlin to choose than Trevor Rogers, who is also a decent pick. Officially, no one's chosen which NL reserve will start at DH (I miss when home-team rules applied to the All-Star game...), but I'm going with Narváez, who didn't even make the official squad. What's a guy got to do beyond bat .303/.395/.462? I guess have the name recognition of Realmuto, who doesn't make the cut for me. I also left off Ozzie Albies in favor of ex-M Jean Segura, who has way better numbers. I'd have happily included Schwarber, but he's hurt. So Dodger Justin Turner gets the nod instead. The Commissioner's Office went with Escobar as the lone Diamondback, but he's like García over in the AL—big power, little ability otherwise—so I'm giving Arizona's slot to Kelly, their best all-around hitter in the absence of injured Ketel Marte (and a catcher to boot, allowing me to start Narváez as the DH). On the official team, Chris Taylor is an interesting choice; I don't really fault it (gotta respect that .382 OBP) and I do like seeing Taylor get the recognition, but the host Rockies need a representative and their best guy is Raimel Tapia. So enter Tapia, exit Taylor. Adding Tapia also means we don't have to include Marquez; he's a good pitcher, don't get me wrong, but other pitchers are having better seasons. Those include Buehler and Peralta, and as nice as Trevor Rogers' year has been, how do you omit Max Scherzer? That one's a head-scratcher for sure. Melancon is a fine choice, he's not having a Chapman-like down year, but someone had to go and we've got a few Padres already.
My starting pitchers? Ohtani, of course, for the AL and Scherzer for the NL. That's right, Scherzer, the guy with 127 Ks, a WHIP under 0.900, and a 2.10 ERA that got left off the real roster. By starting Ohtani, a first in baseball history happens as the AL team chooses not to use a designated hitter while the NL team does use it. The AL can simply pinch-hit for the pitcher's spot after Ohtani comes out of the game and have fun with double-switching. (I mean, if I really wanted to wield my imaginary power, the DH would just be eradicated in general. But we'll go with the new normal of every ASG using the DH for this exercise, just adjusting for Ohtani without bending any rules.)
Interestingly, on both the official roster and my alternate, the NL East-leading Mets have just one rep. OK, it's a pretty good one in deGrom, but in this year of pitching dominance it was just too tough to find a spot for starters Marcus Stroman and our old friend Taijuan Walker, or reliever and one-time Seattle All-Star Edwin Díaz, all having stellar years in Queens.
It should be a fun game. Of course, I usually think that and more often than not of late, All-Star Games end up being snoozers. 2018 was a good one (with good Seattle contributions). Maybe we'll see another. I just hope we don't see extra innings—the legacy of Bud Selig's impotence in 2002 that gave us a tie ending led to the idiotic free-baserunner-in-extras rule we live with even in regular season games now and I just assume not be reminded of it.
Oh, and though it goes against the local favor, I'm rooting for the National League. The AL has been on a tear, winning the last seven ASGs and 25 of the last 32 (with that one ridiculous tie). Time for the pendulum to swing the other way for a while.