Around the Horn

Mariners snubbed (for now) with All-Star selections

Major League Baseball announced the reserve rosters for the All-Star teams yesterday, and they included a few surprises. The biggest being the absence of a certain Tyler Lawrence France.

As we discussed on Saturday, the selection process for the All-Star teams is not as simple as it once was; player balloting accounts for most of the reserve picks, and as such there is less flexibility in who gets chosen than there was before. Player ballots require a choice at every position, just like the fan voting does, plus pitchers; it breaks down pitcher selections by starter and reliever, ensuring at least three relievers make each squad.

If the players' choice was also elected by the fans, then the runner-up on the players' vote gets the nod. This year, the results of player balloting gave us these selections:

 AMERICAN LEAGUE    NATIONAL LEAGUE
Pos Player Team   Pos Player Team
C José Treviño New York   C Travis d'Arnaud Atlanta
1B/2B Luis Arraez Minnesota   1B Pete Alonso New York
2B Andres Giménez Cleveland   2B Jeff McNeil New York
3B José Ramírez Cleveland   3B Nolan Arenado St. Louis
SS Xander Bogaerts Boston   SS Dansby Swanson Atlanta
OF Byron Buxton Minnesota   OF Ian Happ Chicago
OF George Springer Toronto   OF Starling Marte New York
OF Kyle Tucker Houston   OF Kyle Schwarber Philadelphia
DH Yordan Alvarez Houston   DH William Contreras Atlanta
SP Gerrit Cole New York   SP Sandy Alcantara Miami
SP Nestor Cortes New York   SP Corbin Burnes Milwaukee
SP Alek Manoah Toronto   SP Tony Gonsolin Los Angeles
SP Shane McClanahan Tampa Bay   SP Joe Musgrove San Diego
SP Justin Verlander Houston   SP Max Fried Atlanta
RP Emmanuel Clase Cleveland   RP Edwin Díaz New York
RP Clay Holmes New York   RP Josh Hader Milwaukee
RP Jorge López Baltimore   RP Ryan Helsey St. Louis

Add those to the fan-elected starters:

 AMERICAN LEAGUE    NATIONAL LEAGUE
Pos Player Team   Pos Player Team
C Alejandro Kirk Toronto   C Willson Contreras Chicago
1B Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Toronto   1B Paul Goldschmidt St. Louis
2B José Altuve Houston   2B Jazz Chisholm Jr. Miami
3B Rafael Devers Boston   3B Manny Machado San Diego
SS Tim Anderson Chicago   SS Trea Turner Los Angeles
OF Aaron Judge New York   OF Ronald Acuña Jr. Atlanta
OF Mike Trout Los Angeles   OF Mookie Betts Los Angeles
OF Giancarlo Stanton New York   OF Joc Pederson San Francisco
DH/P Shohei Ohtani Los Angeles   DH Bryce Harper Philadelphia

...and we have 26 of 32 slots filled on each side, leaving just six for the Commissioner's Office to fill out. Now, the rule that each team must have a representative is the first priority for those remaining spots and we see that in the AL there are no Detroit, Texas, Seattle, Kansas City, or Oakland players. Five will go to those, leaving just one to play with. On the NL side, we need reps for Pittsburgh, Colorado, Arizona, Cincinnati, and Washington. Again, just one left after that. The official choices for those lone reps:

 AMERICAN LEAGUE    NATIONAL LEAGUE
Pos Player Team   Pos Player Team
OF Julio Rodríguez Seattle   1B C.J. Cron Colorado
OF Andrew Benintendi Kansas City   OF Juan Soto Washington
SP Paul Blackburn Oakland   SP Luis Castillo Cincinnati
SP Martín Pérez Texas   RP David Bednar Pittsburgh
RP Gregory Soto Detroit   RP Joe Mantiply Arizona

All of the Commissioner's choices are also on my own roster, save for Blackburn and Mantiply. Blackburn's inclusion makes sense given the "need" under the rules to have 12 pitchers (incidentally, Shohei Ohtani was also a Commissioner choice as a pitcher, but he's already on the team as the starting DH; the league could count him toward their 12 pitcher requirement, but chose not to). Where I chose catcher Sean Murphy as the only Oakland Athletic to make the team, as the catcher position is remarkably woeful league-wide, the players elected Treviño, and no way you have both Treviño and Murphy, so, sure, Blackburn. Mantiply is an OK choice; there's no one from the Diamondbacks screaming "pick me!" and he's got good numbers, though I would have gone with third baseman José Rojas as an everyday player over a middle reliever if not for the lame 12 pitcher rule.

So one left on each side. The league decided on starting pitchers Framber Valdez (Houston) and Clayton Kershaw (LA Dodgers). To conform to the dumb 12 pitcher rule, the NL needed a pitcher, but as mentioned, the AL did not as it has Ohtani. We then conclude that the Commissioner's Office feels that Framber Valdez deserves to be an All-Star more than Ty France does. Or Logan Gilbert does. Or Trey Mancini, José Aberu, or Dylan Cease. As for Kershaw, is he more deserving than Zack Wheeler, Miles Mikolas, or Carlos Rodon?

Let's compare:

Player W-L /
Avg
ERA /
OBP
IP /
SLG
WHIP /
HR
BB:K /
RBI
Framber Valdez (HOU) 8-4 2.64 109 1.101 40:96
Logan Gilbert (SEA) 10-3 2.80 106 1.170 29:100
Dylan Cease (CWS) 7-4 2.45 92 1.228 43:133
Ty France (SEA) .306 .379 .460 18 73
Trey Mancini (BAL) .284 .357 .421 8 35
José Abreu (CWS) .292 .378 .460 10 40

We can eliminate Mancini and Abreu, France has them beat. But Valdez doesn't have Gilbert's victories or Cease's strikeouts, and Gilbert also has that 29:100 ratio going for him. I'd choose Gilbert or Cease over Valdez and given Ohtani's presence makes it not a requirement to choose a pitcher, France goes ahead of either. Plus, Valdez makes five Astros. Sure, they're having a good year, but given the options, spread the wealth.

Player W-L ERA IP WHIP BB:K
Clayton Kershaw (LAD) 6-2 2.40 6323 1.005 12:69
Miles Mikolas (STL) 5-7 2.72 106 0.991 22:83
Carlos Rodon (SF) 8-5 2.70 100 1.060 32:124
Zack Wheeler (PHI) 8-4 2.46 95 1.053 21:104

One could argue that Kershaw is least deserving of these four because of his relative lack of innings. Mikolas' WHIP is extraordinary. Wheeler's BB:K ratio is stellar. Rodon's is too. Kershaw's selection is not as big a head-scratcher as Valdez's is, and it might simply be a sop to the host venue of Dodger Stadium to have another LA representative (they have four). Wheeler would give the roster a second active Philadelphia rep, as elected DH Bryce Harper is injured and will not play. He'll be replaced, but that hasn't happened yet; William Contreras will start in Harper's stead, but someone else (a position player—I nominate Austin Riley) will be named to fill the vacant spot.

Now, this isn't final. Players in addition to Harper will get replaced, either because of injury or a personal choice not to participate. Yordan Alvarez just went on the injured list, so he'll likely be out. Jazz Chisolm is on the IL, though he might be back in time to play. But there's a week between now and the break, and if history is any guide, stuff will happen and a few openings will come up. France could still get in.

The players' choices make me wonder when the balloting occurred; I mean, Buxton is a great center fielder, but he's batting .215 with a sub-.300 on-base mark. He started strong, though, so if players voted for him in early May it would make more sense. But early May? Really? Springer's numbers were also way better back in early May, though they stayed decent through about a month ago. And Kyle Tucker... him I just don't get. Solid OBP, yes, but players chose him over all the other AL outfielders, including Julio? Julio hadn't really cranked things up by mid-May, neither had Mancini nor Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (And are the player ballots segregated in the same way the fan ballots are, with names tied to specific positions only? That would explain Arraez as a first baseman even though he's played almost as many innings as a second baseman.)

I have to conclude that the player voting happens way too early. There might be logistical reasons for that, but it's a problem to be fixed in some way. Even if that way gives the player vote fewer selections or gets a reduced number of voters; players themselves will tell you that a month's worth of statistics is not a representative sample. You need at least two, preferably two and a half. Let the players vote starting, say, three weeks before the All-Star break. Announce the results a week before. Two weeks seems like plenty of time to vote and tally, right?

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