Vogey an All-Star, new voting system underwhelms

The 2019 All-Star Game will be played a week from tomorrow in Cleveland, and Your Seattle Mariners will be represented by everyone's favorite sandwich inspiration, Daniel Vogelbach. Vogey earned his selection with a mid-year OPS of .898, 20 home runs, and 48 RBI.

American League All-Stars
Player Pos Team Chosen by
Gary Sánchez C NYY Fan vote
Carlos Santana 1B CLE Fan vote
D.J. LeMahieu 2B NYY Fan vote
Jorge Polanco SS MIN Fan vote
Alex Bregman 3B HOU Fan vote
Mike Trout OF LAA Fan vote
George Springer OF HOU Fan vote
Michael Brantley OF HOU Fan vote
Hunter Pence* DH TEX Fan vote
José Abreu 1B CWS Player vote
Mookie Betts OF BOS Player vote
Xander Bogaerts^ SS BOS Commissioner
Matt Chapman 3B OAK Player vote
Joey Gallo OF TEX Player vote
Tommy LaStella* IF LAA Player vote
Francisco Lindor SS CLE Player vote
Brandon Lowe^* 2B TB Commissioner
James McCann C CWS Player vote
J.D. Martínez DH BOS Player vote
Austin Meadows OF TB Player vote
Whit Merrifield OF KC Commissioner
Gleyber Torres^ SS NYY Commissioner
Daniel Vogelbach 1B SEA Commissioner
José Berríos^ SP MIN Commissioner
Shane Bieber^ SP CLE Commissioner
Aroldis Chapman RP NYY Player vote
Gerrit Cole SP HOU Player vote
Lucas Giolito SP CWS Player vote
Shane Greene RP DET Commissioner
Brad Hand RP CLE Player vote
Liam Hendriks^ RP OAK Commissioner
John Means SP BAL Commissioner
Mike Minor* SP TEX Commissioner
Charlie Morton* SP TB Player vote
Jake Odorizzi* SP MIN Player vote
Ryan Pressly RP HOU Player vote
Marcus Stroman* SP TOR Commissioner
Masahiro Tanaka^ SP NYY Commissioner
Justin Verlander SP HOU Player vote
National League All-Stars
Wilson Contreras C CHC Fan vote
Freddie Freeman 1B ATL Fan vote
Ketel Marte 2B ARZ Fan vote
Javier Báez SS CHC Fan vote
Nolan Arenado 3B COL Fan vote
Ronald Acuña Jr. OF  ATL Fan vote
Cody Bellinger OF LAD Fan vote
Christian Yelich OF MIL Fan vote
Pete Alonso 1B NYM Commissioner
Josh Bell 1B PIT Player vote
Charlie Blackmon OF COL Player vote
Kris Bryant 3B CHC Commissioner
David Dahl OF COL Player vote
Paul DeJong SS STL Commissioner
Yasmani Grandal C MIL Commissioner
Jeff McNeil IF/OF NYM Player vote
Mike Moustakas 2B/3B MIL Player vote
Max Muncy^ IF LAD Commissioner
J.T. Realmuto C PHI Player vote
Anthony Rendon* 3B WSH Player vote
Trevor Story SS COL Player vote
Sandy Alcantara SP MIA Commissioner
Walker Buehler SP LAD Player vote
Luis Castillo SP CIN Player vote
Jacob deGrom SP NYM Player vote
Sonny Gray^ SP CIN Commissioner
Zack Greinke* SP ARZ Commissioner
Josh Hader* RP MIL Player vote
Clayton Kershaw SP LAD Player vote
Hyun-jin Ryu SP LAD Player vote
Max Scherzer* SP WSH Player vote
Will Smith RP SF Player vote
Mike Soroka SP ATL Commissioner
Felipe Vázquez^ RP PIT Commissioner
Brandon Woodruff^ SP MIL Commissioner
Kirby Yates RP SD Player vote
* Injured or will not play
^ Replacing injured or withdrawn player

It's telling abut this year's Mariner squad that no Mariners were included in either the fan voting or the players' selections. Vogelbach was chosen by the Commissioner's Office, along with Whit Merrifield of the Royals, Shane Greene of the Tigers, John Means of the Orioles, Marcus Stroman of the Blue Jays, and Mike Minor of the Rangers. Except for Minor, the Commissioner's Office choices all went toward assuring each team had a representative.

Was Vogey the best choice? Well, the only possible alternatives were Domingo Santana (.278/.348/.499, 18 HR, 62 RBI) and Omar Narváez (.288/.363/.458, 11 HR, 29 RBI). Marco Gonzales might have gotten the nod if not for two brutal starts as May flipped to June—without those two games, he'd have been 9-4 with a 3.19 ERA when rosters were announced—but they happened, so he's off the list. All positions had been covered by the fan and player voting, so defensive balance was not a factor. Both Narváez and Santana have the edge over Vogey in terms of batting average (Vogelbach's is a modest .244). What might tip things in Santana's favor is his league-leading 62 RBI, but there is the flip side of his also-league-leading strikeout total and his collection of errors in the outfield. Those things don't really matter that much in this context, though.

Whether you favor Vogelbach, Santana, or Narváez, any could have gone and none are out of line. The M's were only going to get one and it will be fun to see Vogey swing the bat in the Midsummer Classic.

There are notable omissions to the teams, though. Xander Bogaerts is riding a line of .299/.392/.540 with 16 bombs and 57 RBI and he's not going*. We can place most of the blame for this on the players—with only six spots left for the Commissioner's Office to fill, and with each team needing a rep, the only real opportunity for Bogaerts was to go in place of Minor, who (somehow) leads the American League in ERA. The fans elected Jorge Polanco, a deserving choice, and the players went with Francisco Lindor. Lindor's numbers are good, and he does play for the host team, but Bogaerts' are better and he's more deserving. If there are any injury replacements to be made, Bogaerts figures to be the first addition.

José Berrios of the Twins—8-4, 2.89 ERA—is left out. He's more deserving than Stroman, but you have to have a Blue Jay (the other Toronto options would be 2B Eric Sogard—.313/.379/.510—and closer Ken Giles—1.29 ERA, 12 saves—but regardless you need to use the spot for a Jay). Boston third baseman Rafael Devers deserved a nod. He's second in the league in batting average (.322/.372/.525) but lost out to Chapman in the player vote. Outfielder Trey Mancini is arguably the guy from the Orioles that should go (.302/.357/.544), but you can't really skip Means (7-4, 2.50 ERA on a terrible team). Tommy Pham lost the player vote to his teammate Austin Meadows; the two have similar stats, but Pham is the better player.

The players really blew it at first base. José Abreu is having a lousy season at .268/.309/.508. Luke Voigt of the Yankees and Vogey were better choices at first base, though the player vote probably categorized Vogey as a DH and the system isn't flexible on that score (that's a flaw and an argument against the current method of selection).

On the National League side, the Commissioner's Office chose Cub third baseman Kris Bryant, first baseman Pete Alonso of the Mets, St. Louis shortstop Paul DeJong, catcher Yasmani Grandal of the Brewers, and pitchers Sandy Alcara of Miami; Zack Greinke of Arizona; and Mike Soroko of Atlanta. Alcara and DeJong are the only ones needed to satisfy the team representation requirement.

The NL team doesn't have any clear snubs. One can argue for Dodger infielder Max Muncy and his 20 homers (.924 OPS), and maybe Manny Machado is a better choice than Bryant, but the only guy that really ought to be there that isn't is Nationals outfielder Juan Soto, one of four NL players with an on-base mark over .400. Problem is, there's no one that deserves to get bumped for Soto that isn't his team's only rep.

If injury substitutions become needed (as they usually do), Soto, Muncy, Machado, and perhaps Padre first baseman Eric Hosmer (who is having a terrific rebound year) and Cubs pitcher Cole Hamels will be tapped. 

This year was the debut season for the new All-Star voting process for fans, which, frankly, wasn't that interesting. Instead of the longstanding practice of fan balloting allowing votes for any position player from sometime early in May until late June, plus the more recent addition of a "final player" ballot lasting a few days shortly before the game itself, we had a "primary/general election" sort of two-tiered vote that had a much tighter window for casting ballots. As has been the case since 2015, voting was limited to online ballots, no more punch-out paper ballots at the ballpark, but publicity and interest in the process didn't really kick in until the "primary" portion was over.

The primary stage lasted just 24 days, with the "general" election window beginning about a week after and lasting only 28 hours. This more limited timeframe should be a benefit to the system, both in equity for who gets picked and for publicity and fan interest. It worked in the former instance, but MLB failed in the latter.

In the primary, fans could still vote for anyone. Ballots listed players by position, as in the past, and write-ins were allowed for any slot. Not much publicity was in effect for the primary, just a general sort of announcement that the voting window had opened. Following that window, the top three finishers at each position (nine for outfielders) went on to the general. Promotion kicked into gear at this point, but with the new system allowing for a mere one day of voting, it felt as if the All-Star process had been minimized into a much smaller (in importance/focus) event.

One benefit of that is a steep reduction in ballot-box stuffing; there was still sanctioned multiple-vote action (five ballots a day allowed in the primary, but just once on each of two platforms in the general) that might seem weird but actually discourages widespread abuse with voting bots and fans simply registering dozens of email addresses to vote under and thus makes things more equitable overall. The intention here is to avoid instances like 2016, which saw six of eight NL starting spots go to Chicago Cubs, including .237-hitting shortstop Addison Russell. Another plus is that this method de-emphasizes early season successes that flame out by midseason. Early votes for, say, C.J. Cron—who was very good for three weeks in May—got him into the general, but by then it was clear that his numbers had leveled out and other options were more worthy.

And the new system worked as far as choosing the right starters goes. A few spots might have gone to the "wrong" player—Gary Sánchez over James McCann, Freddie Freeman over Josh Bell—but the "right" ones still got in on the players' vote, and the winners themselves are still worthy. Where it failed was in the fan-engagement area, and in future years MLB would benefit by extending the general election period by another day or two and by doing more promotion during the "primary season."

The real equity problem remains with the players' vote. It's too restrictive; batters are chosen by strict positional breakdown and too many pitchers are selected by players. With three starting pitchers and three relievers chosen by the players, along with one player for every other position, all that's left for the league is that small six-player bloc to fill out (seven in the National League since fans don't pick a DH). One suggested change would be to eliminate the starter/reliever distinction and just ask players to choose "pitchers." Maybe four total. And while there's not an obvious alternative, something should be tweaked to allow for some positional variance. Perhaps you go the same route, ask players to choose seven or eight batters, no positional breakdown. Something to give a little more flexibility to that final filling-out-the-squad stage that would allow for a worthy player like Bogaerts to get a slot that was otherwise unavailable because of the demand for X number of pitchers and a mandatory player-picked backup at every position. You might end up with ten outfielders on your team that way, I suppose, but any position deficiencies can be made up by league choices, of which there will be four or five more than the current six. You just don't need twelve pitchers in an All-Star game. Nor must you have six outfielders and eight infielders (especially in a year like this when you've got players like McNeil, Merrifield, LaStella, and LeMahieu who can move around with ease) or a pair of designated hitters, and plenty of All-Star rosters in years past didn't suffer from this because there was no players' vote.

Of course, the pitcher issue might not have mattered this year—whom would you cut from the pitcher ranks to get Bogaerts in? Stroman? Can't, you need a Blue Jay. Cole? He leads the league in Ks, tough to bump him. Minor? It's always tempting to give the short straw to a Texas player, but he does lead the league in ERA. Abreu is the guy to cut, of  course, but the system requires the players to choose a first baseman (and a DH). Maybe we don't need a players' vote at all.

Anyway, next week. Vogey in the All-Star game. Rosters packed with worthy choices (and José Abreu). It should be fun.

* UPDATE: Bogaerts, Berríos, Cleveland pitcher Shane Bieber, and Rays infielder Brandon Lowe have been added as injury replacements for the American League. Lowe himself has since been injured and was replaced by the Yankees' Gleyber Torres. Pitchers Liam Hendriks and Masahiro Tanaka were added to replace withdrawn pitchers Minor and Charlie Morton. Eric Sogard and Ken Giles continue to wonder if they're invisible as Toronto is left without an active rep. Muncy and Pirates closer Felipe Vázquez were added as an injury replacement on the National League team. Pitchers Sonny Gray of the Reds and Brandon Woodruff of the Brewers were added for withdrawn players Zack Greinke and Max Scherzer. Not replacing Scherzer with Juan Soto leaves Washington without an active representative as well.


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