It's time to break out your best debate pants: The 2014 MLB All-Star teams have been announced.
As with every other major sport's all-star game that relies on fan voting, there is going to be controversy. Past performances and name value often trump recent production and other far-more relevant factors.
Still, with the Midsummer Classic offering a bit more importance than other star showcases, baseball fans tend to do a pretty solid job rewarding the most deserving players. This year is no different.
Moreover, many of the oddities were fixed when managers John Farrell and Mike Matheny filled out the rest of the roster.
With one spot on each team left to be filled by fan vote, let's take a look at how each team looks.
2014 MLB All-Star Rosters
Chris Sale, P, Chicago White Sox
Whether you're an old-timer set in his or her ways, or an advanced statistician, it's impossible not to be enamored by Chris Sale's resume.
The old-fashioned stats are there: He's 8-1 in 13 starts, has a sparkling 2.16 ERA and holds an American League-best 0.870 WHIP.
The advanced stats are there: His 2.9 WAR is 10th in the American League despite having several less starts than anyone around him, and his ERA+, as Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan noted, rivals that of arguably the best pitcher on the planet:
The AL is stacked with talented pitchers, but the exclusion of Sale, who has allowed a whopping eight (!) hits to left-handed hitters all year (even in an All-Star game, situational pitching will be key), is a head-scratcher.
Ian Kinsler, 2B, Detroit Tigers
Robinson Cano received the fan vote, and there was no way Jose Altuve should have been staying home, but this would have been a situation where you just take the best players, regardless of it resulting in three second basemen.
Ian Kinsler is hitting .305/.341/.484. Among qualified AL second basemen, those numbers rank third/sixth/first. He is first in runs scored, second in RBI, has been very good defensively and, perhaps most importantly, he is first in WAR by quite a large margin.
The position is incredibly deep, but Kinsler deserves to be on the roster.
Anthony Rendon, 2B/3B, Washington Nationals
Passan wondered about one of the more peculiar selections:
Josh Harrison has played second base, third base, shortstop, left field and right field this season. He's hitting a solid .298/.335/.453, and his value as the ultimate utility player is understandable.
However, Anthony Rendon is just as flexible in the infield—he has spent time at second, third and short during his MLB career—and provides much more pop at the plate. The 24-year-old has a lower batting average than Harrison, but his on-base percentage is higher, his slugging percentage is 30 points higher, he has seven more home runs, double the RBI total and 27 more runs scored.
Fortunately, like Sale in the AL, he is up for the final vote, and teammate Ian Desmond has already started the campaign:
Harrison is a nice story, but Rendon is more deserving of a spot on the bench.
Todd Frazier, 3B, Cincinnati Reds
Joey Votto spent time on the disabled list and hasn't been himself since. Jay Bruce spent time on the disabled list. Devin Mesoraco spent time on the disabled list. Brandon Phillips is slugging .394, his worst mark in a decade.
That combination of events is a death sentence for most teams, yet the Cincinnati Reds are still very much alive in the NL Central and hovering around the league average in slugging percentage.
They have Todd Frazier to thank for that.
"I mean, he's been the best player on the team all year," said Bruce, via MLB.com's Manny Randhawa. "He's been arguably, if not definitely, the best third baseman in the National League."
Bruce is right. Frazier has been the best third baseman in the NL. He ranks first in home runs (17), slugging percentage (.500), stolen bases (13) and Wins Above Replacement (3.5). He's also second in average (.291), third in runs (54) and third in RBI (47).
Aramis Ramirez, meanwhile, is below Frazier in every single one of the above categories.
Alexei Ramirez, SS, Chicago White Sox
I'm a sentimental guy. I enjoy pictures of kittens cuddling with puppies and other baby animal-related things. I'm also on-board with lifetime achievement awards and am totally fine with Derek Jeter making the All-Star team in his final season.
Just not as a starter.
Jeets has nearly collected more gifts from opposing clubhouses than extra-base hits. He is hitting a pedestrian .273/.323/.328 and has been average defensively.
Instead of letting him start, make him a reserve. That way he not only receives his 14th career selection (putting him ahead of Joe DiMaggio and Mariano Rivera), but he can also be on the field for the final inning and ride off into the sunset like he deserves.
Alexei Ramirez, Erick Aybar, Alcides Escobar and a handful of others would have served as better choices.
Jonathan Lucroy, C, Milwaukee Brewers
You would have to be Yadier mind to overlook Jonathan Lucroy as the NL starting catcher this season.
(I'm so sorry.)
A large reason for the Brewers' near wire-to-wire run as the NL Central's best team (three days out of first), Lucroy is in the midst of a record-setting season. Literally, per Brewers broadcaster Joe Block:
The team's Senior Director of Media Relations, Mike Vassallo, added another extraordinary stat:
Lucroy is hitting a robust .329/.397/.516 (second in the NL in average, sixth in slugging) with nine home runs, 44 RBI and 42 runs scored. Amazingly, he has a 10.1 base-on-ball percentage and just a 10.7 strikeout percentage, per FanGraphs.com. His WAR of 4.0 is more than 1.0 greater than any other catcher in the NL.
Yadier Molina's defense, as always, has been spectacular. But his slugging percentage is more than 100 points lower than Lucroy's. An argument could also be made for Mesoraco, but he has played 30 fewer games.
Ultimately, Lucroy has been one of the best hitters—regardless of position—in the league. He's an MVP candidate and will get the deserved nod, but he should be starting.
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