Friday, July 5, 2013
Who deserves All-Star nod?
We're now about 24 hours from the announcement of this year's All-Star Game rosters, with the online voting window officially closed. So it's too late to make a last-minute push for anybody, lest they end up in the "Final Man" vote next week.
Last year, it was pretty obvious which members of the Nationals deserved to go to Kansas City, and Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Ian Desmond and Bryce Harper all were selected (with Desmond forced to miss the festivities due to an oblique strain that later landed him on the DL).
This year? Well, it's not quite as clear-cut. There's one, maybe two, slam-dunk choices, then several more than could go either way. Let's run through them all...
The case for: Tops in the NL with 12 wins, sixth with a 2.46 ERA, third with a 0.945 WHIP, fifth with 120 2/3 innings pitched. He's been the best, and most consistent, starter on the staff, and among the best and most consistent starters in the majors this season. He's always had a strong pedigree, but this year he's taken things to a new level and finally deserves to be recognized as one of the sport's best hurlers.
The case against: Uh, I guess he's had a couple of bad starts and has blown a couple of big leads. But now you're nit-picking. He's as close to a slam-dunk as it gets.
The final verdict: In. Zimmermann won't get the starting nod over Matt Harvey or Clayton Kershaw or perhaps Adam Wainwright, but he'll absolutely make the staff and should get to pitch an inning at Citi Field.
The case for: Is in the top-10 in the NL in total bases, doubles, homers and extra-base hits, and leads all major-league shortstops in doubles, homers, RBI and slugging percentage. Has been fantastic defensively, recently going on a 59-game errorless streak.
The case against: Shortstop is a mighty deep position in the NL, with Troy Tulowitzki, Jean Segura, Everth Cabrera and Brandon Crawford all having cases for selection.
The final verdict: In. A couple of weeks ago, Desmond might have been left out. But Tulowitzki's injury and Desmond's absolutely dominant June should make him a lock. That he doesn't even rank in the top-5 in fan voting is a crying shame.
The case for: Though he obviously missed more than a month with his knee injury, Harper still ranks high on NL leaderboards. He's tied for 13th in homers, is 15th in on-base percentage and fifth in slugging percentage. Plus, he's a bonafide star, one of the few ballplayers who can draw people to watch a game strictly to see him play.
The case against: He's only played in 48 games, his batting average has dipped to .267 and his defense has been less than stellar. And there are a whole lot of outfielders worthy of consideration, with a finite number of slots available.
The final verdict: In, but only on a last-minute push by fans. Harper had ranked among the top-3 outfielders in voting until the most recent results were announced earlier this week. He fell to fourth, but was only 15,000 votes shy of Justin Upton for the final starting spot. Perhaps his return from the DL (punctuated by his first-inning homer) on Monday was enough to convince fans to stuff the ballot box before yesterday's deadline.
The case for: You wouldn't know it based on his won-loss record or the general vibe about him, but Strasburg is having a phenomenal season. His 2.24 ERA ranks third in the NL, his 1.037 WHIP ranks ninth and both numbers are better than he posted either during his sensational rookie season in 2010 or his All-Star campaign in 2012.
The case against: That 4-6 record doesn't sound very All-Star-like, though anyone who has watched him pitch knows he's been the victim of the worst run support in baseball.
The final verdict: Out. Sadly, the managers and fellow players who select All-Star pitchers still rely too much on traditional stats like wins when making their choices. Strasburg deserves to go, but he'll probably get left out this time.
The case for: He's third in the NL with 22 saves, has an impressive 28-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio and has stabilized the ninth inning for the Nationals.
The case against: While he's been mostly reliable, he hasn't necessarily been dominant. Soriano's 1.229 WHIP is significantly higher than his career mark. He hasn't been considered the best closer in the league, and there's only so many slots available for those guys.
The final verdict: Out. Maybe Soriano's save total will get him in, but Jason Grilli, Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman have all been better and deserve to be picked ahead of the master of the untuck.