I’ve gone on some fairly extensive rants about the MLB All-Star Game in the past. From allowing fan voting in a game that decides who gets home-field advantage during the World Series to managers selecting their own players rather than those who are most deserving, the game is a spectacle. That said, I’m still going to dedicate a post to the Washington Nationals players who should have been selected that weren’t (yet).
Why? Because All-Star selections do matter to the players for a host of reasons, including contract negotiations and Hall of Fame contention. Players who get to put “[insert number here]-time All-Star” on their resumes get more money during and more recognition after their careers than those who don’t. It’s not right, but it’s a fact of life.
So, without further ado, here’s the list, in order, of my four biggest Nats All-Star snubs.
1. Anthony Rendon (2B/3B) – Yes, I know that Tony Two Bags is in the Final Vote, and I know there is a chance that he can still make it in. That’s why I put “(yet)” in the first paragraph of this post. But I don’t think he should have to wait. If you look at a list of National League batting leaders, Rendon has a 3.1 WAR, which is ninth-best in the league. That’s not among his position, that’s among all position players in the NL. The only third baseman or second baseman ahead of him is Todd Frazier, who is having a monster year with the Reds and is deserving of a start at third, which he isn’t getting because of fan voting.
The real problem here is Matt Carpenter getting in ahead of Rendon, which happened simply because the NL manager is Mike Matheny, who is his manager with the Cardinals. Rendon is slugging nearly one-hundred points higher than Carpenter, is seven percent more valuable as far as creating runs, and leads him in WAR.
2. Rafael Soriano (RP) – The Nats closer was, like Rendon, a victim of the NL manager’s biases. Pat Neshek, the Cardinals reliever, and Francisco Rodriguez, the Brewers closer, were chosen over Soriano. Neshek has put up incredible numbers, including a 0.77 ERA and 2.00 FIP in 35 innings, but these are only marginally better than Soriano’s ridiculous 1.03 ERA and 2.60 FIP in the same 35 innings.
The real issue I have is with Rodriguez being chosen instead. Soriano has the 11th-best WAR in the NL among relievers to accompany his ridiculous numbers listed above. K-Rod is not in the top 30 as far as WAR, and sports a 2.35 ERA and 3.35 FIP. So, Soriano’s ERA is half of Rodriguez’s and his FIP is 75 points lower.
To put it another way, Soriano’s ERA is 72% better than all MLB pitchers, while K-Rod’s is 37% better. Yes, Rodriguez has a handful more saves, but that’s because the Brewers had the best record in baseball for a stretch this season while the Nats were scuffling with a depleted lineup. It’s not right to penalize Soriano for his team’s issues.
3. Stephen Strasburg (SP) – First of all, Jordan Zimmermann deserves huge congrats for being the Nats lone All-Star. He was on my list before, and he deserved the honor. Strasburg did, too.
Strasburg receives a lot, I repeat: a *lot*, of undue criticism and scrutiny because of his stature as one of the biggest number one overall draft picks from the pitching side in draft history. The problem is that very little of it is deserved. No, his 3.53 ERA is not elite, but it is above league average. Despite that, he still has the fourth-best pitching WAR among NL starters behind only Adam Wainwright, Johnny Cueto, and his teammate Zimmermann. He still leads the league in strikeouts by a full punchout every nine innings, and his .348 BABIP shows how unbelievably unlucky he’s been this year.
These advanced stats tell a pretty strong tale for why Strasburg should be an NL All-Star:
Stephen Strasburg: K/9 and K-BB%: 1st BABIP: 1st (=high ERA) xFIP: 1st SIERA: 1st wCH: 1st but he's not an All Star.
— Chris Martin (@cmartin_31) July 7, 2014
4. Adam LaRoche (1B) – I actually don’t think LaRoche should’ve made the team, but only because of the absolutely stacked field at first base. Still, I wanted to put my arguments down on paper, so here’s why.
Freddie Freeman and Paul Goldschmidt are certainly deserving of their selections, and Justin Morneau and Anthony Rizzo also made the Final Vote list with Rendon. You’d have to imagine that they didn’t want to have two Nats on the Final Vote list, which is why LaRoche ended up nowhere to be found.
Really, what I think hurt LaRoche hurt is his last two weeks. While they weren’t bad (.250/.327/.500), they weren’t nearly as good as they were to start the season. At one point in mid-June, LaRoche was third in WAR and created the most runs of any NL first baseman, according to wRC+. Now, his WAR is just seventh-best among NL first baseman and his wRC+ is third.
If he had kept up the pace, it would’ve been hard to see him being left off the roster, but the slight cool down over the last couple of weeks were enough to send him home over the break next week.
All statistics are courtesy of FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted.