Ah, the 2017 All-Star weekend: when you’ll watch the likes of Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge try to destroy the Marlins’ hideous statue in left center with homers before baseball fans everywhere can finally enjoy watching the game’s best players without the exhibition deciding home field advantage.
But you, wise and curious Nationals fan, want to know exactly who will be suiting up to play in front of the league’s most consistent fan base. Herein lies this week’s looming question: Which curly-w-clad gentlemen will head to Miami for the Midsummer Classic? The starters will be revealed on the evening of 2 June, with the following all but guaranteed, and thus, not altogether interesting to discuss.
Tags: All-Star Game, Anthony Rendon, Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, Gio Gonzalez, Nationals, Nats, Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, Trea Turner, Washington Nationals
Bryce Harper will start in Right Field for the NL with the league’s highest vote total. This is quite deserved, even with a slight dip in production following a torrid April. Regardless, he deserves a starting spot even if it’s just because he stood up for hitters everywhere that have taken beanballs without dishing out retribution.
Daniel Murphy will start at Second Base. With nearly double the votes of Javy Baez as of 27 June, he will earn his third all-star appearance because of yet another stellar spring. The bane of the Mets’ existence continues to launch baseballs at an elite level.
Ryan Zimmerman will be an All-Star for the second time. This race is much closer than the former two, with Anthony Rizzo and the post-World-Series voting boost breathing down his neck. Even if he loses the lead for the starting role, he will make the team in what is one baseball’s greatest stories of the first half.
Max Scherzer will be an All-Star for the fifth straight season. There is a strong chance that he starts the game as well, but no one should fault Joe Maddon if he elects to run out Clayton Kershaw in the first inning. Regardless, Mad Max leads the league in ERA, strikeouts, WHIP, innings, and complete games (thank the bullpen for those last two) and will head to the All Star break as a favorite for the Cy Young.
Four All-Stars is great in any given year, especially when there is a strong chance that the Nats have all four starting. As a testament to have strong Washington is, and how effective their “Stars and Scrubs” team structure has been thus far, there are a few more players that deserve strong consideration.
Possibly the most deserving, but also longest shot of the players listed here, is Anthony Rendon. I honestly doubt that he will make the team, and it has nothing to do with Rendon’s abilities. There is no position in baseball more talent-laden than the hot corner in the NL. For as good as Rendon has been, Nolan Arenado has been better, Justin Turner has been better when healthy, and Kris Bryant is the reigning MVP. If Rendon was a shortstop, he would probably lead the position. This is simply a case of bad timing for a great half season.
Speaking of shortstops, the trendy sleeper MVP pick of experts before the season was Trea Turner. An injury early in April followed by a lukewarm return to the lineup removed him from that discussion quickly. A nice June where he hit nearly .290 and had more stolen bases than strikeouts (20 SB’s and 17 K’s) has put him back into the discussion for an All-Star selection. When you consider that the NL manager just watched the speedster catalyze the combustion of the relationship of the Cubs catcher and pitcher to the point where the catcher was cut from the team, it becomes easy to see why he may lean towards selecting Turner over Zach Cozart (if he loses the voting lead to Corey Seager) or even his own man Addison Russell.
By far the most interesting discussion, however, revolves around the Nationals’ other high-performing starting pitchers: Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg. It is reasonable to say that one of them will be named to the team, but the chances of both are slim. With Maddon’s decision for that roster spot shaping up to be between two vastly different pitchers, which one should, and which one will, be named to the team?
Strasburg’s talent and value speaks for itself: 5th in the NL in pitching WAR, 4th in K/9, and 2nd in FIP (behind only Scherzer). Stras made it his mission in the off-season to stay healthy for a full season. The most notable strategy to reach this goal was his switch to pitching out of the stretch full-time. The change appears to have worked. Though his 3.57 ERA isn’t a shiny object like Scherzer’s or Gio’s, he also has not had much luck. The best part about Strasburg this season has been his ability to limit the long ball, even though seemingly everyone (including Strasburg himself) is going long more often than ever. His 0.9 HR/9 is good for 7th in the NL.
Gio has been the subject of much debate this season, including when TNB’s Joseph Seib asked if Bad Gio was actually gone because of Gio’s improved numbers. Without going into too much detail, the southpaw has benefited from good luck and ridiculously low batting average with RISP and two outs, which have resulted in a sub-three ERA that is good for 7th in all of baseball. I am in no way going to argue that he is actually as good as his surface-level numbers suggest, but why should that stop him from being part of the All-Star team? Gonzalez has been at his best in stressful situations, the very situations that in previous years would derail otherwise strong starts. ERA is not the best stat, I get that, but he trails only Scherzer and Kershaw in the NL and I think that is worth something. Strasburg deserves to be an All-Star as much as anyone in the league but if I had to choose between the two, my vote would be to give the nod to send a veteran who has shined in the face of doubt from all sides to the ASG in his hometown.
This decision will come down to whether Maddon uses the out-of-style ERA stat or the more advanced stats to pick who he thinks is worthy of being on his roster. With Strasburg’s dominance in so many facets of the game, coupled with being the known entity that he is, I would expect him, and not Gio, to be headed to Miami.