The MLB All Star Game is Tuesday night in Cincinnati. The American League will play the National League with the winning team getting home field advantage in this years World Series. Like any professional sports All Star Game, the MLB All Star Game gets it’s fair share of criticism in regards to the players who are chosen to participate. However, this has been taken to a completely new level with the 2015 American League All Star Team. It’s not only a popularity contest, but it’s now a promotional contest. The Kansas City Royals have four starters and seven total players on the team. The Royals deserve to have the most players of any team on the roster. They made it to the World Series last year and they have the best record in the AL at 52-34. The Royals made it a point to engage their fans into voting this year and they ran away with the balloting to the point where the league actually discounted some of their votes. The majority of the players on the roster are deserving, but others such as Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon, and Alcides Escobar were on the fence. Because of this process, any player on the Royals who was on the fence got the benefit of the doubt and other deserving players suffered. The Royals fans had every right to stuff the ballot boxes. Ned Yost, manager of the Royals and the AL All Star Team, had every right as the manager to take the lead in picking reserve players. When the final vote came around last week to vote one of five final players onto the roster, the Royals fans again had the opportunity to outvote everyone else and Moustakas got in. Good for the Royals. Bad for MLB. Flawed process.
Let’s use the Red Sox as an example. The Red Sox are by no means a team that looks like it should have multiple players on an All Star Team. They’re in last place in their division and they have a lot of players who have underachieved. However, the Red Sox do have players that were worthy of consideration and were on the fence just as the Royals players were. When you take a deep dive into it, an argument could be made that two of the Red Sox players are even more deserving that some of the players who made the AL Star Team. The most glaring example of this is at shortstop. Alcides Escobar was chosen to start the game and Jose Iglesias from the Tigers was selected as his backup. Xander Bogaerts did not make the team. Let’s take a look at the numbers of each of the three players in the debate for shortstops on the AL All Star Team.
Xander Bogaerts leads this group of AL All Star shortstops in seven out of eight major statistical categories. In the one category he does not lead, his batting average is .009 behind Jose Iglesias. However, his OPS (On Base Plus Slugging %) and power numbers are well above Iglesias. His 43 RBI’s are clearly at the top in the run production area. His defense, which has not gotten as much credit as it deserves, is better than both Escobar and Iglesias statistically. He has the least amount errors, his ZR (Zone Rating) is superior to both players, and is DWAR (Defensive Wins Above Replacement) is tied with Escobar for the lead. Perhaps the most important stat that’s used today is WAR (Wins Above Replacement). Bogaerts is at 2.6 and tops all AL shortstops. In fact, Bogaerts leads all qualifying AL shortstops in the following categories: Hits, Doubles, RBI’s, Slugging %, OPS, WAR, Range Factor, DWAR.
So the fans voted in Escobar. This happens frequently where a player who was not the best at his position wins the popularity contest. Derek Jeter is the perfect example. Sorry, Yankees fans, but towards the end, he was not the best SS in the AL. He also had no business winning gold gloves, but that’s a different story for a different day. Usually when the undeserving popular player wins, the best player at the position ends up getting in as a backup. The question here is why is Iglesias in the game over Bogaerts? Because his batting average is .314 and Bogaerts is .305? In 255 at bats, Iglesias has a grand total of 11 extra base hits. 11! He has 15 RBI’s. His manager bats him 9th in the lineup. Granted, his defense is outstanding. Bogaerts has also played very well defensively. It’s really a no brainer when you look at the numbers. The bottom line is that Xander Bogaerts is a better player than Jose Iglesias and he is showing that this year. He’s the best shortstop in the American League. You would be hard pressed to find another player in baseball who is clearly the best at his position statistically who is not going to the All Star Game.
Three centerfielders in the AL made the All Star Team this year. Mike Trout and Lorenzo Cain were voted in and deservedly so. They’re both elite at this position. Adam Jones was named to the team as a reserve. Jones has been a great player for the Orioles for many years and he has become a common name at the All Star Game. Mookie Betts is the opposite of that. He’s in his first full season. He’s new to the position. He’s not a household name. Adam Jones WAR is 2.4 this year. Mookie Betts WAR is 4.1. Both players have 43 RBI’s. Jones bats in the middle of the lineup. Betts bats leadoff and still competes with Jones in this category. Jones has a slight edge in OPS at .816 to .792. You could make the argument for either player here. It’s a lot different than the shortstop debate. I just wonder if Betts was even considered or if it was just a matter of picking the known player. Chances are we’ll see Betts in plenty of these games in years to come.
The player on the Red Sox who made the All Star Team is Brock Holt. Brock Holt is a great story. He’s a reserve player who takes advantage of every opportunity. He can play every position on the field which makes him a great player to have on a roster. Brock Holt is a lot of things. One thing he is not is an All Star. He’s batting .292 with 2 home runs and 22 RBI’s. Nice numbers for a utility player, but he is not the elite player on the Boston Red Sox. So why did Holt make it over Bogaerts and Betts? The answer is simple. He was picked because of his versatility. He was not picked because he’s an elite player in the game. If the game goes into extra innings, having a guy that can play any position is a huge plus for any manager. It was the easy choice. It was not the right choice. I wonder if Yost knew that Betts was a natural second baseman and could probably give him similar versatility that Holt would give in this game.
Another All Star Game. Another flawed roster. I’m sure there will be a lot of fans across the country tuning in to see Alcides Escobar and Brock Holt on Tuesday night.