Debating who should make an All-Star team is probably more fun than the All-Star Game itself. The furor over Kansas City Royals fans and their balloting exuberance created more attention than normal for the voting process, but in the end only four Royals made the starting lineup. Now we know the reserves. Let's review how the players and managers Ned Yost and Bruce Bochy did in filling out the rest of their 34-man rosters.
Starters and player vote
Pitchers -- player vote
Chris Archer, Rays (SP)
Sonny Gray, A's (SP)
Dallas Keuchel, Astros (SP)
David Price, Tigers (SP)
Chris Sale, White Sox (SP)
Dellin Betances, Yankees (RP)
Wade Davis, Royals (RP)
Glen Perkins, Twins (RP)
OK, good job, players. I can't really argue with any of their selections. Adam Jones doesn't quite have the WAR of Brett Gardner or Yoenis Cespedes, but his track record of year-to-year excellence warrants his selection.
Yost replaced the injured Cabrera with Mark Teixeira, leaving him with seven manager choices -- five pitchers and two position players. At that point, the only team without a representative was the Red Sox, so that made Yost's job a lot easier. Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin was a deserving choice and gives the team a third catcher. It's hard to argue with Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez and Orioles closer Zach Britton.
Things got interesting from there. Yost elected to go with three more relievers to fill out his pitching staff -- Darren O'Day of the Orioles, Brad Boxberger of the Rays and Kelvin Herrera of the Royals. That left one position player, and that had to be from the Red Sox. Yost went with Brock Holt to fill the Omar Infante Memorial Utility Player All-Star slot.
Look, Holt is a nice player. He's hitting .295/.383/.424 and has started at every position except catcher. Baseball-Reference rates Holt 11th among AL position players in WAR at 3.1; FanGraphs rates him 21st at 2.3. So he's not a bad selection, just a little bit of an odd one, because he's not a full-time starter on his own team. Yost could have easily selected Clay Buchholz to represent the Red Sox and then gone with Brian Dozier, Gardner or Cespedes as his final position player.
It looks like Yost went more strategic in his thinking, with seven relievers on his 13-man pitching staff and Holt available to play any position. Personally, I think starters are more deserving All-Stars than relievers -- Scott Kazmir and Yovani Gallardo both have 2.56 ERAs, Buchholz has a 3.27 ERA and 2.55 FIP and has been pitching well, and even Corey Kluber has been great despite his 3-9 record. But Yost probably likes the idea of running out a bunch of hard-throwing relievers in the late innings. Indeed, with Herrera, Betances, Davis and Boxberger, you have four hard-throwing righties, plus Britton and Perkins from the left side. Angels closer Huston Street, as deserving as Herrera or Boxberger, apparently doesn’t throw hard enough for Yost’s taste. You can't necessarily fault Yost for the strategy; after all, the game does determine World Series home-field advantage.
Biggest snubs: Dozier, Gardner, Buchholz, Kluber, Street
Final player vote: Dozier, Gardner, Cespedes, Mike Moustakas, Xander Bogaerts. Hey, give Yost credit: He also could have gone with Buchholz and Moustakas instead of O'Day and Holt, giving a spot to another of his guys. I like the list here, although it would have been fun to have Alex Rodriguez or Carlos Correa on it. I'd go Dozier over Gardner.
Yost grade: B
Starters and player vote
Pitchers -- player vote
Max Scherzer, Nationals (SP)
Gerrit Cole, Pirates (SP)
Zack Greinke, Dodgers (SP)
Shelby Miller, Braves (SP)
Jacob deGrom, Mets (SP)
Trevor Rosenthal, Cardinals (RP)
Aroldis Chapman, Reds (RP)
Mark Melancon, Pirates (RP)
A couple of thoughts here. The NL players completely blew one position: LeMahieu is not a better player than Joe Panik or Kolten Wong. He did win the Gold Glove last year, but his powerless .298 average in Coors Field isn't that impressive. In terms of FanGraphs WAR, LeMahieu (1.2) trails not only Panik (2.9) and Wong (2.2) but Danny Espinosa, Neil Walker, Jace Peterson, Howie Kendrick and Addison Russell. LeMahieu also rates 1.2 WAR according to Baseball-Reference. It's just a bad choice by the players, and it will cost a more deserving player an All-Star berth.
As for the pitching choices, it was a crowded field, but note that the players didn't select either Madison Bumgarner or Clayton Kershaw. Clearly, the players didn't put much emphasis on past performance or reputation. That said, all five starting pitchers are having great seasons.
Bochy replaced the injured Stanton with Kris Bryant, and McCutchen will start in the outfield. (It's not yet known whether Holliday, also currently on the DL, will have to be replaced.) Without the DH spot, Bochy now had nine manager choices -- four position players and five pitchers. Teams still needing a rep included the Padres, Brewers and Phillies. Justin Upton was the clear choice for the Padres and gave the NL a sixth outfielder. Bochy went with relievers Francisco Rodriguez and Jonathan Papelbon to represent the Brewers and Phillies. Not too exciting, but defensible, although I would have gone with Cole Hamels for the Phillies.
That left three spots on the pitching staff. A.J. Burnett, with a 2.05 ERA, was a deserving choice, and it's nice to see him make his first All-Star team. The only pitchers with more wins in the All-Star era never to have made an All-Star team were Mike Torrez, Danny Darwin, Bob Forsch and Paul Splittorff. So that's a great story, especially if this proves to be Burnett's final season.
Then Bochy chose Michael Wacha (10-3, 2.66 ERA) and ... Bumgarner. Hmm, let's compare two pitchers:
Bumgarner: 3.34 ERA, 3.22 FIP, 25.0 percent K rate, 4.6 percent BB rate, 1.03 HR/9, .234 AVG
Kershaw: 3.08 ERA, 2.55 FIP, 32.8 percent K rate, 6.0 percent BB rate, 0.87 HR/9, .215 AVG
Hey, you win the World Series, you get to pick your guy.
Bochy then selected the Giants' Panik and the Dodgers' Yasmani Grandal and Adrian Gonzalez as his final three position players. Panik wasn't a homer pick. He's having a good season, although you could argue Joey Votto of the Reds or Justin Turner of the Dodgers over him.
Biggest snubs: Kershaw, Votto, Turner. The LeMahieu selection probably cost Votto or Turner a spot on the team.
Final player vote: Kershaw, Johnny Cueto, Carlos Martinez, Jeurys Familia, Troy Tulowitzki. Hmm, this is one of the more interesting lists we've seen, because it includes three starting pitchers, a closer and a shortstop. But no Votto and no Turner. I'd go Kershaw, but do you really need 14 pitchers? Not really. Plus, he or Cueto could make the team when one or two of the other pitchers inevitably becomes unavailable. So I guess Tulo (although it would have been Votto if he'd been on the list).
Bochy grade: A-minus
All in all, not too bad. A reliever or two too many in the AL and one bad choice in the NL by the players. That's much better than most years, when we usually have four or five questionable All-Stars.