The All-Star starters were announced Thursday -- you can see all the vote winners here -- and the one big surprise in my book was Hunter Pence winning starting designated-hitter honors for the American League.
Pence is having a good season, of course, and ranks as one of best stories of the season with his comeback. Still, we're talking about a player who was (A) awful the past two seasons; (B) began the season as a platoon player; (C) is currently on the injured list and has played only 55 games. Plus, there's this guy named J.D. Martinez who has been one of the best hitters in baseball for half a decade.
(I'm guessing Pence was helped by the large contingent of Astros fans who voted in Alex Bregman, George Springer and Michael Brantley as starters. Also, Red Sox fans, apparently unhappy with their team's first half, stayed away from the ballot box, as no Red Sox made the starting nine. I don't want to suggest Boston fans are spoiled, but ...)
Anyway, congrats to Pence for his first All-Star start, as he's one of those players whom everyone loves and who makes the game fun to watch.
Now, a little thought exercise. With so many young stars in today's game -- five players 25 and younger were voted in as starters -- let's pick three All-Star teams to see who is the best: a 25-and-younger team, an in-their-prime team (26 to 30 years old) or a veteran team (31 and older). We'll pick 25-man rosters with 15 position players and 10 pitchers (including two relievers). We'll include Baseball-Reference WAR, although the rosters will be a mix of players having the best seasons and maybe a few others who feel they should be on there. But it's mostly the guys having the best 2019.
25 and younger
C -- Carson Kelly, Diamondbacks (1.1)
1B -- Pete Alonso, Mets (3.6)
2B -- Ketel Marte, Diamondbacks (3.7)
3B -- Alex Bregman, Astros (4.0)
SS -- Jorge Polanco, Twins (3.8)
LF -- Ronald Acuna Jr., Braves (2.8)
CF -- Joey Gallo, Rangers (3.1)
RF -- Cody Bellinger, Dodgers (6.6)
DH -- Rafael Devers, Red Sox (2.9)
Yeah, I realize there is no backup catcher here and four shortstops. This is a thought exercise!
TOTAL WAR: 67.4
In their prime
C -- Willson Contreras, Cubs (2.4)
1B -- Freddie Freeman, Braves (2.8)
2B -- DJ LeMahieu, Yankees (3.8)
3B -- Nolan Arenado, Rockies (3.2)
SS -- Javier Baez, Cubs (3.2)
LF -- Christian Yelich, Brewers (4.4)
CF -- Mike Trout, Angels (5.2)
RF -- Mookie Betts, Red Sox (2.9)
DH -- Anthony Rendon, Nationals (2.7)
No Bryce Harper, plus some of last year's aces, such as Bauer and Sale, haven't been quite as dominant.
TOTAL WAR: 69.4
C -- Robinson Chirinos, Astros (2.6)
1B -- Carlos Santana, Indians (2.8)
2B -- Eric Sogard, Blue Jays (1.6)
3B -- Josh Donaldson, Braves (2.3)
SS -- Brandon Crawford (-0.2)
LF -- Michael Brantley, Astros (2.5)
CF -- Lorenzo Cain (1.1)
RF -- Tommy Pham, Rays (2.9)
DH -- Edwin Encarnacion, Yankees (1.9)
Bench -- Charlie Blackmon, Rockies (1.5); J.D. Martinez, Red Sox (1.5); Alex Gordon, Royals (1.5); David Peralta, Diamondbacks (1.5); Justin Turner, Dodgers (1.4); Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks (1.0)
Note the glaring lack of middle-infield and center-field options. Very strong in starting pitching.
TOTAL WAR: 57.9
The in-their-prime All-Stars pull it out over the kids, although it's close. What really stands out is how far behind the veterans are, particularly among the position players. Check out the number of 2-WAR or better position players for each group:
25 and younger: 20
In their prime: 36
You wonder why free-agent position players aren't drawing much interest? This is why. Tommy Pham leads veteran position players in WAR, and only five have been 2-WAR players so far. This is one of the biggest -- and most important -- changes in the game over the past decade. The game is getting younger and younger.
LOL Mets: Unbelievably, it happened again. The Mets scored three runs in the top of the ninth Thursday to take a 3-1 lead over the Phillies ... only to see Edwin Diaz serve up a game-tying home run to Maikel Franco and then a game-losing home run to Jean Segura, who somehow hit it out with the shortest home run swing you'll ever see:
You want to see WFAN's Mike Francesa watching Segura's home run? Of course you do. Start at the 1-minute, 20-second mark:
Most of you heard the clip of Mike Francesa exploding after Edwin Diaz blew the game for the #Mets today. Here are the highlights of him watching the entire bottom of the 9th unfold. And yes... it's glorious. 💣 pic.twitter.com/RnnPLQjHYE— Ƒunhouse (@BackAftaThis) June 28, 2019
That's five games in a row the Mets have lost after leading by at least two runs at some point. The bullpen has a 7.93 ERA (which would be the worst for a calendar month in franchise history) and eight blown saves in June. Diaz's ERA after giving up five runs Thursday is 4.94 as he fell to 1-5 with four blown saves. Robinson Cano is hitting .222/.270/.358. Manager Mickey Callaway might be lucky to survive the weekend, but general manager Brodie Van Wagenen's aggressive offseason has -- so far -- been a complete disaster.
The Mets' peak win probabilities for these four games in Philadelphia:— Tim Britton (@TimBritton) June 27, 2019
MON: 68.2 percent
TUES: 86.1 percent
WED: 95 percent
THRS: 92.6 percent
They went 0-4.
The Braves head into Citi Field this weekend. They have a chance to bury the Mets.
Rays beat Twins in doubleheader: OK, it wasn't a doubleheader, but it was an 18-inning game that took 5 hours, 42 minutes. The Rays finally broke through with three runs off Twins reliever Ryne Harper after the teams had played scoreless baseball since the third inning. Hard to believe they played 15 innings of scoreless baseball with no home runs -- there were none in the whole game! Nice tag-up by Brandon Lowe for the go-ahead run:
The teams combined to use 19 pitchers, including Kyle Gibson, who is a starter for the Twins but pitched the 17th inning out of the bullpen. Five players went 0-for-7 or worse, the first time that has happened since 1901, according to Elias Sports Bureau research. Max Kepler and Avisail Garcia each went 0-for-8.
For those of you who like the idea of putting a runner on second base to begin an inning once the game goes to extra frames (or maybe starting in the 11th or 12th inning), consider this tidbit, courtesy of Elias: Entering Thursday, 2,283 of 3,987 runners at second base with none out came around to score that inning (57 percent). That rule change -- used in the World Baseball Classic -- would certainly lead to more runs and probably fewer 18-inning games.
I'll take the 18-inning game. (Unless it's April in Chicago and the wind is blowing in your face and they ran out of coffee and hot chocolate in the 13th inning.)
P.S. The Rays are reportedly going to call up two-way player Brendan McKay to make his major league debut Saturday. That was supposed to be Ryan Yarbrough's day, but he pitched the final three innings Thursday. McKay has dominated in the minors with a 1.35 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A, including 88 K's in 66⅔ innings with just 38 hits allowed. Really, he's more of a one-way player now since he has hit just .167 without a home run in 78 at-bats.
Stanton heads to IL: The Yankees said Giancarlo Stanton is more likely to return in August than July after suffering a strained ligament in his knee Wednesday. The Yankees can obviously play through the injury -- they've done it all season as Stanton has played just nine games -- and if they keep rolling there is no need to rush Stanton back.
My first thought here went back to Ken Griffey Jr. with the Reds. He had an excellent first season with Cincinnati in 2000, hitting .271 with 40 home runs in 145 games, worth 5.5 WAR. He'd had better seasons, but it was an All-Star-worthy campaign. Then the injuries started to pile up. He played 111 games in 2001 and then averaged just 69 over the next three seasons.
Stanton, like Griffey, had a good first season with the Yankees and remained healthy, playing in 158 games, but he's had better seasons. He's 29; Griffey was 31 when he started breaking down on a regular basis. One hopes Stanton will have better luck than Junior, but two major injuries in one season harks back to some of the concerns from Stanton's Marlins days that he was injury-prone (including knee surgery in 2012 and knee issues in 2016). And while the Yankees can win without him, they're also a better team with him in the lineup.
A Coors Field special: It's not every day you get 13 hits off Walker Buehler and still lose. That's because the Dodgers ripped six home runs and 17 hits in a wild 12-8 victory over the Rockies. Chris Taylor broke an 8-8 tie with a one-out single off Wade Davis in the ninth, then Kike Hernandez tacked on a three-run homer off Davis, whose ERA rose to 6.00. (It's not a good year to be a closer.)
The second-place Rockies fell to 13 games behind the Dodgers, which is distressing enough, but the Dodgers are now 7-0 against the Rockies in 2019 and have won 12 in a row against Colorado, going back to last September.