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The Donaldson (All-Star) Dilemma

All this time following the A’s, and for the past several years almost all of their All-Stars have been pitchers, and generally rightfully so.

So now comes this season, and there finally is an A’s position player worthy of voting for, and this next week is when most of the voting should be done, the final days before the deadline. Any earlier, and not enough of the season would have been played to make an educated choice.

So now the fans of the Green and Gold have third baseman Josh Donaldson as a cause they can truly champion, and the deck is stacked against him, and that might be rightly so. Still, if the AL manager Jim Leyland were to include Donaldson on the All-Star Game roster, he would have plenty of ammunition to back that decision.

The case for Donaldson:

Going into Saturday night’s action, the third baseman was ranked 7th among all AL position players in WAR (Wins Over a Replacement player) with a 2.7 ranking. He was ranked 9th among all position players in OPS-plus, which is On-base Plus Slugging percentage adjusted to the league average (100).

For example, the Orioles Chris Davis, who is ranked 1st, had an OPS-plus of 202, which means his OPS is more than double the OPS of the average player.

Donaldson’s OPS-plus was 139, 39 percent better than the average hitter. And Donaldson also is an above average defender among third basemen.

The more traditional key stats put up by Donaldson: .305 average, 10 homers, 45 RBI.

Now the case against Donaldson.

He’s a third baseman, and he’s only the fourth highest-ranked third baseman in WAR. Indeed, the top two overall are 3Bs, and guess what! First is NOT Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers! It’s that young man Manny Machado of the Baltimore Orioles who is not only hitting up a storm but also playing the hot corner like Brooks Robinson back in the day.

Machado at this time (after Friday’s action) boasted a 4.5 WAR and a 2.0 defensive WAR, which is far away the best in the league. Still, Donaldson at 0.8 is very much a plus defender, and this season is grading out higher than Evan Longoria (0.6) in that regard. But Longoria at No. 6 in overall WAR is just ahead of Donaldson.

And in OPS-plus Donaldson is also only the fourth highest-ranked third baseman at No. 9 behind No. 2 M. Cabrera (194), No. 5 Longoria (152) and No. 8 Edwin Encarnacion (140).

And then there’s Adrian Beltre, who’s also having an outstanding season offensively (.302/.345/.502 14 HRs) and has almost as many Gold Gloves as Eric Chavez although his defensive WAR this season is lagging (-0.2).

So taking in consideration all the biases, Donaldson probably will come in 6th in at the hot corner behind Cabrera (the fans’ choice), Longoria, Beltre, Machado and maybe even the more established veteran Encarnacion.

Indeed, statistically, Coco Crisp may have the strongest case of an A’s position player to be named to the All-Stars. His 137 OPS-plus is 10th overall and second among the league’s outfielders behind only the AngelsMike Trout No. 3 (163) and in overall WAR (despite that weak arm) Crisp is No. 15 among position players at 2.5 and fourth among outfielders behind No. 9 Trout (2.8), No. 12 Brett Gardner (2.6) and No. 14 Jose Bautista (2.5).

And Crisp gives manager Jim Leyland another threat to steal with 13 steals and just 2 caught stealing.

Also, Yeonis Cespedes, despite his otherwise bad numbers, may draw attention if he adds two or three more homers to his 15 homers in the next week and to his 40 RBI.

Still, the A’s best All-Star bets remain pitchers: starter Bartolo Colon and closer Grant Balfour. Even so, as good as they have been, neither ranks among the top 10 AL pitchers in WAR. Colon has a 10-2 record, 2.93 ERA, a 1.10 WHIP (walks plus hits in innings pitched) and has issued only 12 walks in 98 1/3 innings. But his WAR is only No. 12 at 2.4. Balfour is 22nd in WAR (1.5), despite having converted all 18 save chances and posted a 1.17 ERA with a 1.08 WHIP. The raging Balfour has struck out 31 in 30 2/3 innings while holding hitters to a .193 average.

The A’s record, among the top three in the league, should indicate ample reps on the All-Star squad. But it could very well be that you don’t have to have All-Stars to have an All-Star team.

Oh, what the heck, A’s Nation, vote and vote again for Donaldson … and Crisp, too.

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