The 2015 MLB All-Star starters have been announced, based on fan voting. The full lineups:
|C||Salvador Perez, Royals||Buster Posey, Giants|
|1B||Miguel Cabrera, Tigers*||Paul Goldschmidt, D'Backs|
|2B||Jose Altuve, Astros||Dee Gordon, Marlins|
|SS||Alcides Escobar, Royals||Jhonny Peralta, Cards|
|3B||Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays||Todd Frazier, Reds|
|OF||Mike Trout, Angels||Bryce Harper, Nats|
|OF||Lorenzo Cain, Royals||Matt Holliday, Cards|
|OF||Alex Gordon, Royals||Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins*|
|DH||Nelson Cruz, Mariners||N/A (manager will pick)|
* Miguel Cabrera and Giancarlo Stanton are both on the DL and are expected to miss the game. They will be replaced at a later date.
We may as well start with the big story: There will be four Kansas City Royals in the starting lineup. Lorenzo Cain absolutely belongs. Alex Gordon isn't having his best season, but he's spent his career being criminally underrated and frankly he probably should have drawn an All-Star start by now anyway. If you look at this one as a lifetime achievement pick, then it's hard to be mad about it. Gordon is legit, and I'd rather have him starting than a third straight year of Adam Jones (in reality, Jose Bautista finished fourth in the voting).
Salvador Perez is a tough one for me to call. He's absolutely not having the best year in the AL right now, but he was the deserving starter last year and then his team went to the World Series. It's easy for us to prefer Stephen Vogt, but the upstart new star doesn't always get to start the Midsummer Classic right away; as long as he gets a reserve spot I'll be happy. The people who should be mad are Toronto fans, as Russell Martin is having a better season at the plate and has just as good of a defensive reputation, but it's hard for me to get riled up about this one either. Perez is one of the two or three most talented catchers in the league, even if he's not fully showing it this year, and his team is in first place.
The worst Royals pick is probably shortstop Alcides Escobar, and even that one isn't as big of a reach as it looked a month ago. Detroit's Jose Iglesias has a solid edge in hitting (111 OPS+ vs. 86 OPS+), and both DRS and UZR prefer Iglesias in the field. But shortstop is an incredibly weak position in the AL this year and there's not an obvious pick. Xander Bogaerts leads in bWAR, but his numbers don't jump off the page. Carlos Correa is off to a ridiculous start but has played only 24 games. And no one else who might make this paragraph has anything resembling name power. I wouldn't have chosen Escobar, but he's not a terrible pick, again considering the recent WS appearance and the current best record in the league.
So, Royals fans ended up getting their team well-represented but at the end of the day it didn't get taken too stupidly far. Each Royal picked is either a deserving All-Star or is close enough, and the ridiculous ones (Moose over Donaldson, Hosmer over Cabrera, Morales over Cruz, Infante over anybody at all) ended up just being fun May storylines.
In fact, the worst pick on the AL squad ended up having nothing to do with the Royals. We were all so distracted by Infante being a factor in the voting that none of us have talked about how ridiculous it is that Altuve got the nod over Cleveland's Jason Kipnis.
Look, the Astros are in first place and they deserve to have several All-Stars, and Altuve is the face of their franchise, but that doesn't make this anything other than a massive snub. Altuve has the name power, and he's small and cuddly, and he's hitting .300 with speed and pop and defense. He's great, and he should be on the team as a reserve. But Kipnis is leading the AL in fWAR (4.8) and is behind only Mike Trout in bWAR (4.9). Altuve is hitting .304? Kipnis is at .342. To put that into perspective, Kipnis' batting average is almost identical to Altuve's OBP (.347), while Kipnis himself gets on at a .421 clip. He has more doubles alone than Altuve has extra-base hits total. And he's a plus on defense and has double-digit steals.
If it makes you feel better, though, this is All-Star karma to make up for the time that Kipnis made the 2013 squad as the fourth second baseman while Josh Donaldson was left off entirely in a season in which he finished 4th in the MVP vote.
There's the matter of replacing the injured AL first baseman, Miguel Cabrera. Take your pick between Albert Pujols or Mark Teixeira. Both are aging superstars having vintage power seasons, though neither hits for a high average anymore. They have the name power and the brute-force stats, and I could go with either. Throw Prince Fielder in the mix if you want, though I think that would be disingenuous because Fielder has been a DH most of the year (he actually should make it as the backup DH, in my opinion).
I think I'd pick Pujols when all is said and done, because he plays in a pitcher's park whereas Tex plays in front of a short porch tailored perfectly for him, because Pujols is an all-time great whereas Tex is merely a superstar of his generation, because Pujols has been slightly better this year, and because shafting the Yankees still brings me slightly more joy than shafting the Angels. All three of those guys should make the team, though. The only wrong answer to this question is Eric Hosmer, who is good but isn't close to good enough to crack this superstar-laden position.
As for the A's, Vogt finished 3rd among catchers (behind Perez and Martin), while Reddick finished 11th among outfielders, behind: Trout, Cain, Gordon, Bautista, Cespedes, Rios, Jones, J.D. Martinez, Brantley, and Ellsbury. Vogt is a great bet to make it as a reserve, but his fate might depend on what happens with New York's Brian McCann. The seven-time All-Star is popular among players, as I understand it, and he has the name power and the homer total (13, same as Vogt) to possibly sneak his way on. It would objectively be a snub, but few people outside of Oakland would lose sleep over it. Reddick has no chance to make it, though that takes nothing away from the excellent season he's having.
Sonny Gray is a favorite to make the pitching staff, though I doubt he has a chance to start after missing time with an illness lately. He's also scheduled to start for the A's on Sunday, which will make him ineligible to pitch in the All-Star Game anyway. Dallas Keuchel is still my favorite to start for the AL, between his league-leading stats and the fact that only one of his teammates on his first-place team is in the starting lineup. Scott Kazmir has an outside chance to join Sonny on the staff, possibly even as his replacement if/when Sonny is ruled ineligible, especially if Vogt gets snubbed and Sonny is the team's lone rep.
Looking at the NL team, I can say without hesitation that Posey, Goldy, Gordon, Frazier, Harper, and Stanton were the right picks. Four of those guys are superstars who are clearly the best at their positions. Of the others, Gordon is having an insane season on both sides of the ball and Frazier is slugging .610 with 25 homers and 50 total extra-base hits. Actually, I did hesitate for a moment with Frazier -- Nolan Arenado is having a phenomenal season for Colorado, and my initial thought was that he got snubbed, but amazingly Frazier has been even better despite not playing his home games in Coors. Also, Frazier's Reds are hosting the game, so even if he was second-best I'd still support his selection. But he's not. He's the best, and he deserves it. I understand now why he was in the Home Run Derby last summer.
At shortstop, you can make a pretty good case that San Francisco's Brandon Crawford got snubbed. Let me check the comments to see if any A's fans are shedding any tears about that ... aaaaand, no, it looks like no one cares. But seriously, Crawford is one of the best defenders around and he's suddenly developed a bat that he was never supposed to have. His isolated slugging is around .200 and he's already got 11 homers, playing in a home park where homers are essentially outlawed by physics. His OPS+ is 127, which is exactly the same as that of Jhonny Peralta, who actually got the nod from fans. Peralta is a bat-first guy who can also field a bit, while Crawford is a glove-first guy who can also hit a bit. Peralta's team has the best record in MLB, while Crawford has two rings in the last three years and beat Peralta's team in the playoffs en route to both of them. Peralta is a fine pick, but Crawford would have been a slightly better one.
The one really bad pick is Matt Holliday. He's got the name power, and he's hitting .303, and his team is in first place. That's about all I can say for him. He's also on the DL, and hasn't played since June 8. He's only hit three homers, and his isolated slugging is in the .120 range. He has nothing to offer on defense. He in no way deserves this nod, not even based on his team's success, and to make it worse he might return from the DL just in time to actually play.
On the bright side, the fourth-place finisher in the outfield voting was ... Nori Aoki? Seriously? Oh, that's right, he's a former Royal. Don't blame this one on Giants fans, who clearly did not stuff the ballot boxes, considering that even their deserving shortstop didn't make it. I guess it could be worse than Holliday. I also have to say, I find it fascinating that in an election dominated by biased Royals fans, two relatively undeserving Cardinals players made the NL lineup -- I'd think Royals fans would have been just as dedicated about shutting out St. Louis as getting their own guys in. My understanding is that the Cards are to them what the Giants are to us. Sure, if they still had a superstar like when they had Pujols then his selection would be unavoidable, but Peralta and Holliday? All I'm saying is that I wouldn't have guessed.
One more outfielder will make the lineup due to Stanton's injury, likely from the following list, and if Holliday ends up sitting out then two guys from this list can start: Joc Pederson and his 20 homers and plus defense; Andrew McCutchen, former MVP, who's having a slight off-year but is still playing great; Justin Upton, who has only been solid and is probably hurt by his disappointing Padres team; and Arizona's A.J. Pollock, who deserves his own sentence here. Pollock is hitting .304 with double-digit homers and steals, as well as excellent defense in center field, and he's fifth in the entire NL in bWAR. However, he's still a relative unknown, so he'll have to keep this up for another year or two if he wants to draw starting votes. There are other possibilities, like Jason Heyward or Ryan Braun, but those four seem like the most likely to me.
I'd say the fans got it right on 11 picks, got close enough on three more, and really only missed on Escobar, Holliday, and Altuve. And even then, the Escobar pick was harmless since no one really got snubbed, and the Altuve pick is at least understandable. Holliday is the only big miss, and in the greatest of ironies a Cardinal is the biggest reach in an election dominated by Royals fans.
All in all, the fans didn't do that bad, if you really believe that this is actually an online fan vote and is not rigged by MLB to end up with half-authentic, half-scripted results. I do not believe that MLB really left this one up to chance, but I also don't think it really matters that much and I'm not going to get upset about it. In this case, they mostly used their shady powers for good, to get the proper starters into their positions as much as possible. Kind of makes you wonder why they bother at all with the facade of supposedly letting the fans pick things, but again, it's not really hurting anyone. If this is how the fan vote will go now -- silly stories for a month, until MLB steps in and quietly fixes most of the incorrect picks -- then we may as well stick with it. It's not real anyway, and if everyone is mostly happy with the wizardry then there's no reason to reveal the man behind the curtain. Just enjoy the game.