Major League Baseball began a new tradition in 2019, naming the All-MLB Team during the offseason.
The star squad consists of a 1st-team lineup and 2nd-team lineup, selected from among the entire majors instead of being split by league, each consisting of a C, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, DH, three OFs, five SPs, and two relievers. The players are chosen in a process that’s split 50/50 between a fan vote and an expert panel, and the winners will be announced Wed, Dec. 9.
In other words, it’s sort of like the All-Star teams, except less interesting and with an even larger skew toward fan popularity. If you’re curious how the All-Stars might have panned out this year, here’s a guess at the AL team and the NL team.
A total of 45 players were named finalists for the 2020 All-MLB Team, and 32 of them will make one of the two lineups — click here to see the full list. The Oakland A’s managed only two representatives, despite being tied for the fourth-best record in the majors and earning the No. 2 seed in their league’s postseason.
Both of the A’s reps are relievers: right-handed closer Liam Hendriks, and lefty setup man Jake Diekman.
They’re up against a field of relievers that includes Indians closer Brad Hand, White Sox closer Alex Colome, Rays late-inning arm Nick Anderson, and NL Reliever of the Year Devin Williams of the Brewers. Of those six pitchers, two will make the 1st-team, two will make the 2nd-team, and two will get a hearty pat on the back for a job well done.
Hendriks is no surprise on this finalist list, as he won AL Reliever of the Year and there is currently no legitimate statistical argument against him as the best reliever in baseball. He made the 2019 All-MLB roster as well, albeit only on the 2nd-team.
Hendriks, 2020: 1.78 ERA, 25⅓ ip, 37 Ks, 3 BB, 1 HR, 1.14 FIP, .227 xwOBA
Meanwhile, Diekman is here not due to saves but rather his nearly flawless run prevention. He allowed only one earned run all season, though he did let through one of his two inherited runners as well. His revamped slider helped him set a career-high in strikeout rate, which was already an extremely high bar to begin with, and together with Hendriks he helped form the best bullpen in the majors. They each blew just one save/hold chance, in 29 total opportunities combined.
Diekman, 2020: 0.42 ERA, 21⅓ ip, 31 Ks, 12 BB, 1 HR, 2.72 FIP, .240 xwOBA
ERA is not always a great measure for relievers, especially in this small of a sample, but at least Diekman earned his outs with brilliant peripheral stats. In addition to all the strikeouts, Statcast also loved him nearly as much as it did Hendriks.
However, that shiny ERA does have competition. Anderson finished the season at 0.55, and Colome was at 0.81 with a bunch of saves. And they’re all surely battling for the 2nd-team, as Hendriks and Williams (0.33 ERA) figure to be the front-runners for the top lineup. Hand’s ERA was 2.05 but he did lead the majors in saves, so we’ll see which stat the voters valued more.
My prediction: Hendriks makes the 1st-team, as he deserves. But Diekman is beaten out for 2nd-team, which is fair enough. I’ll guess Hendriks and Williams, followed by Colome and Hand on the second tier. Anderson got wrecked in the playoffs and I wonder if fan voters will remember that, as the only sight many folks had of him. (Hand also got beat in the playoffs, but people had heard of him before this year.)
As for the rest of the A’s roster, it’s disappointing not to see anyone else named here but it’s also correct. Oakland’s success this summer was more of an ensemble effort, and there weren’t any other main stars playing strongly from wire to wire and putting up massive season stats. There was lots of quality depth, and it seemed like everyone had both a massive slump and strong hot streak at some point, all staggered properly to keep the team rolling throughout.
The big stars had disappointing campaigns, and/or got hurt. Some role players broke out and became good everyday starters. A couple rookies were really good, for rookies. But there’s nobody else in green and gold who should have been a finalist here. Even breakout star Chris Bassitt wouldn’t make sense replacing any of the starting pitchers on the list, though you’d have to think he’s one of the next names that didn’t make it.
Check back Wednesday to see how Hendriks and Diekman place in the final lineups!