Chris Archer Is Probably Right About All-Star Snubs

For as long as there are ballots and voters, there will be controversy about the contents of those ballots cast by those voters. Baseball, in this sense, is no exception. The Hall of Fame, end-of-season awards, and — of greatest relevance at the moment — the All-Star Game: each provides ample room for discontent.

The All-Star selection process has changed recently, with managers losing their power to select reserves last season. Fans still vote on the starting position players for each league, but players have now taken on much a larger role: overall, they’re responsible for choosing 33 of the 64 All-Star roster spots (17 reserves in the AL and 16 in the NL). The commissioner’s office then cleans up by selecting a handful of final AL and NL reserves to round out the rosters. There is then a final fan vote ballot (#SaveMuncy) that includes one more player from each league as chosen by the fans.

Anthony Castrovince wrote an excellent primer on the selection process.

Fans have long been criticized, and many times deservedly so, for their poor voting track record. But many have noted this is a game for the fans, they are the customers, so they ought to see whom they want. But interestingly, the players’ ability to assess All-Star talent is also coming into question, including by some within their own ranks. And with the wealth of information available in today’s game, perhaps the public can make as good, or better, All-Star decisions.

The day following All-Star selections, a day following any sort of selection process, is a day to evaluate who was snubbed.

And Chris Archer probably has a good point about Blake Snell: the latter ranked second in ERA- (52), first in ERA (2.09), and 10th in the AL in pitching WAR. Pitchers like Jose Berrios and J.A. Happ were selected above him. And while every team must have a representative, it’s up to the commissioner’s office, in the final stage of the selection process, to ensure that rule is satisfied. Eddie Rosario was the more deserving Twin. He is snubbed at the moment, though he is also a candidate for the final fan vote.

Players like Snell, Rosario, Brandon Belt, Andrew Benintendi, Charlie Morton, Max Muncy, Ross Stripling, and Trea Turner are among those who were passed over, who have outperformed some of those players already selected for the game.

While, on one hand, the All-Star Game is just an exhibition event, no longer even attached to World Series home-field advantage, the status that comes with it can have actual practical consequences, can be used for or against a player in arbitration, can aid a player’s public appeal and financial bottom line.

Beyond that, there’s some appeal to the idea of the All-Star Game functioning as a meritocracy. Again, that’s complicated by the mandate to select a player from every team, but there’s even room for improvement within that constraint. The Royals, for example, had a much more deserving player than Salvador Perez (69 wRC+, .213 average, 0.2 WAR, and selected by the players) in Whit Merrifield.

While the public has been criticized for allowing reputation and brand appeal to creep too much into voting, trumping actual first-half performance, that was also an issue for players, as is obvious in the construction of the All-Star rosters.

Stripling was a far better first-half performer than Jon Lester. Belt had a better first half than Joey Votto. Charlie Blackmon ranks 28th amongst NL outfielders in WAR.

In the American League, Michael Brantley ranks 19th in outfield WAR. Trevor Bauer leads American League pitchers in WAR but he needed a Verlander scratch and a save from the commissioner’s office to be added to the roster.

I’ve broken down the voting by groups and highlighted some of the weaker selections by WAR. (Reliever WAR is problematic, so I’m staying away from any evaluation of that group.)

All-Star Voting by Group
Fan Vote AL WAR AL Pos. Rank Fan Vote NL WAR NL Pos. Rank
Jose Abreu (1B) 0.2 7th Freddie Freeman (1B) 3.6 1st
Jose Altuve (2B) 4.2 1st Javier Baez (2B) 3.1 2nd
Jose Ramirez (3B) 5.7 1st Nolan Arenado (3B) 3.5 1st
Manny Machado (SS) 3.2 3rd Brandon Crawford (SS) 2.5 2nd
Mike Trout (OF) 6.5 1st Nick Markakis (OF) 2.5 3rd
Mookie Betts (OF) 5.5 2nd Matt Kemp (OF) 2.0 9th
Aaron Judge (OF) 4.6 3rd Bryce Harper (OF) 1.5 17th
Wilson Ramos (C) 1.4 1st Willson Contreras (C) 2.6 2nd
JD Martinez (DH) 3.5 1st (t)
Player Vote AL WAR AL Pos. Rank Player Vote NL WAR NL Pos. Rank
Aroldis Chapman 1.8 3rd Jacob deGrom 4.1 2nd
Gerrit Cole 3.0 6th Sean Doolittle 1.6 2nd
Edwin Diaz 2.8 1st Mike Foltynewicz 2.2 8th
Corey Kluber 2.8 7th Josh Hader 2.4 1st
Craig Kimbrel 1.0 9th Brad Hand 0.7 19th
Luis Severino 4.3 3rd Aaron Nola 3.6 3rd
Chris Sale 4.4 2nd Max Scherzer 4.3 1st
Mitch Moreland 1.6 2nd Joey Votto 2.6 6th
Gleyber Torres 1.6 5th Ozzie Albies 3.2 1st
Justin Verlander (i) 4.2 4th Trevor Story 2.4 3rd
Francisco Lindor 5.1 1st Eugenio Suarez 3.2 2nd
Alex Bregman 3.8 2nd Charlie Blackmon 0.6 28th
Michael Brantley 1.2 19th Lorenzo Cain 3.4 1st
Mitch Haniger 2.6 9th Christian Yelich 2.2 8th
George Springer 1.8 14th Buster Posey 1.8 4th
Salvador Perez 0.2 17th Jon Lester 1.0 27th
Nelson Cruz 1.8 4th
Commish Pick AL WAR AL Pos. Rank Commish Pick NL WAR NL Pos. Rank
Trevor Bauer 4.5 1st Patrick Corbin 3.1 4th
Jose Berrios 1.9 15th Kenley Jansen 1.0 14th
JA Happ 1.7 18th Miles Mikolas 2.3 7th
Joe Jimenez 1.2 6th Felipe Vazquez 1.3 5th
Blake Trennen 2.0 2nd Paul Goldschmidt 3.3 2nd
Shin-Soo Choo 2.9 7th Scooter Gennett 3.0 3rd
JT Realmuto 3.5 1st

Perhaps another issue is the process: paper and envelopes over technology.

Still, that cannot explain all of the snubs.

According to the New York Post, the players rejected a change to the system that would have made voting look more like a primary system. Perhaps that could have been an improvement. Certainly, allowing players to vote later would help the process and perhaps produce more serious engagement and thoughtfulness.

While the fans made some errors in voting in Jose Abreu and Bryce Harper into the starting lineups, if you’re an All-Star snub this season you really have your peers to blame.

A Cleveland native, FanGraphs writer Travis Sawchik is the author of the New York Times bestselling book, Big Data Baseball. He also contributes to The Athletic Cleveland, and has written for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, among other outlets. Follow him on Twitter @Travis_Sawchik.

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5 years ago

I thought Snell had a great chance at starting the ASG game Tuesday. To call this a snub is an understatement

Pepper Martin
5 years ago
Reply to  ARodTheGOAT

American League pitchers with more WAR than Snell: Bauer, Sale, Severino, Verlander, Cole, Paxton, Kluber, Clevinger, Diaz, Morton.

Clevinger and Morton didn’t make the All Star Game, and both have more WAR than Snell. Even if you go by traditional metrics instead of WAR, Morton has an 11-2 record. Why should there be all this outcry about Snell, but none about Clevinger or Morton?

5 years ago
Reply to  Pepper Martin

Might have to do with:

a) Snell is easily the most deserving Ray this year
b) Morton/Clevinger happen to be on teams with 2 SP already going to the ASG

5 years ago
Reply to  Pepper Martin

By BB-ref Snell has a higher WAR than both, and by quite a lot.

mookie monster
5 years ago
Reply to  Pepper Martin

It’s one of those things where it seems like a snub until you try to pick the guy you’d kick out to make room for Snell. It’s tough luck more than anything, because he is clearly deserving, but the decision is not easy.

I’d put him in over Happ and Berrios, but then you have to shuffle other stuff around to give TOR and MIN their representatives.

5 years ago
Reply to  Pepper Martin

Bauer, Sale, Severino, Verlander, Cole, Kluber, Clevinger, Morton play for a team in the top 5 in baseball (not just league) in runs scored which they do not have to face, where as the Rays are not even in the top 10. So his schedule is also more difficult

5 years ago
Reply to  Pepper Martin

Snell has also consistently been lined up against the best teams and done great. his last 8 @SEA, SEA, @NYY, @HOU, WAS, HOU, Mets lol. Aside from the Mets he’s 5-1 with 6 QS during that stretch While never pitching less than 6 with the exception of the Yankee game where he gave up 4 and only lasted 5. Thats solid work against premium competition.