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.
— Chris Archer (@ChrisArcher22) July 8, 2018
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.
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.)
|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|
|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|
Perhaps another issue is the process: paper and envelopes over technology.
Also, because we vote waaay too early. Could easily punch in our votes on an iPad a couple days before instead of the old school envelope weeks before.
— Justin Verlander (@JustinVerlander) July 8, 2018
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.