The National League All-Star team was announced last night and the Astros' lone representative is center fielder Michael Bourn. It is Bourn's first All-Star appearance of his career.
Bourn has also been the Astros' best player to this point in the season. His hitting stats have fallen off since his torrid start in April, but he's still contributing quite a bit. He currently leads the National League in stolen bases with 25 and the Astros in runs scored with 48. His walk rate is higher than it has ever been and his strikeout rate is lower than the past two seasons. Interestingly, though, his stolen base percentage is lower than it has been in either of the last two seasons. While Bourn looks to shatter his single-season doubles' total, he's only hit two triples this season after hitting 12 in 2009. I suspect those numbers may even out over the second half of the season.
That, of course, doesn't take into account his defense. By all accounts, he's having a better season than in 2009 when he won his first Gold Glove. He has 8 Defensive Runs Saved and a UZR/150 of 13.3, which is higher than either of his first two seasons as a full-time starter. Last season, he totaled 12 DRS and had a UZR/150 of 9.9.
Bourn also has the highest WAR by a position player on the team at 1.7, which is why I'm glad he made the All-Star team. As I said before, he's been the Astros best player this season and deserved a little recognition. We'll look at other Astros players who may have been snubbed after the jump, but I wanted to ask a question first. With Jason Heyward on the disabled list, there will be an opening for the start in center field for the NL. Does Bourn get consideration for that? NL manager Charlie Manuel has already named a starter in place of Chase Utley, but has remained silent about Heyward. The other two candidates to start in center are the Cubs' Marlon Byrd and the Diamondbacks' Chris Young. Byrd has been stronger at the plate than Bourn, but isn't in his class as a defender. The other option Manuel has is to slide Andre Ethier over from right to center and start Matt Holliday in right. What do you think?
Just for reference, there have been three other Astros to play center field in an All-Star game on four occasions. The only one to start an ASG was Lance Berkman in 2004. Cesar Cedeno was the first Astros center fielder to play in an ASG back in 1976, though he came off the bench. Berkman also came off the bench to play center field in 2001, replacing Luis Gonzalez. Moises Alou had a similar switch, going from a pinch-hit appearance to right field to center field in 1998 for Houston. So, Bourn starting in center would be a pretty big deal.
As with any All-Star selection process, there have to be snubs. Even with these expanded rosters, there aren't enough spots to pick every deserving player (especially when you have to pick one player from each team). The Astros may have a couple cases of snubs. Let's discuss them below:
Roy Oswalt -I had to caveat Bourn's WAR total, because Oswalt actually leads the team in WAR at 2.6. He's having his best season of his career, arguably, and posting his highest K/9 rate in years. The problem Oswalt ran into was one of numbers. Who would you leave off this roster to add Roy?
The only guy I could really see is Chris Carpenter, but you could make a convincing case that Oswalt deserved it more than Carp. Besides the fact that ERA and W-L records are meaningless, what does Carp have that Oswalt doesn't? Roy's got him beat in WAR, in x-FIP, in K/9, in BB/9 and is only one behind him in total strikeouts. Even that advantage would be wiped out if Oswalt had as many starts as Carp (he's one behind right now). But, at the same time,
Brett Myers - At 1.6 WAR, Myers actually has a higher total than Carpenter, but with his peripherals, you can't really make a case for his inclusion. While Myers has had a great season and is deserving of some recognition, he has not been better than Oswalt and I don't see any scenario where both these guys make the roster. I was a little surprised that old friend Charlie Manuel didn't give him some consideration, though.
Jeff Keppinger - He's been a nice discovery as an every day player, but that's about it. His ceiling here is as a solid player, not an All-Star. I know it looks bad to see Kepp left off any consideration, but the numbers just don't back it up. Sure, he leads the team in doubles and hits, but his batting average is at .278 and the Astros are the worst-hitting team in the league. Not exactly resume boosters.
Carlos Lee - HA. Was just checking to see if you were still reading.
Felipe Paulino - If you want to talk about snubs, Felipe Paulino should have probably been considered over Myers. He's got a higher WAR, a better K/9 rate but more walks. If Paulino hadn't given up so many runs in his first few starts, he'd definitely have an ERA below four, and that makes him a fairly attractive AS candidate. If Oswalt and Bourn weren't on the team, I have to think Paulino would have gotten serious consideration and joined Evan Meek as one of those guys who people around the nation ask, "Who is that guy?"
That's pretty much it. I can't really make a compelling case for anyone else, largely because the rest of the team didn't have one player with a WAR higher than 1.0. That's pretty bad. Even Kepp is sitting at 0.4 WAR, though he's been a pretty valuable part of this offense. When you look at guys like Joey Votto getting passed over with a 3.6 WAR, it's hard to argue for another Astro being included.