So much has been made this season of a potential "Royal Flush" in the AL All Star Balloting, that it almost seems anticlimactic now to see "only" four starters from Kansas City. Here are a look at the rosters, with attendant story lines, statistical breakdowns, and editorialized opinions about which players were snubbed, which players shouldn't be there, and who might be making the team as a reserve or an injury replacement.
The National League Roster
Some have said that Brandon Crawford was snubbed when he was passed over in favor of Jhonny Peralta of the St. Louis Cardinals as the starting shortstop for the National League. But upon reflection and poring over the statistics, one might surmise that the two players are nearly a push, with similar numbers outside of a much higher batting average for Peralta and elite defense for Crawford. However, as you will see as we examine the rosters below by position, Peralta actually has a slightly better slash line across the board, as well as a better OPS. The two players have an identical OPS+ of 127. Either player could have a convincing case made for them as the starter.
This is among the most obvious and clear cut of all the selections for either league this year. There are other first basemen in the NL having good seasons, but Goldschmidt is the obvious choice.
Fan grade: A+
Another very clear selection, Dee "Flash" Gordon has been among the most dynamic leadoff hitters in baseball this season.
Fan Grade: A+
The first position where a logical debate could be had, the third base starting nod went to Todd Frazier from the fans. Frazier has at least a slight offensive edge in every single statistical category, but Arenado's elite defense must garner him consideration. In the end, there is probably no wrong answer between these two gentlemen, and Frazier will start while Arenado should be a reserve.
Fan Grade: A
As mentioned above, this is another position where a reasonable debate could be had, centering around Crawford's elite defense. In the end, the nod went to Jhonny Peralta, which appears to this writer to be the correct decision - although it is close.
Fan Grade: B+
This is yet another fairly clear one. Buster Posey is having yet another monster year in a career that already seems destined for Cooperstown.
Fan Grade: A+
The first of the fan votes that appear to be a fairly serious miss. The asterisks represent players who are injured and will not play in the game, so Pederson and McCutcheon have been added as potential replacements. Note that Pederson and McCutcheon are not currently on the roster, they're just likely to make the roster. Bryce Harper is an obvious selection, his 224 OPS+ is patently absurd and anything other than a start for him would be a travesty. Giancarlo Stanton is a fair selection, as he leads all of Major League Baseball in home runs and has an extremely impressive .952 OPS and 158 OPS+. However, Matt Holliday, while certainly having a good season, is not quite as productive this season as Pederson. Pederson plays excellent defense, hits for a ton of power, walks a lot, and posts excellent ISO power numbers. Matt Holliday certainly has been hitting for a high average and an excellent OBP, but the overall picture must surely favor Pederson - even though he's a rookie and Holliday an established veteran. Additionally, McCutcheon is a worthy replacement for Stanton for injury, provided the players agree in their vote.
Fan Grade: B-
The American League Roster
So, down the stretch, one of two things clearly happened.
1. All of the IP addresses in Kansas City, Missouri ran out of new ideas for e-mail addresses to use for voting.
2. The rest of the major league fans finally started picking up the slack and started voting for more deserving players to start the game.
In an effort to apply positivity to the situation, let's assume that the second option is the correct one.
Here's a look at the starting rosters (along with potential backups/injury replacements) in the American League. You might note that this roster is slightly more controversial, in this writer's opinion.
Miguel Cabrera is pretty easy to project as an All Star Game starter year in and year out. He's always one of the best hitters in baseball, and he's never hurt.
Since Cabrera was elected the starter and is hurt and expected to miss the All Star Game, the replacement will fall to the runner up in the player's vote. That means that, though Hosmer is almost certainly second in fan voting, the players' votes will determine the replacement starter, and that will almost certainly not be Hosmer. It should probably be Albert Pujols, based primarily on the strength of his incredible performance in June. His 24 home runs, .886 OPS and 150 OPS+ are all outstanding numbers. Couple his excellent production with his status as a first ballot Hall Of Famer, and it would seem a safe bet that he'll end up making a trip to Cincy. All of this to say that, while Hosmer is certainly having a fine season in Kansas City, he probably never should have merited as serious a level of consideration as he did.
Fan Grade: C+
This position has been a travesty for weeks. Until the last week of voting, Omar Infante of the Royals had overtaken Jose Altuve for the lead in the All Star Voting - despite Infante's status as one of the very worst hitters (at any position) in the entire American League, and despite the fact that Jason Kipnis has had a better season even than Altuve - and Altuve has been head and shoulders above Infante. Thankfully, a massive PR push from the Houston Astros to elect Jose Altuve as the starter appears to have swayed the voting in favor of the Houston second baseman. Certainly Kipnis should be the starter, but consider this - once Infante was leading, had he held on to win the starting position, then it is fairly likely that Infante would have started the game, with Kipnis making the roster as the backup second baseman...leaving an extremely deserving Altuve off the roster entirely. Considering that fact along with the fact that Jose Altuve won the batting title last year and is still having an excellent statistical season this year as the face of the Houston Astros franchise, his status as the starter with Kipnis likely starting the game on the bench isn't ideal, but is certainly within the realm of reason. The grade for the fans is driven down on this one mostly due to the convoluted route taken to get to this point.
Fan Grade: C
This is an obvious selection and shouldn't really have been close. And in the end, it wasn't - Josh Donaldson led all vote recipients with over 11 million votes from the fans. However, until fairly recently, Mike Moustakas of the Kansas City Royals was leading in the vote totals for this position..which never made any sense, from a statistical point of view. This would have been an A+ selection but for another convoluted route to the good end result.
Fan Grade: A-
This is another head scratcher. Alcides Escobar has certainly had a nice season for Kansas City, especially defensively, but Jose Iglesias is so far above him both offensively and defensively that it renders comparison insulting. Yet Escobar will start the game with a huge vote total and Iglesias will likely have to be happy to receive a bench spot and an appearance as a defensive replacement in the game.
(Note from the author: Of further concern to Astros fans is Carlos Correa. Much has been made recently across baseball about the fact that Correa is already among the best shortstops in all of baseball, statistically, and that is true. It is also very exciting for Astros fans - a group in which I claim membership. However, when weighing All Star status, we must consider that he has barely 100 major league at bats. Generally speaking, a rookie must have a little more time in the big leagues to realistically expect to warrant serious consideration for the All Star Game. So it's not time...yet...for Carlos in the All Star Game. But the fact that we're even having this conversation is amazing, and something we can be very excited about when thinking about the next 5, 10, 15 All Star games)
Fan Grade: D
If you compare the numbers for these three players, the first few columns they look pretty comparable...until you get to their walks. Then, starting with walks, you might keep looking through their OBP, SLG%, OPS, and OPS+ numbers, and see how far behind Salvador Perez really is. Then you consider that Russell Martin is essentially the best defensive catcher in baseball right now, in addition to one of the most productive offensive catchers...and one can't help but wonder what in the world Salvador Perez is doing starting this game...even considering what he means to his team as the slow and steady, every day leader.
Fan Grade: F
Despite an early Kansas City Shuffle that had the fans pushing for Kendrys Morales to start the All Star Game, Nelson Cruz did finally ride the wave of deserved popular support to garner the start this year. Prince Fielder and Alex Rodriguez have both had incredible seasons also, and all three of these players really belong on an All Star roster this season. Clearly nobody is anticipating Alex being there...but he should be.
Fan Grade: B
Not a lot of surprises here, all three of these guys have led the OF tallies pretty much all season. Some players like Adam Jones and George Springer - before the injury - certainly could have had cases made for them as well, but there's just not quite as much depth in the AL outfield this season to raise vociferous objection to the fans voting for who they just plain want to see here. It's likely that Adam Jones still makes the team as a backup. Some guys like Jose Batista might be under consideration as well.
Fan Grade: A-
The Bottom Line
The Royals fan base got out and rocked the vote. It is of paramount importance that those fans be given recognition for their unwavering support of their players, and in staggering numbers. However, they may have ultimately threatened the outcome of the game by voting for Royal Blue instead of the best players...since the game does determine World Series Game 7 home field advantage, if the AL were to field anything other than the best roster, then all AL teams - including the Royals, of course - could be facing a tougher road to secure home field advantage. So it is an important lesson for all fans, of all teams, to learn: as long as the game has meaning, vote for the best players. Not just the ones who wear your favorite jersey.