The All Star Game Rosters are mostly set, but there is one more area to discuss, as the voting just opened for it and will only be open through Friday, July 8th: the Final Vote candidates.
This year, here are the choices:
Setting aside team loyalty and team-colored glasses and attempting to look at it from an overarching American League perspective, there's a very good reason why AL fans should vote for George Springer for the final All Star Game roster spot in 2016.
Let’s start by eliminating guys from this list who don’t merit serious consideration – provided that you’re not a fan of them or their team, in which case you’d obviously be forgiven for voting for them.
From a pure baseball standpoint, ignoring team allegiances, Evan Longoria has no business in the All Star Game this year. Outside of Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson, he still hasn’t performed as well as Kyle Seager, Danny Valencia, and Nick Castellanos this year. He’s having a fine season, as usual, but being the sixth best at your position in the league is not going to earn you an All Star nod. Or it shouldn’t, anyway.
When it comes to Ian Kinsler – who is normally an outstanding defender and should have won the Gold Glove award last year at second base in the American League – his offensive stats pale some in comparison not only to Jose Altuve and Robinson Cano, but also to Steve Pearce and Logan Forsythe (both of the Rays) as well.
And Dustin Pedroia? He’s even further down the list than that thanks to his 116 wRC+ and .353 wOBA. Each of those numbers puts Pedroia at 7th best in the American League among second basemen, and therefore he has no business being a serious part of this conversation.
That leaves Michael Saunders and George Springer, and both of them belong in the All Star Game, frankly. Both are excellent offensive players – with Saunders holding a clear wRC+ advantage, 141 to 126, and a clear wOBA advantage at .387 to Springer’s .363, while Springer has more home runs, has a higher walk percentage (11.5% to Saunders’ 9.3%) and a significantly lower strikeout percentage (Springer’s is 21.8%, Saunders is at 27.2%).
Springer is a better base runner (0.9 UBR, compared to Saunders and his 0.2 UBR) as well, and yet, the starkest difference between the two is defensively.
Springer leads Saunders comfortably in both fWAR (2.6 to 1.8) and bWAR (3.5 to 1.9) thanks largely to vastly superior defense. Springer is tied with teammate Colby Rasmus for third best among all American League outfielders with 10 defensive runs saved – better than ANY of the current American League All Stars, starter or bench, in the outfield by this metric – and ranks third among AL outfielders in arm rating (one of the two players he’s trailing in this regard is Ian Desmond) while placing ninth among AL outfielders in Ultimate Zone Rating. Michael Saunders’ defensive statistics are hardly worth mentioning. Simply put, if you believe the advanced statistics, Saunders is one of the worst outfield defenders in the American League.
Given that this extra bench spot is likely going to appear in a pinch running and late-inning defensive replacement capacity, if they appear in the game at all, I personally want the guy who’s best at those things if it’s basically a toss-up, offensively. Springer has the best combination among the five Final Vote candidates of offensive ability, base running ability, and defense.
Here's a side-by-side comparison (in several graphs) of the five candidates. The right-most data points will be for the year 2016, and George Springer is in light blue.
And here's a chart breaking down the pertinent stats of all five players, including a couple advanced defensive and baserunning metrics. As in basically all of my articles, all stats are courtesy of FanGraphs.com with the exception of bWAR, which is, of course, from Baseball-Reference.com
|Michael Saunders||Blue Jays||77||324||15||0||9.30%||27.20%||.254||.371||.293||.367||.547||.387||141||-1.6||14.6||-7.9||1.8||0.2||18.1||-7||-4.4|
|Dustin Pedroia||Red Sox||81||370||8||5||9.20%||12.20%||.138||.337||.308||.371||.446||.355||117||-3.9||3.6||7.2||2.4||-3.0||11.0||8||6.0|
Of course Astros fans should be out in force to #VoteSpringer, but truthfully, other American League fans should be voting for him as well. After all, we all want home field advantage in the World Series, and George Springer has the most versatile tool set of any of the five Final Vote candidates to go out and provide value off the bench for the American League.
Voting ends on Friday, July 8th, so make sure to vote constantly between now and then! Not to brag or anything - who brags about having no life, anyway? - but I've personally put in over 1,000 votes so far for Springer (voting is unlimited) and I intend to continue doing so right up until they pull the plug. You should too, and you should tell your other non-Astros fans that they should vote for him, as well. If they question you, direct them to this article...perhaps it will be of use in convincing them. One can hope, anyway.