The AL West-leading Astros will likely have multiple All-Star representatives at Dodger Stadium later this month. Jose Altuve and Yordan Alvarez are potential starters at their respective positions based on fan voting, with various teammates possibly joining them in reserve roles. Both Justin Verlander and Framber Valdez will likely make the AL roster on the pitching side of things. As a reminder, the fans vote for the starting positions players while the players, in conjunction with Major League Baseball, choose the pitchers and reserves. Alas, it feels inevitable that at least one or two deserving teammates could ultimately be left off the roster.
One player I am rooting hard for to earn an All-Star nod is Ryne Stanek, the right-handed reliever who has emerged as one of the Astros’ primary go-to options in the bullpen this season. He has also been arguably one of the best relievers in baseball in terms of actual results, with his 0.69 ERA ranking second among all qualified relievers in addition to a 20-inning scoreless streak dating back to April 29. On their own merit, those two items should allow Stanek to make the first All-Star appearance of his career.
While the right-hander has benefitted from playing in front of one of the best defenses in baseball, Stanek’s performance this season has helped transform Houston’s bullpen from a slightly above-average unit last season to one of the best in 2022. That said, regression to the mean is possible, considering his .217 BABIP is well below his career average of .266, and we don’t clearly understand which baseball the league is providing to teams. Stanek’s home run-to-fly ball ratio is down to 3.7 percent, far below his career average of 11.9 percent. His strikeouts to walks are roughly the same as last season, with his batted ball distribution (LD, GB, FB) being approximately the same. The only noticeable difference is a slight spike in groundballs with a comparable decrease in fly balls. But he is inducing more soft and medium rather than hard contact previously shown.
However, Stanek deserves an All-Star nod regardless of what we expect could happen for the rest of the season based on hypotheticals. Considering how the Marlins released him following the 2020 season and coming off a forgettable two-year stretch in Miami, his ascent in Houston has been fun to watch. The personality, the leg kicks, all of it; it is difficult not to root for this guy. His overall numbers in the season’s first-half count, and it would be disappointing not to see him receive more recognition.