Every year, in every sport, there are All-Star Game snubs. Quite simply, there are always more players worthy of being considered an All-Star than there is roster space. Baseball exacerbates this problem with its little-league style requirement that each team be represented, but there would still be snubs even if their rosters were put together wholly on merit.
Thanks to the final vote, fans can rectify a few of the game’s biggest snubs. Two of the guys eligible for that last spot on the American League roster kick off our biggest pitching snubs for the 2014 All-Star Game.
Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox
That Sale somehow was left off the All-Star roster can be seen as a sort of accomplishment for the White Sox. If it were a year ago, he would have easily made it as the team’s lone representative. This year, though, Jose Abreu is contending for the AL Rookie of the Year and MVP awards, while Alexei Ramirez has resurged to a .286/.320/.408 slash line.
Still, Sale has been one of the best pitchers in the majors, and is more worthy of a spot than any pitcher this side of Felix Hernandez, Masahiro Tanaka and, perhaps, David Price. Sale spent some time on the DL this year, but he has measured up to Hernandez and Tanaka when healthy. He’s 8-1 with a 2.16 ERA, 2.49 FIP, 0.87 WHIP and 96 strikeouts versus 16 walks in 87 1/3 innings. He has four double-digit strikeout games, two complete games, and an opponents OPS of .519. He should be a lock for the final spot on the AL roster, which, in a way, is a shame, because of the accomplishments of this next most glaring pitcher snub.
Garrett Richards, Los Angeles Angels
Richards has been nearly as good as Hernandez, Tanaka, Sale and Price -- the four best pitchers in the AL this year. He deserves a spot over Mark Buehrle, whom the players voted in, and Jon Lester, who was selected by his manager, John Farrell. The AL is also carrying two fewer pitchers than the NL, and it’s easy to make a case for Richards over Brandon Moss, especially given the presence of Miguel Cabrera and Abreu.
Anyway, remember that opponents OPS stat from the argument for Sale? The White Sox ace is one of just five pitchers better than Richards in that stat this year. The other four are Johnny Cueto, Hernandez, Adam Wainwright and Clayton Kershaw. The 26-year-old Richards has held batters to a .536 OPS, to go along with a 2.71 ERA, 2.70 FIP, 1.07 WHIP and 119 strikeouts in 116 1/3 innings. He should definitely be spending the first part of next week in Minneapolis. Instead, he’ll likely have a much-deserved vacation after Sale gets the final spot on the roster.
Huston Street, San Diego Padres
With apologies to Francisco Rodriguez and Tony Watson, both of whom have been very good this year, Street has been the best reliever in the NL not named Craig Kimbrel or Aroldis Chapman. He’s likely pitching his way out of San Diego, amassing a 1.13 ERA, 2.92 FIP, 0.78 WHIP and 33 strikeouts in 32 innings. He has converted 23 of his 24 save opportunities, and has allowed runs in three of his 32 appearances. There was definitely room for him on this roster, but with the final vote in the NL populated by position players, Street will have to resign himself to being one of this year’s most obvious snubs.
Pitchers of the Week
Garrett Richards, Los Angeles Angels – Last week: 15 1/3 IP, 2 W, 20 K, 2.35 ERA, 0.73 WHIP
Richards picked up a pair of victories last week, beating the White Sox in Chicago and Astros at home. He allowed three runs on two hits and two walks, fanning nine in eight innings against the White Sox. He then shut down the Astros to the tune of one run in 7 1/3 frames, whiffing a season-high 11.
Jake Arrieta, Chicago Cubs – 13 2/3 IP, 1 W, 15 K, 0.66 ERA, 0.66 WHIP
Arrieta polished off the best month of his career by throwing 7 2/3 scoreless innings against the Red Sox, taking a no-hitter into the eighth and striking out 10 batters. He then kicked off July by allowing one run on four hits in six innings in a no-decision against the Nationals. He finished June with a 0.92 ERA, 1.46 FIP, 0.69 WHIP and 48 strikeouts in 39 1/3 innings.
Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants – 14 1/3 IP, 2 W, 12 K, 0.63 ERA, 0.91 WHIP
Lincecum followed up on his no-hitter with two strong performances last week. He twirled eight shutout innings in a win over the Cardinals, allowing four hits and two walks while striking out six. In his next start, Lincecum held the Padres to one run on three hits with six more strikeouts in 6 1/3 frames.
Pitchers of the Weak
Anibal Sanchez, Detroit Tigers – 12 2/3 IP, 3 K, 6.39 ERA, 1.42 WHIP
Sanchez was actually pretty good in his first start last week, allowing just two earned runs in seven innings against the mighty A’s. He proceeded to get shelled for seven runs in 5 2/3 against the Rays, increasing his ERA from 2.63 to 3.18. The fact he fanned only three batters in nearly 13 innings certainly didn’t help.
Dallas Keuchel, Houston Astros – 5 IP, 1 K, 9.00 ERA, 2.80 WHIP
Keuchel got knocked around in his last start, giving up five runs on a season-high 13 hits in just five innings against the Angels. He made it through eight innings his previous time out, but allowed four earned runs on nine hits and four walks. He has now surrendered at least four runs in each of his last three starts after doing so just twice in his first 13 outings.
Andrew Heaney, Miami Marlins – 3 2/3 IP, 1 K, 12.27 ERA, 3.00 WHIP
Heaney is finding life in the majors a whole lot harder than at Double-A or Triple-A. He allowed five runs on eight hits -- including two home runs -- in 3 2/3 innings against the Cardinals in his only start last week. The Marlins sent him back to Triple-A New Orleans, but it’s likely a short-term move since they can get by with four starters this week. He should be right back in the rotation after the All-Star break and, despite his struggles, should be owned in mixed leagues.
Buy, sell, or hold
Buy: Dale Thayer, San Diego Padres
This time of year, contenders are on the lookout for relief pitchers who could be on the trade market. Two such pitchers are currently doing great work for a San Diego team that is 39-49 with a -51 run differential and zero realistic playoff hopes. That makes both Huston Street and Joaquin Benoit prime trade candidates.
Indeed, the Padres have reportedly received calls on both players. That in turn, makes Thayer a great addition for fantasy owners speculating in the saves market. He hasn’t been as good as his mates in the San Diego bullpen this year, but Thayer has been effective, compiling a 2.25 ERA, 3.94 FIP, 1.22 WHIP and 34 strikeouts in 36 innings. More importantly, he would almost certainly take over as the team’s closer if Street and Benoit have new addresses by August 1. If you have the roster space to burn for now, consider adding Thayer.
Sell: Dallas Keuchel, Houston Astros
Keuchel’s aforementioned struggles may make him a hard sell at this point, but a few bad outings is not what’s driving his inclusion here. Rather, it’s a declining strikeout rate that is making him a less effective fantasy pitcher. Keuchel’s strikeout rate for April was 23.8 percent. That fell to 19.8 percent in May and to 16.8 percent in June. Meanwhile, his walk rate was 6.4 percent in April. Last month, it was 9.7 percent. He’s still a worthwhile fantasy pitcher who should be owned in all mixed leagues. In fact, I’d even consider trading for him if the price was right. Understand, though, that we’ve likely already seen his best this season.
Hold: Tony Watson, Pittsburgh Pirates
If you’re not in a deep league, an NL-only league, or a league that uses holds as a category, you probably haven’t paid much attention to Watson this year. Despite never getting a chance to close, he has been the best reliever in the Pittsburgh bullpen this year. In 40 2/3 innings across 41 appearances, he has a 0.89 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 49 strikeouts against 10 walks. On June 26, the Mets did the seemingly impossible by scoring a run off Watson. It was the first time since April 22 he let an opposing team score. Mark Melancon has allowed four runs in his last 6 1/3 innings, and has been anything but stable since taking over as the team’s full-time closer. Watson could eventually factor into the ninth-inning mix for the suddenly contending Pirates.