Rizzo, Sale win Final Vote as Molina, Tanaka injuries shake up rosters
Any democratic process that does not limit each member of the electorate to one vote is going to favor Chicago. Given the propensity of Chicagoans to stuff the ballots in support of their favored candidates, it comes as little surprise who won the Final Vote in the AL and NL for the 2014 All-Star Game.
The White Sox’ Chris Sale and Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo were named the final members of the All-Star rosters after emerging as the winners of the Final Vote campaign. Rizzo picked up 8.8 million votes, while Sale notched 6.7 million, sending two very worthy players to Minneapolis.
Sale essentially led the AL vote from wire-to-wire; an honor he deserved after the first half he posted. In 14 starts covering 95 innings, the lefty is 8-1 with a 2.08 ERA, 2.45 FIP, 0.84 WHIP and 102 strikeouts versus 16 walks. Garrett Richards of the Angels came in second, with Rick Porcello, Corey Kluber and Dallas Keuchel rounding out the AL vote.
While Rizzo got the most votes, he had a much tougher fight in the NL. He had to overcome Justin Morneau late on Thursday, and did so with the help of Cubs fans who have frequent voting in their blood. Like Sale, Rizzo probably shouldn’t have been in this position at all. Even after going 0-6 in the Cubs 6-4, 12-inning win over the Reds on Thursday, he’s hitting .275/.382/.502 with 20 homers and 49 RBI this year; those 20 round-trippers are second-most in the NL, behind only Giancarlo Stanton.
Morneau’s bounce-back season has been a great story all year, and it would have been fun to see him elected to an All-Star Game in Minnesota, but it’s hard to argue with the fans’ selection of Rizzo. Justin Upton finished third with Anthony Rendon in fourth and Casey McGehee fifth.
The additions of Sale and Rizzo weren't the only roster shakeups this week, as injuries took their toll on the All-Star selections. With the Cardinals' Yadier Molina out for 8-12 weeks after tearing a ligament in his thumb, the Brewers' Jonathan Lucroy will get the nod in place of the guy whom the fans voted in to start the game. Lucroy certainly deserves to start after a first half in which he was the best offensive catcher in the game, hitting .323/.396/.506 with nine homers and 44 RBI for first-place Milwaukee. According to Fangraphs’ overall defensive rating, Lucroy ranks as the second-best defensive catcher in the NL trailing only, of course, Molina.
A replacement for Molina on the roster has yet to be named, though it seems Buster Posey is the obvious choice. Miguel Montero could also be an option. Posey has a superior batting average, slugging percentage and OPS, while Montero leads in OBP, homers and RBI.
Masahiro Tanaka's first All-Star Game appearance will have to wait, as his superlative first half ended in disaster with the revelation of a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow. While doctors are not yet recommending surgery, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman did acknowledge that Tommy John surgery is a possibility if it does not get better with rehab. Red Sox closer Koji Uehara has already been named as Tanaka's replacement on the AL All-Star Team, and while Uehara is certainly a deserving All-Star, it’s a little odd that the team wouldn’t replace him with another starter, especially since the Final Vote was all starting pitchers.
For one, Garrett Richards seems like a particularly egregious snub. He came in second in the Final Vote and, like Sale, was deserving of a spot without having to submit to the masses on the Internet. He’s 10-2 with a 2.71 ERA, 2.70 FIP, 1.07 WHIP and 119 strikeouts in 116 1/3 innings, and is a big part of the Angels’ resurgent season.
Even with the bloated rosters and the injury replacements, there are still a handful of players in addition to Richards who are worthy of being in Minneapolis next week but will instead get a brief vacation before the second half.
Among them are Ian Kinsler, who’s hitting .303/.339/.477 with 11 homers in his first season with the Tigers; Rendon, whose .284/.340/.491 slash line wasn’t good enough for inclusion on the NL team; the Reds' Billy Hamilton, who struggled to start the year, but is now slashing .281/.315/.423 with 37 steals; and the surprising Jose Quintana of the White Sox, who was done in by a 5-7 record, but has a 3.24 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 107 strikeouts in 119 1/3 innings this year.