For those who believe that the All-Star Game should have the best players starting at each position, voting is best done as close to the deadline (midnight on July 2) as possible. However, in light of the #VoteRoyals campaign that has seven Kansas City players leading their positions in the American League (and has two others—both wholly undeserving, as even Royals fans will admit—in runner-up positions), I felt compelled to weigh in on the AL races. Having done that, I wanted to check on the National League results, which were released on Tuesday afternoon.
As in the AL, there is some homerism at work here. Both the Cardinals and Giants have been very good at getting out the vote for their team, with St. Louis landing a player in the top three at every position and occupying four of the eight starting spots. San Francisco, meanwhile, has a player in the top five at each position except for third base, where its player listed on the ballot, Casey McGehee, was dropped from the team's roster in late May, only to be called back up at the end of last week.
However, unlike in the AL, those team-based efforts have not radically skewed the positional races in the NL. One can (and I will) argue that none of the four Cardinals currently occupying a starting spot deserve to be there. But with the exception of third base, which offers a deep field that could be splitting the more objective votes, the deserving players are well within reach of the top vote total.
The most interesting thing about the voting is just how many close, compelling races there are for the starting spots. That speaks to my belief that voting should be done as close to the deadline as possible, but for the sake of argument, let’s take a look at how each race shapes up with three weeks left until the polls close.
1. Yadier Molina, Cardinals (2,639,744 votes)
Season Stats: .275/.324/.326, 0 HR, 20 RBIs, 79 OPS+, 0.3 bWAR
2. Buster Posey, Giants (2,634,846)
Season Stats: .293/.365/.459, 9 HR, 31 RBIs, 133 OPS+, 2.5 bWAR
Vote for: Posey
I don’t care how much you value what Molina does behind the plate—he’s not so much better back there than Posey (who caught a no-hitter for the third time in his career Tuesday night) that he can overcome the obvious deficit in his hitting. This vote is effectively tied, but it should be Posey in a landslide, and you could easily argue that the Padres’ Derek Norris (.271/.316/.449, 6 HR, 36 RBI, 116 OPS+, 1.8 bWAR), and not Molina, deserves to be that distant runner-up.
Vote for: Goldschmidt
Goldschmidt passed Gonzalez since the last update a week ago, as well he should have. This shouldn’t be close at this point, and the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo (.327/.446/.599, 11 HR, 35 RBIs, 10 SB, 187 OPS+, 3.1 bWAR) should be the runner-up.
2. Kolten Wong, Cardinals (2,113,069)
Season Stats: .303/.356/.468, 7 HR, 27 RBIs, 123 OPS+, 2.1 bWAR
3. Joe Panik, Giants (1,159,514)
Season Stats: .318/.384/.469, 5 HR, 23 RBIs, 142 OPS+, 2.0 bWAR
Vote for: Gordon
This is an extremely compelling race, and it’s not just these three. The Rockies’ DJ LeMahieu—who is one of the best defensive second basemen in baseball, if not the best—is hitting .350/.401/.450 (121 OPS+, 1.6 bWAR), including a strong .322/.371/.400 line outside of Denver. LeMahieu, however, didn’t crack the top five in the latest voting tallies.
The offensive stats above would seem to favor Panik, but he’s the least proficient fielder of the quartet. As a result, Baseball-Reference’s Wins Above Replacement still favor Gordon, but the Marlins' second baseman, who was an All-Star reserve last year based on a hot first half, has hit just .265/.286/.284 over 105 plate appearances since mid-May. There’s no telling how far he’ll sink in the next three weeks before the balloting closes.
This race is an excellent example of why fans should wait as long as possible to submit their ballots. Given that there’s no obvious choice here due to the limited track records of all four players, of whom the 27-year-old Gordon is the oldest, fans need as large a sample as possible to determine the most deserving player. For now, the choice should be Gordon.
1. Jhonny Peralta, Cardinals (2,441,384)
Season Stats: .315/.374/.525, 10 HR, 35 RBIs, 143 OPS+, 2.5 bWAR
2. Brandon Crawford, Giants (1,821,037)
Season Stats: .289/.359/.488, 8 HR, 38 RBIs, 138 OPS+, 2.7 bWAR
Vote for: Crawford
The raw hitting numbers suggest Peralta is a deserving leader. However, as OPS+ and bWAR show, this is much closer than it initially appears due to park adjustments and defensive evaluations, both of which favor Crawford. This is another race that would benefit from a longer look from the voters. As it stands, bWAR favors Crawford, but I’m not sure there’s a wrong answer between these two, both of whom are benefiting from a down year from the still-healthy Troy Tulowitzki. I'll give the slight edge to Crawford.
1. Matt Carpenter, Cardinals (3,140,056)
Season Stats: .294/.385/.510, 8 HR, 30 RBIs, 143 OPS+, 1.7 bWAR
2. Kris Bryant, Cubs (1,513,913)
Season Stats: .282/.392/.469, 7 HR, 34 RBIs, 5 SB, 138 OPS+, 1.6 bWAR
4. Nolan Arenado, Rockies (990,812)
Season Stats: .280/.314/.569, 15 HR, 47 RBIs, 123 OPS+, 2.8 bWAR
Vote for: Frazier
This is the right top four, but not in the correct order. Unfortunately, Carpenter, who had a great April but has struggled since (.228/.341/.395 since May 2), has a huge lead on the field. Based only on his offensive statistics and team, one might think fourth-place Arenado could be quickly eliminated, but he’s one of the best fielders in baseball and is hitting .301/.345/.650 on the road this season, with 10 of his home runs coming outside of Denver. The flip side is that he’s been fairly lousy at the plate in one of the majors' most hitting-friendly parks, his late game-tying home run to help the Rockies beat the Cardinals Tuesday night notwithstanding. Bryant, who is the weakest fielder of the bunch, trails the rest in slugging and should have plenty more opportunities to start future All-Star Games on his merits. He is comparatively easy to eliminate from the top spot.
From the rest, give me Frazier, who is out-hitting Carpenter by a ton and bests Arenado, with whom he is tied in bWAR, in all three slash stats. Again, the extra three weeks could provide valuable clarity here.
2. Matt Holliday, Cardinals (2,693,412)
Season Stats: .303/.417/.416, 3 HR, 25 RBIs, 131 OPS+, 1.0 bWAR
3. Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins (1,743,271)
Season Stats: .245/.332/.586, 21 HR, 51 RBIs, 147 OPS+, 2.8 bWAR
Vote for: Harper, Stanton and Diamondbacks' A.J. Pollock
Harper is deservedly leading the league in votes, and Stanton, who passed him for the major league lead in home runs with a pair against the Blue Jays on Tuesday night, is a solid inclusion as well. But Holliday, despite his impressive feat of reaching base in each of his first 45 games this season and in 50 of 52 on the year, doesn’t belong. That he was placed on the disabled list on Tuesday due to a right quadriceps strain he suffered Monday should help slow his support.
In his place, the NL has multiple compelling options, including perennial All-Star and MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen (.286/.369/.495, 8 HR, 37 RBIs, 136 OPS+, 1.5 bWAR) of the Pirates, who is fifth in the voting and has been red-hot for the last month after a disappointing April. There's also San Diego's Justin Upton (.295/.365/.500, 12 HR, 38 RBIs, 12 SB, 144 OPS+, 2.1 bWAR), who is sixth in the voting and leads the majors in stolen bases among players who haven’t been caught stealing.
Further back is Dodgers rookie Joc Pederson (.253/.377/.566, 17 HR, 33 RBIs, 160 OPS+, 2.2 bWAR), who is 11th in the voting but second to only Harper among qualified NL outfielders in OPS and OPS+, and Diamondbacks centerfielder A.J. Pollock, whose impressive numbers thus far (.320/.367/.493, 7 HR, 27 RBIs, 14 SB, 132 OPS+, 3.2 bWAR) are a near-exact match for his injury-shortened breakout performance last year.
Combine hitting, base running, and fielding, and Pollock is arguably the most deserving of that quartet, so he gets my nod. However, I’d be hard pressed to complain about any player mentioned above joining Harper and Stanton in the NL’s outstanding outfield. The problem is that none of them has even half as many votes as Holliday to this point, though if his injury lingers, he could be replaced in the lineup without the help of the electorate.