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Five reasons to watch the MLB All-Star Game this year

The rosters have been announced and there are a couple of days to go until the MLB All-Star Game. It’s a platform for baseball’s brightest stars to shine in one place, but for many, it’s also a contrived cash-grab by the league. If you fall into the latter camp, here are five reasons to get hyped about the Midsummer Classic.

5. This time it doesn’t count!

Since the All-Star Game began determining home-field advantage for the World Series back in 2003, critics have been outspoken against the experiment. This year they got what they wanted and instead of winning home-field advantage players will now share a pool of money – a little incentive for players whose teams have little chance of reaching the postseason, let alone the World Series.

4. Pageantry for pageantry’s sake

It never gets old to me, all the pomp and circumstance around the Midsummer Classic. Every year I park myself in front of the TV an hour before game time to watch a seemingly endless parade of player introductions, salutes to troops, F-16 Flyovers, bald eagle releases, a flag as big as the stadium itself and dozens of ceremonial “first” pitches. I know it’s all just window dressing, but it adds so much spectacle to the whole thing.

3. More than a game

Sure, the game itself is the main event every year, but let’s not forget about the Home Run Derby and the Legends & Celebrities Game. The Derby is mindless fun at its best. Hours and hours of players spraying sunflower seeds all over each other as the game’s best power hitters mash tater after tater. My favorite part is listening to the broadcasters strain to find new ways of describing home runs as the derby reaches its later stages. The Legends & Celebrities Game is super-underrated in my opinion. Where else can you watch Ozzie Smith, Spike Lee and Billy Crystal turn a 6-4-3 double play?

2. Express yourself!

It’s no secret that baseball’s unwritten rules of how to “play the game the right way” can lead to a stuffy on-field product. In the All-Star Game though, these rules tend to get relaxed a bit, giving the players more room to be themselves. Expect bat-flips, trash-talking and over the top reactions to be the rule, rather than the exception.

1. Baseball’s new crop of stars

These aren’t the same old All-Stars. Gone are the Big Papi’s, Carlos Beltran’s and Miguel Cabrera’s of the world. They’ve been replaced by exciting young stars making their first All-Star appearances like Aaron Judge and Carlos Correa. Even guys like Mike Trout and Bryce Harper who seem like old news at this point are still in the early stages of their career. For many viewers, this will be their first exposure to players outside their media market, and even with the interleague play happening on a continuous basis, many of the matchups we get to see in an All-Star Game usually only happen in fantasy baseball.

Will you be watching? What’s your favorite part of the All-Star Break?

Brett Miller
Baseline Times MLB Contributor

AL All-Star Selections: Are They Deserving?

On Sunday, July 2nd, the MLB revealed the end results of the 2017 All-Star Game fan voting, as well as player and manager selections. A quick look at both the AL and NL rosters looks as though the fans voted in most of the players deserving to start in the game, minus a couple of spots. Of course, there were some very good players left off of the rosters and not even considered for the final vote.

What I would like to do is take a look at both the AL and NL All-Star rosters to see how they could have been improved. I will start with the American League.

AL All-Star Game Starters

Catcher Fan Vote Winner:

Salvador Perez – 74 G, 293 PA, 16 HR, .290/.318/.525 117 wRC+, 1.7 fWAR

Catcher Better Choice:

Alex Avila  – 58 G, 204 PA, 11 HR, .310/.431/.571 167 wRC+, 2.4 fWAR

Perez has the advantage in games played, home runs hit, and overall defensive value, but is back a whopping 50 points in wRC+ and more than half a win in overall value. Avila did not make the team as a reserve nor is on the final fan vote.

First Base Fan Vote Winner:

Justin Smoak – 80 G, 303 PA, 22 HR, .303/.370/.594, 151 wRC+,  2.1 fWAR

First Base Better Choice:

Logan Morrison – 80 G, 325 PA, 24 HR, .256/.366/.579, 146 wRC+,  2.8 fWAR

Justin Smoak is having an admittedly fantastic season. This has been by far the best of his career. But to see Logan Morrison, a man with a 0.7 leading AL 1B in fWAR not only not starting, not as a reserve, but as one of the Final Vote players? It doesn’t seem quite right. In all reality, the gap is not that huge, and both players are hitting equally well (151 wRC+ for Smoak to 146 for Morrison). I do not have Morrison here because he is much better than Smoak, but merely because they are both deserving of making the team.

Second Base Fan Vote Winner:

Jose Altuve – 81 G, 353 PA, 11 HR, .326/.398/.519, 147 wRC+, 3.5 fWAR

Second Base Better Choice:

None. Altuve is clearly the best 2B in the AL by a country mile. He holds the fWAR lead over the next closest 2B, Robinson Cano and Jed Lowrie, by a full win and a half at 3.5 to 2.0.

Third Base Fan Vote Winner:

Jose Ramirez – 80 G, 335 PA, 15 HR, .325/.379/.584, 151 wRC+, 3.4 fWAR

Third Base Better Choice:

None. Just like Altuve at 2B, Ramirez is dominating the hot corner in the AL. Ramirez has a full win lead over All-Star reserve Miguel Sano, and almost two wins over Final Vote candidate Mike Moustakas.

Shortstop Fan Vote Winner:

Carlos Correa – 76 G, 340 PA, 17 HR, .319/.394/.554, 153 wRC+, 3.5 fWAR

Shortstop Better Choice:

None. Although All-Star reserve Xander Bogaerts is having a very good season, Correa is better in every way this season outside of a slight edge to Bogaerts in fielding. Andrelton Simmons and Didi Gregorius have been arguably the best fielding shortstops in the AL, but don’t have the offensive numbers to compete with Correa.

Outfield Fan Vote Winners:

Aaron Judge – 78 G, 339 PA, 27 HR, .327/.448/.687, 196 wRC+, 5.1 fWAR

Mike Trout – 47 G, 206 PA, 16 HR, .337/.461/.742, 208 wRC+, 3.3 fWAR

George Springer – 77 G, 349 PA, 24 HR, .287/.363/.577, 150 wRC+, 3.3 fWAR

Better Outfield Choices:

If Mike Trout were healthy and could play the All-Star Game in Miami, then I would say the fans nailed the AL outfield. Even with Trout’s injury, the next starter I would have up on the roster would be Mookie Betts, who is already an All-Star reserve.

Designated Hitter Fan Vote:

Corey Dickerson – 79 G, 17 HR, .321/.363/.562, 146 wRC+, 2.8 fWAR

Better Designated Hitter Choice:

None. Once again the fans made a great choice here, with Dickerson as the standout DH in the AL this season.

AL All-Star Game Position Player Reserves

Up next we have the All-Star game reserve players. These are players chosen by either the player vote or the manager vote.

Mookie Betts – 79 G, 365 PA, 15 HR, .286/.364/.509, 125 wRC+, 3.4 fWAR

  • As mentioned above, Betts should be the one to take Trout’s outfield spot. This is a well deserved pick.

Michael Brantley – 60 G, 252 PA, 5 HR, .303/.365/.434, 114 wRC+, 1.0 fWAR

  • It is a big wonder why Brantley is on the All-Star team rather than some others. So many others could be in this spot instead without as much question as to why, such as Lorenzo Cain, Brett Gardner, Jackie Bradley Jr., Steven Souza Jr., J.D. Martinez, or even his own teammate Lonnie Chisenhall.

Avisail Garcia – 75 G, 309 PA, 11 HR, .318/.362/.512, 131 wRC+, 21 fWAR

  • Garcia has been one of the lone bright spots for the Chicago White Sox. Although he’s the lone White Sock representative, which is required, he’s earned the spot as one of the AL’s top OF.

Gary Sanchez – 51 G, 13 HR, .289/.378/.526, 142 wRC+, 1.9 fWAR

  • Sanchez, much like Alex Avila, may be hurt from having missed playing time compared to Salvador Perez. However both have been more valuable in fewer games played, and Sanchez definitely deserves the roster spot.

Yonder Alonzo – 72 G, 268 PA, 17 HR, .280/.377/.566, 148 wRC+, 2.0 fWAR

  • In a year filled with former big time prospects finally fulfilling their potential years after their debuts (Smoak, Morrsion, Hicks), Alonzo is among the league’s better hitters. There is an argument to be made to put him up in the conversation to start with Morrison and Smoak, it just shows that all three men are worthy of a spot.

Jonathan Schoop – 79 G, 322 PA, 16 HR, .293/.348/.538, 130 wRC+, 1.9 fWAR

  • Schoop is having a wonderful year at 2B for the Baltimore Orioles, putting up the offensive numbers of an All-Star caliber player. Couple that with the fact that the Orioles don’t have much else in the way of All-Star level performance this year, and Schoop is a lock.

Starlin Castro – 73 G, 313 PA, 12 HR, .313/.348/.486, 121 wRC+, 1.7 fWAR

  • Castro is one of five Yankees to make the All-Star team, six if Gregorius wins the Final Vote. I see no problem with this due to the lack of production at 2B this season compared to last. Robinson Cano could be here in his place, but they are pretty even at this point.

Francisco Lindor – 79 G, 357 PA, 14 HR, .248/.309/.457, 98 wRC+, 1.8 fWAR

  • Although Lindor is having a very nice season overall, his offense has taken a large step backwards. He may have sold out for power this season, sitting only one HR back of his career high of 15 last season, with a plummeting batting average more than .050 points below his 2015 total and his OBP nearly .040 points below. His defense is a huge reason why he made the team, but if you wanted a great fielding SS who has hit better this year you could go with Andrelton Simmons.

Miguel Sano – 75 G, 315 PA, 20 HR, .272/.371/.548, 139 wRC+, 2.4 fWAR

  • Sano is easily the second best 3B in the AL, and there is no way he wouldn’t deserve this spot. Easy choice.

Nelson Cruz – 78 G, 319 PA, 14 HR, .287/.370/.502, 134 wRC+, 1.3 fWAR

  • Cruz is likely the second best DH in the league, though very far behind Corey Dickerson so far. He is also the only Mariner to make the All-Star team. If Robinson Cano was not to make the team, it makes Cruz necessary to the team to give the Mariners their required player on the team. Although Cruz isn’t putting up the monster power numbers of the last few seasons, he’s still all-star worthy in his own right.

AL All-Star Pitchers

Chris Sale – 11-3, 120.2 IP, 2.61 ERA, 2.01 FIP, 5.1 fWAR

  • Sale is the best pitcher in the MLB in 2017, and should rightfully be starting in Miami.

Ervin Santana – 10-5, 111.1 IP, 3.07 ERA, 4.71 FIP, 1.1 fWAR

  • Santana has the widest gap in the AL between ERA and FIP, which is a Grand Canyon-wide -1.64 difference. However this is the All-Star game we are talking about, and he does have a 10-5 record and low 3.00 ERA. Still, with Sano on the roster, the AL could get rid of Santana and add someone much more deserving such as Chris Archer, who is oddly absent from this team.

Jason Vargas – 12-3, 101.1 IP, 2.22 ERA, 3.48 FIP, 2.3 fWAR

  • Vargas is not only the qualified ERA leader in the AL, but leads in wins as well. Like Santana, his gap between ERA and FIP is quite large, but he’s been so much better in both categories that even with some regression Vargas would like quite good this season.

Corey Kluber – 7-2, 80.1 IP , 3.02 ERA, 2.61 FIP, 2.7 fWAR

  • Kluber has yet to catch up enough in innings pitched to qualify for the leader-boards, but with minimum 80 innings Kluber is second in the AL in FIP, fourth in ERA, and second in K/9. Kluber is a stud and deserves to be there.

Andrew Miller – 3-2, 2 S, 42.1 IP, 1.49 ERA, 1.61 FIP, 1.8 fWAR

  • Miller has been one of the top relief pitchers in baseball for the last few years, and nothing has changed in 2017. He isn’t the closer in Cleveland, but he’s still one of the few most valuable relievers in not only the AL, but all of the MLB.

Craig Kimbrel – 2-0, 23 S, 35.2 IP, 1.01 ERA, 0.42 FIP, 2.4 fWAR

  • Not only is Kimbrel objectively the best relief pitcher in the AL, but likely in all of the MLB with apologies to Kenley Jansen.

Dallas Keuchel – 9-0, 75.2 IP, 1.67 ERA, 3.10 FIP, 1.9 fWAR

  • Keuchel is much like Kluber in that he’s missed a decent chunk of the season due to injury, but in the time he’s actually pitched he’s been excellent. Minimum 70 IP he leads baseball in ERA and he’s yet to be defeated this season.

Luis Severino – 5-4, 99.2 IP, 3.52 ERA, 3.13 FIP, 2.8 fWAR

  • Although his record does not show it, Severino has been one of the better starting pitchers in the AL in 2017. His 3.52 ERA is a little misleading with his FIP being a good deal lower at 3.13, and is a great addition to the roster.

Yu Darvish – 6-6, 107 IP, 3.11 ERA, 3.75 FIP, 2.0 fWAR

  • Darvish is the only Texas representative as of this moment with Elvis Andrus in the Final Vote, but is a deserving member of the roster with only one other pitcher I think may deserve it more (Archer).

Michael Fulmer – 7-6, 101.2 IP, 3.19 ERA, 2.95 FIP, 3.1 fWAR

  • Fulmer won the 2016 AL Rookie of the Year award last season with a 3.06 ERA, 3.76 FIP, and 3.0 fWAR. This season in 57 less innings Fulmer has around the same ERA, three-quarters of a point better FIP and the same fWAR value. He is near the top of the league in value to this point.

Lance McCullers Jr. – 7-1, 87 IP, 2.69 ERA, 2.71 FIP, 2.6 fWAR

  • McCullers falls into the Kluber and Keuchel group of pitchers who have missed time due to injury, but have been excellent while playing. He is a dominating presence on the mound, and a huge addition to the AL All-Star team.

Dellin Betances – 3-3, 6 S, 26 IP, 3.12 ERA, 2.60 FIP, 0.7 fWAR

  • Betances is having an incredibly interesting season, leading the MLB in both K/9 at 16.62 and BB/9 at 7.27. He’s still been good despite the walks, but someone like Chris Devenski of the Houston Astros would be a great replacement on the team.

My AL All-Star Replacements:

  • Alex Avila, remove Salvador Perez.
  • Lorenzo Cain, remove Mike Trout due to injury.
  • Andrelton Simmons, remove Francisco Lindor.
  • Chris Archer, remove Ervin Santana.
  • Chris Devenski, remove Dellin Betances.
  • Hope that the fans vote in Logan Morrison. If they don’t, remove whoever wins the Final Vote and add Logan Morrison.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the team does look pretty great, and there are really only a two snubs that seem like real oversights. Alex Avila and Chris Archer should absolutely be on this team somewhere. They have been too impressive not to be. Otherwise the AL All-Star team is quite impressively built.