The MLB All-Star Game dates back to 1933, but it may be the most arguing-on-the-Internet-conducive event on the baseball calendar. With 64 players selected from 30 teams, there are nearly endless possible combinations. It’s nearly impossible for two people to choose rosters that are exactly the same.
Essentially, who is and is not an All-Star is just the amalgamation of a select group of opinions. There is no right answer. Being who we are as an argumentative species, that doesn’t stop us from getting Online Mad about who got left behind.
What follows is one idiot’s extremely stupid, wrong opinion. It is absolutely, indisputably correct. I won’t dispute the starters, who were selected by fan vote a while ago, but it’s open season on the pitchers and reserves. If, for some reason, you’re interested in seeing my full roster picks on a spreadsheet, you’re in luck!
I have no problem with anyone who made this roster at the catcher position. In particular, the NL roster perfectly matches my own. Grandal and Realmuto are clearly the two best catchers in the league. Realmuto is especially noteworthy, given how much he’s improved his defense, even if he’s having a down year offensively (for him, anyway).
The biggest surprise was that the AL squad only has two catchers. I count no less than seven worthwhile players at the position, including Sánchez, Pérez, Vázquez, McCann, Robinson Chirinos, Mitch Garver, and Omar Narváez. Using only two backstops is an odd choice even when the position is light, but this year it’s stacked. I chose Pérez and Vázquez because of their above average offensive production, combined with their always stellar defense. No issues with McCann, who is slashing .320/.378/.519, but ranks 84th out of 95 catchers on Baseball Prospectus’ catcher defense leaderboard.
First Base/Designated Hitter
Snubs: none, but...
The actual rosters include all of the 1B/DH I deem worthy and then some. My roster leaves off Abreu and Martinez, though. Martinez’ 131 wRC+ is fantastic, but it’s nowhere near his 167 and 170 marks from the past two years. In other words, he’s not hitting quite far enough ahead of the pack for me to pick him over a real infielder or outfielder (or catcher!).
Abreu doesn’t really make sense at all. His .304 on base percentage drags his overall offense down near league average. Besides, the White Sox are already represented with McCann. I’d rather have seen his spot go to Luke Voit, if they insist on another first baseman. Vogelbach is a necessity as the lone Mariner.
Once again, the NL has much easier decisions than the AL. Freeman, Bell, and Alonso are significantly above the rest of the NL first basemen, with apologies to Anthony Rizzo and Rhys Hoskins.
Starters: Yankees DJ LeMahieu and Diamondbacks Ketel Marte
Snubs: Dodgers Max Muncy
Here we’ve come to the most egregious omission. By fWAR, Muncy is the sixth best player in the NL. By WARP, he’s ninth best. He plays three positions with regularity, is arguably the second most important player on the best team in baseball, and delivered the best quote of the year. While Moustakas is enjoying a fine season, by no means is he better than Muncy.
While I didn’t have Gleyber Torres on my own roster, he probably would’ve been the next guy if I had a free spot. He’s having a better year than Merrifield, but the Royals need a representative. La Stella is a nice breakout story, but there are no statistical categories in which he exceeds Torres, be they traditional or advanced, offensive and defensive.
Snubs: Marlins Brian Anderson (sort of)
Third base is absolutely loaded this year. Bregman, Arenado, Chapman, Bryant, and Rendon are five of the best fifteenish players in baseball. All are more than deserving; it’s a shame only two of them can start! There are a handful of other third baseman who could be considered as well, such as Rafael Devers, Manny Machado, and Justin Turner, but there’s just no room on the team.
I listed Anderson as an All-Star on my team, even though he’s nowhere near as good as other players on the roster. We have to get a Marlin on here somehow though, and I believe he’s been their best player. Leaving him off hurts the pitching staff, as we’ll get into below.
Starters: Twins Jorge Polanco and Cubs Javy Báez
Reserves: Indians Francisco Lindor, Cardinals Paul DeJong, and Rockies Trevor Story
Snubs: Red Sox Xander Bogaerts and Athletics Marcus Semien
Again, the NL hits the nail on the head, while the AL makes a mess. Story is having a typically excellent season. DeJong has increased his walks and home runs, reduced his strikeouts, and improved his defense. He’s also the only deserving player from the Cardinals, which seems weird but here we are.
Lindor is a wonderful player who ought to be the face of the sport. That being said, this is not his year. He missed the first three weeks of the season, and other players have frankly just been better. Bogaerts’ 140 wRC+ is tops at the position, as is his 3.7 fWAR. Semien’s 117 DRC+ is better than Lindor’s, and his 6.6 UZR makes him the best defensive shortstop in baseball this year. We may as well mention Gleyber Torres here again, as he’s been better than Lindor as well. Certainly, any of these players should have precedence over Tommy La Stella.
Starters: Astros Michael Brantley, Astros George Springer, Angles Mike Trout, Braves Ronald Acuña, Dodgers Cody Bellinger, and Brewers Christian Yelich
Reserves: Red Sox Mookie Betts, Rangers Joey Gallo, Rays Austin Meadows, Rockies David Dahl, Rockies Charlie Blackmon
Snubs: Twins Max Kepler, Dodgers Alex Verdugo, and Orioles Trey Mancini (sort of)
My only major argument here will be in favor of Max Kepler. His power has really exploded this year (even moreso than everyone else’s). With 2.7 fWAR, the only AL outfielder who has been more valuable is Trout. Same goes for his 131 DRC+. He absolutely belongs on this roster more than Meadows, and certainly more than José Abreu or J.D. Martinez.
While I would have selected Verdugo ahead of the two Rockies, it’s not a strong conviction. All three are pretty comparable. I also picked Mancini for my own team as the Orioles representative. Given that they might lose 120 games, it’s hard to find anyone having a good season whatsoever. I’ll discuss this more in the next section.
AL Starting Pitchers
Snubs: Tigers Matt Boyd, Rangers Lance Lynn, and Red Sox Chris Sale
The two best pitchers in the AL are absent from the roster. Baseball Prospectus loves Chris Sale, as he leads the league in WARP (3.8), DRA (2.32), and DRA- (48). He’s second in the league in strikeout rate (35.5 percent) and FIP- (65).
By some measures, Lance Lynn has been even better. With 3.8 fWAR, he is nearly a full win better than any other AL pitcher (Chris Sale is second with 3.0). He also leads the league with a 61 FIP-. There’s no decent excuse for excluding either of them.
Leaving off Matt Boyd is nearly as egregious. While he’s comparable to some of the other All-Stars, he also makes the most sense to represent the Tigers, which we’ll discuss in greater detail under the relievers.
Stroman and Means are here just to represent their teams. Stroman is having a solid season, but his underlying metrics are more average than his 3.18 ERA suggests. Means is even more a product of luck. It’s no surprise that he and his sparkly 2.50 ERA are heading to Cleveland for the All-Star Game, but his 5.11 xFIP is pretty ugly. There are 14 pitchers with better xFIP just on the Orioles! One of them is Chris Davis! I know I’m in the minority, but I’d rather see Trey Mancini on the roster.
NL Starting Pitchers
All-Stars: Marlins Sandy Alcantara, Dodgers Walker Buehler, Reds Luis Castillo, Mets Jacob deGrom, Diamondbacks Zack Greinke, Dodgers Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers Hyun-Jin Ryu, Nationals Max Scherzer, and Braves Mike Soroka
Snubs: Rockies German Márquez and Nationals Stephen Strasburg
The three pitchers I left off my roster were Kershaw, Soroka, and Alcantara. You could easily make a compelling case for the first two, but I believe we have to look past ERA. Soroka’s 2.13 is second in the NL, while Kershaw’s 3.23 is very good. Márquez’s 4.29 and Strasburg’s 3.88 are kind of ugly. But with DRAs of 2.81 and 2.09, they have been among the top five pitchers in the league.
Alcantara’s 15.9 strikeout percentage is the second lowest in the NL among qualified starters. Relievers Josh Hader and Josh James both have more striekouts than him with less than half as many innings! It’s a stretch to call him even an average starter, let alone an All-Star. The Marlins have to send someone though, so I guess that’s why he gets the nod. Still, I’d have rather used Brian Anderson and saved a pitcher spot for a more deserving player.
Snubs: Blue Jays Ken Giles, Athletics Liam Hendricks, and Pirates Felipe Vázquez
Given the volatility of relievers and the uncertainty with which we evaluate them, these selections are fairly decent. The NL squad opted to go with only three relievers, leaving out Vazquez. I would’ve given Alcantara’s spot to him by squeezing Anderson onto the bench. Hader is the best reliever in the world right now, while Smith and Yates are the easy choices as worthy All-Stars and sole franchise reps.
Giles’ omission makes no sense at all. He leads qualified AL relievers in strikeout rate (44.1 percent), FIP (1.00), and SIERA (1.96). It’s only logical to let him represent the Blue Jays instead of Stroman, leaving a starter spot for Boyd instead of Greene. Speaking of, I don’t mind Greene so much, but I believe there’s more smoke-and-mirrors behind his 0.87 ERA than Hendricks’ 1.03. We’re splitting hairs at that point anyway.
Daniel R. Epstein is an elementary special education teacher and president of the Somerset County Education Association. In addition to BtBS, he writes at www.OffTheBenchBaseball.com. Tweets @depstein1983