The MLB All-Star game is a popularity contest, though usually one where the most popular players also tend to be the best at their position. This year, though, 14 of the 18 hitting starters who were voted to the team trail their positional backups in OPS. It’s not that the voters really got it wrong on too many counts as far as putting in a completely undeserving candidate, though. None of the hitters in the game are having horrible hitting seasons and coasting solely on reputation. It is more that a great number of young and emerging stars are having fantastic seasons. Well, that, and apparently San Francisco Giants fans have been the best at stuffing the online ballot box to get their starters in ahead of other guys having fantastic seasons.
Robinson Cano at second base (Ian Kinsler) is the only starter clearly ahead of his backup in hitting numbers. Even though he is the presumptive MVP and swept to the lead in All-Star voting, Josh Hamilton is actually neck and neck with the man who will likely replace him in left field next Tuesday, Mark Trumbo of the Angels. Trumbo has the slightly higher OPS+ because he gets some positional adjustment at other positions besides left field, while Hamilton has a slight overall lead in OPS (1.023 to 0.980). Last year’s Rookie of the Year runner up has 20 home runs and 38 extra base hits, compared to 25 and 41 for Hamilton. Of course, Hamilton should have been voted in, but Trumbo is leading the charge of a host of great backups in this All-Star Game.
In the National League, only Joey Votto at 1B, Matt Kemp in CF, and Carlos Beltran in RF have a higher OPS+ than their backups. Votto is the clear choice at first. Kemp has been hurt and is hoping to return for the game next week. Andrew McCutchen has had a fantastic start and could have easily been the choice to start the game at centerfield if Kemp did not return.
The most interesting cases probably involve the two San Francisco starters, Melky Cabrera and Pablo Sandoval, because of who they surpassed in voting. Cabrera barely got in on the voting ahead of Ryan Braun in the outfield, while Sandoval was the leading vote getter at third base ahead of David Wright. You could understand it if either of those two guys were struggling, but they are leading their positions. Ryan Braun, of course, had the offseason controversy with the drug test. Wright, though, is from New York and is a five-time All-Star. On top of that, he’s having his career year, getting on base a whopping 44.7% of the time he comes to the plate. Pablo Sandoval has catchy nicknames, is having a decent season when he has played, but missed 35 games this season.
Did the San Francisco fans stuff the ballot box at the last minute in a concerted push? It’s an odd result to see the guy from the bigger market, with more All-Star game name recognition, and with a better season this year, get beat out. Wright can take solace in the fact that he wasn’t the only one having a great year who will be chewing sunflower seeds from the bench in the first inning next Tuesday. The offenses should still have plenty of power as the game goes into the later innings.
[photo via US Presswire]