Predicting the 10 Biggest National League All-Star Snubs
On Sunday, MLB will announce the rosters for the 2012 All-Star Game. Along with the starting lineups, reserves and pitching staff, we'll also get the five Final Vote candidates for the last spot on each of the American League and National League All-Star squads.
And yet, after the 34 players are selected (well, 33 and the five Final Vote candidates), we will still have several deserving players who won't have been selected for the All-Star teams. The snubs. It's the first thing discussed after the rosters are announced and will be a major topic of discussion on Monday.
Which players will get screwed over in the All-Star selection process? We've chosen 10 that seem likely to be snubbed. Remember that some of these players will end up on the team due to injury. Some pitchers who pitch the Sunday before the All-Star Game will be unavailable and need to be replaced.
However, as CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman reports, commissioner Bud Selig plans on making sure selected players don't skip All-Star festivities because they don't feel well.
One player that I believe would have been snubbed is Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier. But with Matt Kemp's injury, I think Ethier will end up being named to the team.
But that still leaves plenty of guys who will get four undeserved days off during the second week of July. Here are 10 NL players that should be making the trip to Kansas City but won't be.
James McDonald, Pittsburgh Pirates
James McDonald has been one of the top starting pitchers in the NL this season. His 0.98 WHIP and opponents batting average of .200 are among the top five in the league. His 2.44 ERA is one of the NL's 10 lowest.
However, I believe he's going to be snubbed from the All-Star team because several other starting pitchers are having great seasons. And since at least one player from each team has to be on each team, I think Wade Miley will get the Arizona Diamondbacks' one bid.
That will squeeze out McDonald. And the Pirates will already be spoken for, in my opinion, with outfielder Andrew McCutchen and reliever Joel Hanrahan making the team.
Jed Lowrie, Houston Astros
Let's begin by arguing that Jed Lowrie should be the starting shortstop for the NL. That will make his snub even more outrageous.
Lowrie's .839 OPS leads all NL shortstops, 51 percentage points ahead of the Nationals' Ian Desmond.
He also leads his peers with a .340 on-base percentage and .490 slugging percentage. Additionally, his 14 home runs are the most at his position, while his 33 RBI rank third in the NL.
But the Cubs' Starlin Castro will be the NL's reserve shortstop and more second basemen are deserving of an All-Star roster spot.
So unless manager Tony La Russa wants to snub another Astros middle infielder, second baseman Jose Altuve, Lowrie will get squeezed off the roster.
Aaron Hill, Arizona Diamondbacks
Aaron Hill is having a quietly great season at second base, though he's making enough noise that many are beginning to take notice.
Hill leads NL second basemen in OPS at .848. His .293 batting average ranks second, as does his .356 on-base percentage. Hill also leads his position with a .493 slugging percentage, and his home run and RBI totals are among the top three.
But Brandon Phillips and Jose Altuve are more deserving of All-Star roster spots. Besides, the Astros need an All-Star representative, and Altuve will likely be that guy. Not that he doesn't warrant the honor on his own merits.
Ryan Vogelsong, San Francisco Giants
One of the best stories during last year's All-Star selection process was Giants manager Bruce Bochy naming Ryan Vogelsong to the team.
Vogelsong had made it back to the major leagues after a five-year absence that included three seasons in Japan, but he had also spent most of the past decade toiling in the minors. Not only did Vogelsong get back to the majors and help fill a spot in the Giants' rotation, but he pitched well.
If you watched The Franchise on Showtime last year, one of the best moments on the show is when Bochy tells Vogelsong he had made the All-Star team. Years of struggle had finally paid off.
Vogelsong is having another fine season for the Giants. His 2.23 ERA is fifth in the NL. He's pitched 11 consecutive games in which he's allowed three runs or fewer. In seven of those outings, Vogelsong allowed no more than one run.
Yet so many starting pitchers are having great seasons that it's difficult to see where Vogelsong would fit on the All-Star roster. And with Buster Posey, Melky Cabrera and Matt Cain sure to make the team, Vogelsong wouldn't get on the team just because one San Francisco Giants player has to be invited.
Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants
After pitching a one-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday, Madison Bumgarner looked like one of the best pitchers in the National League.
And he is one of the best. Bumgarner's name is among the league leaders in every pitching category.
He's one of five NL pitchers with at least 10 wins this season. His 2.85 ERA ranks among the top 20 in the league. (The fact that there are 15 pitchers with better ERAs should tell you how great the pitching has been in the NL this year.) Only two other NL pitchers have thrown more than his 110.2 innings.
But as we said with Vogelsong, the field of NL pitchers is so crowded this year that several deserving players are going to be snubbed.
Unfortunately for Bumgarner and Giants fans, he's likely to be one of them unless a spot opens up because of injury or pitching schedule.
Chris Capuano, Los Angeles Dodgers
Clayton Kershaw is the ace of the Los Angeles Dodgers' pitching staff, but he hasn't been the team's best pitcher this season. That's been Chris Capuano, who leads Dodgers starters with nine wins and a 2.69 ERA.
Capuano is also second on the team with 89 strikeouts, fourth with a 1.10 WHIP and sixth with an opponents batting average of .219.
Capuano has been an All-Star before, making the 2006 NL squad with the Milwaukee Brewers. It would be great to see him make another All-Star team this season. He's definitely deserving of the honor.
Unfortunately, it's just the wrong year for him. Too many of his fellow NL starting pitchers are ahead of him in line.
Omar Infante, Miami Marlins
The Miami Marlins may be the most disappointing team in baseball, as they were expected to be playoff contenders in the NL East this season. A lackluster offense is the primary reason the Marlins have failed to meet those expectations.
But Omar Infante has been one of the team's best hitters all year. Until Giancarlo Stanton broke out of his early-season slump, Infante was the Marlins' top run producer.
Among NL second basemen, Infante was also one of the top hitters earlier in the season. But other players, such as Aaron Hill, have since surpassed him in most offensive categories. His .288 batting average ranks third at the position and his seven homers are the fourth-best total.
If Tony La Russa had to name one Marlin to the NL All-Star team, Infante might be the guy. But Stanton will take care of that requirement this season.
Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds
It would be fun to watch Aroldis Chapman come into the All-Star Game during later innings and show off his rocket left arm to a national TV audience. A pitcher who can fire the ball at 100 mph is one of the most compelling things to see in baseball.
Chapman has been one of the NL's best closers since Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker began using him in the ninth inning after trying the ol' bullpen-by-committee approach.
And with 64 strikeouts in 36.1 innings (averaging almost 16 strikeouts per nine innings), NL batters have rarely been able to touch his stuff.
But has Chapman been closing long enough to warrant an All-Star selection? His nine saves rank far below other relievers such as Craig Kimbrel and Santiago Casilla, who have been closing out games for most of the season.
Maybe that's an unfair way of looking at it. Chapman was an excellent setup man before being moved to the ninth inning. But only so many relievers can be named to the All-Star team and several others are more deserving this year than Chapman.
Lance Lynn, St. Louis Cardinals
I don't know what exactly the St. Louis Cardinals expected from Lance Lynn when they put him in their starting rotation to replace the injured Chris Carpenter. But a 10-3 record, 3.23 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 92 innings has to have exceeded their projections.
Lynn is one of five NL pitchers with at least 10 wins, and his 92 strikeouts put him in the top 10 of the league. But he's fallen off a bit in recent weeks, allowing 11 total runs in his past two starts. He's also not striking out nearly as many batters as he was earlier in the season.
It's still possible that La Russa will name one of "his guys" that helped him win the World Series last year to the All-Star team as a demonstration of gratitude. But in doing so, he would be snubbing a pitcher that deserves to be on the team more.
Tyler Clippard, Washington Nationals
Tyler Clippard made the NL All-Star team last year as the Nationals' lone representative. His performance this year warrants another invitation, but he'll likely lose out in a numbers crunch.
Clippard was an All-Star as a setup reliever last year. He struggled earlier in the season but smoothed out his game just in time to give Nats manager Davey Johnson another option to replace the wild Henry Rodriguez as the team's closer.
Since taking over the ninth-inning role, Clippard has converted 13-of-14 save opportunities. With the same number of chances as Craig Kimbrel or Frank Francisco, Clippard would surely be among the league leaders in saves.
While it's unfair to penalize Clippard for that, other closers who have been doing the job all season are more deserving of All-Star honors.
I could be wrong, of course. Of all the snubs mentioned on this list, Clippard might have the best chance of being named to the NL All-Star team. I would argue that only two closers—Kimbrel and Santiago Casilla—are locks to be on the roster.
Predictions for the 2012 NL All-Star Roster
Just so everyone sees where I'm coming from when predicting who will be snubbed from the NL All-Star team, I figured I would list my predicted roster here.
Someone will have to fill the designated hitter spot, of course, but any of the reserves can be picked for that. I'm guessing it will be the Giants' Melky Cabrera or Brewers' Ryan Braun, depending on who wins the vote for the NL's third outfielder.
And as I mentioned in the introduction, I believe Andre Ethier will replace the injured Matt Kemp on the roster, filling both an outfield position and the Dodgers' required spot on the team.
Please offer your suggestions in the comments. I'm curious to see where you think I got it wrong and who you think are the most deserving All-Stars. Remember, the team is made up of 34 players and each NL team has to be represented.
We'll find out how close we were on Sunday afternoon.