PIttsburgh Pirate fans received a bit of a shock today when staff ace James McDonald was left off the All-Star roster.
McDonald has been a dominant pitcher for the Bucs all season, sporting a 2.44 ERA and 2.96 FIP through 15 starts. His start to the season has been so strong that I called for him to start the All-Star Game four days ago.
Instead, it looks like McDonald will be watching the All-Star Game at home (barring injuries or withdrawals from the game, of course) with the likes of Zack Greinke and Albert Pujols. All despite the fact that there are several players on the roster who are clearly less deserving of playing in the game than McDonald is.
Note: None of the players listed is the only representative from his team, as MLB mandates that each team send one player to the game. If those players were included, this list would be even longer.
Let's nip the homer accusations in the bud immediately. McDonald clearly deserves to appear in the All-Star Game more than his celebrated teammate.
Hanrahan has the good superficial stats that a closer is supposed to rack up—20 saves and a 2.10 ERA—but he has been very lucky over the first half of the season, with a 4.06 FIP. According to FanGraphs, Hanrahan's performance this season has actually mirrored that of a replacement-level player.
The National League All-Star roster has five closers on it: Craig Kimbrel, Aroldis Chapman, Huston Street (the only Padre on the team), Hanrahan and Papelbon. There is no reason for over 30 percent of the closers in the league to make the All-Star team.
Kimbrel and Chapman have earned their spots, as their success in the closer role has been supplemented by exceptional peripheral stats. Papelbon has been merely very good, and 29 innings of very good pitching isn't worthy of an All-Star nod.
The National League shouldn't be sending more than three closers to the All-Star Game, with the extra two slots used for deserving starters. And one of those pitchers should be McDonald.
Hamels is by far the bigger name, but McDonald has simply outperformed the Philadelphia left-hander so far this season. McDonald's ERA and FIP are both materially lower than Hamels' and he plays for the better team.
Yes, that's right, he plays for the better team. The Pirates are seven-and-a-half games ahead of the Phillies, yet Philadelphia managed to get three players in the All-Star Game to Pittsburgh's two.
At some point, performance is more important than reputation. The Pirates deserved to have three All-Stars more than the Phillies and McDonald deserved to make the game over Hamels.
Lance Lynn started the season off exceptionally well, but he has fallen back to Earth recently and is no longer particularly worthy of an All-Star nod.
Lynn currently sports a 3.62 ERA and a 3.48 FIP. Those are nice numbers, but they are not All-Star numbers. The fact that he has 10 wins behind the strength of the Cardinals' offense should not factor into the selection process.
Lynn has an ERA more than a full point worse than McDonald's. It's hard to justify putting him on the team over the Bucs' ace.
This one's on the fans.
Sandoval has put together a nice season at the plate so far, and his .842 OPS from the third-base position is potentially All-Star caliber. But there are two problems with his candidacy.
The first is that while Sandoval has a strong OPS for a third baseman, he is not a particularly good third baseman. This is part of the reason he has only accounted for just over one WAR so far this year.
Sandoval's second problem is his inability to stay healthy: His numbers are simply not good enough to overcome the fact that he has played only 44 games this year.
If players are being rewarded for their performances in limited at-bats, it makes more sense to send Carlos Quentin, who has absolutely killed the ball in 27 games with the Padres this season, to the Midsummer Classic and keep both Sandoval and Huston Street home.
Similar to Lance Lynn, Bryan LaHair came out of nowhere at the start of the season to post amazing numbers in April and May. Also similar to Lynn, LaHair has cooled off considerably since then to the point where he is no longer worthy of spot on the All-Star roster.
LaHair's batting line remains strong, with an .890 OPS so far in 2012, but that line is not good enough to make the All-Star team as a first baseman on the league's worst team.
LaHair and Lynn have been great stories during the first half of the season. But McDonald has been a great story too, and of the three players he is the one with the stats to back up the hype.
Jay Bruce, like Cole Hamels, is another player with a great pedigree who has performed a notch below All-Star caliber this year.
Bruce's .526 slugging percentage and .853 OPS are certainly above average, but when you combine them with mediocre outfield defense he has by no means had an elite season.
Like many of the players on this list, Jay Bruce has had a very good season. But James McDonald has had a fantastic season, and his fantastic season deserved a greater reward.