Max Scherzer ought to be an American League All-Star, but it's likely that he'll be overlooked.
Though Major League Baseball has taken steps to improve the player selection process for its All-Star Game, worthy individuals will inevitably be snubbed from the 2013 rosters. Stellar statistics and sportsmanship often aren't enough.
Fan voting is an enemy of fairness. Position players chosen by the viewing public to start the Midsummer Classic tend to have big personalities, impressive track records or the luxury of playing in a large media market. They aren't necessarily the most qualified.
The other route to the Midsummer Classic requires support from players and managers, many of whom rely on gut feelings over meaningful statistics. Jim Leyland of the Detroit Tigers and Bruce Bochy of the San Francisco Giants will lead the AL and NL teams, respectively, so meeting their standards of excellence is going to be a factor. Then there's that silly rule which mandates that all 30 teams need a representative, whether or not they actually deserve one.
We cannot anticipate injuries or the next month-and-a-half of performance. Perhaps some of the following borderline All-Stars will dominate from Memorial Day onward to ensure their inclusion.
But if the decisions were being made today, they would likely be undervalued and left home.
*All statistics accurate as of May 27.
Amazing individual seasons from athletic MLB outfielders in recent years have caused us to put power-speed threats on a pedestal.
In the American League, Mike Trout is the gold standard. Alex Gordon, Adam Jones and Alex Rios all share some of his characteristics on the field, so they can expect to make the AL roster too.
What's lost is the fact that Daniel Nava owns a near-identical OPS to those other three. Trout and Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays should definitely get priority, but nobody else has done enough to leapfrog Nava.
It would be a shame if the MLB All-Star Game missed out on this productive switch-hitter with a fascinating story, writes WEEI.com's Rob Bradford.
Players who spend time on the disabled list during the first half of the season often can't make a great case for All-Star selection. Then again, Chase Headley stands out at a relatively thin NL position.
A better offensive third baseman, Aramis Ramirez missed an entire month with a knee sprain. Eric Chavez can't touch left-handed pitching, and Ryan Zimmerman has struggled with his new throwing motion.
New York's own David Wright is a shoo-in to start at the hot corner. He has carried his team's offense while fielding smoothly.
But propped up by batting average and favoritism, Chris Johnson and Pablo Sandoval will block Headley from making it to the Midsummer Classic.
The former was comfortably above .400 for much of April. That will resonate with other players, who will overlook his shaky defense and limited value as a baserunner. Meanwhile, Sandoval could get on the roster thanks to skipper Bruce Bochy, who might cite high RBI total as evidence of his ability (though it most certainly is not).
Yes, the Miami Marlins—the scum of Major League Baseball—will get a representative on the National League roster. Commissioner Bud Selig likes it that way.
None of their position players have earned even one iota of consideration. Thankfully, four Marlins pitchers have been somewhat respectable: Mike Dunn, Jose Fernandez, Ricky Nolasco and Kevin Slowey.
Nolasco has the best strikeout-to-walk ratio of that quartet, as well as a superior WHIP, innings total and average start length. He's undeniably the most qualified pick from Miami's staff.
Too bad he's not as "sexy" as Fernandez. The youngest pitcher in the majors has elite fastball velocity, according to FanGraphs, and that contributes to his 8.4 SO/9 ratio. You'll need to scroll to the bottom of the second page to find Nolasco on that list.
The question is, who would you rather see on national television? And the answer is obvious, albeit unfair.
A.J. Burnett has previously been an above-average starting pitcher, though never quite All-Star caliber.
The 36-year-old has led the Pittsburgh Pirates to relevancy with the highest strikeout total (85) and strikeout rate (10.9 SO/9) in the National League. He's also among the league leaders in innings pitched and batting average against.
The handful of rotation leaders who are legitimately more deserving include Patrick Corbin, Matt Harvey, Clayton Kershaw, Shelby Miller and Jordan Zimmermann. Adam Wainwright and his otherworldly strikeout-to-walk ratio belongs in that group too. That only leaves vacancies for obligatory picks from mediocre clubs, Jose Fernandez and Travis Wood.
As has been the case in past seasons, pitchers who start the Sunday prior to the All-Star Game will be removed from their league's roster. Count on there being at least one instance of that affecting the National League in 2013.
Unfortunately, it's difficult to envision Burnett getting the nod ahead of uber-talented Stephen Strasburg or uber-accomplished Cliff Lee.
Tanner Scheppers has been the top contributor to one of the best bullpens in baseball. He leads all Texas Rangers relievers in WHIP, batting average against and innings pitched.
That won't be enough to get him to the Midsummer Classic.
Closers always get priority during the All-Star selection process. In a year when the American League has had very few dependable ninth-inning guys, Joe Nathan is virtually a lock because of his consistent history and 2013 saves total.
Even if a second individual represents the Rangers 'pen, count on it being Robbie Ross. Though more reflective of good fortune than skill, his gorgeous 0.39 ERA will be difficult to ignore. The tradition of prioritizing left-handedness would also doom Scheppers in that scenario.
Here's another setup man who'll be penalized for pitching an inning too soon. Taking saves out of the equation, there aren't any American League relievers definitively better than Sean Doolittle.
Closers Joe Nathan, Mariano Rivera and Tom Wilhelmsen can go ahead and start planning for their trip to Queens. AL manager Jim Leyland will use his influence to get Jose Valverde onto the roster along with them.
No disrespect to the Oakland Athletics fanbase, but Doolittle has zero chance of winning as a Final Vote candidate. His only faint hope is that the old-school players and coaches who determine the reserves realize how indispensable he is in the seventh and eighth innings of close contests.
Two National League catchers have already earned spots on the All-Star roster: Yadier Molina and Buster Posey. The importance of their all-around contributions and durability cannot be overstated.
Russell Martin can make a great case for being selected too. He possesses above-average power, good contact skills and excellent defense. The 30-year-old also guns down 41 percent of potential base-stealers. Plus, his ability to play third base would let Bruce Bochy get creative during the actual game.
Despite these qualifications, he'll be overshadowed by the legend of Evan Gattis. His "clutchness" in 2013 and inspiring journey will garner ample support from fellow players and fans.
Pittsburgh Pirates closer Jason Grilli is prospering in 2013, largely because Mark Melancon has perfected the art of setting him up. FanGraphs ranks them first and second in WAR among all National League relievers.
Why won't both join the NL All-Star delegation?
Well, last season's bullpen phenoms, Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel, will be back on the All-Star squad based on their reputations. Grilli and Jonathan Papelbon—neither of whom has blown a save opportunity—ought to be part of the roster too.
But Bruce Bochy isn't making the flight without one of his own, whether it be Santiago Casilla or Sergio Romo. And who could say no to Kevin Gregg and his spotless earned run average?
You know it's a flawed system when a 27/1 SO/BB ratio doesn't receive national recognition.
After Chris Davis and James Loney, the next-best 2013 AL first baseman is up for debate.
Public opinion is somewhat divided between Prince Fielder, Mike Napoli and Nick Swisher. All have been All-Stars before and have put up strong offensive numbers this season in the middle of the league's three most prolific lineups.
Mitch Moreland, meanwhile, has rivaled their production without nearly as much assistance. Napoli and Josh Hamilton left in the offseason, Elvis Andrus endured a disappointing April and Ian Kinsler has landed on the disabled list.
Among American League players at the position, Moreland ranks second only to Davis in slugging and OPS.
As of Memorial Day, Max Scherzer has been the most reliable member of a fearsome Detroit Tigers starting rotation.
Win-loss record doesn't tell us much, but Scherzer's undefeated mark attests to his consistency. All of his 10 outings have been somewhere between decent and excellent. He has allowed seven hits or fewer in each of those performances while lasting at least five innings and racking up six or more strikeouts.
No other American League pitcher can make all of those claims.
The Chicago White Sox, Seattle Mariners and Tampa Bay Rays have two starters apiece worthy of serious consideration. Let's not forget about Clay Buchholz (Boston Red Sox), Justin Masterson (Cleveland Indians) and James Shields (Kansas City Royals).
Still, the AL roster wouldn't look right without Scherzer.