Throughout Major League Baseball, teams are engaging in promoting their players to increase their chances they will be voted into the All-Star Game. The Cincinnati Reds have gone so far to as to paint “Vote Reds” behind the home plate area.
But which of the Cubs’ players deserve to be voted or named into the All-Star Game?
Last year, the Cubs managed to get two, yes, two players selected to the NL All-Star team: Starlin Castro and Bryan LaHair.
If that team could get two players in, does that mean this year’s squad should or could get as many or possibly more?
Well, maybe. Could they? Sure. Should they? That’s iffy.
Right now, the only player that should be considered a sure-fire All-Star on the squad is Travis Wood.
Among qualified pitchers, Wood has the National League’s 11th best ERA—2.65—and is the only Cubs starter under the 3.00 mark. He is also ranked in the N.L.’s top 10 in WHIP (1.013), opponent OBP (.265) and WAR for pitchers (2.4).
As of June 12, Wood is leading the NL in fewest hits per nine innings (6.115) and batting average against (.193). Also, he has given up the second-fewest number of total bases and hits in the National League among pitchers with 60-plus innings pitched (IP).
Wood may have a mediocre record of 5-4, but 11 of his 12 starts qualify as quality starts—6-plus IP with three earned runs or less. It’s not as if he or any of the other starters has received a whole lot of run support this season.
But which other Cubs should receive All-Star consideration?
A case could be made for James Russell and Jeff Samardzija, respectively, being named to the National League All-Star team.
But in Russell’s case, the chance of being named an All-Star as a non-closer relief pitcher is not too likely.
Samardzija, on the other hand, has a decent case. Samardzija has a 3.18 ERA, 1.129 WHIP and 98 strikeouts, all while leading the NL in strikeouts per nine innings at 10.377. But he also has seven wild pitches and has not been as consistent as Wood this season.
But despite not being in many NL statistical top-10 lists, some do think Samardzija is a better pitcher.
Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune wrote, “Dale Sveum lists Travis Wood as the Cubs’ top All-Star candidate because of his consistency. Clint Hurdle agrees that Wood has been impressive but he sees Jeff Samardzija as a better pitcher.”
In that same article Pittsburgh Pirates manager, Clint Hurdle, said, “This guy’s a beast…He’s a big, strong raw kid who knows how to pitch. It’s not just physical ability. The cerebral part of the game has picked up as well.”
Still, going by the numbers and the ever-so-reliable “eye test,” Wood has unequivocally been the Cubs best pitcher this season. It would not be commonsensical to have Samardzija voted or selected to the All-Star team over Wood when the latter has outperformed the former.
There. The Cubs top two or three—if you want to include Russell—All-Star candidates are pitchers. But what about the everyday players? Do any of them have a shot at making the All-Star team?
Among the position players, there aren’t a whole lot of logical options; in fact you can count them on one finger. The only lineup regular deserving of All-Star consideration is Nate Schierholtz.
Yes, Anthony Rizzo has 10 home runs, 39 RBI and, according to Baseball-Reference.com, the second highest OBP among the squad’s regulars. Starlin Castro has not done much of anything since becoming mired in a 4-for-45 slump dating back to the May 29 matchup with the White Sox.
However, Schierholtz has seven home runs, 23 RBI and a batting average of .293—highest among starting regulars—and the only of which that is batting above .270. If you visit the Baseball Reference link again, you can see he has an OBP of .320 and leads the team in slugging percentage—.524.
Schierholtz is also second among the team’s position players in batting average with runners in scoring position at .326; whereas Rizzo is hitting .172.
So while the belief that Rizzo or Castro is the best player on the team, the numbers and performances suggest otherwise.
But even then, the likelihood of being voted to the All-Star team by the fans or players is slim to none. There is one aspect working in Schierholtz’s favor: His former manager, Bruce Bochy, will be managing the National League squad and could theoretically select him to the roster.
Still, as much as I want to stay optimistic about his odds to be named an All-Star, it just seems illogical.
If the stars align for the Cubs and their fans this month and early in July, the team could legitimately have three All-Stars.
However, to paraphrase The Highlander, there will be only one: Travis Wood.
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