As the MLB All-Star Game creeps closer, the same debate rears its head—whether or not it’s a popularity contest.
Two players go head-to-head in this rendition; right-fielders Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays and Nick Markakis of the Baltimore Orioles.
Before things get heated, there are specific criteria that need to be considered. Obviously a player’s public stature must be considered as the spot is determined by fan’s votes. Additional standards to contemplate include the player’s contribution to his team and his stats related to the league average.
Jose Bautista, affectionately deemed “Joey Bats,” had a slow start to his 2013 campaign. He is a three-time all-star, led the majors in home runs in 2010 and 2011 and is the 26th member of the 50-homer club.
In April, he hit just .200 and totaled only 12 RBI. He did hit seven home runs, but struck out 20 times and drew only 11 walks.
In May, he turned the corner with a .337 average, but his power numbers dipped with just 12 extra-base hits. He doubled his walk total (22) and scored 21 runs.
His power returned in June with seven home runs, 18 runs scored and 21 RBI. However, his batting average dipped to .213. For the season, Bautista is hitting .263 with 19 home runs, good for eighth in the American League, and 15th in RBI with 50. He is second on the team to Edwin Encarnacion in both categories.
Not to mention he’s making his own case on Twitter.
Nick Markakis is an intriguing player to keep an eye on. A Gold-Glove winner in 2011, he’s known primarily for his fielding, but has eclipsed the 100 RBI twice and sports a career batting average of .295. He has never played in an All-Star Game.
Markakis has been something Bautista has not this season—consistent.
While the power numbers may not be high (eight home runs to Bautista’s 19), his strikeout numbers are nearly half of Bautista’s and he has only seven less RBI (43). He’s also hitting .294—31 points higher than Bautista.
Markakis, unfortunately, is buried on his own team behind likely All-Star starters Adam Jones in center field, J.J. Hardy at shortstop and Chris Davis at first base. He may also be a victim of MLB’s commitment to representing every team in the Midsummer Classic.
Now if we’re playing by the numbers, Bautista would likely get the nod.
He surpasses Markakis in “sexy” statistics like runs, home runs and RBI. While Markakis does have the higher average, Bautista holds the higher on-base percentage (.362-.342) and has swiped six bases to Markakis’s zero.
Now it gets a little dirtier. Baseball fans, especially those that vote, rarely look at the defensive aspect of the players they covet. In there lies the argument against Jose Bautista.
Markakis has registered 164 put-outs on the year to Bautista’s 119. He also sports a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage with four assists from right field. Bautista does have seven assists, but also sports three errors through 70 games—as many as Markakis has totaled since 2010.
Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun quoted Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette regarding Markakis earning a spot. “That’s would be a great honor for Nick,” said Duquette. “He’s a top quality hitter and he works hard and certainly deserves the recognition.”
Markakis held a shaky lead over Bautista last week but since has fallen behind by approximately 142,000 votes.
For baseball purists, it appears the baseball Gods are just. Bautista is one of the league’s more popular players; he could be the only player representing Toronto, and most importantly, the numbers are there.
The All-Star lineups will be unveiled at 6:30 p.m. ET on Saturday on the 2013 MLB All-Star Game Selection Show presented by Taco Bell. The All-Star Game will be played at Citi Field on Tuesday, July 16.