MLB All-Star Voting 2014: What the Fans Have Right and Wrong
Every year, Major League Baseball affords fans the privilege of voting the starters into July's All-Star Game. On the surface, it's a fun and fair concept that allows fans to choose the best and most compelling personalities for the game's annual showcase.
Years ago, before Bud Selig changed the rules to make the game count for home-field advantage in the World Series, there was little harm from misguided fan selections. Outside of Hall of Fame voters potentially counting up All-Star appearances when filling out a ballot, there was little harm for a star to miss out on big vote totals.
Now, however, things are different. The best players could and should be voted in for two reasons: the aforementioned meaning to the result of the contest, and the ability for the sport to showcase its best and brightest stars.
Unlike this writer and the majority of readers, not everyone is a die-hard baseball fan. If a casual sports observer turns on the All-Star Game in July, the event should showcase the faces of baseball, with early-season performance trumping almost anything.
On Monday MLB.com released an update on the latest fan voting totals. Based on the AL and NL tallies at the moment, here's what fans have right and wrong.
Right: Troy Tulowitzki Leading NL in Total Votes
Troy Tulowitzki is a brilliant baseball player trapped in an abyss in Colorado. While Coors Field is a beautiful place to watch a baseball game, it doesn't do much to help the profile of the National League's best player of 2014.
Despite playing for a poor Rockies team that has little hope of reaching October or playing in nationally televised games, baseball fans have done an excellent job of recognizing Tulowitzki's performance through the first half of the season.
With 3,287,460 votes, the NL MVP front-runner is the only National League player to top 3 million votes, outshining more famous and heralded stars from St. Louis and Los Angeles.
Heading into play on June 30, Tulowitzki was on pace for a bWAR of nearly 10.0, a figure that would put the 29-year-old in rare company among shortstops in baseball history. That mark has only been reached by seven shortstops since 1901, per Baseball-Reference (subscription required).
Wrong: Yadier Molina over Jonathan Lucroy
St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina is a great player on the path to Cooperstown and deserving of a spot on the 2014 NL All-Star squad. While his place on the roster isn't in doubt, Molina should not be the 2014 starter.
Instead, Milwaukee Brewers backstop Jonathan Lucroy deserves the nod. Unfortunately, baseball fans have been lazy when filling out this year's ballot, using Molina's track record as justification for ignoring Lucroy's superior campaign to date.
Heading into play on June 30, Lucroy owned baseball's highest fWAR (3.7) among catchers. That number was far superior to Molina's figure (2.1), confirming the day-to-day excellence of the Brewers All-Star hopeful.
While Molina's 107 wRC+ (weighted runs created plus) and usual stellar defense merit consideration for another starting role, Lucroy's hitting dominance can't be ignored. With a 156 wRC+, Lucroy isn't just hitting well for a catcher. That figure was good for 10th in all of baseball, ahead of names like Jose Abreu, Nelson Cruz and Miguel Cabrera, per FanGraphs.
Right: Farewell Votes for Derek Jeter
For every rule, there's an exception. In the case of Derek Jeter's lead over Alexei Ramirez for the AL All-Star shortstop nod, legacy and farewell trump numbers. As the 40-year-old traverses through his final season, baseball needs to recognize and send off Jeter at Target Field in Minnesota.
While Ramirez (.298 AVG, 8 HR) deserves consideration and merit for a solid season at U.S. Cellular Field, his candidacy isn't overwhelming. In fact, no AL shortstop is having a special season or dominating close to the way Tulowitzki is in the NL. If that type of player or performance was present, Jeter's farewell couldn't and shouldn't take precedent.
Yet, it's not. Fans have spoken, eschewing the need to vote in younger, better players like Ramirez, Jose Reyes or Erick Aybar. Much like Cal Ripken Jr. in 2001, Jeter's final season deserves a final curtain call in the All-Star Game. Despite Jeter's 86 OPS+, the fans have this one right.
Wrong: Lack of Respect for Todd Frazier
In Toms River, NJ, Todd Frazier has always been a star. From the moment he led the local team to the 1998 Little League World Series championship, the multi-sport athlete was revered around the Jersey Shore area.
Nearly 16 full years since that magical summer for Frazier, he's evolved into a different type of star for the Cincinnati Reds. This one, with much less fanfare, deserves to start at third base in the All-Star Game at Target Field.
Despite outstanding numbers (.287/.352/.508), Frazier isn't even in the top five of NL third basemen in the latest voting update. While David Wright, Aramis Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, Matt Carpenter and Nolan Arenado are all excellent players, none can match Frazier's current credentials.
It's time for baseball fans outside of Toms River to respect the talent and career of Frazier.
Right: Josh Donaldson Becoming a Household Name
Last year, Josh Donaldson finished fourth in the AL MVP vote, carried the Oakland Athletics to an AL West title and finished with a higher WAR than Andrew McCutchen, Robinson Cano and Miguel Cabrera, per Baseball-Reference (subscription required).
Even if many fans don't know the intricacies of Oakland's 25-man roster or Donaldson's background as a catcher and former Cubs prospect, word is catching on. Among the takeaways from the latest voting update: Donaldson is becoming a household name for baseball observers.
While his .798 OPS is good, it's not an eye-opening number. Yet, due to great defense, Donaldson owns a 4.7 WAR, putting him on pace to exceed his 8.0 total of last year. For the average All-Star Game voter, WAR or defense may not compute, but reputation does.
After an excellent 2013 campaign, Donaldson is in the midst of receiving overdue recognition.
Wrong: Anyone Still Voting for Matt Wieters
When it comes to critiquing fan voting, there's right, wrong and obstinate. In the name of passion, wrong can be forgiven. Obstinate, on the other hand, comes with no excuse. In the case of Baltimore Orioles catcher Matt Wieters, wrong is simply a function of lazy voters.
Despite not playing a single game since May 10, Wieters is still leading the AL vote for catchers. As it stands, the Orioles backstop is the only AL catcher with at least 2 million votes. When looking across both leagues, only Wieters and Yadier Molina have eclipsed that mark.
To be fair, All-Star Game voting does start too early, likely netting Wieters a big vote when his initial disabled list stint didn't seem serious in May. Now, after the revelation of season-ending elbow surgery, the idea of voting for a player who clearly can't play is just silly.
With an .839 OPS and reputation as an excellent defensive catcher, Wieters was on the path to being the easy choice for a starting spot. Unfortunately, that path ended due to injury. With just a few days left before the close of voting, hopefully fans will finally recognize this fact.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com, FanGraphs and ESPN (unless otherwise noted) and valid through the start of play on June 30.