After having three months to decide the rosters for the 2014 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, the final spots for the American and National League teams were decided in the annual Final Vote balloting on Thursday.
The fans decided between 10 players, five in each league, with Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo and Chicago White Sox left-hander Chris Sale winning their league's respective votes, via MLB's Twitter account:
Even though the voting process is often derided for favoring players from big-market teams, it's hard to argue with the results this year. Here is how the final voting tally broke down in both leagues:
|American League||National League|
|1. Chris Sale, LHP, Chicago White Sox||1. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs|
|2. Garrett Richards, RHP, Los Angeles Angels||2. Justin Morneau, 1B, Colorado Rockies|
|3. Rick Porcello, RHP, Detroit Tigers||3. Justin Upton, OF, Atlanta Braves|
|4. Corey Kluber, RHP, Cleveland Indians||4. Anthony Rendon, 3B, Washington Nationals|
|5. Dallas Keuchel, LHP, Houston Astros||5. Casey McGehee, 3B, Miami Marlins|
NL Vote: Rizzo The Right Choice
Rizzo was easily the best choice among the NL candidates, ranking in the top 10 among NL players in home runs (20), on-base percentage (.387) and slugging percentage (.512). Justin Morneau has been fantastic for Colorado, but he's produced about half the value of Chicago's first baseman based on FanGraphs' wins above replacement (2.9 to 1.5).
Plus, if you think like me, where the All-Star game is as much about building new stars as rewarding the old guard, Rizzo was a top prospect for years and is starting to actualize that ability in 2014. He should be a staple of this game for years to come.
Rizzo was very thankful for all the support from fans on Twitter after he was declared the winner:
Cubs announcer Len Kasper tweeted his approval of the Final Vote, not just because he calls games for the young first baseman:
Anthony Rizzo is a very deserving All-Star. As I said, he's our guy and we wanted him in, but he was the best candidate on that list.— Len Kasper (@LenKasper) July 10, 2014
The only quibble to have with the vote is Washington third baseman Anthony Rendon finishing fourth. Like Rizzo, he's a budding star who came into the league with a lot of hype as arguably the best pure hitter in his draft class.
With Bryce Harper missing most of the first half, Rendon had to raise his game to keep Washington's offense afloat. The 24-year-old proved more than capable of answering the challenge, hitting .284/.340/.491 with 13 home runs and a higher fWAR than Rizzo (3.3) in 85 games.
If you are looking for versatility for the NL roster, Rendon has been able to play third base and second base. Rizzo has a more potent bat, but Rendon increases his value because of the positions he plays.
AL Vote: Sale the Best of a Strong Bunch
The fact that Sale wasn't on the initial AL roster announced on Sunday was baffling. He's been one of the best starting pitchers in baseball since 2012, finished in the top six of Cy Young voting and having the best year of his career in 2014 with a 2.08 ERA, 193 ERA+, 102 strikeouts against 16 walks and a 0.842 WHIP.
Which player has the best All-Star case?
Even though the left-hander missed more than a month earlier this season with a muscle strain in his pitching arm, he leads the AL in ERA and is tied for 13th in strikeouts.
ESPN.com's Keith Law noted in his All-Star snubs piece (Insider required) that Sale shouldn't have needed a fan vote to get in based on his credentials:
He's sixth in the league in WAR and tenth in rWAR, despite having 20 fewer innings pitched than any of the pitchers ahead of him. He's 8-1 if you actually care about something as useless as a pitcher's won-lost record. And Sale was a top five pitcher in the league last year, too.
Sale told Scott Merkin of MLB.com before the results were announced that the whole process and "Target Sale" campaign launched on Twitter was touching:
Just seeing how much involvement they're putting on me, I've got texts from high school coaches, my college coach saying we've got everyone we know, they've got their sources, this and that all voting for you. It definitely makes me appreciate everyone around me a lot more.
As for the rest of the AL Final Vote field, it was a strong group at the top with Los Angeles' Garrett Richards and Cleveland's Corey Kluber having legitimate cases to be on the team.
Richards has evolved as a pitcher better than anyone predicted when he was coming through the minors. His command is still spotty, but the power fastball-slider combination and ability to throw enough strikes has made him a nightmare to hit against with just 6.4 hits allowed per nine innings.
Kluber was an intriguing attraction last year for the Indians but has proven to be one of the best kept secrets in baseball. He has tremendous control with just 30 walks in 125.2 innings and has found a weapon in the cutter that allows him to keep improving his strikeout rate (9.8 per nine innings).
The Indians have been floundering this year thanks to an inconsistent offense and dreadful season from Justin Masterson. Kluber has kept that pitching staff afloat with his dominating performance and deserves more attention from a national audience.
Rick Porcello is having a solid season, but his numbers don't compare to any of the three pitchers already mentioned. His 3.94 FIP and 118 ERA+ are significantly worse than Richards (2.70, 138) and Kluber (2.65, 132).
Dallas Keuchel has a stronger case than Porcello with a better ERA (3.20), FIP (3.11) and ERA+ (126), yet even he can't compete with Sale, Richards or Kluber.
Sale was the best candidate among the AL crop, but at least this grouping was more balanced than the NL group.
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