(Joe Mahoney/AP)

There’s little doubt about Votto’s selection. Sure, he has fewer home runs (14) and RBI (47) than LaRoche, but the difference is negligible. Votto beats out LaRoche and the rest of the NL first baseman — most hitters, in fact — in most other major categories. Votto, the 2010 NL Most Valuable Player, is among the game’s best overall hitters. He is fifth in the majors in batting average (.350), leads in doubles (33), second in walks (60), second in slugging percentage (.632) and leads in on-base percentage (.471). This list could keep going.

Votto is deserving and was the leading vote-getter among fans, earning more than 7.3 million votes, dwarfing the number of second-place vote-getter Brandon Belt of the San Francisco Giants (3.9 million votes), a head-scratcher.

LaHair, 29, however, is the most puzzling pick. He finished eighth in fan voting with about 950,000 votes. LaRoche, 32, finished sixth with more than 1.3 million votes. The fan vote isn’t a determing factor in this debate because it can be a popularity contest. Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, who has not played a game this season, received 1.4 million votes. It was a players’ vote that selected LaHair as the NL reserve first baseman.

LaHair, who hasn’t even qualified for the league leaders based on plate appearances per team game, is hitting .284/.362/.521 — all better than LaRoche’s numbers, .251/.336/.502. LaHair has 13 home runs and 28 RBI — all less than LaRoche’s totals. Through mid-June, LaHair was hitting the ball well, above .300, and started the season at a furious pace.

LaRoche, a quiet and consistent force throughout his career and slick fielder, started tailing off sooner, in late May, after an in­cred­ibly productive first two months of the season. LaRoche has never been named an all-star despite six straight seasons from 2005 to 2010 of at least 20 home runs and 75 RBIs. His lower batting average, fewer walks and more strikeouts than the other first basemen may have hurt his case.

More food for thought: why would the Cubs, the team with the lowest-winning percentage, be awarded two all-stars? (Shortstop Starlin Castro was also players’ vote selection.) Based on the numbers, a first baseman like Arizona Diamondbacks’ Paul Goldschmidt (.297 with 11 home runs and 36 RBI) seemed like a more deserving reserve pick. Or maybe even LaRoche, who has a case compared to LaHair.

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