All-Star snubs, both perceived and real, often derive from circumstance. Manager Mike Matheny’s hands are tied by rules and allegiance to the Cardinals. Players often vote on reputation more than merit, because they’re too busy, you know, playing to see the process from a broad perspective. Fans choose players based on laundry. It is not a system based on logic.
Sunday afternoon, many Nationals expressed a mix of surprise and anger that only Jordan Zimmermann had been selected, and Anthony Rendon could make it as part of the five-man Final Vote. They wanted Anthony Rendon in, and they wanted Rafael Soriano, too. How did each miss the cut?
Start with Soriano. National League players instead chose Craig Kimbrel, Francisco Rodriguez and Aroldis Chapman – the only three closers on the squad.
Chapman spent the start of the season on the disabled list, but he’s made up for lost time. He has struck out 47 hitters in 24 2/3 innings, and he throws the hardest fastball in the majors. He has allowed almost twice as many runs as Soriano and blown the same number of save opportunities as Soriano in two fewer chances. But it’s easy to see why NL players would want him on their side in a game that decides home field advantage in the World Series.
Rodriguez is a much more dicey choice, the benefactor of opportunity and reputation. He has been a solid closer for nearly a decade, and with the Brewers, the best team in the National League, he has received more save chances than any reliever in the league. He has blown three of his 30 chances but still leads the NL with 27 saves. Soriano has a better ERA (1.03 to 2.34), WHIP (0.829 to 0.874) and save percentage (91.3 to 90). K-Rod has more chances and the better nickname.
The selection of Kimbrel lies in the middle between Chapman and Rodriguez – a pitcher who benefits from reputation but whom any player would pick when choosing up sides. Kimbrel has blown four saves and owns a 2.04 ERA, and his WHIP is 0.934. Aside from 27 saves, Soriano bests him in every category. But, again, who would blame a player wanting Kimbrel representing his team?
Soriano should have made the team over Rodriguez, but that is on the players. Matheny took two relievers: set-up men Tony Watson of the Pirates and Pat Neshek of the Cardinals. It’s hard to quibble with either choice. Watson has a 0.89 ERA and has allowed just two of eight inherited runners to score. It’s hard to make the all-star team as a set-up reliever, but that’ll do it. Neshek has been even better, with a .077 ERA and a ridiculous .571 WHIP. Matheny took his guy, but in this case, it was totally justified.
In another case, it was not. In his own selections, Matheny took Matt Carpenter over Rendon. Here are their two statistical resumes:
Rendon: .282/.340/.483, 12 HR, 50 RBI, 60 R, 8 SB, .357 wOBA, 129 wRC+, 3.1 WAR
Carpenter: .282/.375/.388, 4 HR, 32 RBI, 55 R, 3 SB, .343 wOBA, 122 wRC+, 2.9 WAR
Essentially, Carpenter makes fewer outs than Rendon by a wide margin, but Rendon makes up the difference – and more – with superior power and base running. Rendon has had the better season, but it is close. And when it’s close, and the manager has his say, he is always going to choose his own player. Adjust your outrage level by personal preference.
Matheny made another curious choice in Josh Harrison, a wonderful, versatile defensive player hitting .298. Rendon has taken about 120 more plate appearances than Harrison, and he is reaching base and slugging at a better clip. Harrison should win points for his versatility, but probably not enough to make up the difference in their offensive output.
Harrison is a utility player, a very good one, and Matheny seemingly wanted to give that style of player his due. Perhaps the All-Star Game, a stage for the best players as opposed to the highly useful, is not the right time.