There is still time for things to change, but right now seven Royals will comprise the nine starting spots for the American League All-Star team. That’s cool…and funny..and probably indicates a flaw in the new voting system instituted this season to pick the teams.
And it doesn’t matter. It’s the All-Star Game. The last time the ‘right nine’ were picked by the fans was, oh, never. If it wasn’t the Royals dominating the voting, I would not care even a little. Some folks are award people, I’m not one of them. The MVP winner – don’t really care that much. So you can imagine that All-Star voting is not something that does much to my blood pressure.
Now, that said, it IS the Royals, so I AM interested this year. Let’s take a high view look at which of the boys in Blue might actual warrant an All-Star starting nod.
Salvador Perez is not only going to be the American League starting catcher, he’s likely to be the leading overall accumulator of votes. If you are a big believer in intangibles – and if you are, the catching position is the best spot for which to base your case – then Perez doesn’t even cause a ripple. He is highly respected around the game (you know, the guys close to the dirt) and quite honestly, I’m not sure there is another catcher in the AL for whom I would give up Salvy to have on my team.
According to fWAR – and let’s just relax here, traditionalists, – which you can’t figure on your Texas Instruments calculator, but which does attempt to judge players by offense, baserunning AND defense, Perez is fourth among catchers with 100 plate appearances or more. Perez’ 0.9 fWAR trails Russell Martin, Stephen Vogt and Brian McCann. Probably Vogt might be the most deserving if your All-Star team is based on ten weeks of a baseball season, but I doubt there will be much uproar over Perez being behind the dish.
We can bluster all we want, but Miguel Cabrera plays first base and he is better than Eric Hosmer. That said, Eric Hosmer is no slouch. His fWAR is 1.9 this season compared to Cabrera’s 2.3 – close enough to not get all worried about who the starter might be. If you are certain only the stats your Dad used matter, Hosmer is third in batting average, third in on-base percentage and fifth in slugging. He’s a Gold Glove winner, which your Dad thinks is important as well. Sure, Cabrera is better, but Hosmer is close enough to be defensible in what really is kind of a ‘cool-kid’ competition.
Now, some of you think it is funny that Omar Infante is second in the voting at second base. Some of you are just hell-bent Royals’ fans. It’s all fine…as long as deep down every one of you acknowledges that Infante doesn’t deserve one single vote.
At shortstop, Alcides Escobar is fourth in fWAR among players with 100 or more plate appearances. Let’s face it, the early part of 2015 is not flush with great shortstops, so yeah, you can make a case for a guy with a .302 on-base percentage. Jose Iglesias? Brad Miller? Xander Bogaerts? Marcus Semien and his 19 errors? Is Escobar playing at an All-Star level? Well, if you grade on a curve, he’s in the conversation.
If I had told you Mike Moustakas had a legitimate case to be the starting third baseman in March, how much would you have bet me? Second in fWAR, behind Josh Donaldson (who’s pretty good, by the way), first in batting average, second in on-base (if you count Brock Holt as a third baseman) and second in slugging. We love his defense, so do the metrics. Again, if your judgment is based on less than half a season, it comes down to Moustakas and Donaldson. One gets to start, the other gets to play: it will all work out.
The best player in baseball is not Lorenzo Cain, but instead is Mike Trout. They will both be starters and, in no world, does Trout not deserve it. Cain is in a virtual dead heat with six other guys for second in fWAR. Cain has the cool-factor and the wow factor thanks to a marvelous post-season. Taking baserunning and especially defense into the equation, there is no other outfielder being horrifically wronged by Cain getting more votes.
Now, I love Alex Gordon. He has a great track record, but is not having a great 2015 at the plate, but is simply the best defensive left-fielder I have ever seen (and I’m old) and his fWAR is just a touch behind Cain and company. WAR was made for guys like Gordon, who play great defense, get on base and don’t run into outs: you know guys that know how to play the game.
Kendrys Morales? Well, he has been quite good, but so has Nelson Cruz and, frankly, Alex Rodriguez. I think most of us would, if we took off our Royals’ jerseys, say Cruz is more deserving and he might yet overtake Morales. The world won’t end if he does, but the very foundation of baseball will not crumble if Kendrys maintains the lead, either.
Are seven Royals’ the very best at their positions in the American League? No, they are not. Are seven Royals among the better players at their respective positions? Yes, I think they are…for half a season, anyway.