Unjustly Overlooked: All-Star Non-All-Stars (Current Division)

August 3, 2012; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees third baseman Eric Chavez (12) hits a two-run home run during the sixth inning of a game against the Seattle Mariners at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE

This was inspired by seeing that relief pitcher Bob Howry had a career ERA+ of 120, including a figure of 152 over the 2004-2007 seasons, but was never selected to play in an All-Star Game. It got me thinking: which other players, in the current game and historically, have been similarly overlooked when it came time to play in the Midsummer Classic? After the jump, we'll crunch the numbers and see, beginning with those still playing in the game.

The methodology was simple. I used bWAR as the metric of choice, and the B-R.com play index allows you to filter by players who have never appeared on an All-Star roster. As a number of players have played at multiple positions, for each spot, I required each nominee to have at least 300 starts at the position in question, in order to be eligible for selection at it. This did lead to the omission of some deserving position players from the final line-up, so I added a "bench" category so they could get their just deserts. I went with a standard 25-man roster: eight starters, a DH, and four bench players, five starters and seven relievers.

Position Players

Chavez is, far and away, the leader here - his tally of WAR is good enough for 32nd on the list of currently-active players, and he had had two years (2001 and 2004) where he finished in the the top eight for the year. He received MVP votes four seasons in a row, and picked up six consecutive Gold Gloves. 2002 might have been his best chance: that year, he won not just the Gold Glove, but the Silver Slugger at 3B, hitting 34 home-runs with 20 of them before the break. His 2001 was possibly slightly better overall, hitting .288 with 114 RBI, but that was fueled by a strong second-half surge, where he batted .340 with 21 home-runs.

He and Aubrey Huff both have 242 career home-runs, and might have a shot at the all-time record by a non-All Star. No-one has reached 300 HR without playing in an All-Star Game: the closest is Tim Salmon, who finished his career on 299. Markakis had the best single season of any active non-All-Star. He put up 7.2 WAR in 2008 for Baltimore, batting .308 with twenty home-runs. 14 of those came in the first-half, and he was hitting .300 there as well, but he lost out to Ichiro (naturally) and J.D. Drew for the American League roster spots.

But perhaps the unluckiest of all active players was Travis Hafner in 2006: he was hitting.322/.461/.650 at the break, with 25 homers and 74 RBI. However, the All-Star Game was played in Pittsburgh that year, and being a National League park, there was no DH spot available for Hafner. A 1.112 first-half OPS is quite possibly the highest ever posted, by a player not selected to take part in a game that year. Here are the career numbers for all our non-All Star All Stars.

Player WAR G PA AB R H HR RBI BB SO SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS
Eric Chavez 33.4 1450 5776 5118 767 1365 242 837 596 989 47 17 .267 .342 .475 .817
Mark Ellis 25.9 1186 4832 4311 605 1144 96 475 384 656 74 27 .265 .331 .395 .726
Travis Hafner 22.5 1094 4457 3773 585 1049 199 689 565 892 9 7 .278 .381 .507 .888
Nick Markakis 21.0 1017 4409 3926 560 1157 114 527 422 602 56 21 .295 .364 .454 .818
Mark Kotsay 20.5 1780 6889 6263 779 1744 125 702 539 726 98 62 .278 .335 .409 .744
Coco Crisp
20.1 1116 4670 4202 615 1150 80 444 355 606 239 63 .274 .328 .402 .731
Shin-Soo Choo
20.1 644 2723 2345 369 682 79 346 310 581 76 27 .291 .382 .473 .855
David DeJesus
18.0 1103 4685 4125 606 1163 73 463 398 637 56 51 .282 .356 .417 .773
Adam Kennedy
17.8 1675 6026 5449 679 1480 79 570 398 836 178 62 .272 .326 .383 .710
Yunel Escobar 18.7 739 3134 2764 400 787 51 282 287 344 24 18 .285 .357 .393 .750
Aubrey Huff 16.9 1663 6765 6087 806 1693 242 903 567 904 37 25 .278 .341 .464 .805
Josh Willingham 15.9 901 3605 3075 452 805 159 514 416 763 31 8 .262 .363 .484 .847
Kurt Suzuki 9.9 703 2787 2530 283 643 57 302 176 333 16 9 .254 .311 .378 .689

Pitchers

It's a rather different selection here, with the starters generally being pitchers who have amassed long, solid careers without necessarily being particularly outstanding, as is shown by ERA+ numbers below 110, with the exception of Bedard. Danks had the best single season, 6.1 WAR with the White Sox in 2008, but a stretch of eight games in May and June where he had just one win, despite a 2.49 ERA, likely killed his chances of selection. Harang had a 5.8 WAR season with the Reds in 2007, reaching the break with a 9-2 record and 3.67 ERA. Perhaps MLB were concerned about the claims for damages which would result from all the photographers in attendance.

Oliver was an awkward one. Too few starts to qualify as a true starter, but too many to qualify as a pure reliever either. In the end, given he finished both in the top seven relievers by WAR and top five starters, he had to be fitted in somewhere, so I decided to make an exception and let him as a swing-man - call him if you need long relief or a spot start. However, a little further down the list, Miguel Batista (12.0 WAR) fell into the same boat: I couldn't really justify another exception, so he was excluded, most of his WAR having come in his years as a starter and he was well outside the top five there.

With relievers, there are some more impressive candidates, who haven't been given many of the high-profile save opportunities, but have been effective enough in other situations. Dotel's 109 is second all-time among active non All-Stars, to Kevin Gregg's 144, but Dotel hasn't had more than 22 for a single team in a single season. Amusingly, a trio of former Diamondbacks' closers find places in the top ten: Brandon Lyon (4th with 78), Jon Rauch (5th, 59) and Chad Qualls (=9th, 51).

Player WAR G GS W L SV IP H R ER BB SO ERA ERA+
A.J. Burnett 22.4 333 328 134 114 0 2084.1 1896 1023 939 863 1893 4.05 105
Doug Davis 19.4 306 286 92 108 0 1715.2 1813 921 846 783 1279 4.44 102
Aaron Harang 18.5 289 283 102 100 0 1746.2 1838 877 819 520 1425 4.22 101
Darren Oliver 18.3 697 229 114 92 6 1849.1 1974 1014 932 699 1206 4.54 104
John Danks 18.2 159 159 57 60 0 971.1 954 472 445 323 744 4.12 109
Erik Bedard 15.6 188 185 61 62 0 1055.2 987 498 447 420 1026 3.81 114
LaTroy Hawkins 15.0 855 98 65 87 88 1289.2 1418 683 633 422 853 4.42 105
Octavio Dotel 15.0 730 34 57 49 109 923.1 732 414 382 405 1126 3.72 121
Rafael Betancourt 12.6 582 0 34 27 44 598.0 504 224 210 139 639 3.16 141
Scott Downs 10.0 477 50 34 32 26 659.1 636 290 258 235 505 3.52 124
Joaquin Benoit 9.3 451 55 36 33 13 760.2 669 384 359 325 733 4.25 109
Sean Marshall 8.9 340 59 36 43 16 571.0 556 265 244 199 487 3.85 115

Will any of these be able to break the streak going forward? Among the pitchers, Danks is likely the best bet, since he is still aged 27; reliever Marshall is the only other one selected who is currently below his age 33 season. It's not quite the same case for the hitters, with a number of the nominees to be found on the right side of 30: Markakis, Choo, Escobar and Suzuki. They would all seem still to have the chance of a breakout season that will push them to the recognition they perhaps should already have had.

Next time, we'll expand the list to look at those since the All-Star Game started in 1933 - there's a connection to the current Diamondbacks in there....

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