#Dbacks David Peralta outperformed all NL All-Star OF reserves, deserved to play in DC, final vote either— Zach Simon (@HotStoveCast) July 9, 2018
AVG .292, OBP .355, .509 SLG, 15 HR Peralta
AVG .291, OBP .394, .438 SLG, 8 HR Cain
AVG .276, OBP .348, .469 SLG, 15 HR Blackmon
AVG .282, OBP .358, .458 SLG, 15 HR Yelich pic.twitter.com/6puRoK0bkE
The Freight Train’s numbers certainly merit strong consideration, even beyond the basic triple-slash line. It’s hard to argue with Lorenzo Cain, who is virtually Peralta’s equal in park-adjusted OPS (Cain OPS+: 123, Peralta: 122), is also very good defensively, and has 16 stolen-bases in 19 attempts. Christian Yelich has a 119 OPS+, and is also better on the bases (eleven SB versus Peralta’s two), so if you squint in the right light, you can see that one too. But quite how Blackmon made it, with an OPS of 106, is unclear. It’s not as if the Rockies needed a representative, with Nolan Arenado making the starting line-up.
But it’s probably in the starting line-up that bigger problems are to be found, as we get another lesson in the idiocy of large crowds. They voted for, in increasing order of stupidity, the Braves’ Nick Markakis, the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp and, worst of all, the Nationals’ Bryce Harper. The quiffed wonderboy is currently nineteenth among qualified National League outfielders by fWAR, and fifty-second by bWAR. The only way he should be attending the All-Star Game in his team’s hometown, is if he buys a ticket strip. Kemp fares only slightly better, ranking 10th + 15th, and behind Peralta in both categories.
There’s little or no doubt that David deserves to be in the All-Star Game ahead of at least three of the players actually chosen. The problem is, he’s not the only one. You can certainly make a case that the Mets’ Brandon Nimmo, with his 149 OPS+, is an even more gratuitous snub. You could also argue in favor of Kyle Schwarber who is second by fWAR and in the top ten for bWAR. If you’re going strictly by those rankings, the three starting outfielders would be Cain (1st/1st), Markakis (3rd/2nd) and Nimmo (4th/4th), with Schwarber (2nd/10th), Peralta (7th/6th) and Yelich (9th/5th) the three reserves. Starling Marte (8th/7th) is also in the top ten by both metrics.
Life is tough for middle-inning relievers when it comes to the All-Star roster. If you’re not racking up those shiny saves, you have to be really good to make it. And the blossoming of the bullpen ace over the last few years means it’s very difficult to stand out. Per Mike Petriello, “There are currently 37 different relievers (min 20 IP) with ERA below 2.00.” Worth noting that four of those are on the Diamondbacks: not just Hirano (1.36 ERA), but also Andrew Chafin (1.69), T.J. McFarland (1.82) and Archie Bradley (1.85). Hirano’s ERA ranks him fifth in the NL, and he trails four other pitchers, who are generally mid-inning guys: the five of them have combined for a total of 14 saves this season.
Only one of them made the roster: Josh Hader of the Brewers, who has some saves (7), an excellent ERA of 1.21, lower than Hirano, and a strikeout rate which is “video-game on easy setting” level, having fanned 83 in 44.2 innings. That’s 16.7 per nine innings, or put another way, 62% of Hader’s outs this season have come by the K. You’d be hard-pushed to claim Hirano deserved a spot over Hader. The other four have combined for eighty-eight saves, and include three of the saves leaders in the league - Kenley Jansen (24), Brad Hand (24) and Sean Doolittle (22) - plus Felipe Vazquez (18), who is the Pirates’ sole representative on the National League roster.
Hirano has certainly been great - and if he keeps his first-half performance up, I hope he gets some Rookie of the Year votes come the end of the season. But he’s as much a victim of his role as any kind of snub. Closers will always get the bulk of the relief pitchers spots in the All-Star games, and that makes the competition for any scraps left over a particularly tough contest for any pitcher to win.