I’ve never been a huge fan of the All-Star voting process for Major League Baseball, admittedly, and I don’t think I’m alone in that department. There are lots of problems with the setup, in fact. For one, the game takes place in the middle of the season. Are we supposed to be voting for players who are off to the best start this season, or are we including the last half of the previous season as well, since strong finishers could potentially be ignored every year otherwise?
Maybe we shouldn’t even be basing our decisions on statistics. The starters are decided solely on fan input, so it’s guaranteed that a large percentage of voters are casual fans at best who are either checking the boxes next to the names of the players that get the most media attention (Josh Hamilton), offer the most compelling personal backgrounds (Josh Hamilton), or in the case of female voters, look the best in baseball pants (Josh Hamilton? I’ll pass on that one.). Fans can vote multiple times online, and in fact are encouraged to do so, further skewing the results.
So certainly it’s a little silly to get too caught up in the names that get either unfairly left out or unfairly added in. You can take just about any viewpoint in justifying the inclusion of a fading star that no longer offers premium production, after all. Snubs are bound to happen as well, since there really isn’t room for every player that’s putting up impressive numbers, especially if we’re putting in popular players that used to put up impressive numbers and are still hanging around for their (apparently) adoring fans.
If we throw out all the arguments and complications, though, and use just the 2012 season as our criteria, disregarding things like player reputation, there are a few names that stand out as not getting enough votes so far this season. It’s still early enough for things to change, but it’s never too early for meaningless conjecture. All I’m saying is in a perfect world (and a perfect All-Star system), the players I’m about to name would be getting more attention for their 2012 efforts.
Michael Bourn, Atlanta Braves (OF)
It’s not often I beat the “Michael Bourn is being underrated” drum, trust me. But it just so happens that he’s currently tied for second in all of baseball with a 3.7 WAR on the season, so the fact that he’s only receiving the eighth highest number of votes for outfielders in the National League is a little unjust. Bourn plays a premium position (and plays it very well according to UZR), chews up the base paths with his stellar speed, and gets on frequently enough to be an effective table setter at the least. This year, he’s even added a little bit of extra base pop to his game as well, as his .459 slugging percentage will attest to. While his .362 wOBA isn’t exactly earth-shattering, the other elements of his game are good enough to make him a very valuable player all things considered.
A.J. Ellis, Los Angeles Dodgers (C)
Okay, A.J. Ellis is having a fantastic season. There, I said it. I understand that Carlos Ruiz (who actually has a higher WAR total than Ellis) is having a great year as well, and obviously Yadier Molina is also putting up fine numbers while being the premier defensive backstop in the game. Maybe it’s not a good year to be a no-name catcher having your biggest season, but Ellis certainly deserves at least some All-Star consideration. He’s not even on the short list of voting leaders at the position, which is ridiculous. Ellis has an 18% walk rate, second to only Joey Votto in all of baseball, and he’s provided the Dodgers with nearly 3 WAR already this season. He’s likely due for some regression (his BABIP is nearly .400), but regardless, Ellis should at least be ahead of guys like Brian McCann and Buster Posey. Why Posey is the leading vote getter at the position is beyond me, but that’s another article there.
Chase Headley, San Diego Padres (3B)
Headley is a very solid player who’s getting overlooked by fans because he plays at a position also manned by the charismatic David Wright and the legendary Chipper Jones. While it’s understandable for those names to overshadow Headley (especially Wright, who is tied with Bourn for second in baseball with a 3.7 WAR), there are other players who have no business leading him in votes. He fields his position well, works a ton of walks (14.7%), and would probably hit for more power in other parks. He’s produced 2.8 WAR for the Padres this year, and yet he’s nowhere close to the leaders at third base.
Jed Lowrie, Houston Astros (SS)
I never would have dreamed I’d be saying this, but I like Jed Lowrie quite a bit. He’s quietly slugging .515 at the second most important defensive position on the field en route to producing 2.5 WAR for Houston so far this seasoon. There are certainly sexier names at this position, however, and that’s where Lowrie is getting penalized. None of the players ahead of him in voting are having better years production wise, however.
Josh Willingham, Minnesota Twins (OF)
I realize Josh Willingham has always kind of flown under the radar, but the fact that he’s hitting .285/.401/.570 and doesn’t show up anywhere on the AL outfielder leaders is a little odd, even if he does play for a terrible team and possess a sub-par corner outfield glove. Willingham’s .416 wOBA is the ninth highest total in baseball this season, and as such, you’d think the voters would find a place for him.