Wednesday afternoon saw the first public release of MLB All-Star Game voting results for the 2016 season. Unsurprisingly, the Chicago Cubs dominated the voting leaderboard. What is a bit surprising, however, is who was receiving some of the votes.
The National League’s leading vote-getter through the first round of voting is Anthony Rizzo, who has put up impressive run-production numbers despite going through something of an early season slump batting-wise (although his on-base percentage remains strong despite a low batting average). He is joined by the rest of the Cubs’ regular starting infield (Ben Zobrist, Addison Russell and Kris Bryant) as the leading vote-getters at each individual infield position.
Dexter Fowler is second among all outfielders in voting so far, only trailing Bryce Harper. This is where the surprises start.
Full-disclosure, I am not a fan of the All-Star Game (or ASGs in general) and believe it’s not a good idea to have a system which enables the fans to mass vote for a potentially undeserving candidate (prime example: Kansas City’s Omar Infante once again is in the running to make the All-Star Game for the American League, in spite of the fact that he has a sub-.300 OBP and a meager 0.2 bWAR/0.3 fWAR).
That being said, all-star voting is a good way for fans to get engaged with the game, but it can lead to the unintended consequence of getting undeserving players into the midsummer classic. Case in point: Jason Heyward, Jorge Soler and Miguel Montero.
I’ve been a long-time supporter of Heyward and I think he is going to perform at a progressively higher level as the season goes on. However, his numbers thus far this season do not lend themselves to being worthy of an All-Star Game nod. With a slash line of .220/.318/.286 through May 31, it’s challenging to make any argument that Heyward belongs in the All-Star Game, outside of the fact that he plays for the best team in baseball.
Heyward is a phenomenal fielder, entering June with 7 defensive runs saved, and is one of the most intelligent players in baseball when it comes to baserunning (and fielding, for that matter). You can’t directly quantify baseball intelligence, however, and with his batting numbers appearing to be mediocre at best, it’s hard to justify Heyward being so high in the voting at this time.
It’s more of the same when it comes to Jorge Soler.
Soler is batting just .202 entering the third month of the season, while only amassing an OPS of .664. He doesn’t even have strong defensive to support his argument (according to Fangraphs, Soler has a total of -2 DRS so far this season).
Montero is an interesting case, in the sense that he’s not even the best catcher on the Cubs roster thus far. Surprisingly enough, that title belongs to David Ross, who in his last season as a player is putting up relatively substantial numbers. Ross’ fWAR of 1.2 is good for fourth-best on the team, while Montero is 13th with just a 0.2 fWAR.
Ross has put together a slash line of .260/.360/.479 through the first third of the season, and his bWAR (1.4) is tied for third best among all players who have caught at some point this season. Plus, he’s hit four home runs and has batted in 17 runs. In comparison, Montero’s slash line is just .218/.347/.386, with only two home runs and 11 RBIs.
When compared to his fellow Cubs catcher, it’s clear that Montero is not deserving of where he stands in All-Star voting thus far.
What does all of this mean? For one, it indicates that Cubs fans are obviously passionate about their team and want to see their favorite players receive large-scale recognition. However, it also indicates a major flaw in the all-star voting system, one in which undeserving players can be pushed toward the top regardless of merit.
It would be thrilling to see all eight regular starting position players for the Cubs make it to the All-Star Game in San Diego on July 12, but the fact of the matter is it would not be wholly deserved, at least not at this point in the season.
It’s possible that Heyward, Soler and Montero all have major surges in production over the next month and at that point it would be a much different discussion. For now, fans will have to be content with the fact that just five regular starters are deserving of starting this year’s All-Star Game, which seems like a decent consolation.