For the first time since 2004, the Indians will be sending five men to the All-Star game and for the first time since 2001, one of the position players will be starting. Joining Terry Francona and his coaching staff in Miami will be pitchers Corey Kluber (second straight All-Star selection) and Andrew Miller (second straight All-Star selection) as well as starting third baseman Jose Ramirez (first selection) and bench players Francisco Lindor (second straight All-Star selection) and Michael Brantley (second All-Star selection).
While the die-hard Tribe fan will say that all are well deserved, before looking into if any Indians were snubbed, it’s important to see whether or not the Indians selections were truly deserving of the honor.
This one is a no brainer. If the AL All-Star team was to have one reliever, that should have been Craig Kimbrel and, don’t worry, he’s there. After Kimbrel, Miller has the best reliever of AL relievers with at least 34 innings and nearly all of those innings have come in high leverage situations. While he doesn’t have the saves of your typical relief ace, he’s second in the AL in reliever WAR, third in innings and holds, fifth in K/9 and sixth in FIP. Miller is easily the second best reliever in the AL and well deserving of his second consecutive All-Star selection.
Kluber earned the win in the 2016 All-Star Game thanks to his scoreless inning and his luck in pitching during the inning that the AL took the lead. This year, his selection was more impressive as he missed a month with lower back soreness. Despite that, he ranks fourth in the AL in WAR among starting pitchers, second in FIP and fourth in ERA. The only pitcher better in all three, Chris Sale is also on the roster. Despite pitching only 80 innings, he’s struck out 105, 5th most in the AL. This helps legitimizes his status despite a lack of innings, but there’s no question that as far as quality goes, he sits with Sale as one of the top two pitchers in the AL.
Unquestionably the Tribe’s top player to this point in the season, Ramirez had to surpass Miguel Sano to earn his starting gig and he did so on the final day of voting. Either way, he’d be on the roster as there’s also no question that he’s been the AL’s top third baseman. He leads those at the position in a pile of stats including wRC+, WAR, steals, runs, AVG, OBP and SLG and has been above average defensively with only Manny Machado ahead of him. Sano also made the team as a reserve and a worthy one with no other real stand outs at third. Mike Moustakas is also potentially going to be a roster selection as he’s on the final five ballot.
With Lindor slumping over the last month and then some, there have been two outstanding short stops in the AL, Carlos Correa, who was selected by fans to start at short, and Xander Bogaerts, who is on the final five ballot. Lindor ranks poorly offensively compared to the rest of the field, but given that short stop is so important defensively, that should also enter into the equation. There, Jose Iglesias is best so far this year, followed by Didi Gregorious, Andrealton Simmons and Lindor. Even combining offense and defense for the most well rounded player, Simmons would probably be a better selection than Lindor and, with Mike Trout on the DL, would have been a solid selection for the Angels only pick.
Honestly, Lindor’s pick may be the first time where popularity has actually helped an Indians player as he gained notoriety during the 2015 Rookie of the Year chase and 2016 World Series. Gregorious, Bogaerts and Elvis Andrus are all on the final five ballot and the first two are at least equally as worthy as Lindor for an All-Star selection this year.
Aaron Judge, George Springer and Mike Trout were both the top vote gainers in the AL outfielders and the leaders in WAR among that same group, so there’s little to complain about there. Brantley joins Mookie Betts and Avisail Garcia as the AL’s bench outfielders. As a great defender and solid offensive producer, Betts unquestionably deserves to be there and should get the start if Trout is not off the DL in time. The other two are more questionable.
Aaron Hicks is having a lights out season for New York and Lorenzo Cain is having his usual MVP caliber season. Offensively, there’s an argument for Steven Souza, Ben Gamel, Marwin Gonzalez and J.D. Martinez with Garcia being near their level and the White Sox only representative.
There’s no legitimate argument for Brantley, however, beyond the amount of votes he obtained. In fact, Brantley isn’t even the best outfielder on his own team as Lonnie Chisenhall has been better both offensively and defensively while Bradley Zimmer has been the team’s top defensive outfielder.
With five men on the roster and one who probably shouldn’t be there already included, it’s tough to go looking for snubs. For one, while Chisenhall has had a better season than Brantley, it isn’t All-Star worthy compared to those selected or others like Cain and Hicks.
That being said, Carlos Carrasco is not only 8th in WAR among starting pitchers this year, but is 8th among AL starting pitchers in WAR going back to 2014. He’s consistently been among the leagues best and has never been chosen for an All-Star Game. Without him, the Indians could have sunk while Kluber was on the DL, but his 9 wins and the Indians overall record of 13-3 when he pitches kept the team afloat. Despite all that, it’s hard to say he’s more deserving than any pitcher chosen, particularly when you take into account the fact that each team needs at least one player.
The argument for a roster spot comes with Ervin Santana, who, despite 10 wins and a 3.07 ERA, has really not been very impressive. In a season when the league as a whole is striking out at a rate near 9 K/9, a 6.95 K/9 and 4.71 isn’t really All-Star worthy and I’d have preferred to see this spot given to Chris Archer or Carrasco.
In all, that’s really the only snub. There was an argument for Cody Allen a few weeks ago, but he has pitched poorly of late and with so few relievers making the team, shouldn’t be included now. Edwin Encarnacion might have an outside shot if the team needed a second DH, but literally any position player can hit and there are plenty of better options. With a perfect roster, Carrasco probably still would have missed out and Brantley wouldn’t be involved at all, so the Indians have to be extremely happy with their five All-Stars this year.