Chris Sale or David Price would probably be the AL All-Starter as of today.
— Scott Merkin (@scottmerkin) June 3, 2012
It’s a surprising but fair statement.
It’s hard to make the transition from viewing Sale as ‘in development’ and ‘promising’ to acknowledging him as a premier pitcher in the here and now. But as the current AL ERA leader with a signature 15-strikeout performance, and even a share of the league-lead in wins, Sale has plenty of credentials to draw support even from more traditional voices in the game, not just everyone who regular monitor pitcher WAR leaders.
Jake Peavy doesn’t have a half-bad case either. Like Sale, he also has an AL Pitcher of the Month award to his name. He’s in the top 10 in the league in both ERA and innings, and has an exciting ‘Cy Young-return-to-glory’ to him.
Trying to figure out what ancillary factor will be enough to push deserving players into the All-Star Game is frustrating, but not as much as just complaining that the selections don’t line up perfectly to their pure performance.
Seeing either Peavy or Sale in the Mid-Summer Classic would be a thrill, but they’re also pitchers. The fan vote has no factor in their selection, and discussing them doesn’t provide a clear call to action to you, the reader and voter, for the next month. For that, we’ll turn to…
Recent scuffles aside, Paul Konerko is still leading the AL in batting and on-base percentage, so one would imagine that even if a New York or Boston 1st basemen, or Prince Fielder carries the fan vote, he should be able to find a place on the team without requiring the Last Man Vote, or an injury again.
Then again, they probably said the same thing about Joey Votto in 2010.
Alejandro De Aza isn’t going to be helped much by being third amongst AL outfielders in wins above replacement, or given extra credit for playing center field, and probably still to this day has less name recognition than Juan Pierre, but even his ‘Traditional All-Star Resume’ is surprisingly strong.
It can be expected to dip, but his current .298 batting average is 4th among AL outfielders (counting Mark Trumbo), his on-base percentage is 6th, and since his case will be rooted in his performance as a leadoff hitter, ranking 1st and 2nd in stolen bases and runs scored serves him well.
A.J. Pierzynski is incredibly out-hitting every AL catcher not named Joe Mauer, leading the entire position group in RBI, and even has recent research quantifying his work behind the plate on his side.
Still, one’s never sure how well success in a popularity contest voted on by fans, players, and managers is going to mesh with being universally hated.
Finally, there’s Adam Dunn, whose aesthetically displeasing production never earned much All-Star attention in his prime, but may have made himself a bigger name by cratering than he ever did by stringing 40 HR seasons together.
Boston’s David Ortiz is having a bigger year, and is a lock to win the fan voting. Last season’s AL roster only carried two DH’s, which will pit Dunn against Toronto’s Edwin Encarnacion, who is having a breakout season and lacks the grisly .222 batting average that Adam has to explain away.
In all cases, being on a winning team will help, but being on a popular team would help more. Chances are that at least half of them are staying home this July, but there are still six White Sox players right now to make serious cases for at the moment.
That exceeds the number I would have predicted before the season by five.
Update: The first results of All-Star voting are in, and all White Sox players are doing poorly, with no chance at all to win the fan vote. This could have been anticipated.