5 MLB Players Who Should’ve Been Named All-Stars

  • Stephen Strasburg, SP, Washington Nationals

    There seems to be this perception that Strasburg has somehow underperformed the hype that arrived with him when he was the No. 1 pick in the 2009 draft, and that just couldn’t be further from the truth. Maybe it’s not hard to see why, because a 15-15 record and 3.20 ERA since the start of 2013 doesn’t seem that impressive.

    Of course, no reputable analyst puts any stock whatsoever into pitcher wins, and lousy Washington defense — no pitcher in the NL has a higher batting average on balls in play this year — hasn’t helped his run-prevention results. When looking only at the things he can actually control, Strasburg is among the game’s elites. He’s the only qualified NL pitcher striking out at least 10 per nine, and he’s one of just a handful walking fewer than two per nine. Unsurprisingly, the combination of great control and plus strikeout stuff is rare, because his K/BB of 5.46 is the best in the league. Does anyone really think hitters would rather face him than Atlanta’s Julio Teheran, who replaced the traded Jeff Samardzija?

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  • Corey Kluber, SP, Cleveland Indians

    By at least one measure, Kluber has been more productive than Tanaka and Price. How? Kluber has struck out more batters than Tanaka, allowed fewer than half as many homers as Price, and managed to keep runs off the board despite playing in front of what is nearly inarguably the worst defense in baseball.

    Whether you actually believe that Kluber is as good as Tanaka or Price isn’t really the point; the point is that a legitimate fact-based argument can at least be made, and that goes to show just how outstanding the underappreciated Kluber has been for Cleveland. As veteran Justin Masterson has faltered and top prospect Danny Salazar imploded, Kluber has been the only reliable starter the Indians have had. Thanks mostly to his outstanding two-seam fastball and cutter, Kluber has turned a very good 2013 into a fantastic 2014. No All-Star team is complete without him on it.

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  • Anthony Rendon, 2B/3B, Washington Nationals

    This is Rendon’s first full season in the big leagues, and he’s split it between second and third base, which may have hurt his candidacy. That’s unfortunate, since Rendon has easily been the best Nationals player, with all-around production so important that he’s been one of the 20 best players in baseball this season.

    Inexplicably, Rendon didn’t make the team, even though there was a very good argument to take him over St. Louis’ Matt Carpenter, who can also play second and third. Of course, the NL manager, Mike Matheny, is also Carpenter’s manager, so perhaps that’s understandable, but it doesn’t answer this question: How in the world did Pittsburgh’s Josh Harrison, owner of a .250/.282/.367 line headed into the season, and inferior to Rendon in every meaningful category in 2014, make the team ahead of Rendon?

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  • Garrett Richards, SP, Los Angeles Angels

    Mike Trout gets most of the recognition for the Angels, and rightfully so; he’s the best player in baseball and should be working on his third consecutive MVP. (He’ll have to settle for his first). But even the great Trout alone isn’t enough to explain how the Angels somehow have the second-most wins in baseball and are only 1.5 games back of the As. It’s the 26-year-old Richards, who has usurped longtime ace Jered Weaver as the top dog on the Anaheim staff. As the preeminent flamethrower in baseball — no, really; of the 149 pitchers to throw at least 50 innings this year, not one averages more on their fastball than Richards’ 96.3 mph — Richards has taken advantage of a shift to the first-base side of the rubber to help increase his strikeout rate to an excellent 9.27 K/9.

    That’s led to a pitcher who has the No. 6 FIP — that’s “Fielding Independent Pitching,” which measures the items a pitcher can control — in the American League, matched by the No. 5 ERA. If you must consider wins (you shouldn’t), well, only two AL pitchers have more than he does. There’s no argument to be made that he isn’t one of the absolute best pitchers in the AL this year; the Angels wouldn’t be anywhere without him. The AL All-Star team shouldn’t be without him, either.

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  • Billy Hamilton, OF, Cincinnati Reds

    When the Reds struggled badly to start the season, yours truly was among those who pointed the finger squarely at Hamilton, who arrived in the big leagues with unmatched speed but little experience in center field (he’d been a shortstop for most of his life) and little offensive track record. No matter how fast he was, the drop-off from Shin-Soo Choo‘s outstanding on-base skills seemed to be a killer for the Reds offense. But Hamilton persevered, and has improved his offensive production in each month of the season, hitting .321/.351/.512 since June 1, to go along with solid outfield defense and 38 steals on the season. He’s now nearly a lock for the NL Rookie of the Year award, and if he can even be a league-average hitter — which, on the whole, he has been this season — the other parts of his game can make him a star.

    Maybe the presence of Dee Gordon satisfied the NL’s need for plus-plus speed, but who is really going to be more useful in the late innings: Hamilton coming off the bench to run, or Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon, who had a great first few weeks and has done absolutely nothing since? If the All-Star Game is supposed to be about winning as well as excitement, Hamilton fits the bill better on both counts.

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  • Stephen Strasburg
  • Corey Kluber
  • Anthony Rendon
  • Garrett Richards
  • Billy Hamilton

The All-Star Game should be about fun, recognizing baseball’s best, and celebrating the sport during one of the rare times on the calendar where it has the spotlight all to itself. (It shouldn’t be about deciding home-field advantage in the World Series, but, sadly, it does.) Of course, it wouldn’t be any fun if we all agreed fully on how the rosters were selected, and every year there’s always a jaw-dropping omission or selection. Take, for example, these five players, who shockingly were not included on the initial rosters.

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