I'm not much of an All Star Game guy. I've never been a huge fan of the way that the starters are selected. We often see campaigns (what is this article then?) and fanbases that stuff the ballot boxes with their favorite team's players... even the ones who aren't particularly deserving in that particular season. More often than not, we don't get to see the best players in the All Star Game, but the most popular ones. I've heard mention several times recently on both Nats Nightly and in the game threads about how Nationals 3b Anthony Rendon belongs in the All Star Game, and it's time for me to state his case.
First off, let's have a look at the most recent NL Voting Update... Remember that when the season began, Rendon was expected to be (and was, prior to Ryan Zimmerman's thumb injury) the Nationals starting 2b, so that's where he is listed on the ballot.
1. Chase Utley, Phillies: 2,090,110
2. Neil Walker, Pirates: 1,328,959
3. Dee Gordon, Dodgers: 1,129,759
4. Rickie Weeks, Brewers: 849,316
5. Brandon Phillips, Reds: 798,784
Some of these players are having fine seasons.
- Utley leads all 2b on the ballot in OBP (.357) and Doubles (24). He's also second in both fWAR (2.3) and bWAR (2.2). He'll obviously always have the Phillies fans coming out in droves to vote for him, and he would be considered the proven star of the group... even if age and injury have taken their toll a bit the past few seasons. He's having a nice rebound season (well... he's stayed healthier) in 2014.
- Walker is second among NL players on the ballot with 11 HR and second in OBP (.353). He has the resurgent fanbase of the upstart Pirates behind him. In a sense, he's their Ryan Zimmerman... a hometown kid who made good with the local nine. This only adds to his popularity in Pittsburgh.
- Gordon leads the majors in Stolen Bases (39) and has been good with the glove while being acceptable in the batter's box. He plays in a major market and has been quite a pleasant (and cheap!) surprise on a team full of expensive superstars.
- Phillips is a fading star who still has a great glove at 2b even if his offensive prowess has dropped off the past few seasons. After his wOBA dropped from .353 (2011) to .325 (2012) to .307 (2013) the past few seasons, it seems to have stabilized this season. He's compiled a .308 wOBA that's roughly equivalent to last season, but far from his peak level production. His batting average is up a touch from last season, but his walk rate has gone from poor to dismal and both his power production (a .119 ISO that's 36 points below his career rate) and stolen base production (1... in his prime, he was a 25/25 threat) have dropped off significantly. He's below league average offensively (92 wRC+... 100 is average) at this point... I wonder if there's a way Reds fans would vote for a better player on the 2b ballot.
- Weeks is a platoon bat, and ranks fourth in the voting. Heck... He's even on the soft side of the platoon, and generally only plays against LHP. He has just 128 plate appearances this season, yet the Brewers fans are going out to vote for him... probably in large part because they have some players who are extremely deserving (Lucroy and Gomez) that are in tight races. From there, they must either be voting only for Brewers players or they can't think of another 2b who really deserves the spot. If only there were a way to get them to vote for the best player on the ballot at 2b instead of Weeks..... Hmmm...
Weeks and Phillips are why I'm going to urge us as Nats fans to vote for a couple of deserving All Stars at their own positions (namely C and 3b) at the end of this article. Why? We'll hope it's reciprocated from their fanbases rather than them just voting a straight ticket. We'll help them get their team's deserving players in if they help us get the Nationals' deserving players in.
If You're Into That New-Fangled WAR Stuff (Yes... I am), Ant Is Your Guy!
- I'm using Fangraphs for the table and have sorted it by fWAR. Rendon also leads all NL players on the 2b ballot with 2.7 rWAR (Baseball Reference WAR.... Utley is second with 2.3).
- We can also see that Rendon has a healthy lead in both Slugging Percentage (18 points over Scooter Gennett) and Isolated Power (34 points over Neil Walker).
- Rendon also leads all players on the ballot with a .355 wOBA and is tied for number one with Walker with a 126 wRC+.
- He leads all 2b on the ballot in WAR despite a three week slump in May that took a bit of a toll on his triple slash line. While his AVG and OBP fall more towards the middle of the pack because of this, he's been so much more productive in terms of power production than the rest of the players listed (save for Walker, maybe) that he's been the most productive all-around player on the ballot.
If You're a Traditional Stats Person, Ant Is The Man!
More of a traditional stat person? Here we go.
- Who is the leader among players on the 2b ballot in HR? Anthony Rendon, with 12.
- Are you an RBI person? Ant leads again, with 43.
- Your leader on the ballot in terms of Runs Scored? Oh, that would be Anthony Rendon as well, with 49.
- Heck... He even runs! Rendon stole his sixth base in seven tries in Tuesday night's marathon against the Brewers. That SB total places him fifth among this group, which is impressive considering how much he blows the rest away with his power production. I removed the BsR (Baserunning Runs Above Average) in the above section, but Rendon ranks second to Dee Gordon with 3.6.
The narrative that I'll bring up is something that's brought up more often in MVP discussion at the end of the year, but let's think about this for a second. Wilson Ramos has spent two stints on the disabled list. Ryan Zimmerman missed nearly two months. Bryce Harper will have missed two months by the time he's back next week (knock on wood). Adam LaRoche had a DL stint as well. Denard Span, Jayson Werth, and Ian Desmond have been... inconsistent. Danny Espinosa is a great defender, and that's all I'm going to say about him.
We've heard a lot in the past few years from Tigers fans that Miguel Cabrera deserved the MVP because he "carried his team on his back to first place." Well.. The Nats are in first place right now, and Rendon's 2.8 fWAR doubles the contributions of any other position player on the Nats (Adam LaRoche is second at 1.4). As the team has dealt with a ton of injuries and a lack of consistency from most of the other players that have been healthy, Rendon has been the driving force in keeping the Nats offense afloat.
Yeah... It's too late to get him into the All Star Game as the starter. Chase Utley has over 2,000,000 votes already. As we can see, The Mighty Ant has less than 800,000. He most certainly deserves to be in Minneapolis on July 15, and will likely be considered by Cardinals manager Mike Matheny as a reserve. Fans around the league recognizing the season that he's having and making a push for him in the voting could help nudge Matheny in the right direction, though. Also, consider this an early push to get behind the Ant just in case he ends up in the final vote.
What's one way that we can get fans (around the league.. not just Nats fans) to recognize just how great Rendon has been? We can recognize the great performances of a couple of players from other teams who have been the best at their position on the ballot this season. Hopefully, their fans will reciprocate and stop just voting a straight ticket with their own team's players. Let's have a look at a couple of those guys....
I don't know how many of you have seen this awesome All Star ad for Brewers Catcher Jonathan Lucroy, but if you haven't click the link.... Heck, even if you have, watch it again! While most of current leader Yadier Molina's supporters will talk about how Molina's contributions aren't as measurable because of the value he provides on defense, they're ignoring what Lucroy does with the glove.
The fact of the matter is that Lucroy is a fine defensive catcher in his own right. Since taking over as the Brewers regular catcher in 2010, Lucroy has probably been the best pitch framer in the league. According to StatCorner, Lucroy was the best pitch framer in terms of RAA (Runs Above Average) in 2011, 2013, and so far in 2014. He was third in 2010 and fifth in 2012 despite missing more than half of each season. He doesn't have Yadier Molina's gaudy CS%, but there are other ways a catcher can contribute defensively as well.
What else does Lucroy have going for him? He's been far and away the best offensive catcher in the
National League Major Leagues this season (with apologies to Devin Mesoraco, who might have been but for 2 DL stints, and Nats rival Evan Gattis, who has had a fantastic season with the bat). Among NL qualifiers for the batting title (at all positions), Lucroy ranks 3rd in batting average (.330), 9th in OBP (.404), and 17th in Slugging (.514). He ranks 11th in wOBA and wRC+ as well, while he's 3rd among all NL hitters in fWAR (3.4).
The man shouldn't need a campaign. He's been the best catcher in the National League in 2014. With Wilson Ramos having spent two stints on the DL himself, there's no reason for Nats fans not to jump on the #LockInLuc bandwagon... and hope that the Brewers fans will start to vote for Anthony Rendon instead of platoon 2b Rickie Weeks as a response. Nats manager Matt Williams certainly showed how he feels about Lucroy in Tuesday's win, intentionally walking him with two outs in extra innings not once but twice in front of another one of the NL's best hitters, Carlos Gomez.
How About Frazier!
Despite the fact that Brandon Phillips is having a mediocre season, Reds fans are casting their ballots for him. He's fifth in NL All-Star voting for 2b... ahead of Rendon. How can we convince Reds fans to start voting for the best 2b (eligible) in the NL? By voting for the best 3b in the NL so far this season. I'd love to say that's Rendon, but it's been Todd Frazier of the Cincinnati Reds.
I brought up Rendon's performance in terms of WAR among players eligible at 2b earlier.... Rendon ranks second in both fWAR and rWAR among (actual) NL 3b this season. The player who he ranks behind is none other than Todd Frazier (2.9 fWAR, 3.0 rWAR). Frazier has had a magnificent season to this point, and leads all NL 3b with 17 HR and 8 SB. His .517 Slugging Percentage leads Aramis Ramirez (2nd) by 27 points! His .375 wOBA and 138 wRC+ also blow Ramirez (second in both categories) out of the water.
He deserves to be rewarded for his performance this season. Unfortunately, if you click that link at the top that shows the current leaders, Frazier (like Rendon at 2b) doesn't rank among the top five in voting at 3b. Perhaps if Nats fans start throwing their support behind Frazier in the voting, Reds fans will stop voting for their declining former star at 2b and toss their support behind The Mighty Ant!
Don't Just Vote! Shout It Out!
In today's day and age, social media is a great tool in getting the word out. When you cast your ballot that includes Anthony Rendon (and maybe Jonathan Lucroy and/or Todd Frazier), don't just vote. Tweet it out with a #LockInLuc (and #VoteRendon) hashtag as well. Let Brewers fans know that the Nationals fanbase is getting behind the #LockInLuc campaign. Let Reds fans know that they aren't the only ones who see what a great season Todd Frazier is having. At the same time, let them know that they should start paying attention to the season that Anthony Rendon is having in DC and cast their vote for him. If only we had a cool catchphrase like Mr. Lucroy does in Milwaukee...... Ideas are welcome in the comments section!