Astros All-Stars: End of season goals more important


Jul 15, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; American League infielder Jose Altuve (27) of the Houston Astros drives in a run with a sacrifice fly in the 5th inning during the 2014 MLB All Star Game at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday July 14 sees the MLB All-Star game hosted at the Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati Ohio.  At the time of writing, the America League team is still dominated by Kansas City Royals players, whose fans have voted in extraordinary numbers: currently only 1st Base (Miguel Cabrera), 3rd base (Josh Donaldson), DH (Nelson Cruz) and Outfield (Mike Trout, though Yoenis Cespedes and Jose Bautista are currently ahead of Alex Rios in voting in fourth and fifth spots) will not be filled by a Royals player.

Even in those spots, a Royals player is still in the running, though Eric Hosmer is over 2 million votes behind Cabrera and clearly needing a few Royals fans to sign up for a few more email addresses and put themselves in serious danger of carpal tunnel syndrome to make up the deficit.

To an extent, that’s fine.  You allow the fans to vote, you can expect to get who the fans want to see.  All-Star games are, by their very nature, a popularity contest.  Look at the NBA’s all-time vote-getters: Yao Ming features twice and received the highest vote twice.  Yi Jianlian came third in votes for forwards in the Eastern Conference in 2009, but wasn’t selected to the squad.  What we see with the Kansas City All-Stars is something similar: fan power establishing its authority over rational behavior.  There is, of course, a question of whether or not it should matter.

Let me be clear at this point, this isn’t a post designed to have a go at the Kansas City Royals.  I was rooting for the Royals to win it all at the end of last year.  The purpose of this post is to play perhaps down, to an extent, the importance of the All Star game in the grand scheme of the 2015 Major League season. Particularly when it comes to the performances and the ultimate honors bestowed upon the Houston Astros players.

A quick overview of current stats (as of June 30) suggests that the best first baseman in the American League is, indeed Miguel Cabrera.  He has 92 hits, 15 home runs, 53 RBIs, and his averages are .350/.454/.589 (BA/OBP/SLG).  Moreover, his OPS is 1.043, the third best in the Majors.  Hosmer has given Kansas 79 hits, 16 homers and averages of .290/.354/.445.  Of course, Cabrera’s recent addition to the 15-Day DL might make this argument moot.

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At second, as Eric wrote this week,  Omar Infante currently leads Jose Altuve by a little under 300,000 votes, though arguably the best current second baseman in the American League is Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis.

The correlation between All-Star appearances and end of season awards, however, is well worth considering in light of the current situation with All-Star votes.  The great Craig Biggio won four Gold Gloves, between 1994 and 1997, years when he was also an All-Star and, with the exception of 1996, a Silver Slugger Award winner.

Looking at the AL’s Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award winners, along with the AL MVP voting for the 2013 and 2014 seasons. When we compare them with the All-Stars of those same seasons, we notice some crossover, but also some evidence that the “popularity contest” dimension has rather skewed the All-Star game away from being the best players playing against one another.

In 2013, the American League’s awards looked like this:

The AL All-Stars, Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers for 2013

And, in 2014, they looked like this:

The AL All-Stars, Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers for 2014

So we see some crossover between those who were voted into the All Star starting lineup and those who ultimately won awards at the end of the season.  There are, however, some obvious examples of players who were voted into the All Star game who were perhaps not as worthy – though clearly not altogether unworthy – of the honor as others.  Taking the example of Miguel Cabrera last year: he was an All Star and the reigning MVP, though he ended up ninth in MVP votes at the end of the season with averages of .313/.371/.524.  It is to be expected that the MVP of the previous season would appear in an All Star game, of course; the ideas of MVP and All Stars are inextricably linked by the bonds of sporting excellence.

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Cabrera’s 2014 stats at the All-Star break last season were .306/.364/.534, so he was fairly consistent for the remainder of the season.  The argument can be made, therefore, that his appearance in the All Star game was largely a product of his perceived, indeed actual, greatness – but significantly greatness the previous season.  Jose Abreu, who won the Silver Slugger at first base, was .292/.342/.630 at the all star break and ended up .317/.383/.581.  He also had 36 homers and 107 RBIs.  Cabrera had 25 and 109.

We also note the lack, predictable perhaps, of Red Sox in the 2013 AL All-Star team and Royals in the 2014 version: David Ortiz and Salvador Perez the exceptions.

The key point I’m trying to make here is that it doesn’t really matter if Jose Altuve, or any of the other players on the Astros roster, makes the All-Star game.  It would be nice, of course, but the real honors and the ones that can really underline the superb season that the Astros have enjoyed this far, are still to come.

The 2015 All-Stars will be announced on Sunday.  Some commentators have started to post their “true All Stars”, see Grant Bisbee’s recent post on SB Nation for example, and one thing that many AL fans will note with a rueful smile is the comparative lack of Kansas City Royals players when compared to the actual team appearing in Cincinnati in mid-July.

Next: Carlos Correa Should be on the 2015 All-Star Team

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