As usual, the MLB All Star game rosters elicit endless discussion over players being snubbed, how moronic voting fans are, and why this game is not simply an exhibition. The list of snubs is generally uniform: Greinke, Cueto, Reddick, etc. The picking of rosters is a highly inexact science and fans take this game way too seriously for the fun and light-hearted event that it should be. The addition of the final vote is a decent addition to this silly process. In the American League, all five candidates are pitchers. This list will rank who should be going to Kansas City, and who should be staying home.
5. Jason Hammel
I realize I bashed Hammel before the season and now I am placing him as the least worthy of the five pitchers to make the All-Star team. Hammel has certainly exceeded expectations, mostly due to a very strong beginning of the season. I never realized Hammel could throw 96-97 mph, and looking back at his velocities on the Rockies, it appears he did not know that either – until this season. Hammel has surprisingly given up less home runs after moving to the AL East, although the move from Coors Field could have mitigated that. His ERA in April was a sparkling 1.97, but he has not been pitching at that level since the beginning of the season. Certainly Hammel is having an exceptionally productive season, but there are more deserving players of the Final Vote.
4. Jonathan Broxton
Broxton would probably be last on this list if not for the All-Star Game being played in his home venue. In a peculiar move, the Royals signed Broxton in the offseason even though they had an excellent closer in Joakim Soria. Now they look quite intelligent with Soria lost for the season and Broxton with 20 saves and a 2.05 ERA. The strikeouts are nowhere near his dominating levels with the Dodgers, although his high velocity remains. Broxton has had a solid season as a closer, but that does not necessarily make him All-Star worthy. He will potentially be interesting trade bait, something the Royals certainly took into account when signing him. Even with the home venue, it’s tough to vote for a relief pitcher who is simply having a solid season.
3. Jake Peavy
Peavy has had a similar season to Hammel’s, but has performed a bit better. Peavy started the season unhittable, but struggled through May with a 4.68 ERA. He has righted himself since, and currently sports a 2.96 ERA. This is the pitcher the White Sox traded for three seasons ago, and he has been worth the wait. It was not just the injuries that have been a concern for Peavy, it has also been his ineffectiveness in the limited action he has seen in the AL. This year, Peavy has shown he is not just a product of Petco Park. If he was an All-Star this season, there would not be too many complaints. He sits in the middle of this list mostly due to his competition, not his performance.
2. Ernesto Frieri
Besides fantasy baseball waiver wire save watchers, few have heard of Frieri. He was traded from the Padres earlier in the season, and has been completely dominant in the American League. In 24.1 IP for the Angels, Frieri has not given up a run and has allowed only seven hits. He has struck out a whopping 42 batters in those innings, becoming one of the most dominant relievers in baseball. He does not appear that overpowering, but mixes his two and four seam fastballs well. As dominant as Frieri has been, it is difficult to honor someone as an All-Star when they have pitched only 24 innings in that league. Obviously Frieri has been as dominant as one can be over that small sample, but the nod should go to players who have played the entire first half in that league.
1. Yu Darvish
The current vote leader and probable winner of this contest with an entire country voting for him, Darvish has been effective in his first year in the majors. He has had control problems, and seems to be victimized by one bad inning. Regardless of that, he is putting up a 10.26 K/9 with a 3.59 ERA and 10 wins in a very hitter friendly ballpark. He has looked absolutely unhittable in certain starts and if he isn’t walking hitters, it is difficult to scratch a run against him. His numbers are not overly dominating over his competition in this contest, and there are certainly enough Rangers on this team already. However, none of the other four has the story and background that Darvish has. He is putting up good numbers in his first few months facing new hitters in a new country. The story alone is enough to propel Darvish above his competition.