As a kid, sitting in the hard, sun-splashed seats in the 600 level of the Vet, there was nothing more gratifying than spending the middle innings of a Sunday matinee covered in little paper dots, punched from a perforated card filled with the names of the best position players for every team in the Majors.
“Hey mom. Moooooom. Can I have a pen? Your car keys? I need to punch out 20 of these ballots before the usher comes back around next inning. Von Hayes needs me! He needs me, mom!”
Filling out the MLB All-Star ballot is a right of passage for any baseball fan, where voting for the home team over the best player on a division rival is a given. Yet despite Major League Baseball allowing fans to vote online for the last dozen some-odd years, the league still forces teams to submit their players for inclusion on the ballot at the start of the season. That’s why the Phillies have Cody Asche on the ballot as one of their three outfielders despite having zero plate appearances in the big leagues in 2016.
That’s why Carlos Ruiz is on the ballot over Cameron Rupp despite having 37 fewer at bats and hitting, to date, 49 points worse this season. And yet, it’s not as if Rupp warrants inclusion on the All Star team over Chooch. Nor, for that matter, does Tyler Goeddel over Asche in the outfield, despite his .333 average over his last 15 games.
Which begs the question: do any Phillies deserve to be voted into the All Star Game?
According to the first tally of voting from MLB, that answer is a resounding “Nope.” The Phillies don’t have a player ranked in the top five at any infield position, and don’t have an outfielder ranked in the top 15 in voting after the first round of results were tallied. Not even Odubel Herrera. From Evan Webeck of MLB.com:
Odubel Herrera ranks near the top of many hitting leaderboards. His .425 on-base percentage ranks fifth in baseball and his 34 walks rank fourth in the National League. Herrera also leads the team in wins above replacement, with 2.2. Since being moved to the top of the order on April 20, Herrera has been a sparkplug for the offense. In that time, he’s hit .341 and scored a team-high 23 runs.
However, for Herrera to crack the top 15 in National League outfielders, he’ll have to overtake at least the Giants’ Angel Pagan, who ranks 15th with 155,507 votes. Pagan, by comparison, has a lower average (.275), on-base percentage (.338) and slugging percentage (.383).
In other words, grab a pen or some keys and get punching, people!
It’s hard to blame fans for not voting for the Phillies this season, despite the relatively hot start. The ASG push by MLB has coincided with the worst play of the season for the Phils, as the team has lost six games in a row and nine of their last 11, scoring more than four runs just four times since late April.
Three weeks ago, the Phillies were the darlings of the NL East at 22-15, primarily on the backs of the pitching staff. But as the rotation has cooled, the bats haven’t been able to carry the load, and the team has won just four of its last 16 games, now back under .500 for the first time since April 24.
With that, here’s a closer look at all the Phillies on the ballot, including Herrera, who surely deserves more votes than Angel Pagan, but probably doesn’t warrant inclusion in anyone’s top three NL outfielders so far this season. (Updated voting via MLB.com.)
At first base, the Phillies put Ryan Howard on the ballot. Understandable given his contributions to the club in the past, but he’s hitting 60 points worse than the second worst batter at the position – Joey Votto’s uninspiring .215. The Phillies are trying to figure out if Tommy Joseph is even a capable starter at first, not an All Star.
- Anthony Rizzo, Cubs: 874,471
- Brandon Belt, Giants: 271,670
- Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers: 253,529
- Paul Goldschmidt, D-backs: 217,186
- Lucas Duda, Mets: 153,803
Cesar Hernandez is in the middle of the pack among NL second basemen at the plate, hitting .250, but he’s got zero pop. Plus, he’s hitting 33 points worse than, gulp, Chase Utley. Still, as good of a defender as Hernandez has been, David Murphy of the Nationals and Chicago’s Ben Zobrist deserve every single vote.
- Ben Zobrist, Cubs: 732,519
- Daniel Murphy, Nationals: 488,468
- Neil Walker, Mets: 269,125
- Joe Panik, Giants: 192,141
- Josh Harrison, Pirates: 163,314
Freddy Galvis is a fine player for this ballclub; a placeholder on a .500 team until J.P. Crawford, the Phillies’ top prospect – and the top shortstop prospect still in the minors – comes up to the bigs. Galvis is not an All Star, even if you decide to vote for him.
- Addison Russell, Cubs: 544,240
- Trevor Story, Rockies: 534,290
- Asdrubal Cabrera, Mets: 247,954
- Brandon Crawford, Giants: 246,390
- Zack Cozart, Reds: 231,502
Maikel Franco is supposed to be the Phillies’ best position player, but his numbers this year are, well, a bit of a concern. Through Tuesday, Franco was batting .247 with eight homers and nine doubles, slugging .421 in 190 at bats, eighth among qualified players at the position and 13th for any NL third basemen with 50 or more at bats.
It’s unfair to put too much pressure on Franco given he was supposed to be the best player on a really bad team, so now that the Phillies have been competitive, many of us suddenly expect more from Franco simply because of the standings. Perhaps that pressure is getting to him. Or perhaps he’s leveled off from his productive yet truncated rookie campaign, and this is who he is.
- Kris Bryant, Cubs: 776,107
- Nolan Arenado, Rockies: 593,691
- David Wright, Mets: 190,282
- Matt Carpenter, Cardinals: 173,997
- Matt Duffy, Giants: 164,233
At catcher, Chooch is, well, Chooch. He is a part-time player, not an All Star.
- Yadier Molina, Cardinals: 517,825
- Buster Posey, Giants: 439,239
- Miguel Montero, Cubs: 286,494
- Welington Castillo, D-backs: 249,159
- Wilson Ramos, Nationals: 209,949
In the outfield, two of the Phillies’ three choices are two of the three worst options at the position on the ballot. A case can be made that Asche has more business being in the All Star Game than Peter Bourjos, despite missing the entire season so far with an oblique injury. (Per reports, Asche has reached the maximum number of rehab games and will be activated this week and it can’t be hard to imagine him getting time over a below replacement-level player like Bourjos.) David Lough is getting more time in the outfield, and while two great defensive plays on Wednesday night showcase his value to the team, his .200 batting average in the last 30 games makes it hard to see him as an everyday player.
- Bryce Harper, Nationals: 838,599
- Dexter Fowler, Cubs: 797,160
- Yoenis Cespedes, Mets: 792,395
- Jason Heyward, Cubs: 476,595
- Ryan Braun, Brewers: 448,717
- Jorge Soler, Cubs: 312,645
- Andrew McCutchen, Pirates: 306,123
- Michael Conforto, Mets: 244,073
- Hunter Pence, Giants: 238,407
- Starling Marte, Pirates: 217,308
- Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies: 212,112
- Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins: 208,067
- Curtis Granderson, Mets: 191,734
- Stephen Piscotty, Cardinals: 162,976
- Angel Pagan, Giants: 155,507
And thus, all ASG roads lead back to Herrera.
Herrera has been quite the Rule 5 find for the Phillies, and in his second year in centerfield has already proven to be better than the first. Since the All-Star break last season, Herrera is hitting .324 with an OBP of .408 and an OPS over .850 over 119 games. Those are All-Star caliber numbers, coupled with the fact that — small sample size be damned — Herrera currently ranks in the top 10 in WAR for players in the National League this season, per Fangraphs, mere percentage points behind Nationals’ star and perennial MVP candidate Bryce Harper.
There’s no doubt Herrera will be in the All Star Game if his numbers stay strong in June, but should he be voted in?
Per that same Fangraphs list, he trails Harper, Gregory Polanco of the Pirates, Marcell Ozuna of the Marlins and Dexter Fowler of the Cubs for NL outfielders, a list that doesn’t include Yoenes Cespedes and his 15 homers or Ryan Braun and his .348 batting average and 1.000 OPS.
It also doesn’t account for big names having All Star-esque seasons, like Carlos Gonzalez hitting .312 with 10 homers, Hunter Pence hitting .302 with 36 RBI or Starling Marte, who is hitting .325 with 20 extra base hits.
And let’s remember, All Star voting is a simple popularity contest, not one based on merit. That’s why Jason Heyward is ranked fourth in outfield voting despite a .222 batting average, one home run, 18 RBI and a .608 OPS this year.
Cubs fans are nothing if not loyal and, let’s be honest, a little stupid for punching his perforated circle so many times.
That all said, Herrera deserves to be in the All-Star Game, but given Harper is a lock for one spot, surely Fowler in line for another and Cespedes more than 300,000 votes ahead of fourth place, it’s impossible to think anyone is going to catch them, especially a guy like Herrera who hasn’t even cracked the top 15.
So will Hererra end up on the team at all? If the Phillies only get one participant in the game — a real possibility for a team hovering around .500 — it would have to be a pitcher, yes?
Jeanmar Gomez is atop the NL saves list, boasting a solid 2.33 ERA in 27 innings. Hector Neris has a team best 2.20 ERA and a ridiculous 0.87 WHIP in a set-up role. And speaking of ridiculous WHIPs, Aaron Nola’s 0.93 WHIP and 2.88 ERA are the best of any Phillies starter, including Vincent Velasquez, who himself may deserve All-Star consideration as well.
Still, as good as Nola has been, he’s not Clayton Kershaw, or Jake Arrieta, or Noah Syndergaard or, sheesh, Jason Hammel or Madison Bumgarner or Johnny Cueto or Stephen Matz or Stephen Strasburg or Joe Ross, who just bested Nola on Tuesday, or Jon Lester or Jose Fernandez or…man alive there are a lot of good starters in the National League this season.
Nola will be an All Star soon, but maybe not this season. If there’s an odds-on favorite to make the All-Star team, it’s probably Gomez at this point in the year, but given pitchers aren’t voted on—another antiquated MLB All-Star tradition—the only player with any chance to get voted in is Herrera.
And that’s precisely why everyone should vote for him. And Howard and Ruiz and Asche too. The kid in you, covered in round perforated dots, would expect nothing less.