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MLB released the first update on phase one of fan voting for the 2022 All-Star Game on Tuesday. It’s always interesting to me to see how much the breakout performers from the first couple of months of the season are being noticed and rewarded by fans—and which disappointing superstars are being given the benefit of the doubt. This process used to drag on for quite a while, but phase one ends next Thursday, so this first batch of votes will carry significant weight in deciding which players will make up the starting lineups on July 19 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
It’s important to note that there’s a new system in place this summer. After a 25-day primary round, the top two vote-getters at each position (top six in the outfield) advance to the starters’ election, which resets the vote totals of the finalists and lasts 74 hours. (Last year phase two included the top three vote-getters at most positions and top nine in the outfield.) The multistage system is meant to prevent one overzealous fan base from dictating the results of the vote, as it gives the rest of the league a chance to coalesce behind the other candidate in phase two if he is more deserving.
How’s this structure working out, and for whom? Let’s break it down.
Give yourself a hand, fans
Overall, the fans are doing a great job, and it seems like MLB has discovered a voting system that’s more fair than the one used by a good deal of countries around the world. In the rare case where fans perhaps have not recognized the most deserving candidate, it seems like an acceptable outcome eventually will be reached. I don’t have any big nits to pick about any of the players currently leading their positions.
The player currently leading so who’s least deserving is probably Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette, who leads by less than 2% of the total vote over a pair of fellow 2021 All-Stars. That said, Bichette is still a semi-defensible pick as the AL shortstop with the second-most home runs. And most of the players who thus far have been notably snubbed by voters, whom we’ll get to below, aren’t the most popular players that fans want to watch in an All-Star exhibition. It’s important to remember that’s all this is.
I think delaying the start of voting until June 8, so that early small sample size abnormalities could sort themselves out, and the inclusion of a few key statistics on the digital ballot will prevent casuals from making any egregious mistakes à la Andrew Wiggins starting in this year’s NBA All-Star Game. It also helps that no MLB team has yet to employ a massive K-pop star to wield his fandom to influence the ASG fan vote.
Blue Jays, Braves fans showing up
This year, the fan bases most likely to annoy their rivals by stuffing the ballot box are the Braves, undoubtedly still riding the high of the World Series win, and the Blue Jays, who regularly benefit from being Canada’s only team and this year may be feeling especially frisky as the trendy AL East offseason pick (even if that’s not panning out).
As I mentioned above, Bichette’s lead over Tim Anderson and Xander Bogaerts for American League shortstop is probably the only result from the fan update worth fretting over. That can be traced back to Toronto, whose fans have voted someone into the top three of every position except designated hitter. Bichette, first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., outfielder George Springer and catcher Alejandro Kirk would all start for the AL if voting had ended with Tuesday’s update. Kirk is one of just three AL players with at least 1 million votes, along with Aaron Judge and Mike Trout, and has the largest lead of any All-Star candidate with 35% of the vote to Jose Trevino’s 13%. You can’t say he’s a paper tiger, though—the 23-year-old leads all AL catchers in fWAR (2.3), batting average (.304), on-base percentage (.395) and slugging percentage (.473), as he’s atop a very weak pool of contenders at his position.
Several Braves have gotten a World Series bump, with outfielders Adam Duvall (sixth place) and Marcell Ozuna (eighth) sticking out like sore thumbs amid their more deserving peers. It can even be argued that one of their current players is feeling the effects of not being around for the championship run. Atlanta’s fans have voted a Braves player into the top three of every position—except first base, where Matt Olson is in fourth behind Paul Goldschmidt, Pete Alonso and Freddie Freeman, whom Olson replaced in Atlanta. It’ll be interesting to see how Freeman is received at Truist Park when the Dodgers come to town this weekend, as I have a hunch he’s still receiving All-Star support from the fans he brought a title to after entertaining them for over a decade.
National League lineup will look different
Only one NL starter from last year’s Midsummer Classic, Ronald Acuña Jr., is on pace to win the fan vote again. And I think it’ll stay that way, as Freeman and Nolan Arenado are the only two candidates with a shot to make the second phase of voting as a top-two vote-getter at their respective positions. Arenado is second behind Manny Machado, while Freeman is third. Machado (969,582 votes) holds a comfortable cushion at third base, so even after things reset in phase two, it’s unlikely Arenado (581,363) will gain enough support to start at the hot corner. Freeman (469,197), meanwhile, is closer to fourth-place Olson (403,514), than he is to second-place Alonso (602,321).
That’s compared to four AL starters from last year currently in first place at their positions—Guerrero Jr., Rafael Devers, Trout and Judge—with Bogaerts, Salvador Perez, Teoscar Hernández and Shohei Ohtani all having decent chances of qualifying for phase two.
Why does the top of the NL ballot look so different this year? Well, three of last year’s NL starters—Adam Frazier, Buster Posey and Jesse Winker—aren’t even in the league anymore, with Frazier and Winker both on the Mariners and Posey retired. Fernando Tatis Jr., who received the NL’s second-most votes in 2021 behind Acuña, has yet to play a game this season (though he’s still fifth in the NL shortstop voting). That’s all combined to make for a lot of turnover in the senior circuit; the last time only one NL starting position player carried over from the previous All-Star Game was 2011, when Ryan Braun was the lone holdover—and the now retired Matt Kemp made his ASG debut.
Biggest “snubs” aren’t exactly stars
It’s sort of fun to get upset on behalf of the players you feel should get more recognition in the fan vote. In my book, there are two guys in each league who should be garnering more votes. In the National League, Cardinals infielder Tommy Edman, who is the MLB leader in Baseball Reference’s version of WAR (4.1), but is fourth in NL shortstop voting; Cubs outfielder Ian Happ, who ranks second among NL outfielders in OPS (.854) and FanGraphs’s version of WAR (2.1), but is a distant 17th in NL outfield voting. Over in the American League, Twins infielder Luis Arraez, who leads the majors with a .362 batting average and .442 on-base percentage, is the fourth-place vote-getter at first baseman; Mariners shortstop J.P. Crawford, who is third among AL shortstops in wRC+ (129), is eighth in AL SS voting. Edman and Arraez especially deserve to be in Los Angeles for the All-Star Game.
With that said, none of those guys are the sort of flashy, established stars who show up on highlight reels and attract the average fan. Most of them fare better in sabermetrics than they do in the standard statistics shown on the digital ballot (with the exception being Arraez, who along with Edman was hurt by not being listed at second base). They’re the sort of players who need to pay their dues and showcase All-Star caliber skill for a little longer to thrive in fan voting. But there are still other routes for them to make it to the Midsummer Classic, and at the very least Edman and Arraez will find a way if they keep on playing how they have been.
We’re living in Joc’s world
Joc Pederson has a solid grip on third place in the NL outfield, and it’s well-earned. The only player to win the World Series in each of the past two years is enjoying his best season, at least from an individual standpoint, in 2022.
Pederson’s career-high 153 wRC+ leads all NL outfielders, and he’s also on pace to set career-best marks in batting average (.271), slugging percentage (.565) and OPS (.912). The lefty power bat, who is now with the Giants, hasn’t appeared in the All-Star Game since 2015, his rookie year with the Dodgers, but he could be set to return in style at his old stomping grounds at Chavez Ravine.
Pederson might be the only player beloved in Los Angeles, Atlanta and San Francisco. Wearing his trademark pearl necklace for the first time since last fall’s World Series parade, he was presented with his World Series ring in Atlanta on Monday night to a standing ovation. The 30-year-old was applauded again while strolling up to bat for the Giants in the ninth inning of a tie game. He proceeded to get a base hit, nearly sparking a rally in San Francisco’s loss, then smashed a two-run homer Tuesday in a game the Giants ended up winning by two. Pederson basically can do no wrong at this point—unless you’re Tommy Pham.
A fittingly tight race at AL 3B
Rafael Devers and José Ramírez are neck and neck in the race to start at third base for the American League, just as they should be. These are the two guys tied for first at the position in MLB in Baseball Reference’s version of offensive WAR, and Tuesday’s vote reveal showed them locked in the closest race in fan voting, with Devers (727,669) leading Ramírez (711,367) by a mere 16,302 votes, or .5% of votes cast for the top 10 vote-getters at their position.
Both will probably be the only two third baseman on the squad, as there’s not anyone else who’s come close to matching their production, so the only real stakes here surround which slugger gets the starting nod. It should come down to the wire. I’d go with Ramírez, who ranks third in the majors with a 1.030 OPS over Devers’s .981 OPS (7th in MLB) and boasts superior speed and defense. It’ll be interesting to see if the league’s fans fall in line behind him and Cleveland against Boston’s far-reaching base.
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