I absolutely love the MLB All-Star Game. There’s nothing like seeing the best of the best go at it and actually care about the result. I love the fact that every team gets represented, and thus every baseball fan has a reason to watch and feel like their team is included and being recognized in the game. I remember during the Tribe’s glory days in the 90s when the Tribe would absolutely dominate the American League roster. Those days are long gone, but nonetheless it’s still exciting to find out which members of this year’s squad might crack the roster. Justin Masterson certainly has a legitimate shot at this point. Perhaps Carlos Santana sneaks onto the roster at a relatively weak position in the American League after Joe Mauer.
However, right now I want to take a look at Jason Kipnis’s chances of being named to his first ever all-star game. First of all, props to Kipnis on his quick turnaround this season. This didn’t even look like a possible discussion even into mid-May this season. He’s certainly turned things around in a big way, highlighted by a June batting average of .411 which puts him in serious contention for the AL Player of the Month for June.
However, there are quite a few other second basemen putting up pretty good seasons right now, and a good case can be made for a lot of them to be all-stars. A lot of the quality second basemen in the American League are putting up relatively similar numbers. Let me throw out some names of AL second basemen aside from Kipnis that are worthy of consideration at the very least: Dustin Pedroia, Ben Zobrist, Robinson Cano, Omar Infante, Howie Kendrick, Jose Altuve, and Ian Kinsler. That’s quite a logjam when you figure that there is only going to be maybe 3 spots for second basemen on the roster.
I think it’s probably safe to say that Cano and Pedroia are likely going to make the squad (though Kipnis is equally if not more deserving than both). Pedroia leads AL second basemen in runs, hits, walks, AVG and OBP. While Cano is having a down year by his standards, he still leads AL second basemen in HR, and he is likely to get the starting nod through the fan vote. This leaves six qualified second basemen including Kipnis, with let’s say one spot open. Obviously a big part of this discussion will depend on how many second basemen Jim Leyland wants to carry. It could only be Pedroia or Cano, or he could take a page out of Joe Torre’s book in 2002 when Torre decided to carry five shortstops for the AL squad. Nonetheless, there’s a surplus of qualified players with a minimal number of spots.
If we’re going just by statistics alone, Kipnis looks to clearly be next in line on the American League All-Star depth chart after Pedroia and Cano. His WAR of 3.3 ranks first among AL second basemen. He also ranks first among AL second basemen in doubles, RBI, SB, SLG, and OPS. Like I said, statistically he clearly is outplaying Cano, and you can make a very legitimate case that he is more deserving than Pedroia as well. Unfortuantely he doesn’t play in a big city to get the biased recognition these two are going to receive. I would say Howie Kendrick would be next in line after Kipnis if we’re looking at the statistics, but it would be a profound injustice if Kendrick ended up making the team and Kipnis didn’t.
I still think Jason Kipnis has a really good shot of making the squad. There’s one major factor that I’m still a little nervous about though. That factor would be named Jose Altuve. Why is Altuve a threat to Kipnis’s chances? Jose Altuve is the best player on the Houston Astros, and there aren’t many others remotely close to worthy of all-star consideration on the Astros. Catcher Jason Castro is certainly worthy of consideration after Joe Mauer, and he would seem like the only other reasonable alternative on the Astros. Due to the rule that every team must be represented in the all-star game (which I fully support by the way), at least one member of the Houston Astros must be represented, and there’s good chance it might be Altuve.
As I said earlier though, it all comes down to how many second basemen Leyland is willing to put on the roster. Kipnis is deserving without a doubt, and I hope he doesn’t get the short end of the stick. I think the odds are in his favor right now, because he has been on fire at the plate for such a prolonged period of time now. I hope his fellow players get it right by voting him in as a reserve, and if not, Jim Leyland needs to hand-pick Kipnis himself for one of the remaining spots. Kipnis has put the Tribe on his shoulders and carried them for the last month or so. Now let’s see if the rest of the baseball world is willing to give him the attention he deserves by sending him to the mid-summer classic, because it would be a major snub if he wasn’t there.