The campaigning has been going on since April when teams started to promote their players for the All Star Game. On basic principle I try to wait until at least June before filling out a ballot. So much changes so quick early in the season and hot starts can be misleading. But, with 60 games in and the game only a month a way it is time.
The All Star game doesn’t really matter, and when the fans and players and managers make mistakes in the voting people are sure to either a)complain or b) further announce the game doesn’t mean anything. Others say they don’t want their team’s players going and that they’d rather see them rest. I don’t buy any of it. The game is supposed to be fun and I know I have more fun when my guys are playing.
The trouble with the Tigers this year is that it is hard to find a candidate to throw support behind. Justin Verlander and Edwin Jackson are certainly deserving at this point, but fans don’t get to vote for pitchers. Miguel Cabrera started off strong, but his recent fade and the seasons of Mark Texeira, Kevin Youkilis, and Justin Morneau don’t even leave him in the top 3. Curtis Granderson has been okay but not nearly good enough to warrant a big push. But fans do have one position player who they can throw their support behind without feeling too homerish. The man, the myth, the most polarizing force among Tigers fans, Brandon Inge.
I’ss start by saying I’m not going to say that Inge is the best third baseman in the AL. Right now I’ll make that case for Evan Longoria, so if you want to vote the absolute best player then this post isn’t for you. Alex Rodriguez easily has the strongest career resume, and he’s hitting fairly well and the only knock is that he missed a chunk of the season. But the AS team will have more than one third baseman and Inge deserves serious consideration.
I honestly never expected Inge to hit this well at this point in his career. When he started off crushing balls I thought it was a novelty that we’d soon look back on fondly. While the home run rate as waned, Inge has continued to be productive at the plate. His slash line of 264/367/500 produces a wOBA of .372. The numbers for his contemporaries are:
Longoria is clearly superior with the bat. A-Rod is off to a nice start but he has 100 fewer PA’s than the others. After that things are pretty tightly packed between Michael Young, Scott Rolen, Chone Figgins, and Inge.
But offense is only part of the equation. It’s actually the part of the equation that gets valued the most, but for the sake of an informed electorate let’s look at the total package.
The defensive metrics help to sort things out a little more. Using the most recent UZR rankings and +/- data from billjamesonline.com (UZR Runs|+/- plays):
Young clearly drops out of the picture as he has been awful defensively, a least a win worst than his main competitors. Rolen has been above average but not stellar. Longoria is very good and it remains clear he’s been the best in the league.
The beauty of Fangraphs is that they put all of these things together and show a player’s value in terms of wins above replacement (WAR). The WAR numbers taken into account batting runs and fielding runs and adjustments for playing time and position. So without further ado, your AL third base leaders in terms of WAR:
Young’s fielding is so bad he doesn’t even show up in the top 5 and Rodriguez is held back by a lack of playing time. But it continues to play out that Inge, while not deserving of the starting spot, does have a legitimate case to make the team.
Now this probably didn’t change anyone’s opinion. You’ll either vote for Longoria (and you’ll be justified) or Rodriguez (and most would understand) or you were going to vote for your hometown guy (and for the bulk of readers this will be Inge). Inge also has a lot of ground to make up in the voting and not a lot of time and I know he won’t win the vote. But let’s at least turn this into a respectable showing.
If you want to get together with your fellow fans the Tigers are hosting an All Star Voting party at Hockeytown Cafe this Thursday night. Punch ballots, watch the Tigers take on the Cardinals, and there will be a raffle with autographed balls, tickets, and a Ramon Santiago game used bat. The party takes place from 8-10 pm.
One other thing…I kind of dismissed Granderson’s candidacy earlier in the post, but Curtis does rank 5th in WAR for AL outfielders so I think you could feel pretty good voting for him as well.