It's All-Star time, and that means it's time to talk about everyone's favorite subject: All-Star snubs. Every year there are players who deserve recognition in the Midsummer Classic that don't get the call.
But this year there has been a miscarriage of justice more grievous than usual. Philadelphia Phillies centerfielder Odubel Herrera, one of the standout performers of the season, has been left out of All-Star consideration entirely, not even being named a candidate for the Final Vote. This despite the fact that he has empirically outperformed several of the outfielders that made the National League roster.
This is one of the worst snubs that the All-Star Game has seen in quite some time, especially given how badly he has outperformed some players who have been chosen, and that he has already been deemed worthy of All-Star status in previous years.
How bad is this decision? Let's take a look.
The case for Herrera
Herrera's numbers have been excellent this season. He reached base safely in the first 41 games of the year (45 dating back to 2017), and his run production has been outstanding. He's already equaled his career high in home runs with 15, and with 51 RBI on the year he'll eclipse his high, 56, in fairly short order. He's slashing .281/.335/.469, with 14 doubles, a pair of triples, and 44 runs scored. He's also been incredibly clutch. He's hitting .301 with runners in scoring position this season, and eight of his 15 home runs have broken ties.
He's also played top-notch defense. His brand of center field has always been spectacular, but this year he has been cleaner in center than in the past. In recent years, many of his highlight-reel plays have come from his taking bad routes to the ball and having to recover. That's to be expected from someone who'd only been moved to the outfield four years ago when was acquired in the Rule 5 draft. This year, experience finally seems to be paying off. He's gotten to balls more directly, and when he's made spectacular catch it's had everything to do with the play's inherent difficulty as opposed to the difficulty he made himself.
He made what could have been the catch of the season, both for the Phillies and the league, when he robbed Atlanta's Freddie Freeman of a home run by leaping head and shoulders over the center field fence and catching the ball through the branches of one of the bushes that make up the batter's eye.
Both with his bat and his glove, Herrera has been one of the best outfielders in the league this season—which is what makes exclusion even more galling given the numbers of some players who made the roster.
It's easy to dismiss the fan vote to determine the All-Star starters as a popularity contest, but mostly this year's starters have the numbers to back up their participation. Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis are both hitting well above .300 and are amongst the league leaders in RBI. Bryce Harper is a bit more difficult a case given his struggles at the plate, but his 21 homers and place as one of the league's most talented players (and some home cooking in Washington) have gotten him through.
It's also difficult to argue Colorado's Charlie Blackmon, who is slashing .276/347/.475 with 17 homers and 40 RBI.
But Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich at Herrera's expense is utterly baffling. Cain may be outhitting Herrera slightly, but El Torito is decisively out-slugging him. Yelich also fails to reach Herrera's levels slugging-wise and has only driven in 36 runs in 74 games for the Brewers this year.
I'm sure that the Bill James disciples can fire up their TI-83s and come up with some kind of complex formula telling me why either of the two of them should beat out Herrera for a spot on the roster, but it would be a tough sell. Herrera has been one of the best overall outfielders in the game this year—equalling or definitively outperforming all the men who have been put on Dave Roberts' roster this year. That he's not even being considered for the final spot is a travesty of baseball.