It’s a well-established fact that the MLB All-Star Game, the game that “matters”, is ridiculous. Having the outcome of one game, consisting of players that do not play with each other and are voted in by the general public, decide home-field advantage for the league’s championship is as insane as it sounds. But this is the world we live in. The world of meatballs is an irrational one, and this brings us to the plight of Josh Donaldson.
Typically, two players from each position are chosen to represent their respective leagues, one is fan-voted and the “reserve” is determined by the manager and on occasion a third player may be included at their position. This year, American League third-basemen are having great years including Donalson, Manny Machado, Miguel Cabrera, and Evan Longoria.
However, at most, only three of these players are likely to make the roster. Cabrera has the most votes of any player in the American League, so it’s safe to assume he will start at third base. Machado is the next highest vote-getter at the position, but he is at only half of Cabrera’s total. Donaldson does not even crack the top five in votes (ridiculously behind Kevin Youkilis).
This leaves the manager’s choice (and possibly the last man vote) as the option for the other spot(s). Looking at the Fangraphs’ WAR (Wins Above Replacement) leaderboards, Machado, Longoria and Donaldson all trail Cabrera (3.4 WAR) with WAR’s of 3.1, 2.7 and 2.6 respectively (for reference, Baseball-Reference WAR has the following; Cabrera 3.3, Machado 3.3, Longoria 2.4, Donaldson 2.4).
With one, possibly two, spot(s) available at third base, American League manager Jim Leyland is going to have to make some tough choices.
Based solely on WAR, Machado is the next choice, followed by Longoria. Machado’s defense is stellar, first in the AL in defensive-WAR. It seems clear that if you are managing a game that “matters,” having the best hitter and best fielder available at third-base would be a good option. Where does that leave Donaldson (or Longoria for that matter)?
An assumption can be made that Leyland will want to have his bench stocked with the best hitters in the league, to be available to pinch hit. Looking at wOBA (Weighted On Base Average), we can assume that the top two performers, Chris Davis and Cabrera will be starting, and number three in the league in wOBA is Josh Donaldson.
This makes the picture clear to Leyland. Cabrera will start, Machado can come off the bench as a defensive replacement and Donaldson will be available to pinch hit.
While Longoria can make a case for being snubbed, Leyland would be making the correct move in having the third best hitter in the American League available on his bench. The A’s have two other deserving players, Coco Crisp who has the highest wOBA for AL outfielders, and Ryan Cook who has been the third best reliever in the AL (according to Fangraphs’ WAR).
While it is unlikely that any A’s players make the game on votes alone, it is possible to see at least one and possibly three A’s playing in July. Donaldson has the highest snub-potential, but he is certainly not the only deserving A’s player to potentially make the all-star game.