Yesterday, the starters for the 2015 All-Star game were unveiled, with 22-year-old Bryce Harper setting an NL record for All-Star fan votes with 13.86 million, and the Kansas City Royals having four players in the starting lineup for the American League.
It wasn’t too long ago when the Phillies sent FIVE players of their own to the All-Star game, albeit they didn’t all find themselves in the starting lineup simultaneously. In 2011, the Phillies sent starting pitchers Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels along with third baseman Placido Polanco and outfielder Shane Victorino to the Midsummer Classic. Those were the good old days.
Four years later, the Phillies’ roster is scarce of All-Star-caliber talent. The All-Star reserves, pitchers, and final vote candidates will be announced tonight, and at least one player will be a Phillie. As the All-Star Game rules state, every team much be represented. That includes the Phillies, who currently sport the worst record in MLB at 28-56.
There are three front-runners for the Phillies’ representative. Those players are Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon, and rookie Maikel Franco. Each player is deserving, although you could make the argument for or against each.
Hamels is the ace of a horrendous Phillies starting rotation. Their starters rank dead last in the National League in ERA (5.24), BAA (.290), and wins (17). Hamels has been the only bright spot for the rotation, and has had himself another great season. The 31-year-old has a 3.02 ERA, a 1.13 WHIP, and 119 strikeouts in 113.1 innings-pitched. He also ranks 4th in the NL among starting pitchers with a 3.5 WAR, behind Zach Greinke (4.8), Max Scherzer (4.7), and Shelby Miller (3.6), all of whom will likely be selected to the All-Star Game.
The one blemish Hamels has on his resume is his win-loss record, which sits at 5-6. The lack of run support for Hamels has to be put into consideration, however. The left-hander ranks second to last in the NL in average run support at 2.76.
Papelbon has been pitching at an All-Star-caliber level for the Phillies all season long. The 34-year-old has a 1.65 ERA and has 14 saves in 14 opportunities. The right-hander also has 34 strikeouts in 32.2 innings-pitched to go along with a .213 BAA.
Papelbon has been lights out for the Phillies this season. Like Hamels, though, he has suffered from the team’s inability to score runs consistently. His 14 save opportunities are tied for the fewest in the NL among closers with 12 saves or more. In short, he hasn’t been given many chances to actually do his job. Each time he pitches, the team is either behind, or like yesterday’s game, the team is too many runs ahead for Papelbon to earn a save. Nationals closer Drew Storen already has 25 saves in 27 opportunities despite the fact that Papelbon has pitched 2/3 of an inning more than him. While Storen’s 1.97 ERA is impressive, Papelbon’s is .32 points lower. You put Paps on the Nationals, and he could very well have 27 saves by now.
Interim Manager Pete Mackanin believes Papelbon is the most deserving candidate to represent the Phillies at the All-Star Game.
“The save numbers aren’t there, but when you look at the other numbers, he’s been very efficient,” Mackanin said in an interview with a Philly.com reporter. “He’s the first guy that comes to mind. I don’t know if there’s anyone else. He would be a guy that I would have to believe is under consideration.”
Closers, much like starting pitchers, are commonly judged too harshly on the number of saves they have. Strip away the saves, and Papelbon is one of the top closers in all of baseball.
Franco is the final candidate to represent the Phillies in Cincinnati. The 22-year-old has had himself one hell of a rookie season since his call-up on May 15, hitting .297 with 10 home runs and 34 RBIs in only 48 games. That’s the biggest deterrent for Franco, though. The fact that he has only played in 48 games and has yet to reach the 200 at-bat mark could leave him out of consideration even though he leads all rookies, with 190 or more at-bats, in slugging percentage (.531), and is tied with Joc Pederson in OPS among rookies (.876).
Franco’s torrid month of June, where he hit .353 with eight home runs and 24 RBIs and earned NL rookie of the month honors, quickly made him the face of the Phillies. For Franco, however, it’s a long shot that he’ll be selected only because he hasn’t played enough games.
Hamels, Papelbon, and Franco have all had All-Star worthy seasons. There’s an outside shot that two players will be selected, but chances are that only one will be given the honor. Now it’s just up to MLB to decide which one (or two?) will represent the Phillies in Cincinnati on July 14.