With the 2013 MLB All-Star Game festivities kicking off tonight with the annual Home Run Derby, and the final replacements being named to each league's rosters last night, it seemed that now is as good as time as any to discuss, who I think, was the biggest snub to this year's All-Star game; Evan Longoria.
Despite struggling with Plantar Fasciitis in his right foot for much of the season, Longoria has played in 93 of Tampa Bay's first 96 games, with a .278/.356/.507 slash line, whilst leading the 55-41 Rays in both HRs (18) and RBIs (52).
But Longoria has also once again shown why he's a two-time Gold Glove winner at the "Hot Corner".
His .981 Fielding Percentage is 4th in the majors, whilst his DWAR (Defensive Wins Above Replacement) of 0.8 is 9th in the league. Also, in 724 full innings played this year, Longoria has only committed 4 errors, a mark bested only by Todd Frazier and Chase Headley, the only other players who have made fewer errors whilst playing a similar amount of innings.
Clearly, Longoria is in magnificent form this year both in regards to hitting and fielding and he's a key reason why the Rays are only 2.5 games behind the Red Sox for the AL East Division lead.
So why was he snubbed? Let's take a look.
The line-up for the American League team in tomorrow's Midsummer Classic is as follows:
C Joe Mauer, Twins
1B Chris Davis, Orioles
2B Robinson Cano, Yankees
SS J.J. Hardy, Orioles
3B Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
OF Mike Trout, Angels
OF Adam Jones, Orioles
OF Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
DH David Ortiz, Red Sox
1B Prince Fielder, Tigers
OF Torii Hunter, Tigers
SS Jhonny Peralta, Tigers
2B Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
OF Nelson Cruz, Rangers
UTIL Ben Zobrist, Rays
C Jason Castro, Astros
1B Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays
OF Alex Gordon, Royals
2B Jason Kipnis, Indians
3B Manny Machado, Orioles
C Salvador Perez, Royals
Starting at Longoria's position (3B) tomorrow is Detroit's Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera, the 2012 AL MVP and Triple Crown winner, is hitting .365/.458/.674 and currently leads the majors in batting average (.365) and RBIs (95), and is second in home runs to Baltimore's Chris Davis with 30. Considering Cabrera is, at least in my mind, the undisputed best player in the game today, it's not surprising that he got the nod over Longoria in Jim Leyland's lineup.
However, the chosen reserve for 3B is much more open for debate. The Orioles' 21-year-old phenom Manny Machado has been outstanding defensively with a 2.7 DWAR (easily leading the league) along with a fielding percentage a shade under Longoria's (.980). Machado has also turned twice as many double plays (24) and has a considerable advantage in terms of Putouts (78) and Assists (221) compared to Longoria.
However, apart from Machado sporting a higher batting average (.310) and doubles hit (a majors leading 39), Longoria is much the superior player offensively with a higher OBP, SLG, OPS, HRs, RBIs and BBs.
Realistically, the battle for the place on the bench behind Cabrera is pretty even. Machado is slightly better defensively than Longoria but Longoria posts better batting numbers. Arguably the case can be made that both should be heading to Citi Field this week especially as Machado can play shortstop in addition to third base.
In fact, shortstops and second baseman are the real reason Longoria was snubbed.
Both Machado and Cabrera are deserving of their All-Star selections, just as much as Longoria, if not more as the numbers suggest. However, the high percentage of infielders chosen by Jim Leyland to fill out the AL team leaves no room for the Rays' 3B.
On the American League roster, in addition to the starters, there are two reserve second baseman (Jason Kipnis and Dustin Pedroia), a reserve shortstop (Jhonny Peralata) as well as Ben Zobrist, ironically Longoria's Tampa Bay teammate who can play both positions. Overall there are six players (including the starters) selected to occupy the two spots in the infield.
Obviously each player will be used at some point during the All-Star game, but that amount seems excessive, especially when it means players like Zobrist (.260/.347/.383) and J.J. Hardy (.251/.293/.428) are getting in ahead of the likes of Longoria and Josh Donaldson of the Oakland Athletics (.310/.379/.522) who many argue is more deserving, although the defensive statistics in addition to the similar offensive numbers shared by the two overall favor Longoria.
It seems to me, using three third baseman and five infielders to man the SS and 2B positions throughout the All-Star game is a much more effective number to use, and ensures that none of the most deserving players are left out unfairly. Which was the case with Longoria (and Donaldson).
Undoubtedly, every player selected to the All-Star game is definitely deserving to a certain degree. The fan's vote also means Leyland's hands are tied to a certain extent, but Longoria's was the most glaring omission in this year's game. To not even be called up as a replacement after playing so well on both sides of the ball was a huge surprise.