The best players to never play in an All-Star game
One of the greatest attractions of sports is their fairness. While the rest of the world is chaos -- the rightful employee is overlooked for a promotion, the car accident comes on the worst possible day -- sports offer a way of setting everything right. There are rules and structure. Baseball, with its statistics and rigid structure, is a meritocracy in a land where nothing is.
For the most part, the All-Star game is a reflection of that. But because of roster space, depth at a position and the bad luck that is supposed to stay far away from the ballfield, sometimes that's not always the case.
So while there are players like Tony Phillips who accumulated over 50 rWAR over 18 seasons while playing all over the diamond and Tim Salmon who crushed 299 home runs and Kirk Gibson who somehow won an MVP without going to the All-Star game, we like to think that those are the exceptions to the rule.
But what about active players? With one day of voting left, here are the five active players with the most career rWAR to never reach the All-Star game. We'll also be looking at number of seasons with 4 rWAR or higher as that is a general benchmark for what an "All-Star" season is. So if you think that this is a great disservice to them, perhaps you can help right this wrong by voting here.
P: A.J. Burnett - 28.2 rWAR
Best Season: 13-9, 4.04 ERA, 207 IP, 195/97 K/BB, 4.4 rWAR
Current Season: 5-7, 3.89 ERA, 111 IP, 85/47 K/BB
4+ rWAR Seasons: 2002 (4.0), 2009 (4.4)
The Batman-loving tattooed starter has been a workhorse throughout his career, eclipsing the 200-inning mark five times and twice leading the league in K/9. This has helped contribute to over $135M in career earnings and yet no All-Star appearance.
No, I don't get it either.
C: Kurt Suzuki - 13.5 rWAR
Best Season: 2008, .279/.346/.370, 7 HR, 2 SB, 3.8 rWAR
Current Season: .299/.354/.389, 2 HR, 0 SB, 1.7 rWAR
4+ rWAR Seasons: 0
Catching is always hard to properly evaluate. The grind of all of that squatting takes a toll on the offensive numbers and so much of catching is like an art: pitch calling, pitcher handling and xx. It's like saying Jackson Pollock should have been an All-Star over Jasper Johns. It almost boggles the mind.
So while Suzuki's best run of seasons came near the beginning of his career, finishing fifth among American League catchers with 42 home runs from 2009 to 2011, Suzuki's actually posting the best OPS of his career in his first tour with Minnesota. Not an easy task considering that he's taken on the tools of ignorance from Joe Mauer.
(A disclaimer on this one. Suzuki is actually second on the list, but because he's behind Carlos Santana who has converted to third base, I decided he was no longer eligible.)
1B: Lyle Overbay/Adam Laroche
2B Mark Ellis - 33.6 rWAR
Best Season: 2005, .316/.384/.477, 13 HR, 1 SB, 4.3 rWAR
Current Season: .194/.276/.239, 0 HR, 4 SB, 0.1 rWAR
4+ rWAR Seasons: 2005 (4.7), 2007 (4.8), 2008 (4.0)
Ellis' problem: defense. Because while we know great defense when we see it, even now as Statcast has entered the mainstream, we're still not exactly sure how to account for great defense. So while nearly half of Ellis' career rWAR comes from his defense, we are stlill as baffled by the numbers the way we are by caveman wall paintings, only guessing at the greater meaning.
And while a strong defensive reputation can help, you generally need above-average offense to get into the All-Star game and Ellis has only three seasons with an above-average OPS+ and only one season with an OPS topping .800. Maybe one day we'll be able to successfully quantify defense, but until then players like Ellis will have a hard time cracking the lineup.
3B Eric Chavez - 37.4 rWAR
Best Season: 2001, .288/.338/.540, 32 HR, 8 SB, 6.0 rWAR
4+ rWAR seasons: 2001 (6.0), 2002 (4.2), 2003 (5.3), 2004 (5.5), 2005 (4.8)
And finally we come to the player who best represents the best player who should have, but failed to be selected to an All-Star game. And to this day, it doesn't make much sense. From 2001-2006, Chavez won six consecutive Gold Glove awards while averaging 29 home runs a year and an .846 OPS. Much less an All-Star, that was the start of a career that looked like it would finish in Cooperstown if it weren't for the injuries which plagued Chavez and kept him off the field.
Unfortunately, during that stretch, there was another third baseman by the name of Alex Rodriguez who averaged 46 home runs and a .979 OPS during that time span, winning two MVP awards along the way.
Sadly, Chavez never was able to break into the lineup as after 2006, injuries ended any Cooperstown dream. Since then, Chavez has never reached 400 plate appearances in a season again, his best showing coming in 2012 when Chavez hit 16 home runs with a .281/.348/.496 line with the Yankees in part-time work.
OF: Nick Markakis: 24.2 rWAR
Best Season: 2008: .306/.406/.491, 20 HR, 10 SB, 5.1 rWAR
Seasons with 4+ rWAR: 2007, 2008
Why he's been overlooked: You'd be shocked that Nick Markakis has yet to appear in All-Star game. After all, he has been one of the most steady outfielders since making his debut in 2006. Subract a rough 2013 and Markakis has never had an OPS below .750 while offering a mixture of power, speed, and a well-regarded throwing arm. And that could be his problem.
Single tools stand out. Hit for a very high average or hit a lot of home runs? You're probably in. Play a consistently strong brand of baseball across the spectrum and you may have a harder time making your prescence felt. It didn't help that his best two seasons saw crowded AL outfields with players like Vladimir Guerrero, Magglio Ordonez, Manny Ramirez, and Ichiro Suzuki filling up the roster.
OF: Shin-Soo Choo: 26.1 rWAR
Best Season: 2010, .300/.401/.484, 22 HR, 22 SB, 5.9 rWAR
Current season: .251/.368/.382, 7 HR, 3 SB, 0.6 rWAR
Seasons with 4+ rWAR: 2009, 2010, 2013
Shin-Soo Choo has long been considered one of the most underrated players in the game. And that's not just me talking, that's Major League players in 2011, Grant Brisbee of SB Nation in 2012, and the members of the Body Building forum in 2013. So ... pretty much everyone agrees. Which is rare.
And Choo has struggled to stand out in much the same way Markakis has: his stat line isn't sexy so much as solid. He'll hit 20 home runs, steal 20 bases, hit around .300 and draw tons of walks (along with plenty of hit by pitches, too. Over the last year-and-a-half, Choo leads the Majors with 36 HBP). It didn't help that in 2008, Choo was recovering from Tommy John surgery an didn't make his debut until the end of May. That seaosn he ended up with 14 HR and a career-high .946 OPS. before ending up with 14 HR and a .946 OPS.
Just like the popular Dominican saying, "You can't walk off the island," you can't walk your way to the All-Star game either. Despite the now ubiqutous acceptance that a high on-base percentage is the best correlation with scoring runs, when it comes to the All-Star game, people don't want to see excellent plate vision, they want to see mammoth home runs. Or something. Since 2000, there have been 16 outfielders with at least 100 games played to have an OBP above .400, but a SLG below .500. Shin Soo-Choo has two of those seasons. Only five of them went to the All-Star game and that includes Ichiro Suzuki's 2002 when he set the record for most hits in a season.
OF: Coco Crisp: 30.4 rWAR
Best Season: 2013, .261/.335/.444, 22 HR, 21 SB, 4.3 rWAR
Current Season: .289/.383/.447, 6 HR, 13 SB, 1.7 rWAR
4+ rWAR seasons: 2005 (4.3), 2013 (4.3)
Despite having arguably the best name, best hair and best dance move in the league, Crisp has yet to be rewarded with a trip to the Midsummer Classic. Unfortunately for Crisp, it likely comes down to an unlucky ability to put all his best talents together in one season. His two best years on the basepaths, when he stole 49 and 39 bases in 2011 and 12? He hit only 8 and 11 home runs those years. Had he shown a little more power, it's likely that Crisp would have been elected to the All-Star game.
Fortunately for Crisp, he's having another strong season and could find his streak ended this summer.