Ah, yes. Picking the best player on the worst team. A time-honored tradition handed down by god awful Tigers and Twins and Astros and Pirates squads over the years that now falls to the Phillies, whose best players are considered "trade assets" and whose worst players are considered "starters."
Where to begin? Well, I'd love for this to be about Ryan Howard. He leads the team in OPS and home runs and extra base hits. He's clearly powering the offense, despite a predictably also team-leading 52 strikeouts in 48 games. Freddy Galvis, Odubel Herrera, Maikel Franco, and even Cody Asche have taken turns surging, but none have stayed in their offensive role as reliably as Howard has all year.
But the Phillies' offense is so putrid, it would be morally reprehensible to pluck their mandatory All-Star representative from that outlet. No, instead, we turn to the pitchers, of whom there are several options.
Cole Hamels is the obvious choice, an obvious ace laying down a series of starts that must really frustrate teams who have been trying to spread it around that he's not even worth a High A prospect via trade. Jonathan Papelbon has the most saves ever in Phillies history, and is on the verge of matching some of his most impressive numbers while a young man in a Red Sox uniform.
But let's peel back a layer and maybe do the team a favor by advocating that 37-year-old Aaron Harang and his one year and his five million dollars granted by the Phillies are not only the team's best investment, but their best player.
You won't see any sick .gifs of an incredible Aaron Harang breaking pitch or kooky celebration. But when the Phillies are inevitably swapping Harang for prospects, they'll be able to cite things like his 2.02 ERA, 190 ERA+, 53 SO, and 15 BB in 71.1 IP. To be able to preface that list with "All-Star" can only make him more enticing to a team that believes it's some good pitching away from contention (and that ERA is fifth in the NL, WAY better than Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg, Matt Harvey, Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, etc.).
It was only two weeks ago that we pointed out Harang was among the top generators in the entire sport in WAR, touching names in the upper echelons like Bryce Harper and Lorenzo Cain. Jesus Christ, this isn't a debate at all. Harang is clearly the Phillies' best player.
Max Scherzer leads NL pitchers with a 3.0 fWAR. Next closest: Aaron Harang at 1.8— Beyond the Box Score (@BtBScore) May 31, 2015
Aaron Harang has the lowest home ERA (0.61) in majors and 8th lowest total ERA (1.93) in majors. #Phillies— Stephen Gross (@SteveGrossMCall) May 30, 2015
Harang deserves an All-Star berth, and then a hand shake from Phillies management, followed by an immediate trade to a better team for whom is league-stifling middle-of-the-rotation pitching can be used for more than simply generating value.
Do it now, before he regresses in any capacity.
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