The Phillies have either been in first or second place for the entire 2019 season. Sure, there have been some down spots, but overall, at 44-40, the team has had a decent year, are tied for the second wild card spot with the Rockies, and remain in the conversation for the NL East title, 5.5 games behind the Braves.
Last year, they also spent the majority of the season in first or second place, although their collapse down the stretch negated almost all of that progress. But for the majority of the last two seasons, the team has been a “contender.”
So why do they continue to get no love in terms of All Star appearances?
On Sunday it was announced that catcher J.T. Realmuto would be the Phils’ lone representative at the Midsummer Classic, the sixth straight year the Phillies have had just one player playing in the All Star Game.
- 2019 - Realmuto
- 2018 - Aaron Nola
- 2017 - Pat Neshek
- 2016 - Odubel Herrera
- 2015 - Jonathan Papelbon
- 2014 - Chase Utley
The last time the Phils had at least two players selected for the All Star Game was 2013, when Dominic Brown and Cliff Lee were chosen. Lee’s selection led to this iconic moment in Phillies history, by the way.
Seems like a ray of sunshine that Cliff Lee, huh?
Realmuto’s selection makes sense, but only because it’s a down year for catchers in the National League. His 2.5 fWAR was tied for second in the NL, thanks mainly to his fine defensive work. Offensively, he is batting an underwhelming .265/.319/.431, with 10 HRs, 49 runs scored, and just 37 RBIs hitting out of the No. 5 spot in the lineup, and a .745 OPS that ranks fourth among catchers.
You could argue that any of these four players below were more deserving, although Realmuto is certainly one of the best catchers in baseball and deserving of his spot on the team as well.
Scott Kingery’s bounce back from last year’s horrific 2018 season has been incredible to watch. His 149 wRC+ is 9th-best among all National League players with at least 180 plate appearances, and the second-year man is hitting .318/.368/.591 while playing five different positions. But after missing a month with a hamstring strain and coming off last year’s disaster, adding Kingery to the roster was a hard sell.
Hector Neris has blown just two saves this year, converting 16 of 18, and he has a 3.18 ERA/3.15 FIP with a 32.9% strikeout rate, but he hasn’t been dominant enough to demand inclusion on the team. Zach Eflin has had an All Star season, with a 3.34 ERA that is tied for 9th-best in the NL. You could argue he should have gotten in over Sandy Alcantara, but the Marlins needed a representative of their own, and Alcantara was their most deserving candidate.
Perhaps the best non-Realmuto candidate to make the squad was Rhys Hoskins, who is hitting .261/.393/.522 with 19 HRs and 55 RBIs. He’s been more consistent this year, too, but he unfortunately plays a position in which you need to go crazy offensively to gain any traction. The three players selected ahead of him — Freddie Freeman, Pete Alonso and Josh Bell all have better WARs than Hoskins and have also been more productive at the plate.
So, once again, Phillies fans will have just one of their own players to watch at this year’s All Star Game in Cleveland. But bear in mind, if the team can make it to the postseason, it’s likely this will change in 2020.
Remember, in 2008, the Phillies only had two All Stars: Brad Lidge and Utley. That was after a playoff appearance the year before and two players — Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard — who won back-to-back MVP awards. It wasn’t until 2009, after they had won the World Series, that the Phillies were more fully represented in the Midsummer Classic, with five players, including their entire starting outfield.
Better days may be ahead. For now, Phils fans can enjoy watching Realmuto suit up for a couple innings for the National League All Stars next week.
On Episode 299 of Hittin’ Season, Justin Klugh, Liz Roscher and I talked more about the All Star Game, past Phillies history, and how MLB’s free agent process can be more like the NBA’s.