It’s certainly possible that, as Phillies fans, we’re getting a little greedy.
After six straight seasons in which the Phils only had one representative in the All Star Game (2014-19), two were selected last year — J.T. Realmuto and Zack Wheeler. It was great to see more than one Phillies uniform introduced along the first or third base line for a change and, this year, two members of the team are once again heading to Dodger Stadium for next week’s Midsummer Classic.
Kyle Schwarber’s incredible dinger barrage powered his way onto the team as an outfielder, while the injured Bryce Harper won the fan vote as DH, although he will not play. Disappointing offensive seasons from Nick Castellanos and Realmuto mean those All-Star regulars won’t be on the team.
Surprisingly, it is the pitching staff that has carried the Phillies to their 25-11 record since June.
Highest ranked offenses in wRC+:— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 10, 2022
1. Yankees 119
2. Astros 117
3. Dodgers 116
4. Twins 113
5. Mets 112
6. TOR/ATL 110
Best pitching staffs in FIP:
1. Yankees 3.37
2. Braves 3.38
2. Dodgers 3.38
4. Giants 3.42
5. Astros 3.57
6. Phillies 3.63https://t.co/6081tSqmb6
Teams with most starts of at least 7 innings or more:— Destiny Lugardo (@destiny_lugardo) July 10, 2022
1. Phillies: 23
2. Marlins: 20
3. Padres: 20
4. Astros: 20
5. Yankees: 16
6. Cardinals: 16
Phillies are 17-6 when their starter pitches at least seven innings.
Which makes it all the more surprising that neither Wheeler nor Aaron Nola were selected for this year’s team despite outstanding credentials. Here is how both compare to the starting pitchers that will be heading out west.
Wheeler & Nola vs. NL All-Stars
While Wheeler’s snub is more obvious, Nola has perhaps an even better case to make the team, depending on your valuation of WAR as a metric for measuring pitchers. His average between Fangraphs’ WAR (fWAR) and Baseball Reference WAR (bWAR) is 3rd in the NL (3.20), a tick higher than Wheeler’s (3.15). Nola does have the highest ERA among the names listed above, although he does have the second-most innings pitched, too.
Wheeler’s snub was seen as the more surprising, given he was the NL Cy Young runner up just last year. Following the first three outings that essentially served as his spring training, Wheeler has a 1.53 ERA in his last 13 starts, with 10.17 K/9, 1.86 BB/9, and a .207 batting average allowed. He has not given up more than three earned runs in any of those 13 starts and has held opponents to one or zero runs eight times. In all but two starts, he has lasted at least six innings and pitched at least seven five times.
Only Alcantara (3.1) has a higher fWAR than Wheeler (3.0) over that stretch, and Wheeler’s 1.53 ERA is the lowest among qualified starters during that time.
Nola has five starts in which he’s given up at least four earned runs, but also, six in which he’s given up one or zero and has pitched at least seven innings 10 times thus far, including seven of his last eight and eight of his last 10. He’s been a true workhorse.
Every Team Represented
Major League Baseball stipulates every team must have at least one representative at the All Star Game and Cincinnati’s Luis Castillo appears to have benefited as a result. No doubt Castillo is having an outstanding season, with a 2.92 ERA, xERA of 3.37 and a 2.25 average WAR, but those numbers fall short of Wheeler’s. Castillo also missed multiple starts this season due to injury, with 24 fewer innings pitched than Wheeler and 40 fewer than Nola.
Arizona reliever Joe Mantiply was the Diamondbacks’ lone rep, and although he joins the team as a reliever, All Star rosters are often composed of mostly starting pitchers who act as relievers during the game. But the D-Backs needed at least one player in, and Mantiply fit the bill.
Home Town Selection
Clayton Kershaw is having a renaissance season at 34 years old, and it’s fun to watch. In 11 starts (63.2 IP), he has a 2.40 ERA and 1.9 fWAR, striking out 9.75 per nine and walking just 1.70, with an opponents’ average against him of just .219. However, Kershaw missed about a month of the season on the injured list and doesn’t even qualify for NL leaderboards.
Nevertheless, as our good friend Eric Stephen at True Blue LA noted, Kershaw’s selection in his home park of Dodgers Stadium makes a lot of sense from the perspective of baseball being, you know, fun.
More importantly though, he’s Clayton Kershaw, which likely went a long way in the future Hall of Famer being chosen by the commissioner’s office to appear in a popular exhibition game for the sport in Kershaw’s home ballpark.
There’s been various columns of late calling for Kershaw to start the All-Star Game, something he’s never done. Technically, it’s Braves manager Brian Snitker who gets to choose the NL starting pitcher as manager of the National League All-Stars.
That would be pretty cool, honestly.
Don’t Make Vacation Plans Yet
As always, not everyone selected for the team will end up playing. Injuries often subtract an arm or two from the roster and pitchers who make a start just a couple days before the game can opt-out, meaning Snitker will likely need to add another pitcher or two before all is said and done.
But Wheeler and Nola might not even be the first men up. San Francisco’s Carlos Rodon leads all qualified NL pitchers in fWAR (3.7) and has an ERA of 2.70 ERA, a 2.13 FIP and 2.83 xERA. He’s made 17 starts, the same as Nola and one more than Wheeler, and has pitched five more innings than Wheeler, but 11 fewer than Nola. An argument certainly can be made he was the biggest snub in the National League this year.
All Star Game or no, the Phillies’ two aces are leading a much better-than-expected pitching staff that has kept the team red-hot for the last 40 days, so maybe some well deserved rest for Wheeler and Nola in the middle of a grueling season wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.