Detroit Tigers fans were both shocked and disappointed when the All-Star lineups were announced Tuesday night, learning that only Miguel Cabrera would be representing the team. While Ian Kinsler was selected as one of five nominees for the Final Vote, his exclusion from the initial roster was puzzling. Kinsler is enjoying one of the best seasons of his 11-year career and has been excellent with both the bat and the glove, easily putting himself among the best second basemen in baseball.
The All-Star Game selection process is definitely wacky, with interests coming in from every direction. Certain fanbases consistently stuff the ballot box, and every club must be represented by at least one player, ensuring that there will never be a “perfect” lineup with all of the most deserving players. Still, despite quality competition from around the league, Kinsler was absolutely deserving of an All-Star selection.
Kinsler currently sits at 125 wRC+, which is the seventh-best total at the position and third-best in the American League. While he ranks 10th in batting average and 11th in on-base percentage among 25 qualified second basemen, he sits second with 16 homers, fourth with 52 RBI, and is first with 71 runs scored.
When compared to other leadoff hitters, Kinsler ranks just as favorably. His average and on-base percentage when hitting first rank within the top 20 among batters with at least 100 plate appearances, and he ranks second in runs, RBIs, and home runs from the top spot in the lineup.
Another area where Kinsler excels is his speed on the base paths. His eight steals rank fourth among second basemen and 12th among leadoff hitters, and his 2.3 baserunning runs (BsR) comes in at fourth at the position. There are very few holes in his game, and Kinsler clearly is not only one of the best second basemen in the AL, but in all of MLB.
What make Kinsler such a great player is his well-rounded game, which is demonstrated by his 2.8 fWAR. This is the sixth-best total among second basemen in 2016 and is top-30 among all position players. Defensively, he owns a .992 fielding percentage with 223 assists and just three errors, all top-five numbers for second basemen with at least 300 innings. While his 1 DRS and 0.0 UZR do not jump off of the page, Kinsler still ranks seventh and 12th in these metrics at his position, respectively.
As good as Kinsler has been, it is difficult to argue that he lost his place to either Jose Altuve or Robinson Cano, the American League’s representatives at second base; both players are having excellent seasons and have stronger wRC+ and fWAR numbers than Kinsler does. However, it would have made a ton of sense to add Kinsler to roster as well, making a trio of stars at the position. In fact, without Kinsler, it would be the first time since 2012 that the AL All-Star roster only includes two second basemen.
Kinsler stacks up quite competitively when compared to the 11 reserve selections on the AL bench. He ranks second in runs, sixth in RBI, seventh in homers, and eighth in batting average, while landing fourth in steals and third in BsR. Though he only ranks eighth in wRC+, his fWAR comes in at fifth among the reserves and 12th among the total 20-player lineup.
Because of requirements such as roster construction and team minimums, adding Kinsler to the All-Star roster becomes more complicated than simply kicking a less-qualified player off of the team. Still, it is difficult to argue that someone like Eduardo Nunez — Minnesota’s lone All-Star — is more worthy of a spot on the team than Kinsler.
There are still a couple of avenues for Kinsler to make it to San Diego next week, and it would not be a surprise to see him somehow find his way there. Kinsler’s easiest path involves simply winning the Final Vote competition, which ends on Friday at 4 p.m. ET. If he falls short there, he could be added to the team as an injury replacement by AL manager Ned Yost.
While Kinsler’s snub is disappointing, the competition was tough and there are not many players who were outrageous selections to the team. But when looking at his stats as compared to other second basemen, other leadoff hitters, and the chosen American League All-Stars, it becomes hard to see why he was not seen as strong enough to make the team. Kinsler very way may end up making the roster, but his initial exclusion was an indisputable mistake.