For the first time in a long time the Tigers did not have a clear All-Star on their roster. After the fire sale at last year’s trade deadline, the injury of Miguel Cabrera, and lackluster performance of Michael Fulmer, Victor Martinez, and Shane Greene, the Tigers’ selection to the 2018 All-Star Game is wide open.
Nicholas Castellanos (.301/.352/.518, 135 wRC+) and Niko Goodrum (.251/.324/.457, 111 wRC+) have been the Tigers’ best hitters, but unfortunately they both play at positions where talent runs deep. In the outfield, there are 11 players ahead of Castellanos in fWAR (2.2), and 12 players ahead in wRC+ (135). While Castellanos is performing much better in right field than he was at third base, he still wasn’t good enough defensively to rise above the rest of his competition. As for Goodrum, while there have been utility players selected in the recent past, he has had limited playing time until recently taking over the second base job.
With Goodrum and Castellanos out of the running, who is left to be the Tigers’ representative in the 2018 All-Star Game?
Joe Jimenez made the most sense at the end of the day. Typically when a reliever is selected, it is the closer, like in 2000 when Todd Jones was the Tigers’ lone representative. Shane Greene is currently tied for sixth in the American League with 19 saves, but his other stats leave a lot to be desired. His ERA is only a mediocre 4.03, his FIP is worse at 4.25, and according the FanGraphs, he is barely above a replacement level player with a 0.1 fWAR. None of that screams, “All-Star.” Jimenez, on the other hand, bests him in all those categories and has been one of the best relievers in the American League. His 1.2 fWAR is third among Tigers pitchers (only Jordan Zimmermann and Michael Fulmer are ahead of him), and is sixth in the American League among relievers.
Until a few years ago, it was practically unheard of for non-closers to go to the All-Star Game. However, the game has evolved to include a wider variety of players, including utility players and middle relief pitcher, probably as a result of higher metrics showing the value of these type of players.
Here is how Joe Jimenez stacks up among the non-closer All-Stars over the last three years.
Non-closer all-stars first half stats
|2015||Darren O'Day||33 2/3||1.07||2.90||0.156||0.80||12.0|
|2016||Brad Brach||49 1/3||0.91||2.50||0.153||0.83||10.6|
|2016||Kelvin Herrera||40 2/3||1.77||1.89||0.196||0.89||11.5|
|2016||Andrew Miller||39 1/3||1.37||1.90||0.157||0.71||15.8|
|2017||Chris Devenski||52 2/3||2.73||2.44||0.160||0.84||12.7|
|2017||Andrew Miller||44 1/3||1.42||1.60||0.131||0.68||13.6|
Through his first 39 appearances, Jiminez had a 1.98 ERA, a 1.97 FIP, and a .197 batting average against. On June 25, Jimenez allowed three earned runs against Oakland Athletics and due to the nature of reliever’s small amount of innings, it blew up his stats. He also gave up an earned run on June 30 to take the loss, and blew a save on July 2 after taking on the closer position with Shane Greene was put on the disabled list. However, Jimenez’ recent struggles should not overshadow from the amazing job he had done. He is still one of the best relievers in the American League.
This will be only the third time in twelve seasons that the Tigers have sent just one player to the All-Star Game. Miguel Cabrera in 2016, Carlos Guillen in 2008 and now Joe Jimenez in 2018. The Tigers’ selection likely revolved around the AL team’s roster needs. If a hitter had been higher priority, Castellanos or Goodrum would have been selected. Joe Jimenez’ selection, while deserved, is a reminder that the team lacks a de facto star player.