108: Forget the popularity contest, Smoak needs to be an All-Star

 Ignore the fan vote - Justin Smoak deserves to start the all-star game on merit. (Photo via Sportsnet.ca)

Ignore the fan vote - Justin Smoak deserves to start the all-star game on merit. (Photo via Sportsnet.ca)

By Tyler King

Canadian Baseball Network

Anybody who’s been to their high school prom - or watched the American political system essentially implode in the six months since their general election - knows that popular votes do not always precipitate the best, most favourable results ... 

Which is to say the most deserving, most qualified person doesn’t necessarily get elected.

Since 1970, the popular vote has also been the preferred system of the MLB All-Star selection process, with fans voting for the players they would like to see in the starting lineups at each Midsummer Classic.

At times, however, this has had the effect of turning the selection process into one big teenage popularity contest, putting the “cool kids” - or the “big names” - at an obvious advantage (although at least there isn’t any electoral college to really screw up the democratic process).

Of course there is a simple and powerful argument to be made that the most popular players should be the ones in the All-Star game ... after all it’s the fans who pay for the tickets to what usually turns our to be a giant week-long advertisement, with very little interesting or meaningful baseball being played. 

And I assume that is exactly what the MLB had in mind when they adopted this fan vote system.

But if you care at all about players making it on merit, you should know it is this very system that has garnered superstar first baseman Miguel Cabrera over 1,000,000 votes this year while effectively leaving Tampa Bay’s Logan Morrison out of the conversation, despite Morrison scoring 16 more runs than Cabrera while also hitting 13 more homers and 18 more RBI heading into Wednesday.

It is also this system that had Justin Smoak unjustly trailing Eric Hosmer for that starting American League first baseman spot by just over 70,000 votes since last count, with the polls closing at midnight on Thursday.

So whether or not you’re a fan of the Blue Jays, if you want to see the most deserving players head to Miami you should be rooting for Smoak to be an All-Star.

In 75 games in 2017 - easily the best stretch of his eight-year career - Smoak has hit .301/.367 /.590. He is also at or near the top in every major offensive category among the 13 qualified AL first baseman.

He is first in SLG; second in AVG, OBP, OPS (.957), home runs (21), and WAR (2.3); and third in RBIs (49), extra-base hits, and runs scored (44).

In particular, Smoak’s power numbers should carry extra weight here given the fact that we are talking about first base - a position traditionally occupied by big hitters hell-bent on producing runs above all else.

He is also tied for ninth with Hosmer for the fewest strikeouts (51), and any Jays fan who has spent the last two years cursing Smoak’s infinite swing-and-misses at mile-wide breaking balls knows the importance of that statistic.

Yet, as stated, he continues to trail the qualified but still less deserving Hosmer for that starting All-Star spot. Hosmer - who was the starting AL first baseman last year - is currently hitting .306/.366/.465.

Since the last vote count was released on Monday, the top three AL vote-getters at 1B were as follows:

  1. Eric Hosmer - Kansas City Royals - 1,419,887 votes
  2. Justin Smoak - Toronto Blue Jays - 1,348,233 votes
  3. Yonder Alonso - Oakland Athletics - 1,076,984 votes

(Miguel Cabrera was a close fourth despite him having a very un-Miguel-Cabrera-like season). 

When you isolate Smoak’s numbers and compare them solely to those of Hosmer and Alonso, this All-Star vote turns into what should be an even more obvious open-and-shut case.

Smoak leads those three players in home runs, SLG, WAR, RBI, and runs scored. He is tied with Alonso with 30 extra-base hits.

Hosmer only leads Smoak and Alonso in AVG, whereas Alonso only leads in OBP and OPS (as well as being tied with Smoak for extra-base hits).

For all you hip sabermetric lovers, it’s also worth noting that, according to ESPN, Smoak leads Hosmer and Alonso in Bill James’s famous “Runs Created” stat with 52 runs created - which is a measurement that estimates the number of runs that have resulted from a certain hitter.

To be honest, the only first baseman that might be able to compete with Smoak on offensive merit is Logan Morrison, whose all star campaign has received little-to-no discussion despite him being first among AL first baseman in home runs (22), RBIs (54) and WAR (2.4 - leading Smoak by just 0.1). He is also third in SLG (.569) and OPS (.926).

Smoak also has far better numbers than Hosmer did at the all star break last year, when Hosmer was voted the AL’s starting first baseman. 

At last season’s break Hosmer was hitting .299/.355 /.476 with an .831 OPS, 13 home runs and 49 RBIs. Smoak currently has better numbers in every single category (and he still has two weeks to add to his totals).

So hopefully by now it’s clear Smoak should be headed to Miami on merit alone.

However, the world - and evidently the MLB All-Star game - is an unfair place ...

Thus it will be up to you to right this wrong to make sure he gets there.


Follow Tyler and #Section108 on Twitter: @TylerJoseph108. Fans can vote for Justin Smoak up until 11:59 p.m. on Thursday: https://www.mlb.com/all-star/ballot