The Texas Rangers are the only team in baseball sending more All-Stars to Kansas City than the Giants. So why does it feel like Bruce Bochy’s club got snubbed?
The problem isn’t the number of All Stars — it’s who’s staying home. Anyone who watched the Giants surge into the National League West penthouse last week knows that the team’s identity is wrapped up in its pitching staff, and the arms that served as crazy glue when the team was suffering through a rash of injuries and Tim Lincecum’s struggles were short-changed Sunday.
In a just world, the first-place Giants would have five All-Stars: Buster Posey, Melky Cabrera, Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong and Madison Bumgarner. I think a case could be made for Santiago Casilla (his 21 saves as Brian Wilson’s replacement are second in the NL) and Sergio Romo (0.79 ERA, 13 holds), too, but I’m trying to not be greedy.
As expected, Cain, Posey and Cabrera made the team, along with Pablo Sandoval, while the lesser knowns, Vogelsong and Bumgarner, were overlooked. Let’s concede that Sandoval shouldn’t be there; he was on the disabled list for five weeks and got called out by Bochy for letting himself slip out of shape while he was away from the team — hardly All-Star material.
Vogelsong, on the other hand, has been a true gamer again this year. How do you leave a guy with the fifth-lowest ERA (2.27 over 15 starts) among National League starters off the team?
“It just solidifies what I told you guys in Anaheim — people don’t take me seriously,” said Vogelsong, after another quality start Sunday.
But the Giants surely do; they’re 11-4 when he starts this season, including a pair of wins (and a shutout) against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. The team notched a win every time Vogelsong took the hill between May 8 and June 20, but lost each of Lincecum’s eight starts over that span. Vogelsong was a stopper when the team’s ace was floundering.
Bumgarner’s had an equally consistent first half. He’s currently tied for third in the National League in wins with 10 (one more than Cain), while sporting a respectable 2.85 ERA. It was he, along with Barry Zito, who carried the team on the mound through an up-and-down April, going 4-0 with a 1.61 ERA after a substandard first start in Arizona.
If either pitcher had a marquee name, like Lincecum, sewed on the back of his jersey, their numbers would have bought them a ticket to Kansas City.
Meanwhile, a few names on the NL pitching staff do catch the eye as less deserving. Like Bumgarner, the Cardinals’ Lance Lynn has a 10-4 record, but he’s trucking around a 3.62 ERA, which is almost a run per game more than what the Giants’ 22-year-old lefty has allowed. And how did Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon make the team? He’s shutting things down for a last-place team with a hefty 3.03 ERA. East Coast bias anyone? What about Kershaw?
He’s only 6-4, his 2.65 ERA is higher than Vogelsong’s and he lost two head-to-head matchups against the Giants right-hander.
The good news is that someone drops out every year because of arm tweaks, rotation conflicts or pitch-count issues. And when that happens, Tony La Russa can right this ship by filling the vacancy with either of these guys.
Unlike Sandoval, they’ve earned it.
Paul Gackle is freelance writer and regular contributor to the San Francisco Examiner. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.