Lowrie ASG snub reveals broken system

Jed Lowrie will almost certainly be named an injury replacement in the coming days, joining Blake Treinen as the Athletics representation in the 2018 MLB All-Star Game.

But the fact that his selection has been left to that decision exposes the flaws in the process itself.

As of Sunday, Lowrie led all American League second baseman in home runs (16-T), RBIs (62), slugging percentage (.507) and WAR (4.7). He is also second in doubles (25) and OPS (.864), and third in hits (100), walks (35-T), batting average (.290) and on-base percentage (.357). His RBI total is tied for second among all AL players and his 42 extra-base hits are tied for 11th.

Not only is the 11-year veteran worthy of an All-Star bid, if the season ended today he would likely receive some MVP recognition.

Manager Bob Melvin told Martín Gallegos of The Mercury News that Lowrie’s snub ranks at the top of his memory:

“I’ve been doing this for a while and I can’t remember one that’s tougher than this one. You look at his numbers and he’s better than some of the starters. Hopefully he ends up on the team, because he definitely deserves to be.”

So what is the problem?

It starts with the fan vote, which essentially makes the All-Star Game a popularity contest — though not nearly as much this year as in years past. But keeping fan interactivity is key to maintaining interest in the event meaning the problem is truly in the selection of the reserves, which are chosen by the league’s players, coaches and commissioner’s office.

Most of those choices are made by the players. But how those selections are made is the problem. As Astros starting pitcher and All-Star Justin Verlander tweeted, the player selections for the 2018 All-Star roster are made via posted mail, something many people haven’t used since the Marlins won their last World Series championship in 2003.

This means that reserve votes were made and stamped in early- to mid-June, when Lowrie was in the midst of a 6-for-41 slump. If the votes had been made, as Verlander proposed, via the mystical internet, players would have had a chance to see Lowrie bust out of the slump and get back into the groove that made him one of baseball’s best in April.

Lowrie has slashed .338/.411/.688 with seven homers and 20 RBIs in 21 games since June 15.

He isn’t the only massive snub, either. Joining him are Tampa Bay’s Blake Snell and Milwaukee’s Jesús Aguilar.

Where Aguilar separates himself from Lowrie and Snell is his inclusion in the National League’s Final Vote ballot — where fans can vote from six pre-selected candidates to fill the final spot on each roster. Lowrie and Snell (12-4, 2.09 ERA, 1.026 WHIP) were both left off the AL ballot.

Therein lies another issue.

WAR (wins above replacement) has grown into the metric by which a player’s ultimate value is measured. That being said, none of the players on the AL Final Vote ballot boast a higher WAR than Lowrie’s 4.7 or Snell’s 4.3 (which is fourth-best among all AL pitchers).

Oakland has had similar gripes in the past — players deserving of ALL-Star bids who were left off the roster and Final Vote ballot. In years past (at least recently), though, the explanation fell onto the A’s record. This season, the A’s carry the fifth-best record in the American League, better than the Twins, who have Eddie Rosario (3.9 WAR) on the ballot, and the Angels, who have Andrelton Simmons (4.1 WAR) among the final six hopefuls.

There is no legitimate argument to keep Lowrie off the roster, from his first All-Star game.

Said Melvin:

“When something this significant happens to a guy that’s having this type of year, I don’t know. This doesn’t seem fair to him.”

Like the skipper said, Lowrie will likely find his way onto the roster, replacing Gleyber Torres who was taken as the AL’s reserve second baseman but has been on the disabled list since July 4 with a right hip strain and is expected to remain shelved until the end of July. But having such an impactful player on such a successful team says that the system is broken — or outdated.

For the A’s and their fans, though, the focus will soon shift back from the disrespect of a snub to the excitement of the future. Sure, it’s a downer to have Lowrie left out, but the fact that he has posted one of two top-20 WARs left off the Midsummer Classic roster — Matt Chapman (4.2) is the other, by the way — teases a promising second half.


Kalama Hines is SFBay’s sports director and Oakland Athletics beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @HineSight_2020 on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of A’s baseball.