Announced among all the MLB Twitter fanfare and during an absolute slog of a 5 hour Padres/D-Backs game were the rosters for the upcoming All-Star Game festivities due to take place on July 17th. In case you missed it a lot of the usual suspects made the starting lineups for both the National and American League teams alongside some new faces. The selection was replete with snubs, missed opportunities, and questionable choices, however: Chris Archer has petitioned for teammate Blake Snell (best ERA in the AL at 2.09), Bryce Harper is starting despite a .213 batting average (in his home stadium no less) and a bevy of arms missed the cut despite awesome numbers (Adam Ottavino, James Paxton, Charlie Morton and the like).
Thanks to the rule of “every team’s gotta have a rep so fans will have a reason to tune into the game”, the Padres will have Brad Hand as their lone representative in the nation’s capital.
Congratulations to @bhand22 on being named a 2018 MLB All-Star Game selection for the National League team! pic.twitter.com/Wkx4qApQKd— San Diego Padres (@Padres) July 8, 2018
There’s a definite case to be made for Brad’s inclusion into the NL pitching roster: Hand is 6th among relievers in saves (tied with Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman) and is 7th in Ks per 9 (13.3). If you want WAR, you’ll have to pick a source: Fangraphs has Hand at a 0.7 WAR, Baseball Reference is more bearish at -0.1 WAR. If you want a really neat advanced stat, Brad Hand enters baseball games with the 2nd highest leverage score (the pressure the pitcher faces in the game as scored by Baseball Reference) in the league next to fellow All-Star and Pitching Ninja favorite Blake Treinen (here’s a Brad Hand one).
Outside of a really harsh June (6.00 ERA!?) Brad has been part of a stalwart Padres bullpen that has been leaned on more often than it probably should have been this season. Much like the main All-Star rosters, however, there may be a snub within the Padres system for All-Star consideration...
Kirby Yates is having himself a season. His ERA is 13th among relievers (1.53) and his HR/9 (0.25) is good for 21st. His Left On Base percentage (86.7%) puts him at 24th, ranked higher than such names as Brewers phenom Josh Hader, Aroldis Chapman and Archie Bradley. His groundball percentage has spiked from almost 30% last year to just a touch under 50%. Kirby has been credited with 16 holds (entered a game and did not relinquish the lead), good for 11th among all relievers. Both BR and Fangraphs value Yates more than Brad Hand at 1.3 and 1.0 respectively. If you’re not into the stats, let’s go with the old gut feeling check: who’s made you more nervous when they enter a game lately?
So why Brad and not Kirby? It’s most likely optics. Brad Hand is the de-facto closer and thanks to last year’s performance the incumbent choice for the Padres All-Star selection. You could certainly argue that Yates has been better than his teammate. I imagine Hand’s selection was made most likely due to him being more recognizable in the general baseball landscape as not only a Padre but a trade candidate for many contending teams this year.
As to whether the 2-time All-Star will actually be traded? A question for another time.