COMMENTARY| There's no shortage of players who could be NL All-Stars for this year's summer classic but probably shouldn't be -- players like Justin Upton of the Atlanta Braves, Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals, Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the entire roster of the San Francisco Giants minus Buster Posey. Then there are those players who probably deserve a spot on the All-Star team based upon their play during the entire first half of the 2013 season but still shouldn't be selected -- like Mike Leake of the Cincinnati Reds, who has been vital for the Reds in posting a 7-3 record and 2.52 ERA in 16 games started.
Here are the five reasons why Leake should not be picked for the All-Star team.
Better Starters Available
If the 2011 NL All-Star squad managed by Giants manager Bruce Bochy can serve as template for this year's team, then only four starting pitchers will pitch in the game. These starters must be the most dominant available -- Matt Harvey of the New York Mets, Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers, Patrick Corbin of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals. Bochy used six relievers in 2011, including two who were not closers. That would leave three additional starters who should make the team, and among those available, Cliff Lee of the Philadelphia Phillies, Jordan Zimmermann of the Nationals, and Adam Wainwright of the St. Louis Cardinals are all starters with much more dominating stuff than a contact pitcher like Leake, whose opponents batting average is an un-All-Star like .247.
Team Representation Requirement
The final spots among NL starting pitchers selected will most likely be given to players who will be the only All-Star representative from their respective team. Three pitchers who are the only players on their teams actually worthy of All-Star consideration based upon 2013 performance are Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins and Travis Wood or Jeff Samardzija of the Chicago Cubs. If two of these pitchers are picked, the chance Leake is selected dwindles.
Competition Among Similar Types of Pitchers
As great of a year as Leake has had for the Reds, a similarly-styled, pitch-to-contact pitcher has had an even more remarkable year than Leake -- Jeff Locke of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Locke would have to get the nod over Leake for a couple of reasons -- his numbers (7-1 with a 2.06 ERA) are better and his reversal of past performance is even more astounding. Locke sported a 6.00 ERA in his first 51 innings before suddenly developing into an anomaly in 2013. Leake is in his fourth year as a Reds' starter. His lowest ERA was 3.86 in 2011, which makes 2013 quite a buck in his ERA trend but not quite as freakishly fluky as Locke's.
Other Reds Pitchers
Among Reds' starters, Leake has the best ERA but is by no means the best starter on the team. With Reds' ace Johnny Cueto sidelined for much of the first half of the season, backup ace Mat Latos has continued his development into one of the league's most dominant starters. Latos has had an outstanding first half (7-2 with a 3.03 ERA and 109 Ks in 111 IP) and has All-Star caliber stuff. Another Reds' pitcher Aroldis Chapman is also having an All-Star season. Although Chapman is a reliever and not a starter, he is a more dominant force than Leake and should get the nod over his teammate if it came down to a decision by Bochy between Leake or Chapman.
Pitchers Don't Hit
If pitchers batted in the All-Star game, then Leake would be a lock. He's not hitting well this year so far, but he is a lifetime .250 hitter in 200 at-bats. His hitting skills are a big advantage in having Leake as a fifth starter for a NL team like the Reds, but unfortunately not much use in the DH-only All-Star game.
Overall, Leake is simply not an All-Star for one compelling reason: he's not among the best choices available to give the NL the best chance to win and secure home-field advantage for the NL team in the 2013 World Series.
Robb Hoff has worked as a freelance researcher for ESPN's production and news departments for the past five years. You can read his articles about the 2012 Reds season here.
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