Injuries to key members of the National League All-Stars have forced two more Dodgers onto the roster for Tuesday’s star-studded exhibition game. Shortstop Rafael Furcal will be filling in for seemingly always-injured Mets star Jose Reyes. Reliever Hong-Chih Kuo also got the call to play in St. Louis on Tuesday, filling in for Braves outfielder and Rookie of the Year contender Jason Heyward. Kuo and Furcal join left fielder Andre Ethier and closer Jonathan Broxton among Los Angeles’ four All-Stars. However, both selections are a bit dubious.
Furcal is batting .333 so far this season, a stat that would be all the more impressive if Furcal had played more than 58 games so far this season. Because Furcal missed so much time, he doesn’t even register among the league leaders for hitting. Furcal was helped by the dearth of quality shortstops, or at least, healthy shortstops. With Reyes and Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki out, the NL were forced to look among a class of guys who were all hitting below .300. Other than starter Hanley Ramirez, the next best hitter at the position was Arizona’s Stephen Drew, whose power numbers(4 HRs and 29 RBI) are dwarfed by Furcals(6 HRs, 35 RBI) despite the fact that Drew has 55 more at-bats than Furcal.
As for Kuo, his selection was even more mind-boggling. While Kuo is sporting a remarkable 1.03 ERA as the Dodgers’ chief set-up man, his numbers are not quite as impressive as those of L.A.’s ace Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw is 9th in ERA among NL starting pitchers at 2.96, better than St. Louis’ Chris Carpenter, Florida’s Josh Johnson and San Francisco’s two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum(all of which are on the team, while Kershaw is not). Kershaw’s 128 strikeouts are tied for 2nd in the NL with the Phillies’ Roy Halladay(also an All-Star) and are good for 9th in the entire MLB. His nine wins are better than Brewers All-Star Yovani Gallardo, who has 8 and puts him in a tie for 15th in the majors. Of course, Gallardo is currently on the DL, so there’s a chance Kershaw still squeezes onto the roster.
Given the fact that Kuo is replacing an outfielder, it’s a little surprising the powers that be didn’t opt for another hitter. Dodgers center-fielder Matt Kemp hasn’t been off to the start many had hoped in spring training, but his numbers are respectable other than his .261 average(16 HRs, 51 RBI). As for hitters outside of Hollywood, how about the Nationals’ Adam Dunn? Dunn has been on an absolute tear going into the final week of the first half and is currently 2nd in the majors with 22 homers(Dunn is even hitting .288, which is a solid number given Dunn’s lack of patience at the plate). Dunn’s teammate Ryan Zimmerman(.294, 16 HRs 48 RBI in just 288 ABs) is another candidate who you could have made a case for.
The All-Star Game is ultimately a meaningless game and who gets selected is more fancy gloss on a career resume than anything worthwhile. Even with the game now deciding homefield advantage in the World Series, that caveat wasn’t really a factor for the ’08 Phillies, ’06 Cardinals or the ’03 Marlins(all of which won the World Series, while the American League had won the All-Star Game in those respective years).
Of course, good pitching has always been the key to quelling the game’s hottest bats, so the presence of Kuo may turn out more valuable than a homer-or-strikeout bopper like Dunn or a starter not used to relief situations like Kershaw.
About the Author
Written by Dave Leonardis
Born and raised in New Jersey, I've been writing since I was 10 and blogging since I was 18. I'm a huge sports nerd, following football, baseball and basketball in particular in close detail. My style is very upfront. I don't pull punches and I'm not shy about criticizing anything I feel deserves a proper tongue-lashing. If you're looking for someone who says what he wants, when he wants, then look no further than this guy right here.