The All-Star Game has been a lot of fun for Orioles fans in the last couple of years. Especially two years ago, you could hardly sneeze without hitting an Orioles player, when they had five well-deserved members of the team. After so many bad years with one token All-Star, often a player like Ty Wigginton, having multiple awesome Orioles on the American League team was quite a treat.
If you've been watching the Orioles so far this season, you've probably gotten the inkling that the team is not chock full of no-doubt All-Stars. Last week's first update on All-Star voting made that rather plain, with the Orioles not having a single starting position player, although Adam Jones is very close to breaking off at least one piece of the Royals blue wall.
Several other O's on the team have been All-Stars in the past, but they've either been injured or not playing up to the level that we know they're capable of playing. Some have been both. None of Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy, and Manny Machado have been performing at a level that screams All-Star, for various reasons.
Matt Wieters has yet to play this year, and even when he does start playing, he can't do enough in a month to get himself onto the team. Chris Tillman snuck onto an All-Star team once. In 2015, Tillman has barely snuck his ERA under 6.
Jonathan Schoop looked like an All-Star for all of nine games before he got hurt. Jimmy Paredes was a surprise performer who's cooled off. Caleb Joseph also had a hot April before cooling off. Even Jones, who has been on the last three All-Star teams, had a very rough May at the plate.
There's one Orioles player who has been good all year who you might not really think about since most All-Star debates involve position players. O's closer Zach Britton, however, has kept up his end of the bargain of great performance that should have him in serious consideration for one of the places on this year's All-Star team.
The 2014 American League All-Star team had a total of six relief pitchers on the roster, five of whom were closers. It's possible that won't be the case again this year if the AL manager, Kansas City's Ned Yost, packs the bullpen with his own guys. I wouldn't put it past him. If he follows last year's pattern of having five different teams' closers, Britton definitely deserves to be in that number.
Though Britton is a little bit behind some of the competition in terms of raw number of saves, that's a function of the Orioles being something of a disappointment this year, not giving Britton many chances. He's saved 13 out of 14 chances and has done everything you could want from a closer. Britton is striking out over a batter per inning that he pitches, and he's only walked three batters in 19.1 innings. That makes for a SO/BB rate of a drool-worthy 8.
On top of those numbers, when Britton has had hitters put the ball in play, it has been a ground ball over 70% of the time. It's very, very hard to give up the lead via a home run when the ball is always on the ground. The only thing keeping Britton from the kind of gaudy ERA or WHIP of some of his competitors is a regression in his luck with BABIP. Last year's .215 was most likely somewhat lucky, but this year's .320 is most likely unlucky. If he keeps pitching like he has been, he'll find his ERA and WHIP shrinking.
I won't be surprised if Britton is snubbed of the chance to be on the All-Star team. With the way he's performed so far this year, it would definitely be a snub. Britton has earned a spot. If there is justice in the baseball universe, he will get one.
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