For the third straight season, the Orioles will have only one player representing them in the All-Star Game. Given the rule that each team must have at least one All-Star and how the O’s have been performing, you might have felt like there was one obvious choice of Trey Mancini. In a bit of a surprise, the rosters were announced and the O’s representative is a pitcher instead: John Means.
It’s cool that Means is an All-Star. He’s a testament to the fact that you never really know when something will click for a pitcher, even if it’s just for a little while. Means has gone from being an 11th round pick in the 2014 draft to being a 2019 All-Star. That’s awesome. He has earned it.
The results speak for themselves. As O’s pitchers have been one failure after another for several seasons now, Means has been a breath of fresh air so far. He brings a 2.50 ERA over 17 games into this selection, with 64 strikeouts and 22 walks in 75.2 innings. If he qualified for the ERA leaderboard (1 IP per team game) he would be in third place in the league. Means’s short injured list stint plus not even opening the season in the rotation are all that has him under the innings threshold.
Even the pitching-starved Orioles didn’t open the season with Means in the starting rotation. That’s what makes his selection as an All-Star even more of an amazing feat. They had him in the bullpen. There were other people they liked more and wanted to see first. This was true last season as well. Means got only the smallest of September cups of coffee even as the O’s were giving starts to Yefry Ramirez, Jimmy Yacabonis, and Josh Rogers.
Instead, it’s the 26-year-old Means who worked to improve himself over the past offseason, who has apparently embraced the new wave of analytics from the O’s front office, and has gone from being barely on the fringe of the roster to being an All-Star. It’s great. Is he outperforming his 3.94 FIP? Sure. Will this last? I have no idea. Regardless of what happens with either his FIP or his ERA for the rest of this year or beyond, he’s earned his spot in 2019 and that is cool.
If you’re like me, you might have had a bit more emotional investment in the idea of Mancini getting selected to his first All-Star team. Indeed, in a bout of productivity, I decided to pre-write a post assuming Mancini would be the O’s All-Star that I could publish promptly. Whoops!
Mancini’s great performance also speaks for itself. After Sunday’s game, he is batting .302/.357/.544. Just about any team in MLB would like to fit a .901 OPS player in late June into their lineup. He’s one of a small number of players recognizable as having been an Oriole for several years now. Hopefully he gets his All-Star chance in the future.
This is not some absurd injustice like when Nick Markakis got screwed out of an All-Star bid in 2010 so that Ty Wigginton could be the lone Oriole on the team. Means has been very good, better than the past few years of O’s rotations have taught us that any Orioles starting pitcher can be for three months worth of baseball. I’m disappointed it’s not Mancini but happy for Means.
One thing about the 2019 All-Star choice compared to last year is that Orioles fans will actually be able to enjoy our guy being on the team. A year ago, the All-Star break was consumed with rumors of the pending trade of Manny Machado, who ended up getting traded before the break was over. I’ll go out on a limb and say that the All-Star Game won’t be the last time Means wears an Orioles uniform this season. I just won’t hold my breath about him actually getting to pitch in the game.